Environment

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.

Ben Rogers / Flickr

Very cold weather is moving into Idaho and that could mean frozen pipes. Suez, the company that handles water for the Treasure Valley, has some tips for homeowners.

If your pipes freeze, the first person to call is your water company. That’s according to Miguel Castro, a Field Service Technician at Suez. He says they can tell you if the problem is in your pipes, or the meter box that belongs to Suez.

Castro says that call could save you some money.

Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

California has Yosemite, Montana Yellowstone and Washington Mount Ranier. Every western state has a National Park – except Idaho. But that may change. A group in the small town of Arco is looking to get a nearby National Monument re-designated as Idaho’s first National Park.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, has introduced a bill that would protect the state's portion of the craggy, scenic Scotchman Peaks.

The Spokesman-Review reports that Risch has proposed legislation that would designate about 14,000 acres of Idaho's land as a federal wilderness area, which would limit development to preserve the land's natural character and ecological function.

Washington DNR

A proposed fuel break system in southwest Idaho, southeast Oregon and northern Nevada will limit the size of destructive rangeland wildfires and protect habitat for sage grouse, say officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agency on Tuesday released a plan called the Tri-State Fuel Break Project, which would create gaps in combustible vegetation along existing roads on public lands in the three states by reducing fuel next to the roads, using either machines or chemical treatments, and maintained with a long-term schedule.

Charles (Chuck) Peterson / Flickr

Tuesday’s snowfall was just a preview of events to come. Another storm is moving into the Treasure Valley, which could disrupt traffic Thursday afternoon.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Elizabeth Padian  says there’s a warm front moving in from the Pacific Coast.

“With the cold air that we had this morning and today trapped here in the Valley and the Snake River Plain, that’s going to allow that warm air from the warm front to override over that colder air, produce precipitation and it will be in the form of snow here in the Valley,” says Padian.

Idaho National Laboratory

A $1.65 billion facility will be built at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation's fleet of nuclear-powered warships, the Navy and U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday.

Officials said the new facility is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.

University of Idaho, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences / Facebook

Upgrading aging infrastructure at nine research and extension centers around the state is a main goal, the new director of the University of Idaho's Agricultural Experiment Station said.

Mark McGuire told the Capital Press that some of that infrastructure dates back to the 1960s and 1970s and needs upgrading so researchers have modern facilities and equipment.

Parolan Harahap / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill.

Friday's announcement follows a 2015 court order for the agency to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

The requirement would apply to hard rock mining, which includes mines for precious metals and other ores.

Yellowstone National Park, Bison, Lamar Valley
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Yellowstone National Park biologists say more than 900 wild bison would need to be killed or removed this winter to begin reducing the size of herds that spill into neighboring Montana.

The park has an estimated 5,500 bison, the highest number since at least 2000.

Park officials meet Thursday with state, tribal and U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to discuss options for managing the animals.

Biologists say 900 would need to be removed just to stabilize population growth.

Jim and Holly Akenson

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area is a step back in time. The area is rough and rugged and few people actually live in this part of central Idaho’s backcountry.

But tucked into the middle of these sprawling public lands is the University of Idaho’s wilderness research station, known as Taylor Ranch. From there, researchers conduct surveys on everything from wolves to bears to cougars to wildfires.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The migration of sockeye salmon from their birth in Idaho’s Redfish Lake to the Pacific Ocean ties Oregon, Washington and the Gem State together. But that trek is a brutal one that kills many fish each year, and advocates say their journey is made more difficult by four federally run dams on the Snake River in Washington.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

A draft management plan for two recently created central Idaho wilderness areas prohibits campfires at high elevations to protect whitebark pine and eliminates horses and other recreational stock in some areas to protect alpine soils.

The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Monday the availability of the 67-page document intended to guide management of the 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness and the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness.

Salmon
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

In May, a federal judge ordered dam operators in the Northwest to put all options back on the table to save endangered salmon. That means giving a close look at four dams on the lower Snake River. Now, Boiseans will have the chance to weigh in on the proposal.

The debate over the best way to protect salmon has been caught in court battles for the last 20 years.

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