Environment

Courtesy of University of Idaho Photographic Services

Exercise is something we often talk about in January, usually in the context of getting healthier.

But here in Idaho, biologists and engineers are looking for ways to get fish more exercise. Specifically - trout, salmon, and steelhead raised in hatcheries. The idea is to force fish to work out so they're in better shape - and more likely to live - once they're released.

Right now, hatchery fish are raised in long, rectangular tanks called raceways. The tanks are hard to clean and sweeping out fish waste is expensive.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park Flickr

Idaho Fish and Game collared four wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness earlier this month. The action was unauthorized by the Forest Service, the agency that oversees the area.

Mike Keckler with Fish and Game says the issue comes down to a communication problem. One of the crews assigned to put tracking collars on elk in the wilderness area also collared four wolves. Keckler says they do that under normal operations, but in this case the agency had a specific agreement with the Forest Service to only collar elk.

Bryce W. Robinson

What can the world’s largest falcon tell us about climate change? That’s the question one Boise researcher is asking in an article published this month in Audubon Magazine.

Bryce Robinson is a Gyrfalcon field researcher and a graduate student at Boise State University. Working with the Peregrine Fund, he’s been studying Gyrfalcons in western Alaska for two years. Robinson studied the birds for his Master’s thesis.

Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

File this in your Idaho oddities folder: a hunter killed a mountain lion with a second set of teeth and whiskers growing on top of its head last week. As the Idaho State Journal reports, the year-old animal has Idaho Fish and Game biologists scratching their heads. They have never seen anything like it.

But the scientists do have some theories about what could have caused this abnormal growth.

S. Hellstrom / Bureau of Land Management

As tensions mount over the occupation of a federal building in an Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed group, some are asking the question: Could it happen in Idaho? The Gem State has had its own arguments over the use of federal land, including the Legislature considering taking control of all the federal land within Idaho’s borders.

Bob Dodson

Earlier this year, we told you the story of Idaho Fish and Game parachuting beavers into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in the late 1940’s. Back then, the idea was to trap problem beavers, put them in special boxes and parachute them from a plane. They were sent to remote areas where they could find a new home.

Gary Lane / Wapiti River Guides

This picture has been popping up on social media. It’s an unusual phenomenon known as an “ice circle.” And this one was spotted by an Idaho river guide who snapped this picture while heading out for a hunting trip several years ago.

Gary Lane is a river guide and photographer. He and his wife Barb run Wapiti River Guides out of Riggins. He took the photo in 2009.

“I was driving up the road along the Salmon River above Riggins and I saw that ice circle, so of course I had to get out and take a picture of it,” Lane says.

Jerry Mathes

A writer from Idaho has won a North American Book Award. Author Jerry Mathes won the best memoir award for his book “Ahead of the Flaming Front: A Life on Fire.”

Natural Resources Conservation Service

New data from the federal government show the snow season is off to a strong start in most of Idaho.

The latest map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows 14 of the state’s 21 snowpack regions are above average for mid-December. Many are well above average.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The little known Land and Water Conservation Fund turns 50 this year. The federal program has dispersed $17 billion over its lifetime. But now its future, and its mission of conserving open space in places like Idaho, is in limbo. Congress has let the fund lapse, and lawmakers are proposing some major changes.

A Canadian company proposing a gold mine in central Idaho says it's undeterred by a U.S. Geological Survey study that found more extensive pollution than previously thought from historic mining in the area.

Midas Gold Corp. President and CEO Stephen Quin says the 4.6 million ounces of gold the company expects to recover near the town of Yellow Pine means cleaning up a century worth of past-mining activities as part of the project is feasible.

Ridge to Rivers Facebook page

Heads-up intrepid Boise foothills hikers, bikers and runners: time to find an alternate route for your cardio adventures.

The recent rain in the Treasure Valley has wreaked havoc on the trails, making them soft and muddy.

Trail managers are encouraging people to check conditions before they head to the hills this winter. Here's the link to updated trail conditions and alternatives (Boise River Greenbelt, 8th Street Road and Rocky Canyon) from the city's Ridge to Rivers system.   

Roger Phillips / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

It was a bad year for endangered sockeye salmon making their way home on the Columbia River. Unusually warm water in Northwest Rivers this summer killed off most of the returning fish. But quick action by fish managers means the few that survived could produce a record number of smolts.

This year was supposed to be a record run, with 4,000 fish headed home to Idaho from the Pacific Ocean. But in early July, water temperatures heated up in the Columbia system and the fish started to die off.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has settled a lawsuit against the J.R. Simplot Company for alleged Clean Air Act violations. The Idaho-based agriculture giant will pay $899,000 in a civil penalty.

The company owns five sulphuric acid plants that make fertilizer in Idaho, California and Wyoming. Sulphur dioxide is a gas scientists have connected to climate change as well as respiratory issues in humans.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Water experts from around Idaho gathered in Boise earlier this month to brief one another on 2016 forecasts. A slide during a presentation by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) water supply specialist Ron Abramovich solidified a recurring theme: "think snow."

According to this week's forecast, southern Idaho will be not just thinking snow — but experiencing it.

So how do things look so far when it comes to that precious precipitation?

National Weather Service Boise

The first big winter storm of the season is headed for southern Idaho. The National Weather Service in Boise says a storm is moving in from the Pacific and will bring rain first and then snow.

Josh Smith is a meteorologist in Boise. He says the rain will start Tuesday night in the Treasure Valley. “And then that will be switching to snow probably around 7 or 8 a.m., maybe a little bit later than that, and then we’ll see up to an inch of snow in the Boise Metro area,” Smith says.

Most of the snow will hit Wednesday.

The Nature Conservancy

Since Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expire in September, conservationists have been trying to get it re-authorized.

Jim Jacobson

Scientists are paying close attention to the ways in which climate change may be impacting wildlife. In Idaho, one of the mammals dealing with the effects of changing conditions are American pikas. 

Pikas are related to rabbits and live in Rocky Mountains states. The curious animals, which have a distinctive call, can be spotted in places like the Sawtooths. They also hang out in the recesses of the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Well, for now at least.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

It’s been called “marching grass” and “the scourge of the West,” but most people refer to it as cheatgrass. The honey-colored weed is named for its ability to “cheat” during the winter, getting ahead of crops and native perennial grasses by taking root while the others are still dormant.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National forecasters predict an El Nino year. Climate experts say the storms are likely to be as strong as the El Nino 18 years ago, and people in the arid southwest are already dealing with above-average precipitation.

But in Idaho, scientists say the Gem State is in for another hot and dry year.

John Abatzoglou is a climatologist at the University of Idaho. He says El Nino in Idaho typically brings below normal temperatures and less precipitation, and another year like 2015 is not good news for the northern part of the state.

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