Environment

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has revealed plans to preserve habitat in 10 Western states for an imperiled ground-dwelling bird, the federal government's biggest land-planning effort to date for conservation of a single species.

The proposal announced Thursday would affect energy development. The regulations include locating oil and gas wells and power lines to avoid disrupting habitat for the greater sage grouse.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

About 100 people showed up at a meeting Wednesday night to hear what caused an east Boise dam to malfunction in February, and what steps are being taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Part of the Boise River was reduced to nearly a trickle for about eight hours overnight on February 4 when a power grid fluctuation caused the Barber Dam to shut down. Ada County owns the dam, but leases the hydroelectric plant to Enel Green Power.

Five Democratic senators are asking colleagues to fund preservation efforts for the imperiled greater sage grouse and Gunnison sage grouse.

The senators on Tuesday urged the Appropriations Committee to fund programs that include cooperative efforts with landowners.

The greater sage grouse lives across the West. The Gunnison grouse is found in Colorado and Utah.

In November, federal officials designated the Gunnison grouse a threatened species, the less restrictive of two categories under the Endangered Species Act.

Gerrit Vyn / Sage Brush Sea

A new documentary is airing on Idaho Public Television Friday. The "Sage Brush Sea" was filmed at different locations across the 11-state sage brush ecosystem, including in Idaho. The producers of the film are trying to raise the profile of this landscape, and the struggling sage grouse it supports.

Idaho Rivers United

The head of Idaho Rivers United (IRU) is stepping down. Bill Sedivy says after 16 years as executive director of the organization, he wants to spend more time on the rivers and less time in the office.

The non-profit Idaho Rivers United is celebrating 25 years as an advocacy group in the state. It works to protect Idaho’s rivers and fish, and has more than 3,400 members.

Sedivy says it was a love of river rafting that got him involved in protecting rivers in the first place.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well as other federal and state agencies are starting a public information campaign intended to reduce human-caused fires in sagebrush steppe areas in Idaho.

The Idaho office of the BLM in a statement Thursday says efforts will include radio and television announcements, social media postings and a billboard on Interstate 84 between the Broadway and Gowen Field off-ramps in Boise.

The agency says fire helps invasive cheatgrass take over sagebrush steppe areas and eventually outcompetes native plants.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A new rangeland fire management plan is the result of cross-state and federal collaboration that isn't often seen in resource policy. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Idaho earlier this week to present the plan alongside state officials

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

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell met with Idaho state officials, fire managers and ranchers Tuesday about a new strategy to protect greater sage grouse habitat from wildfire. The 82-page plan is part of a larger effort among 11 western states trying to keep the threatened bird off the Endangered Species List. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list the bird in September.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a plan to protect the habitat of a struggling bird species from being destroyed by wildfire.

The new firefighting strategy comes as Western states work to avoid the sage grouse's classification as a threatened or endangered species. Experts say the restrictions that come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide Endangered Species Act protections this fall.

ironpoison / Flickr

Farmers and ranchers in the West's worst-hit drought regions will receive an additional $21 million to help them save water and soil despite the long dry spell.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the aid Monday. The assistance will go to areas of the West that are rated in the highest categories of drought. That includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

The aid is meant to help farms and grazing pastures cope with drought through better irrigation, cover crops and other measures.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The public will have the chance to talk with elected officials about a power outage that caused the Boise River to dry up earlier this year. The Ada County Commission is holding a meeting on May 27 to discuss the accidental dewatering.

Officials at an Idaho nuclear facility say they can safely handle two shipments of 25 spent fuel rods for research and that it won't start to turn the state into a nuclear waste dump.

Todd Allen of the Idaho National Laboratory says the U.S. Department of Energy wants to better understand "high burnup" spent fuel that's accumulating at nuclear power plants, which is important for storing it.

That type of fuel remains in reactor cores longer to produce more energy, coming out hotter and more radioactive.

WaterArchives.org / Flickr

Arrowrock Dam is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. “It was a monumental effort,” says Kelsey Doncaster. He’s been studying the dam as a historian with the Bureau of Reclamation Columbia Cascades area office in Yakima, Washington.

He says it’s a marvel of engineering that keeps irrigation canals in the Treasure Valley full, while controlling flooding of the Boise River.

James Good / Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Idaho says it won't graze sheep this summer on three high-elevation areas in eastern Idaho and western Montana until a lawsuit filed by environmental groups concerning a federal sheep research facility is resolved.

Federal officials in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court say the university in March notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture it wouldn't send sheep or sheepherders to the allotments this summer.

Idaho water managers say they are conducting negotiations to prevent mass water shutoffs from Jerome to Idaho Falls even though a final deal could result in long-term farming changes for southern Idaho irrigators.

The Capital Press reports that groundwater irrigators have fallen short in providing enough water to two canal companies.

The canal companies are owed nearly 89,000 acre-feet of water because they own senior water rights. Senior water rights take priority in Idaho.

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

United States Forest Service, Mike McMillan / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent report published by the U.S. Forest Service shows that in 1995, 17 percent of the agency's budget went to fighting wildfires. By 2014, those efforts took up 51 percent of the agency's funding.

Ben Amstutz / Flickr Creative Commons

Skinny Dipper hot springs was illegally built in the 1990s and now the Bureau of Land Management is dismantling the popular site.

Skinny Dipper is located about an hour outside Boise off the Banks-to-Lowman highway. The site is a half mile hike up a steep trail, and the pools overlook the Payette River.

The plan is to remove the pools and reseed the area, closing the trails in the area for five years to try and get the landscape back to a more natural state.

Aaron Maizlish / Flickr

Federal officials have announced more than $4 million in projects in four states as part of a 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.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will use the money in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon to counter wildfire threats, invasive grasses and juniper trees encroaching in sagebrush habitat.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons

Fremont County is the most recent addition of Idaho communities to receive a drought emergency declaration from the state. Blaine, Lincoln, Butte and Custer counties were given the designation on April 10, the earliest time for a state-approved drought declaration in the last five years.

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