Environment

USGS Map

Three earthquakes up to magnitude-4.2 and nearly a half-dozen aftershocks have jolted northern Idaho, with residents from Washington state to Montana saying they felt the tremors.

A Bonner County emergency dispatcher in Sandpoint said Friday morning that no injuries or damage were reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-4.1 quake hit first, around 7:32 p.m. Thursday. It was centered 30 miles northeast of Hayden.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

One Idaho start-up company is making strides in the drone industry, and has begun flying the unmanned aircrafts to help farmers get the best possible yield. The goal is to accurately and quickly assess problem crops early on – ones that could be weather damaged or needing more water – so the farmers can make adjustments.  

Images from drones equipped with high-tech cameras and sensors can show hard-to-access problem areas, potentially saving farmers time and money.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho officials have approved a plan to protect habitat for greater sage grouse on state endowment lands as part an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and four other statewide elected officials on the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to adopt the 82-page Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan that details conservation measures developed by the Idaho Department of Lands.

Robin Bjork

An Idaho woman is studying the migration patterns of a rare bird in Central America. The three-wattled bellbird makes bell-like calls, and those sounds can travel half a mile. Some experts believe it’s the loudest bird in the world.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal authorities have made public the final management plan for six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments in southwestern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Monday published on the Federal Register the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Management Plan.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The largest wolf pack known to exist in the West roams in northwest Wyoming.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports 24 wolves in the Lava Mountain Pack.

That is nine more than any other pack surveyed this year in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington or Oregon.

The Lava Mountain Pack roams a hill country about 30 miles northeast of Jackson.

Fish and Wildlife Service wolf coordinator Mike Jimenez tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the pack had two litters of pups in 2014.

Idaho National Laboratory / Flickr Creative Commons

Nuclear officials told a citizen's advisory board recently that a minor accident last year temporarily shut down work at a cleanup site in eastern Idaho and exposed a staffer to low levels of radiation.

Idaho Cleanup Project spokesman Mark Brown has said the accident Oct. 23 at the Idaho National Laboratory site came as workers repackaged nuclear waste.

Decontamination efforts delayed work for seven weeks, and one worker was exposed to a small amount radiation, but not enough cause health problems, Brown said April 8.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Agriculture Department has declared two northeast Nevada counties natural disaster areas due to the lingering drought with an emergency order that also makes emergency low-interest loans available to farmers, ranchers and businesses in parts of neighboring Idaho and Utah.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday declared Nevada's Elko and Eureka counties primary natural disaster areas. The disaster assistance that becomes available there also applies to contiguous counties in Utah — Box Elder and Tooele — and in Idaho's Cassia, Owyhee and Twin Falls counties.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

State biologists are telling the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission there is enough information to consider taking the gray wolf off the state endangered species list.

A draft status review was posted Tuesday on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website with materials for the commission's next meeting.

A final decision is not scheduled until August, but the commission is to make the first step in the process — deciding whether it has enough information to consider the issue - when it meets April 24 in Bend.

Tony Morris / Flickr Creative Commons

Government scientists say a warming climate could significantly reduce the amount of greater sage grouse habitat in portions of Wyoming, a key stronghold for the troubled bird species.

The chicken-sized grouse already has seen dramatic declines in recent decades due to disease, oil drilling, grazing and other factors.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists said a warming climate could become an even greater risk, reducing nesting habitat by 12 percent by 2050.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

Images taken by the Thematic Mapper sensor onboard Landsat 5. Source: USGS Landsat Missions Gallery, Long Butte, Idaho Fire. / U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey

More than 7-million acres have burned in Idaho wildfires since 2004, and NASA satellites have captured how some of those fires have changed the regional landscape. 

Laura Gilmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Farmers in the Owyhee Basin are bracing for a very difficult summer season because this is the second year of an extreme drought.

The largely agricultural area along the border of Idaho and Oregon gets water from the Owyhee Reservoir, which is at just 27 percent of normal capacity. A dry and warm winter made replenishing the water supply difficult.

Debs / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the number of wolves in the state has reached its highest level since 2010, following a corresponding decline in wolves killed by hunters and trappers.

The department's data shows the state's wolf population grew by 13 percent last year. Roughly 770 wolves currently live in Idaho, according to the data released Friday — well above the minimum of 150 wolves that keeps the animal off the federal endangered species list.

Meanwhile, hunters and trappers killed roughly 250 wolves last year — down by almost 100 from the previous year.

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of Western-state governors has released a report on voluntary efforts in 11 states to conserve the habitat of sage grouse as part of an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

The 32-page "2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory" released Thursday by the Western Governors' Association identifies conservation work during the year and is accompanied by a 101-page appendix listing efforts since 2011.

California Governor Jerry Brown ordered statewide mandatory water saving measures Wednesday. Water managers are preparing for drought in Oregon and Washington state as well.

Idaho would have the ability to enter into an interstate compact to pursue transferring control of federal lands under a proposal making its way through the Statehouse.

House lawmakers voted 45-23 on Friday to approve setting up the compact, facing from opposition from both Republicans and Democrats worried of the bill's unintended consequences.

In Nevada, federal wildlife officials have brokered a landmark conservation deal with a gold mining company that the government says could help protect thousands of acres of critical habitat for the greater sage grouse.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Monsanto Corporation has agreed to pay $600,000 in fines for hundreds of uncontrolled releases of dangerous chemicals at its phosphate plant in eastern Idaho.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced the agreement Thursday involving the company's facilities in Soda Springs.

Federal officials say the chemicals released are hazardous and can pose serious health risks to workers and the community.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened for comment a proposed plan to change the status of a herd of caribou in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington from endangered to threatened.

The agency on Tuesday opened the 30-day comment period based on new information.

The agency made the initial proposal last May after deciding to lump the small herd into the Southern Mountain Caribou population that has another 14 herds in Canada.

But Canadian officials recently determined those herds are faltering and should also be listed as endangered.

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