Environment

USDA

A new federal report shows snowpack levels and water supply projections are above average in the mountains of eastern Idaho and across much of the state.

The Post Register reports the Natural Resource Conservation Service released a study Tuesday showing that eastern Idaho and western Wyoming had among the highest snowpack percentages in the state. The report covered October to Jan. 1.

Associated Press

Environmental groups are asking a federal court to halt 11 infrastructure projects on four lower Snake River dams in Washington state that could ultimately be removed if a pending review determines the dams need to come out in order to help salmon.

The 45-page notice filed late Monday in Portland, Oregon, estimates the cost of the projects at $110 million.

Samantha Wright/Boise State Public Radio

Legal challenges have been filed against Idaho officials over a groundwater management area created in November.

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE: 4:55p.m. - Ada County has announced a local disaster emergency because of hazardous winter weather. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning in effect from Saturday morning to Sunday night, with a chance of 6-10 inches of snow to accumulate over the weekend. The county declaration means state resources are freed up to help clear roads in the Treasure Valley.

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

A judge has rejected Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's lawsuit contending the Obama administration acted illegally by imposing federal land-use restrictions intended to protect the sage grouse in Idaho and southwestern Montana.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in dismissing the lawsuit Thursday didn't rule on the merits of the claims but said Otter lacked standing because the state didn't prove it had been injured.

Because Otter lacked standing, the court says it doesn't have jurisdiction and dismissed the lawsuit.

Little Black Star / Flickr

Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management is warning of possible flooding around the state, thanks to recent winter storms.

The Idaho Emergency Operations Center is now at the level of Heightened Awareness. That means the threat level is moderate and could develop into a state-level emergency disaster.

Officials are watching the Lemhi River, Big Wood River and the Snake River at Weiser, all of which have ice jams and minor flooding. Ice jams occur when shallow areas of the river freeze faster than deeper spots and the ice gets stuck around bends and curves.

Dmitry.S. / Flickr

Officials in the Wood River Valley say last winter was one of the deadliest on the books for elk.

 

The numbers? Over 80 animals died from three main causes: eating poisonous plants, getting trampled at a Fish and Game feeding station and injuries from bales of hay falling on them.

 

Around 20 elk were crushed by stacked hay bales over the course of last winter.

 

Keith Ridler / AP Images

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell will make a visit to Idaho Tuesday. The Obama Administration official is on a final tour highlighting environmental initiatives taken on by her department since 2013.

 

Andrew Selsky / AP Images

Earlier this week, President Obama created two national monuments. The newly preserved land is in Utah and Nevada. But before the transfer of power to President-elect Trump January 20, Obama could also designate 2.5 million acres of land near the Idaho border. 

 

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse, but it isn't saying which it prefers.

The options range from banning new mining activity on about 15,000 square miles for up to 20 years to imposing no additional restrictions on mine locations.

The rules would affect sage grouse habitat on federal land in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

Steve Helber / AP Images

Earlier this month, the Navy announced plans to build a $1.6 billion facility in Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation’s nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers over the next forty years. The new structure will be built on the Idaho National Laboratory site about 50 miles from Idaho Falls.

Keith Ridler with the Associated Press has been following this story, and says Idaho officials are in favor of the facility. 

Ed Cannady / edcannadyphotography.com

A new book takes a unique look at Idaho’s wild places. Titled “Idaho Wilderness Considered,” the book is more than a field guide to the state’s backcountry. It includes personal journeys, political stories and historical snapshots of the wilderness character of Idaho.

Co-editor Murray Feldman says the book grew out of the Idaho Humanities Council’s two year-long reading and conversation series on wilderness. The catalyst was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014.

Dmitry.S. / Flickr

Federal authorities have announced the establishment of a 7,000-square-mile watershed conservation area in three states that includes major migration corridors for birds and mammals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday gave notice that it has established the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Its creation is part of a plan to protect wildlife habitat by buying perpetual conservation easements from willing private landowners.

John Carricaburu / USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Idaho Department of Water Resources have begun work on a new model that will track how groundwater flows in the Treasure Valley. Underground aquifers store most of the Treasure Valley’s water.

The model is meant to help resource managers understand the aquifer system, at a time when demand for water continues to grow as the valley’s population increases.

Tim Hagen / Flickr Creative Commons

Snow in the mountains this week has Idaho backcountry skiers both excited and on alert. The Sawtooth Avalanche Center put out an extreme avalanche warning Thursday. For Chris Lundi of Sawtooth Mountain Guides, this means he and his guides are staying away from avalanche-prone spots.

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