Environment

US Air Force / Flickr Creative Commons

People flying in and out of Sun Valley have had a difficult time this winter with flights regularly being diverted or canceled due to winter weather conditions.

The chairman of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, Ron Fairfax, calls this winter the worst he’s seen in 20 years.

Data from the airport shows 30 flights were diverted between December 4 and December 26. Just two flights were canceled.

Richard Carter / Flickr Creative Commons

While Idaho residents are lamenting heavy snowpack and icy roads, wildlife in the state have been struggling in the backcountry.

Idaho Fish and Game officials told the Post Register that the tough winter will likely mean higher mortality rates for elk and deer that are coping with heavily crusted snowpack.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management has given the green light to the final federal land section of the Gateway West Transmission Line.

It’s called a Record of Decision, or ROD, and wraps up the federal permission process for the 990-mile power line from Glenrock, Wyoming to Melba, Idaho. The two companies building the line, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, started working with the BLM on the project in 2007.

John Miller / AP Photo

Two federal agencies have approved a 2.4-mile-long open pit phosphate mine proposed by a Canadian company in southeastern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service late last week issued separate decisions approving the plan by Calgary-based Agrium Inc.

The BLM manages the area where the mining will occur, while the Forest Service manages land that will receive waste materials.

AP

Visits to U.S. national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year as landmarks such Zion, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain experienced historic levels of popularity that brought collateral headaches stemming from overcrowded roads and trails and increasing visitor misbehavior.

At many parks, visitors waited an hour or more in cars to get through entrance gates and then spent the day trying to outmaneuver fellow visitors for parking spots and room on popular trails. They left behind enormous amounts of trash and sometimes, human waste.

AP

A change in U.S. House rules making it easier to transfer millions of acres of federal public lands to states is worrying hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts across the West who fear losing access.

Lawmakers earlier this month passed a rule eliminating a significant budget hurdle and written so broadly that it includes national parks.

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Interior secretary, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, voted for the rule change as did many other Republicans. The Senate would have to weigh in on public land transfers as well.

Kay Ledbetter / AgriLife

A lawsuit filed in district court in Boise earlier this month pits an Idaho dairy against former employees from Mexico. 

Six veterinarians are suing Funk Dairy southeast of Twin Falls for human trafficking and breach of contract, among other charges. The vets are from Mexico, and say they were hired to work at the dairy in 2014 under false pretenses.

Jim Urquhart / AP Photo

Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.

Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.

USDA

A new federal report shows snowpack levels and water supply projections are above average in the mountains of eastern Idaho and across much of the state.

The Post Register reports the Natural Resource Conservation Service released a study Tuesday showing that eastern Idaho and western Wyoming had among the highest snowpack percentages in the state. The report covered October to Jan. 1.

Associated Press

Environmental groups are asking a federal court to halt 11 infrastructure projects on four lower Snake River dams in Washington state that could ultimately be removed if a pending review determines the dams need to come out in order to help salmon.

The 45-page notice filed late Monday in Portland, Oregon, estimates the cost of the projects at $110 million.

Samantha Wright/Boise State Public Radio

Legal challenges have been filed against Idaho officials over a groundwater management area created in November.

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE: 4:55p.m. - Ada County has announced a local disaster emergency because of hazardous winter weather. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning in effect from Saturday morning to Sunday night, with a chance of 6-10 inches of snow to accumulate over the weekend. The county declaration means state resources are freed up to help clear roads in the Treasure Valley.

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

A judge has rejected Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's lawsuit contending the Obama administration acted illegally by imposing federal land-use restrictions intended to protect the sage grouse in Idaho and southwestern Montana.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in dismissing the lawsuit Thursday didn't rule on the merits of the claims but said Otter lacked standing because the state didn't prove it had been injured.

Because Otter lacked standing, the court says it doesn't have jurisdiction and dismissed the lawsuit.

Little Black Star / Flickr

Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management is warning of possible flooding around the state, thanks to recent winter storms.

The Idaho Emergency Operations Center is now at the level of Heightened Awareness. That means the threat level is moderate and could develop into a state-level emergency disaster.

Officials are watching the Lemhi River, Big Wood River and the Snake River at Weiser, all of which have ice jams and minor flooding. Ice jams occur when shallow areas of the river freeze faster than deeper spots and the ice gets stuck around bends and curves.

Dmitry.S. / Flickr

Officials in the Wood River Valley say last winter was one of the deadliest on the books for elk.

 

The numbers? Over 80 animals died from three main causes: eating poisonous plants, getting trampled at a Fish and Game feeding station and injuries from bales of hay falling on them.

 

Around 20 elk were crushed by stacked hay bales over the course of last winter.

 

Keith Ridler / AP Images

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell will make a visit to Idaho Tuesday. The Obama Administration official is on a final tour highlighting environmental initiatives taken on by her department since 2013.

 

Andrew Selsky / AP Images

Earlier this week, President Obama created two national monuments. The newly preserved land is in Utah and Nevada. But before the transfer of power to President-elect Trump January 20, Obama could also designate 2.5 million acres of land near the Idaho border. 

 

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

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse, but it isn't saying which it prefers.

The options range from banning new mining activity on about 15,000 square miles for up to 20 years to imposing no additional restrictions on mine locations.

The rules would affect sage grouse habitat on federal land in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

Steve Helber / AP Images

Earlier this month, the Navy announced plans to build a $1.6 billion facility in Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation’s nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers over the next forty years. The new structure will be built on the Idaho National Laboratory site about 50 miles from Idaho Falls.

Keith Ridler with the Associated Press has been following this story, and says Idaho officials are in favor of the facility. 

Ed Cannady / edcannadyphotography.com

A new book takes a unique look at Idaho’s wild places. Titled “Idaho Wilderness Considered,” the book is more than a field guide to the state’s backcountry. It includes personal journeys, political stories and historical snapshots of the wilderness character of Idaho.

Co-editor Murray Feldman says the book grew out of the Idaho Humanities Council’s two year-long reading and conversation series on wilderness. The catalyst was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014.

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