Environment

Spokane Public Radio

The Forest Service has settled a lawsuit with a conservation group and an Idaho Indian tribe that will allow oversized truck loads to resume using a two-lane federal highway through an environmentally-sensitive section of the Idaho Panhandle. But the settlement essentially bans so-called megaloads of oil equipment destined for the oil sands in Alberta.

megaload, transportation
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Environmental groups, the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service said Friday that they have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over huge "megaload" shipments on a scenic northwestern Idaho highway by tractor trailers.

The shipments had been on hold since 2013 along a 100-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 12 between Lewiston, Idaho and the Montana border.

Keith Kohl / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP

Antelope injured while falling on ice. Horses stranded in snowy mountains. Cougars descending from their wilderness lairs to forage in a town.

It's been a beastly winter in the American West, not just for people but for animals too. One storm after another has buried much of the region in snow, and temperatures have often stayed below freezing, endangering a rich diversity of wild animals.

LED Street Lighs / Pinterest

As the city of Moscow replaces streetlights with energy-efficient LED bulbs, some residents are complaining the change is too bright for residential neighborhoods.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that as traditional high-pressure sodium lights burn out across the city they are being replaced with LED streetlights. Some people say the new bulbs glow too bright.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

State officials have captured a female mountain lion and her three kittens in a residential area near the eastern Idaho city of Pocatello and relocated them to a more remote spot.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Monday that workers with a dog treed the mountain lion kittens weighing from 35 to 50 pounds on Thursday and used catch poles to extricate them from the branches.

Officials say workers treed the adult cougar Friday and used a tranquilizer dart.

Fish and Game says the four mountain lions were reunited and released in a remote area later Friday.

Troy Maben / AP Images

The harsh winter across much of Idaho has caused problems for some big game. Wildlife officials have begun emergency feeding for vulnerable species.

The unusually cold and snowy winter in southern Idaho has forced some animals to lower elevations in search of food. Idaho Fish and Game officials say winter feeding is necessary to help some big game get through the tough season, especially mule deer. The practice also helps deter the wildlife from highways and private property.

US Air Force / Flickr Creative Commons

People flying in and out of Sun Valley have had a difficult time this winter with flights regularly being diverted or canceled due to winter weather conditions.

The chairman of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, Ron Fairfax, calls this winter the worst he’s seen in 20 years.

Data from the airport shows 30 flights were diverted between December 4 and December 26. Just two flights were canceled.

Richard Carter / Flickr Creative Commons

While Idaho residents are lamenting heavy snowpack and icy roads, wildlife in the state have been struggling in the backcountry.

Idaho Fish and Game officials told the Post Register that the tough winter will likely mean higher mortality rates for elk and deer that are coping with heavily crusted snowpack.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management has given the green light to the final federal land section of the Gateway West Transmission Line.

It’s called a Record of Decision, or ROD, and wraps up the federal permission process for the 990-mile power line from Glenrock, Wyoming to Melba, Idaho. The two companies building the line, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, started working with the BLM on the project in 2007.

John Miller / AP Photo

Two federal agencies have approved a 2.4-mile-long open pit phosphate mine proposed by a Canadian company in southeastern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service late last week issued separate decisions approving the plan by Calgary-based Agrium Inc.

The BLM manages the area where the mining will occur, while the Forest Service manages land that will receive waste materials.

AP

Visits to U.S. national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year as landmarks such Zion, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain experienced historic levels of popularity that brought collateral headaches stemming from overcrowded roads and trails and increasing visitor misbehavior.

At many parks, visitors waited an hour or more in cars to get through entrance gates and then spent the day trying to outmaneuver fellow visitors for parking spots and room on popular trails. They left behind enormous amounts of trash and sometimes, human waste.

AP

A change in U.S. House rules making it easier to transfer millions of acres of federal public lands to states is worrying hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts across the West who fear losing access.

Lawmakers earlier this month passed a rule eliminating a significant budget hurdle and written so broadly that it includes national parks.

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Interior secretary, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, voted for the rule change as did many other Republicans. The Senate would have to weigh in on public land transfers as well.

Kay Ledbetter / AgriLife

A lawsuit filed in district court in Boise earlier this month pits an Idaho dairy against former employees from Mexico. 

Six veterinarians are suing Funk Dairy southeast of Twin Falls for human trafficking and breach of contract, among other charges. The vets are from Mexico, and say they were hired to work at the dairy in 2014 under false pretenses.

Jim Urquhart / AP Photo

Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.

Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.

USDA

A new federal report shows snowpack levels and water supply projections are above average in the mountains of eastern Idaho and across much of the state.

The Post Register reports the Natural Resource Conservation Service released a study Tuesday showing that eastern Idaho and western Wyoming had among the highest snowpack percentages in the state. The report covered October to Jan. 1.

Pages