Environment

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.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Southwest Idaho’s nearly 300,000 acre Soda Fire is the largest this year in areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Most of the burned area was habitat for the sage grouse, the bird whose status as a contender for the Endangered Species List could affect ranching, recreation and energy production in 11 western states. That is why the national director of the BLM was in Boise Wednesday to talk about rehabilitating that land.

J. Alleman / Bureau of Land Management

The Soda Fire was officially contained this week, at 445 square miles. Now thoughts turn to reclaiming the landscape southwest of Boise.

A team of 40 specialists spent five days in the field, surveying the burned area. Their goal is to find and fight threats to life, property and resources over the next three years.

T.J. Clifford is the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team Leader for the Soda Fire. The team is working for the Bureau of Land Management but is made up of people from multiple agencies.

Thomas M. Parsons / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials aren't ruling out that new state parks could be named after private companies that give large donations or sponsorships, but a recently proposed set of rules would severely limit business' ability to acquire naming rights.

Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed legislation permitting the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to pursue sponsorships with corporations to help offset slashed state revenue. Now department officials are finalizing sponsorship rules, which will need approval from the department board and Idaho Legislature.

Soda Fire

Wild horses that survived the Soda Fire now face another threat: starvation, after the fire burned their food supply. The Bureau of Land Management plans to rescue those animals and feed and house them until the landscape can recover.

Arbyreed / Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho-based company that makes most of the retardant used on wildfires has stopped making the substance in its traditional rusty red, opting instead for a hot pink color.

The Missoulian reports that Phos-Chek representative Lou Gildemeister says pilots report that the pink clouds have better visibility.

Air tankers draw lines of retardant around the perimeter of a wildfire, but if they can't see where the substance lands they could leave gaps.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

More than 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise Sunday to help fight wildfires burning throughout the Northwest. They are currently at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise for training and will deploy later this week. Area fire managers requested their help last week, following a rash of large fires that have stretched American resources very thin.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued an alert Monday declaring air quality unhealthy again in the Treasure Valley. The agency issued a similar alert last Thursday.  

If your shortness of breath is giving you déjà vu, you’re not alone. This summer's smoke and wildfires are approaching the numbers put up in the summers of 2007, 2012 and 2013.

Boise National Forest

Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and on Monday prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states.

The 70 firefighters are scheduled to receive protective equipment at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, where an air quality alert is in effect due to smoke from regional wildfires.

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

According to a new report from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA),  the number of male sage grouse in the western U.S. has increased by 63 percent over the last two years. Sage grouse used to number in the millions, but the bird's population has taken a nosedive over the last century. The U.S.

Nicholas D. / Flickr

Smoke from wildfires continues to plague the Treasure Valley. Forecasters say things will get worse before they get better.

Winds are out of the northwest Friday and expected to be again Saturday. That will actually bring more smoke into the Treasure Valley.

Valerie Mills is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise.

Redspotted / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday in Fargo on an effort by 13 states to block a new rule that gives federal authorities jurisdiction over some state waters.

The states, led by North Dakota, argue that the rules from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers illegally expand those agencies' powers under the federal Clean Water Act.

The law goes into effect next week. The states want the judge to order an injunction to suspend the new rules.

Many landowners are worried even a ditch or puddle could fall under the new federal regulations.

Boise National Forest

Three firefighters died after their vehicle crashed and was likely caught by flames as they battled a blaze in Washington State yesterday. Four other firefighters were injured.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NFIC) says 13 people have died battling the fires this year.

Driving is one of the leading causes of death for wildland firefighters. That can include driving to or from a fire, as well as on the fire line.

Randy Eardley of NFIC says every death is mourned.

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Among the images of destruction that have come from the wildfires tearing up the West is one showing an act of kindness by a family of dogs in Idaho.

The photo, taken in wildfire-ravaged Kamiah by Louis Armstrong on Monday, shows a sheep dog and two puppies standing guard at the body of a fawn.

Armstrong was checking out his family's 300 acres after the wildfire ripped through the area, when he noticed his neighbor's dogs protecting the body and snapped the photo.

John Robison / Idaho Conservation League

The accidental release of toxins into the Animas River in Colorado is a reminder of the long-term effects of mining. The decades-old gold mine had been dormant, but the toxins from the operation breached a dam there on the Environmental Protection Agency's watch.

Environmentalists around the West are pointing to the disaster, saying what happened in Colorado could happen in other states — including Idaho.

U.S. Forest Service

Smoky skies, from dozens of western wildfires, have prompted the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to issue an air quality advisory for the entire state of Idaho.

Such advisories are typically issued for individual counties or cities.

Boise National Forest

Dozens of large wildfires are burning uncontained this week across several Western states. With so many fires, there are not nearly enough resources to go around.  Now, military personnel are being brought in to help fight fires.

Of the 15 large fires in Idaho, nine are burning in the northern part of the state. They run from the Canadian border south to the Nez-Perce-Clearwater National Forest, and fire officials say it’s unlike any season in the last century.

Crews from all across the country are fighting fires in Idaho. Most of the blazes started from lightning strikes last week. The Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s spokesperson, Jay Kirchner, says this year is record breaking.

kt.ries / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal authorities have announced a plan to produce massive quantities of seeds from native plants so they can be quickly planted to help the land recover from natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said Monday that the program will make landscapes more resilient and healthier, especially Western rangelands where massive wildfires have been an increasing problem.

Boise National Forest/USFS

The National Interagency Fire Center is calling on 200 active-duty military troops to help fight roughly 95 wildfires burning across the West.

Officials with the Boise-based agency made the announcement Monday. The troops will begin training Wednesday and are expected to be ready for action Sunday. They will be mobilized for a month. NIFC officials say previous call-ups have included more soldiers, but that the smaller force will be ready sooner. 

This is the first time NIFC has mobilized active duty military members for fire suppression efforts since 2006.

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