Environment

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

The U.S. Interior Department says the greater sage grouse does not need federal protections across its 11-state Western range after some limits were put on energy development and other activities.

Tuesday's announcement signals that the Obama administration believes it has struck a balance to save the widespread, ground-dwelling birds from extinction without crippling the West's economy.

Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio

On September 16, 2015 KBSX hosted four panelists and a room full of community members for a discussion on the possible Endangered Species Listing of the greater sage grouse. Experts shared their favorite facts about the bird, reasons for the population decline in the last century and the methods and strategies behind the collaborative efforts of state groups and agencies to protect the species. 

James Marvin Phelps / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal officials say a 150-square-mile area in southwestern Idaho will serve as a public lands sanctuary for non-reproducing wild horses from around the West that have nowhere else to go.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Monday announced the release of its approved Resource Management Plan for the Jarbidge Field Office.

Julie Rose

Alarm bells echoed across the West in 2010 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned that the greater sage grouse could be put on the Endangered Species List. The end of this month is the deadline for a final decision. In the interim, there has been an enormous amount of work done to protect the bird – enough to suggest a threat is sometimes big enough to get the job done.

Could this have been the intent all along? To make the threat big enough so that an actual listing might be avoided?

Grace Hood

The federal government will decide whether or not to list the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species List later this month. Another sage grouse species, the Gunnison sage grouse, has been on that list since last November. The government followed a distinct and separate process for the Gunnison grouse, classifying it as “threatened”.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

This week, we’ve been bringing you our Saving the Sage Grouse series. These reports range across the West and take an in depth look at the bird and its future.

Last year, the University of Idaho McClure Center took a look at the role of science in how the state was working to conserve the bird. A panel of Idahoans talked about how science has not only helped, but also challenged their thinking about the bird.

Dan Boyce

About 170 greater sage grouse gather on Wes McStay’s ranch in northwestern Colorado.  They're here to mate in an open field of recently-planted rye.

Biologists call such a gathering a lek, where male grouse perform an elaborate mating dance that involves inflating two yellow air sacs in their chests and then releasing the air with a bubbling pop. 

The national sage grouse coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service watches the spectacle, her gloved hands holding binoculars tightly to her face.

USGS Idaho

It is common knowledge that the drought this year was pretty bad. But just how intense was it, and what can we learn about it for future water supply shortages? These are some of the questions scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey across the West are asking. They are studying streams and rivers in six states, including Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Larry Moore / BLM Vale District

In May, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stepped up to the podium at a press conference in Boise. The smell of damp sagebrush was in the air, and the foothills in the background were green – a rare sight in the high desert. Jewell then cut to the chase:

“Fire is the number one threat to this ecosystem in the Great Basin states,” said the Obama administration cabinet member.

Stuart Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons

This year's catastrophic wildfire season has required more than 1 million gallons of fire retardant from the Boise Air Tanker Base, marking it the highest retardant delivery season the base has seen in nearly two decades.

Officials announced Tuesday that the base has typically delivered around 821,500 gallons over the past 10 years. However, the highest delivery year was in 1994, where firefighters pumped more than 1.6 million gallons of retardant into air tankers from the base.

Screen grab usbr.gov / Bureau of Reclamation

The three big reservoirs on the Boise River started summer with a good bit of water left over from the previous year. Altogether, they are a little under half full right now. That’s below normal, according to Brian Sauer with the Bureau of Reclamation in Boise.

“And we’re still in irrigation season so it will drop some more,” Sauer says.

Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation / BLM

Brian Maxfield is a wildlife conservation biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. And he's a bit of a voyeur.

Back in the spring, Maxfield strapped transmitters to about a dozen greater sage grouse in northeastern Utah. His goal? To spy on them.

Each bird’s every move is now a mosaic of color-coded dots on a clipboard he keeps in his pickup. Today, he’s honing in on the blue dot. And he’s worried.

The greater sage grouse is under threat. Its population has shrunk by more than 90 percent in the last century. Scientists say wildfire, invasive species, energy development and other human activities are to blame. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide if the bird will be added to the Endangered Species List.

Nick Myatt / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Over the last few months you’ve heard a number of reports about a species of bird that lives in Idaho and 10 other western states. The greater sage grouse is in the spotlight as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides whether the bird merits listing under the Endangered Species Act. If the grouse is listed, it could have devastating effects on the regional economy. 

National Weather Service Boise

If you’re going camping over Labor Day, be sure to take a jacket. It will definitely be cold and forecasters say some mountain areas could even see snow.

Temperatures will also drop in the Treasure Valley, thanks to an anomaly in the Pacific Ocean. Forecasters say for the first time ever, three large hurricanes were recorded east of the International Date Line at the same time.

epa.ohio.gov

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says Idaho’s biggest wildfire this year, the nearly 300,000 acre Soda Fire, generated potential hazardous material sites. One is an old mercury processing facility in the Owyhee County desert that was cleaned up four years ago.

Northwest Public Radio

As high winds continued to fan a wildfire near Omak, Martín de la Rosa and his co-workers got the day off from picking apples because of the smoke. They drank beer and listened to music outside a cluster of small cabins surrounded by orchards. But they didn’t get any information about fires burning in the Okanogan Complex until they were dangerously close to home. By the time the foreman came to see them, de la Rosa says, “We were seeing smoke, and planes were out spraying.” 

NASA/Jeff Schmaltz

Monday's crisp and clear air is a welcome relief after weeks of wildfire smoke fumigated valleys around Idaho. The real-time monitor from the Department of Environmental Quality shows just how much things have improved, even in places where fires are still raging.

Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio

A federal judge in North Dakota has blocked a new rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waters.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota issued a temporary injunction Thursday against the Obama administration rule. The rule gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

A nearly toothless, 25-year-old male grizzly bear that repeatedly broke into buildings in eastern Idaho has been euthanized.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a statement Thursday says the grizzly was killed Monday near Island Park because it had become habituated to human-related foods.

Regional Wildlife Manager Curtis Hendricks says the bear made no direct threat to humans but its advanced age and decreasing ability to forage naturally increased the potential for conflict.

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