Environment

A Canadian company proposing a gold mine in central Idaho says it's undeterred by a U.S. Geological Survey study that found more extensive pollution than previously thought from historic mining in the area.

Midas Gold Corp. President and CEO Stephen Quin says the 4.6 million ounces of gold the company expects to recover near the town of Yellow Pine means cleaning up a century worth of past-mining activities as part of the project is feasible.

Ridge to Rivers Facebook page

Heads-up intrepid Boise foothills hikers, bikers and runners: time to find an alternate route for your cardio adventures.

The recent rain in the Treasure Valley has wreaked havoc on the trails, making them soft and muddy.

Trail managers are encouraging people to check conditions before they head to the hills this winter. Here's the link to updated trail conditions and alternatives (Boise River Greenbelt, 8th Street Road and Rocky Canyon) from the city's Ridge to Rivers system.   

Roger Phillips / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

It was a bad year for endangered sockeye salmon making their way home on the Columbia River. Unusually warm water in Northwest Rivers this summer killed off most of the returning fish. But quick action by fish managers means the few that survived could produce a record number of smolts.

This year was supposed to be a record run, with 4,000 fish headed home to Idaho from the Pacific Ocean. But in early July, water temperatures heated up in the Columbia system and the fish started to die off.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has settled a lawsuit against the J.R. Simplot Company for alleged Clean Air Act violations. The Idaho-based agriculture giant will pay $899,000 in a civil penalty.

The company owns five sulphuric acid plants that make fertilizer in Idaho, California and Wyoming. Sulphur dioxide is a gas scientists have connected to climate change as well as respiratory issues in humans.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Water experts from around Idaho gathered in Boise earlier this month to brief one another on 2016 forecasts. A slide during a presentation by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) water supply specialist Ron Abramovich solidified a recurring theme: "think snow."

According to this week's forecast, southern Idaho will be not just thinking snow — but experiencing it.

So how do things look so far when it comes to that precious precipitation?

National Weather Service Boise

The first big winter storm of the season is headed for southern Idaho. The National Weather Service in Boise says a storm is moving in from the Pacific and will bring rain first and then snow.

Josh Smith is a meteorologist in Boise. He says the rain will start Tuesday night in the Treasure Valley. “And then that will be switching to snow probably around 7 or 8 a.m., maybe a little bit later than that, and then we’ll see up to an inch of snow in the Boise Metro area,” Smith says.

Most of the snow will hit Wednesday.

The Nature Conservancy

Since Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expire in September, conservationists have been trying to get it re-authorized.

Jim Jacobson

Scientists are paying close attention to the ways in which climate change may be impacting wildlife. In Idaho, one of the mammals dealing with the effects of changing conditions are American pikas. 

Pikas are related to rabbits and live in Rocky Mountains states. The curious animals, which have a distinctive call, can be spotted in places like the Sawtooths. They also hang out in the recesses of the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Well, for now at least.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

It’s been called “marching grass” and “the scourge of the West,” but most people refer to it as cheatgrass. The honey-colored weed is named for its ability to “cheat” during the winter, getting ahead of crops and native perennial grasses by taking root while the others are still dormant.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National forecasters predict an El Nino year. Climate experts say the storms are likely to be as strong as the El Nino 18 years ago, and people in the arid southwest are already dealing with above-average precipitation.

But in Idaho, scientists say the Gem State is in for another hot and dry year.

John Abatzoglou is a climatologist at the University of Idaho. He says El Nino in Idaho typically brings below normal temperatures and less precipitation, and another year like 2015 is not good news for the northern part of the state.

screengrab cumoco.com

The mining company American CuMo Mining Corporation and its subsidiary Idaho CuMo Mining Corporation have finalized an agreement with Boise County that will allow CuMo to begin exploring for valuable minerals in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City.

The Forest Service gave the company the go-ahead to begin road building and drilling more than a month ago. But project manager Joe Puccinelli says it took a little longer than expected to finish the legal agreement with the county for things like maintenance of roads the company will use extensively.

It's been almost two months since the Obama administration decided not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Just a few days later, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter filed a lawsuit challenging the BLM and Forest Service for the changes in land-use regulations that came with the ESA decision.

Craig Gehrke / The Wilderness Society

Back on August 7th, President Obama signed a bill that turned 275,000 acres of the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains into wilderness.

The law creates three wilderness areas in Blaine and Custer counties. Conservationists like Craig Gehrke, director of the Idaho office of the Wilderness Society, says the wilderness designation was a long time coming.

Land Trust of the Treasure Valley

A group of volunteers will be out in force Saturday to give the Boise Foothills a collective hug. That’s what the YMCA and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley are calling trail restoration in Harrison Hollow.

“Now and then it just needs some tender loving care, and that’s what we’re doing, we’re lending a hand for the land,” says Rich Jarvis with the YMCA Togetherhood program. He says maintaining trails in the Foothills is no easy task.

Enel Green Power

On September 17, the flow in the Boise River dropped from 621 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 335 cfs. The drop occurred at Barber Dam, a hydroelectric plant east of town.

The dam is operated by Enel Green Power, an international hydropower company. The company leases the plant from Ada County. According to Enel operations director Conrad St. Pierre, an electrical failure on the Idaho Power circuit occurred the morning of September 17.

Aaron Hockley / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho gets almost half of its electricity from coal-fired plants in nearby states. But where the coal is burned doesn’t change things for Kelsey Nunez. She’s the executive director of the Snake River Alliance and says Idaho’s dependence on the carbon-emitting source needs to end.

Idaho Fish and Game

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of beavers parachuting into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The story spread like wildfire, complete with pictures of the beavers, tucked inside their travel boxes, parachuting into their new homes.

It turns out there’s more to this story.

Jeremy Erickson / Flickr Creative Commons

The City of Trees wants more people to have – well – trees.

Ryan Rodgers is with the city's community forestry department, and says there are many benefits to growing more trees in Boise. Rodgers says that's why the city is providing two free programs for people who want more shade by their homes.

Rodgers says residents in the Vista Neighborhood might have received a postcard about donated trees from Idaho Power. The company is encouraging planting for heat reduction in the summer, and the city is helping get the word out.

Kara Stenberg / Flickr

Southern Idaho gardeners and farmers are seeing an increase in voles, and the destruction they can cause, this year.

Voles are four-to-five inch long mammals, often mistaken for mice, that like to eat green vegetation.

“It’s a big problem in southern Idaho,” says Ronda Hirnyck. She’s the University of Idaho Extension pesticide specialist in Boise.

Kxlly Kxsh / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Power is one step closer to replacing an aging transmission line that runs from Hagerman to Hailey. Blaine County approved a permit for the project last week. Now, the Bureau of Land Management will review it – and will pay special attention to the greater sage grouse in the area.

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