Environment

InciWeb

A new University of Idaho study says human-caused climate change is the reason more of the forest is burning each year in the West.

Researchers at U of I and Columbia University found that, because of climate change, the amount of land burned in Western forest fires has nearly doubled in the last 30 years.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Idaho officials say livestock depredations by wolves appear to have reached a low point, showing that the program is on the right path.

The Capital Press reports that Idaho Wildlife Services Director Todd Grimm says his office killed 70 wolves in Fiscal Year 2016, which ended Oct. 1, 50 of the wolves were tied to livestock depredations. The recent numbers were about the same as during FY 2015 and slightly down from 2013.

Grimm says he believes depredation cases have gotten about as low as they will be.

Jason Bechtel / Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed lifting endangered species status for grizzly bears around Yellowstone National Park. But before that happens, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana each need to come up with plans for how they would manage the population – including rules for hunting the predators.

A public meeting will be held this week in Boise on the potential for a grizzly bear hunting season in Idaho.

Bureau of Land Management

A nearly 1,000 mile long power line, which would stretch across Wyoming and Southern Idaho, is one step closer to reality.

Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power have been trying to build the Gateway West Transmission Line since 2007. The line would extend from a substation near Glenrock, Wyoming to another one near Melba, southwest of Boise.

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

The federal government is using a new assessment of mineral resources on 10 million acres in six Western states to decide whether to ban potential mining on the land to protect an imperiled bird.

Scientists completed the 800-page review requested by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and it was released Tuesday. It looks at areas with high numbers of sage grouse and high-quality habitat for the bird.

Ulalame / Flickr Creative Commons

The Navy and U.S. Department of Energy want to build a $1.6 billion facility at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho that would handle fuel waste from the nation's fleet of nuclear-powered warships through at least 2060.

A final environmental impact statement made public Friday says a new facility at the Energy Department's 890-square-mile site, which includes the Idaho National Laboratory, is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.

Dan Dzurisin / Flickr Creative Commons

A battered and blood-streaked survivor of a bear attack says in a video he shot on his way to the hospital that "Life sucks in bear country."

Todd Orr posted video, photos and a narrative about Saturday's attack in southwestern Montana on his Facebook page. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim confirmed Monday that Orr was attacked.

Orr says a grizzly sow with two cubs charged him and bit his arms and shoulders as he protected his neck.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

A group of scientists and trainers will work with volunteers Saturday to monitor the quality of water in the Boise River. 

Joe Rubin / Flickr Creative Commons

Two more wells providing drinking water in the southwest Idaho city of Nampa have tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which can cause intestinal illnesses.

Southwest District Health tells the Idaho Press-Tribune in a story on Thursday that six previous wells found to be contaminated with E. coli are still testing positive.

Testing of the private wells is voluntary, and the health district isn't releasing the exact locations. Officials say there have been no reports of illnesses connected to the contamination.

Mike McMillan / USFS

Mercury contamination is well documented in the eastern United States. But USGS research ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith wanted to know how big of a problem is it in western states, including Idaho.  He led a comprehensive study that was released earlier this month, showing widespread mercury contamination.

Rachel La Corte / AP Images

Wildlife managers are struggling to find and kill the remaining wolves in a northeast Washington pack. The Profanity Peak wolf pack has been in the crosshairs of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife since early August. The state began hunting the pack this summer after officials confirmed at least eight cattle were injured or killed by the wolves.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Kevin Vierra stands in his living room, admiring the Eagle home he bought in July. It’s full of alder wood floors and cabinets. The counters are granite. Outside, he looks over a small creek.

Vierra and his wife, Vicki, moved here from Manteca, California just three months after visiting a friend who’d already relocated to the area.  Vierra – fresh off a career as a police officer – had grown tired of his native state’s crime and traffic. Now, he uses trips to the airport, both there and here, as an example of how his quality of life has improved.

Monica Gokey

Idaho is pretty well off, water-wise, compared to other arid Western states. But as the Treasure Valley grows, different water users are poised to square off over a finite water supply.

Here's the pickle: The population of the Treasure Valley is expected to more than double in the coming decades. And that has urban planners thinking ahead. But while it seems like the Treasure Valley is flush with potential water sources, a lot of that water is already spoken for by the agricultural sector.

 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

There’s a legal fight going on over control of water in the Treasure Valley. The rhetoric in the fight has been intense. One side even has an ad campaign. 

Imagine a movie-theater preview voice comes up over cheery music reminiscent of a babbling brook. 

“Irrigation water, it makes the Treasure Valley a lush green miracle instead of a desert landscape. Imagine a typical 105 degree summer day. Now imagine your irrigation water is completely shut off to your lawn, garden, farm or favorite park.” The music stops.

National Weather Service

With rain in the forecast, the National Weather Service in Boise is warning of the possibility of flash flooding and mudslides in the 294 square miles burned by the Pioneer Fire.

A low pressure system could bring up to a half inch of rain Thursday to parts of the Boise National Forest that were burned by the Pioneer Fire. While that could slow the still-burning blaze down, it could also bring flash flooding.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

"Nitrate" may as well be a four-letter word in the small town of Ashton, Idaho.

The eastern Idaho town of 1,200 people is about 20 miles from the border of Wyoming. Settlers in the area in the 1890s quickly took advantage the fertile volcanic soil beneath their feet, and began diverting water to irrigate the land. Seed potatoes are the big cash crop, though wheat, barley and hay also contribute to the local economy.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Earlier in this series, we told you about the importance of ground water in Idaho. The state relies on underground aquifers and private wells to quench the thirst of 90-95 percent of the population.

The Idaho Land Board voted Tuesday to put 9 state-owned commercial properties worth about $20 million up for auction, likely in early December.

The unanimous vote by the five-member board is part of the board's new strategic reinvestment plan that calls for using money from the sale of commercial real estate and residential cottage sites to buy timberland and agricultural land.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

When I turn on a sink I often wonder where the water is coming from. It turns out when I’m getting a drink in our newsroom kitchenette in east Boise I can see the answer through the window. It’s the Boise River. If I could go up the faucet and through the pipes I’d come out less than a mile upstream at the Marden water treatment plant off of Warm Springs Blvd.

Mark Snider with Suez, the multi-national company that supplies drinking water to most of Boise and some of Eagle says this was their first surface water treatment plant in Boise.

Idaho Department of Water Resources

It’s no secret that Eastern Idaho has a water problem. There is too much demand and too little water in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer to go around. But how did we get to this point? That’s what this chart is all about.

About 100 years ago, there was roughly 4,000 cubic feet per second of water coming out of the aquifer at Thousand Springs. It’s important to note that’s not how much water was in the aquifer, just how much was flowing out.

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