Environment

Provided by Lex Shapiro

Last week, the Idaho House passed a bill that would prohibit cities from banning the use of plastic grocery bags. If it becomes law, the bill would prevent the formation of local movements — like one Lex Shapiro was a part of in Hailey five years ago — to make the bags illegal.

The 21-year-old college student grew up in the Wood River Valley, where she learned a deep appreciation for the outdoors. 

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal wildlife services and Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials have joined forces to kill wolves in the Clearwater Region for the third year in a row.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that elk herds have been struggling in the remote country for nearly two decades.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A newly published study looks closely at one of the most beloved rivers in Idaho. The Big Wood River runs through the heart of Blaine County. The waterway is used for recreation and it helps fuel the county’s agricultural producers.

Jeffrey Johnson

There’s a volcano in Guatemala that erupts on a regular basis, so regular that some scientists call it the “Old Faithful” of volcanoes. That makes it very popular with people who study volcanoes, like Boise State Professor Jeffrey Johnson.

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson recently led 60 researchers from Mexico, France, Italy and the United Kingdom to conduct different studies on the volcano. He returned last month and says the work being done in Guatemala could someday help scientists better predict how other volcanoes will behave.

Amelia Templeton / OPB

Oregon conservation groups say volunteers are lining up to help reverse damage done to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the ongoing occupation.  

At the end of January, the Oregon Natural Desert Association put out a call for volunteers interested in doing environmental restoration at the refuge after the occupation is over. In just a week, more than 600 people from all over the Northwest have signed up.  

Ard van der Leeuw / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is feeding elk in four areas of south-central Idaho in hopes of keeping them off roadways and away from hay stacks and cattle operations.

The Times-News reports that residents in the Wood River Valley are asked not to feed elk or stop them from moving on to the Fish and Game feeding areas.

USGS

Just ten miles from downtown Boise, scientists are studying golden eagle migration in southwest Idaho. And they’re using roadkill to do it.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Boise State University and Idaho Fish and Game created a series of motion-sensitive camera traps. They drag a 250-pound road-killed elk through the snow to the trap and leave. The cameras do the work, snapping pictures of whatever scavenger comes by for a snack.

Tatters / Flickr Creative Commons

A central Idaho homeowners association is taking steps to eliminate a poisonous plant that has been killing elk in the area.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that the Valley Club Owners Association in Hailey has prohibited the planting of yews. The exotic shrubs are commonly used in landscaping, but they are toxic to many animals and to humans.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation say they've used approximately $70,000 in private sponsorships to partially offset their depleted budget.

Director David Langhorst told a state budget writing committee that private businesses like Airstream and Cabela's have funded various programs in the department's first year of using cooperate sponsorships. Private sponsorships raised another $30,000 in in-kind donations in 2015.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management says it’s close to releasing its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, on the last two segments of the Gateway West Project. That means the creation of the 990 mile long power line across Idaho and Wyoming is one step closer to construction.

Wildlife Conservation Society

The future of grizzly bears could change this year, if the animals who frequent Yellowstone National Park are taken off the Endangered Species List. As more animals move outside the park, groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society, or WCS, are looking at where the bears go.

A new study looks at how black and grizzly bears are expanding into habitat in Idaho outside of Yellowstone National Park and how they may interact with humans.

Dave Siddoway / Flickr Creative Commons

More than a dozen elk have died this winter in the Wood River Valley. Biologists think the animals have eaten ornamental yew, a non-native shrub some people have planted in their yards. The bright green plants can be shaped into those intricate topiaries you see in English or Japanese gardens.

ulalume / Flickr Creative Commons

In Washington D.C., a bipartisan group of senators this week introduced a new piece of legislation dealing with nuclear energy, called the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo (R) and Sen. Jim Risch (R) introduced the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah (R), as well as Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Stephen Mitchell / Flickr Creative Commons

The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan has brought the issue of lead poisoning to many people’s attention. The brown-colored water from the Flint River was not treated for lead, and children in the town are especially vulnerable to getting sick. The crisis in Michigan has caused drinking water regulators to take another look at their own systems – including in Idaho.
 

The U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday issued a notice of non-compliance to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game after the state agency violated an agreement by using a helicopter in a central Idaho wilderness to put tracking collars on wolves.

The two-page notice includes additional requirements the state must follow when seeking approval for future landings in wilderness areas.

The Forest Service on Jan. 6 approved Fish and Game's request to use helicopters in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to put collars on elk.

Latham Jenkins / Flickr Creative Commons

The Western Governors’ Association held a meeting in Boise Tuesday about the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The nonpartisan group brought together stakeholders from all ends of the natural resources spectrum.

One of the big topics at the day-long workshop was how science is used – or could be misused – to make endangered species decisions. Richard Valdez was a panelist at the conference. He is an adviser for an environmental planning firm based in Arizona.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The federal official who oversees the Salmon-Challis National Forest says Idaho Fish and Game’s unapproved collaring of four wolves in a wilderness area last week is a “big deal.”

Courtesy of University of Idaho Photographic Services

Exercise is something we often talk about in January, usually in the context of getting healthier.

But here in Idaho, biologists and engineers are looking for ways to get fish more exercise. Specifically - trout, salmon, and steelhead raised in hatcheries. The idea is to force fish to work out so they're in better shape - and more likely to live - once they're released.

Right now, hatchery fish are raised in long, rectangular tanks called raceways. The tanks are hard to clean and sweeping out fish waste is expensive.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park Flickr

Idaho Fish and Game collared four wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness earlier this month. The action was unauthorized by the Forest Service, the agency that oversees the area.

Mike Keckler with Fish and Game says the issue comes down to a communication problem. One of the crews assigned to put tracking collars on elk in the wilderness area also collared four wolves. Keckler says they do that under normal operations, but in this case the agency had a specific agreement with the Forest Service to only collar elk.

Bryce W. Robinson

What can the world’s largest falcon tell us about climate change? That’s the question one Boise researcher is asking in an article published this month in Audubon Magazine.

Bryce Robinson is a Gyrfalcon field researcher and a graduate student at Boise State University. Working with the Peregrine Fund, he’s been studying Gyrfalcons in western Alaska for two years. Robinson studied the birds for his Master’s thesis.

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