Environment

Aaron Maizlish / Flickr

Eleven biologists who study the greater sage grouse tell top federal officials the government isn't preparing to do enough to protect the ground-dwelling birds.

Greater sage grouse inhabit 11 states, including Idaho, and face federal protection because their numbers have declined dramatically over the past century.

In a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the 11 scientists say the federal government is abandoning science-based conservation of the birds.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal agencies will release more water to flow on the Boise River Friday.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers will increase flow from 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 750 cfs through the city of Boise.

Jeff Jones / Flickr Creative Commons

Warm temperatures in February have taken a toll on winter snowpack in the Cascade Mountains and other areas in the West.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said Wednesday that nearly a third of monitoring sites in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada reported the lowest snowpack ever measured as of March 1, and some sites didn't have snow.

Snowpack in Nevada, Utah and Idaho also fell farther below normal.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

The 27-page report released Tuesday calls for protecting areas most at risk by using veteran crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond quickly. The previous strategy didn't call for specific efforts to protect the habitat.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park | Flickr

Idaho officials say 19 wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.

Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game tells the Lewiston Tribune in Lewiston that elk numbers in the region have dropped dramatically over the past 26 years.

L.Hutton / Flickr Creative Commons

Oregon, Idaho, and Washington residents are among the top polluters in the nation when it comes to fine particle emissions from burning wood to heat homes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists Oregon, Idaho and Washington as seventh, eighth and ninth respectively in per capita emissions.

The three states share chilly climates, a tradition of wood burning, and lots of national forest land with easy access and where U.S. Forest Service managers appreciate the removing of some trees to reduce potential forest fires.

Former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus have filed a notice of their intent to sue the federal government over proposed shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel rods to Idaho.

The former governors sent the notice Thursday to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking to halt the shipments scheduled to arrive in June and December at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

Batt, a Republican, and Andrus, a Democrat, both fought commercial nuclear waste shipments culminating with a 1995 agreement banning them.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park | Flickr

Trappers killed 77 gray wolves in Montana during the 2014-2015 season that ended over the weekend.

That's down from the previous trapping season, when 87 wolves were killed.

To date, a total of 204 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers this winter. Montana's rifle hunting season for the animals ends March 15.

Idaho hunters and trappers have killed 205 wolves, as of Feb. 25.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Last month was the warmest February ever recorded in Boise.

The National Weather Service says the city broke records for average high temperatures, warmest average low temperatures and warmest average temperature. The region also received more rain than usual.

The average high temperature in Boise was 53.2 degrees. That broke a record set in 1992 by a half degree. The previous record for average lows was set in 1983. The previous record for warmest average temperature in a February was set in 1963.

Such records have been kept in Boise since 1940. 

Lonnie Hutson

An Idaho artist has immortalized the state’s native fish, in the hopes that his art will encourage people to protect local rivers.

The health of Idaho’s rivers was the catalyst for a new art exhibit of native fish on display at the College of Idaho’s Rosenthal Gallery of Art. Artist Lonnie Hutson lives 25 miles outside of Moscow. When he’s not making art, he’s a river outfitter. He says the two professions are closely linked.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

In the middle of working farms between the towns of Notus and Parma, the city of Boise owns a 49 acre field. In March the city plans to start construction there on a unique project to reduce phosphorus in the Boise and Snake Rivers. It's generally referred to as the Dixie Drain Project.

The site for the upcoming project is close enough to the Boise River that you can see the trees along its banks a little to the north.  In the other direction there’s a bluff that disappears into the horizon. But the key feature is the water that runs through the site and empties into the river.

Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington

The Idaho Department of Lands has proposed conservation practices to protect sage grouse from mining as well as oil and gas development. According to a department press release, the draft plan works with Gov. Butch Otter's outline for sage grouse protection.

National Weather Service Boise

So far, February is turning out to be an unusually warm month in southern Idaho. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), temperatures for the first two weeks of the month have been 10 degrees above normal and have included two record-breaking high temperatures.

NWS Boise hydrologist Troy Lindquist says a wet and cooler spring would help the situation, and an early mountain snowmelt makes this year's water picture less sustainable.

Rob Swatski / Flickr Creative Commons

Spiders are out and about in Boise. University of Idaho entomologist Ed Bechinski says it's early for Idaho spiders to be out of hibernation (specifically in their case it's known as diapause).

But Bechinski isn’t surprised these arachnids are out. He says southwest Idaho's unseasonably warm temperatures are plenty to tell spiders that spring is here.

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

Spending on a government-sponsored initiative to help struggling sage grouse populations in the West is projected to exceed $750 million by 2018.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday the money will conserve an estimated 8 million acres of sage grouse habitat. Federal officials are more than halfway to that goal since starting the Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010.

The chicken-sized birds are found in 11 Western states. They're being considered for federal protections after their numbers plummeted in recent decades.

John Carrel / Flickr Creative Commons

Warmer-than-normal winter temperatures may be to blame for bringing a grizzly bear out of hibernation early in Yellowstone National Park. The park confirmed a report of a grizzly eating a bison carcass on Feb. 9 in the central part of the park in Wyoming.

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of pro-wildlife organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday against two federal agencies over animal control operations in Idaho. The suit names the USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The court filing alleges:

Dennis Amith / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho City residents have been told they need to boil their water before drinking it. The order went into effect Sunday after high levels of sediment was found coming out of the town's water treatment plant. 

Idaho City's drinking water comes from Elk Creek, which has been running with more soil and debris than normal from the recent rains. Mayor Jim Obland says the boil advisory is an inconvenience but a necessary precaution.

Last Friday much of eastern Washington and Oregon was pelted with a dirty rain, but so far scientists do not agree on a cause.

waterarchives.org / Flickr Creative Commons

It's still not clear what caused last week's malfunction at the Barber Dam in Boise. As we reported last week, the Boise River backed up behind the dam after an apparent power outage shut down the plant late Tuesday night. The river dropped well-below normal flows for almost eight hours before the dam's operators got it back up and running.

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