Environment

The Bonneville Power Administration will pay Idaho about $40 million over 10 years to protect wildlife habitat in southern Idaho.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced the agreement Tuesday that's part of the utility's requirement to mitigate impacts that hydropower projects in southern Idaho have on wildlife.

The money will be paid to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

About $22 million will be used for restoration, acquisition and stewardship of at least 13.5 square miles of land. Another $4 million will be used to administer the program over 10 years.

Dave Shumaker / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho is famous for its crystal clear rivers. But these days, the Snake River is not one of them.

The Snake is the state’s largest river and it makes southern Idaho’s agriculture economy possible. But that industry is also polluting the Snake

The U.S. Geological Survey uses words like ‘degraded’ and ‘impaired’ to describe parts of the river. Richard Manning calls the Snake “Idaho’s sewer system.”

rancher
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires.

Ranchers say they've always just gone out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. The feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability.

At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck that could change the way fires are fought every summer.

High costs of wildfires

Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. Sept. 22.

A small wildfire burning southeast of Cascade has grown to 75 acres. The Bull Fire is burning in a remote area on the Boise National Forest.

Forest officials say 115 firefighters are now working on the blaze.

No structures are threatened by the fire, but the forest has closed a handful of trails in the area.

It’s not clear what started the fire, its cause is under investigation.

This story was originally posted at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

National Weather Service

The air quality in the Treasure Valley has dropped from good to moderate, thanks to a change in winds that’s bringing in smoke from the south. The National Weather Service in Boise reports the sudden influx of smoke into Idaho is due to a change in the wind pattern.

Gary Beck / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho Fish and Game Department is cracking down on an illegal hunting practice known as "jacklighting." Hunters pull over to the side of a road at night, get out of the car and shine a high powered spotlight on a hillside. Any dear or elk are frozen in place by the sudden glare. Then the hunters shoot.

Fish and Game says the practice is dangerous and unethical, so the department is taking further action to catch and prosecute perpetrators.

rickotto62 / Flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that ground water levels have dropped in parts of the Wood River Valley.

USGS hydrologist Jim Bartolino’s team looked at changes in ground water and surface water between 2006 and 2012.

Bartolino says there are two distinct parts to the aquifer under the valley.

Courtesy of DFPA

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

A private non-profit called the Douglas Forest Protective Association was the first in the region to switch to remote camera fire detection. The southwest Oregon-based association deployed its first system in 2007.

The firefighting consortium's Kyle Reed said it has now replaced all of its manned fire lookouts with video cameras.

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Do you ever wonder where your poop goes when you flush the toilet? If you live in Boise, it ends up somewhere a little out of the ordinary. It goes to a place called 20 Mile South Farm, so named because it's 20 miles south of Boise.

“Everybody who flushes the toilet contributes to this fertilizer right here,” Says Ben Nydegger, Boise's biosolids program manager.

Biosolids is the industry term for the stuff he’s standing next to. It’s a dark-brown pile about three-feet-tall and roughly twice the area of an Olympic swimming pool.

Joe Parks / Flickr Creative Commons

The number of returning chinook salmon on the Columbia River has taken a dramatic upswing. Over the weekend, 107,000 chinook salmon climbed the fish ladder at Bonneville dam.

A spokeswoman with the Columbia Inter Tribal Fish Commission, Sara Thompson, says those numbers set a new record.

Four environmental groups said Monday they will sue the USDA's Wildlife Services program to stop what they call the unlawful killing of wildlife in Idaho.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife

With the number of wolves and grizzly bears increasing in Idaho, the state game department is calling on hunters and outdoorsmen to help track them.

The Post Register reports that Fish and Game must document 15 breeding pair of wolves with pups by Dec. 31 each year until 2016.

Gregg Losinski is regional conservation educator for Fish and Game. He says tracking wolf numbers is required to comply with regulations set to ensure maintenance of healthy populations.

Defense Threat Reduction Agency

Something unusual happened Thursday near Newdale in eastern Idaho. The Department of Defense detonated more than 200 pounds of explosives deep underground near the old Teton Dam site.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an anti-terrorism branch of the government founded in 1998, says it wanted to conduct the test to better understand how the specific rock type found in that area absorbs shock waves.

roger wilkins / Flickr Creative Commons

If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of flies buzzing around you’re not imagining things. In fact, you could call this time of year “fly season” in southern Idaho.

Part of the reason you're noticing more flies is because there simply are more of them says Ian Robertson, a biology professor and insect ecologist at Boise State University.

ranching, cattle, trough
Julie Rose / For Boise State Public Radio

In a couple of weeks, Logan Alder will marry his girlfriend and move into a small house on the family ranch in Malad, Idaho. In another year, he’ll have an agriculture degree from Utah State University. But right now, he’s just a 25-year-old kid, knee-deep in muck.

Mud regularly builds up on the bottom of this large watering trough in a field where Alder’s keeping some of his 500 cattle. Usually a spigot keeps the trough full so muck can’t build up as easily. But lately, the well underneath is running so low the spigot merely sputters.

Chinook Salmon
Roger Tabor / USFWS Pacific

Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho have approved permits what will allow workers to improve fish passage on a key stream for chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that commissioners last week approved work expected to start this week on Pole Creek.

The creek is designated critical habitat for the fish.

The stream-alteration and flood plain conditional-use permit means a culvert on private property that impedes fish passage will be replaced with a bridge.

The Treasure Valley has seen a handful of wildfire-induced hazy days this summer, but it's been nothing like 2012 or 2013 when big wildfires around the region brought smoke into Boise and surrounding communities, settling in the valleys and making it hard to breathe.

An interim committee of Idaho lawmakers tasked with determining if Idaho endowment lands are being managed properly to generate revenue is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday.

Republican Rep. John Vander Woude of Nampa is co-chairman of the committee.

He tells the Lewiston Tribune that the entire endowment of land and investments is worth more than $3 billion but only generates about $50 million in annual payouts to public schools, universities and other trust beneficiaries.

In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.

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