Environment

BLM Boise District

Idaho is among 12 states that will share $10 million from the Interior Department, which will be used to keep the threat of wildfire to a minimum in sensitive sage grouse habitat.

Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District

As summer temperatures heat up the Treasure Valley, many homeowners turn to their irrigation district to water their lawn. These districts crisscross  the Valley, but the largest is the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District (NMID). And NMID says its tax time.

inl.gov

Federal officials say they're taking public comments on a plan to ship two loads of spent nuclear fuel rods to eastern Idaho for research.

The U.S. Department of Energy in a statement says comments will be taken through July 13 on its draft of whether more environmental analysis is needed.

The 60-page document can be viewed at the agency's website under the Idaho Operations Office, Public Involvement Opportunities.

The agency has proposed sending up to 220 pounds of nuclear fuel rods to the Idaho National Laboratory.

CJ Buckwalter / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced $10 million for land restoration projects in 13 states in a strategy to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

Jewell said Friday that making land more resilient to fire is essential for vulnerable species and for healthy rangelands, forests and watersheds.

Eight of the states are in the West, with projects in conifer forests and sagebrush rangelands, where wildfires have been especially destructive in the last decade. Sagebrush is also habitat for sage grouse, an imperiled bird under consideration for federal protections.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A northern Idaho man who shot and killed a wolf will spend six months on unsupervised probation.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports 54-year-old Forrest Mize was convicted by a jury Thursday and can petition to remove the crime from his record if he completes his probation without violations.

Mize says he shot the wolf in self-defense. He later decided to keep the pelt, bringing it to a taxidermist and buying a tag.

Defense lawyer Michael Palmer says Mize thought he was killing a coyote.

AgriLife Today / Flickr Creative Commons

The city-owned Oregon Trail Reserve is surrounded by homes. After a fast and hot-burning grassfire killed a woman and destroyed homes there in 2008, the Boise Fire Department began looking at new ways to deal with wildfire. The department used a grant from the Southwest Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Council to start using a different strategy: grazing goats to thin fire-fueling plants. 

Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

Federal officials say a wildland firefighter has died after a physical training exercise.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says 33-year-old Terry Sonner of Hammett died Wednesday morning after collapsing.

Agency spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto says attempts by crewmembers to revive Sonner failed. The cause of death hasn't been determined.

Sonner began firefighting in 2001 and advanced to become the fire operations supervisor of the Hammett Guard Station Engine Crew in Hammett, about 60 miles southeast of Boise.

A Texas oil company having trouble with mineral rights holders in western Idaho who have refused to sign leases is asking Idaho officials to step in so plans to drill for natural gas or oil can move forward.

Houston-based Alta Mesa Holdings filed applications this week to begin a process called integration. That's a recently revised process the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can use when a minority of mineral rights holders decline to take part in developing a potentially profitable oil or gas field.

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

Despite one of the worst drought years on record, hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest should not see their operations disrupted too much this summer.

That's what the Northwest Power and Conservation Council was told at a meeting in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Wednesday.

Water through the dams in the Columbia River Basin this summer is projected to be only about 71 percent of average, triggering dry year operation protocols for the dams.

Helen K / Flickr Creative Commons

Heads of federal agencies in charge of fighting wildfires say northern Idaho will have one of the worst fire seasons in the country this year. Arizona, California and Alaska are already experiencing a severe fire season. But much of the rest of the West is currently at low risk because of wet spring weather. However, Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell said in a briefing Tuesday, as the summer progresses, the fire danger zones will shift.  

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Clearwater Paper Company has agreed to pay a civil penalty and upgrade pollution control equipment at its Lewiston pulp and paper mill to address alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that Clearwater Paper will pay $300,000 in fines plus interest to the federal government and spend $800,000 to address problems that led to the violation.

Update 4:53 p.m.:

Fire officials say the flames are no longer threatening 20 homes.  The BLM says the fire should be contained by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Original Post: Air and ground crews are responding to a wildfire in southwestern Idaho just outside Melba that's threatening 20 homes.

Owyhee County dispatchers say residents in the area have been warned to be ready to evacuate.

A spokesman with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says flames broke out on private land and quickly spread on Tuesday afternoon.

John Brady / Flickr

Scientists at Washington State University have solved the mystery of dirty rain that fell on portions of the Pacific Northwest in February.

The scientists reported Tuesday that the milky rain was the result of a rare weather pattern that began nearly 500 miles away near an Oregon lake.

Meteorologist Nic Loyd says a meshing of weather systems ultimately caused dirty-white-colored raindrops to fall in parts of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

James Marvin Phelps / Flickr

Idaho Fish and Game officers say one of two fawns that were left motherless after a recent poaching has died.

KTVB-TV reports that twin fawns were orphaned when a pronghorn antelope doe was shot and left to waste last week. One fawn had been shot through both rear legs. The injured fawn died.

Conservation Officer Greg Milner says the animals likely were shot May 31 or June 1 just north of the Danskin Power Plant near Mountain Home in southwest Idaho. The area is frequently used by recreational shooters.

Sally Jewell, sage grouse
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says a wet spring reduced the likelihood of wildfires during June over much of the nation, but the risk is above normal in drought-stricken California.

Hawaii and parts of the Southwest and Alaska are also at above-normal risk.

As the summer progresses, fire danger is expected to increase in the Northwest, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will discuss wildfire threats and the nationwide outlook for the wildfire season Tuesday in Denver.

Jerry McFarland / Flickr

Federal authorities have released their final recovery plan for Snake River sockeye salmon, a species that teetered on the brink of extinction in the early 1990s.

Authorities say the plan released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will create a self-sustaining population of sockeye over the next 50 to 100 years.

The run was listed as endangered in 1991, kicking off a hatchery program that at first had only a handful of returning fish to propagate the species.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to stop a forest project in western Idaho that they say will harm habitat needed by federally protected bull trout.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Idaho Sporting Congress and Native Ecosystems Council filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise against the U.S. Forest Service.

The groups say the agency violated environmental laws by approving the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration Project in September without proper environmental analysis.

The Peregrine Fund/Bosch WebCam

The five kestrel chicks made famous by the Peregrine Fund’s Kestrel Cam will be banded Thursday as they get ready to leave the nest. Banding is when scientists put bracelet-like metal bands around the birds' legs to help monitor them in the future.

Bob / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials have released a draft management plan to bolster a struggling species once considered the most abundant upland game bird in the Pacific Northwest.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse occupies less than 5 percent of its historic range in the U.S., with 60 percent of the remaining population in Idaho.

The agency also filed a request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add 20,000 acres to a program that in Idaho pays farmers to convert fields into sharp-tailed grouse habitat.

Brian Stalter / Flickr Creative Commons

After the rain and warm weather southern Idaho has seen over the last few weeks, conditions are primed for wild morel mushroom hunting. The fungal plant is especially fruitful on burned forest land, which makes national forests a popular spot for morel picking.

Dave Olson is a spokesman with the Boise National Forest. He says the best time for morels is the first season after a wildfire, so 2014's relatively quiet wildfire season means this year isn't as good as in years past.

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