Environment

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Officials closed a portion of State Highway 21 in both directions in southwest Idaho on Tuesday due to a 7-square-mile wildfire burning trees, brush and grass in rugged terrain.

Fire managers gave no timeline for when the highway might reopen as some 850 firefighters backed by aircraft work on fire lines to contain the blaze that started July 18.

The highway is closed from east of Idaho City to north of Lowman as firefighters prep the area for defensive operations.

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

Ketchum’s water ordinance was put into effect in 1992. To city Public Water Works director Robyn Mattison, the decades-old law shows just how dedicated the city is to water conservation. 

The ordinance bars daytime watering, the idea being that overnight watering when temperatures are cooler is more efficient. Mattison says homeowners are used to the restriction and in the three years she’s been in the position – she hasn’t heard many complaints.

Kelsie Kitz / Pioneers Alliance

Rancher Jim Cenarrusa says he sold 9,000 acres of his central Idaho ranch to the Nature Conservancy because he knows the conservation group will take care of it. The land is at the base of the Pioneer Mountains, and is home to sage grouse and pronghorn.

The family will keep a small parcel for their next generation to farm, but Cenarussa says his kids aren’t interested in carrying on the family ranch.

Dusted / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials are once again working to restore fish habitat in the Yankee Fork basin near the central Idaho city of Stanley.

The Mountain Express reports that the restoration is part of a multi-million-dollar series of projects slated for seven years that will repair damage done by years of dredge mining.

This year, crews are putting logs in a stretch of river and modifying the channel to help return the water to more natural conditions.

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A federal judge has stopped exploratory drilling in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City that could lead to a large open pit mine. Judge Edward Lodge says the Forest Service did not consider all the environmental impacts before granting a Canadian company permission to drill. Lodge made a similar decision in 2012.

Gordon Bowen Collection / Boise City Department of Arts and History

It’s 25 miles long and stretches from Eagle to Lucky Peak. The Greenbelt is Boise’s premiere biking and walking path. But how did dozens of separate chunks of riverside pathway eventually end up as one long greenbelt?

Using city documents, interviews with Greenbelt pioneers and historical research, Author David Proctor tells the story in his new book, “Pathway of Dreams: Building the Boise Greenbelt.”

Idaho officials are requiring well users pumping water from a large aquifer to install measuring devices to better monitor their water usage.

The Capital Press reports that the Idaho Department of Water Resources says the devices must be installed by 2018 on wells drawing from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho anglers looking to catch chinook this fall are in luck. 

Compared to last year, fewer chinook salmon are expected to return to the Snake River basin this fall. But Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners still plan to open a fishing season on parts of the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers. The season opens September 1.

Altogether, a total of 32,000 hatchery and wild chinook are expected to complete the journey to Idaho. Last year 59,000 fish were counted.

Boise Fire Department / Twitter

Wildlife habitat managers say it’s essential that the area burned by the Table Rock fire in the Boise foothills be restored to prevent invasive species from taking over. The City of Boise already has $100,000 from the Zoo Boise conservation fund for habitat rehabilitation in the burn scar. But the city has very little expertise rehabbing land.

IIP Photo Archive / Flickr Creative Commons

Update, 7:25 p.m.: A federal firefighter injured in a fire-truck crash that killed two other crew members on a remote highway in Nevada is expected to survive.

The Nevada Highway Patrol says tire failure may have caused the truck to crash Sunday while the three were returning to Winnemucca from a search for lightning-sparked wildfires near the Oregon line.

Trooper Jim Stewart says both victims were from Winnemucca. He identified them as Jacob Omalley, the 27-year-old driver, and Will Hawkins, a 22-year-old passenger.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Most trails on Table Rock and in other areas burned by last week's big fire re-opened early this week. But biologists who will help oversee the area's restoration are concerned that off-trail use in the area could complicate those rehabilitation efforts.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The Director of Boise's zoo announced today that they will give $100,000 to replant native vegetation in the area burned by the Table Rock Fire in the Boise Foothills.

Zoo Director Steve Burns says the money will come from the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund.

Over the last nine years, zoo visitors have generated about $2 million in the fund for wildlife conservation. A portion of each zoo entry fee goes into the fund.

Krista Muller / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Last week’s Table Rock fire burned about 2,500 acres in Boise’s foothills. Although the fire only destroyed one human home, animals that live there will likely go elsewhere until the landscape can be restored.

Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist Krista Muller says Table Rock will not bounce back in just a couple of years.

Charles Peterson / Flickr Creative Commons

A wildlife drama, involving a problem bear, played itself out over the Fourth of July weekend near the eastern Idaho/western Wyoming border. Campers had to leave while officials tracked down the troublemaker.

The Forest Service decided to close the Teton Canyon area east of Driggs after a problem bear tried to enter tents, charged at people and displayed what officials called “bold, unnatural behavior.”

Victor Pozo / Flickr Creative Commons

The Montana man killed by a bear near Glacier National Park was intimately familiar with both the beauty and the danger of the wild forest that spreads from the shadows of the park's rugged peaks.

But there was seemingly nothing that former park ranger and longtime U.S. Forest Service law-enforcement officer Brad Treat could do when he surprised the bear on Wednesday. Authorities say the bear knocked him from his mountain bike on a trail in that forest just minutes from his home.

Talo Pinto / Flickr Creative Commons

Like much of Idaho, people in the Wood River Valley rely on groundwater. Now, water managers have a new way of understanding the way surface water and groundwater are connected in the region, and potential problems with the supply.  

Screengrab USDA.gov

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, four Idaho counties are in a state of disaster because of drought. The counties are Canyon, Owyhee, Payette and Washington. Farmers and ranchers there and in any adjacent counties can get federal money to help them through the year if they can prove the drought is hurting their production.

Penn State / Flickr Creative Commons

State and federal officials say Idaho faces an increased potential for rangeland wildfires in the south, but forested areas in the north are in better shape at this point than last year.

Wildland fire analyst Jeremy Sullens of the National Interagency Fire Center told the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday that a good snowpack has put more moisture in northern Idaho forests to delay the fire season.

But he says additional moisture in the southern part of the state has led to an increase in grasses that could fuel rangeland fires.

tribalclimatecamp.org

Representatives from Native American tribes are in McCall this week to talk about how they can adapt to climate change. Donald Sampson says Native Americans are and will continue to be more impacted by climate change than the rest of the country. That’s because climate changes are affecting their traditional food sources.

Tom Jefferson

An Idaho filmmaker is part of a desperate battle to help save the world’s smallest cetacean.

Last June, we first told you about Matthew Podolsky and his documentary on an Idaho man who's spent 35 years helping the state's bluebirds. But lately, Podolsky has been filming a short documentary in Mexico, trying to save what’s often called “the Panda of the Sea.”

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