Environment

Idaho National Laboratory

A $1.65 billion facility will be built at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation's fleet of nuclear-powered warships, the Navy and U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday.

Officials said the new facility is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.

University of Idaho, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences / Facebook

Upgrading aging infrastructure at nine research and extension centers around the state is a main goal, the new director of the University of Idaho's Agricultural Experiment Station said.

Mark McGuire told the Capital Press that some of that infrastructure dates back to the 1960s and 1970s and needs upgrading so researchers have modern facilities and equipment.

Parolan Harahap / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill.

Friday's announcement follows a 2015 court order for the agency to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

The requirement would apply to hard rock mining, which includes mines for precious metals and other ores.

Yellowstone National Park, Bison, Lamar Valley
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Yellowstone National Park biologists say more than 900 wild bison would need to be killed or removed this winter to begin reducing the size of herds that spill into neighboring Montana.

The park has an estimated 5,500 bison, the highest number since at least 2000.

Park officials meet Thursday with state, tribal and U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to discuss options for managing the animals.

Biologists say 900 would need to be removed just to stabilize population growth.

Jim and Holly Akenson

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area is a step back in time. The area is rough and rugged and few people actually live in this part of central Idaho’s backcountry.

But tucked into the middle of these sprawling public lands is the University of Idaho’s wilderness research station, known as Taylor Ranch. From there, researchers conduct surveys on everything from wolves to bears to cougars to wildfires.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The migration of sockeye salmon from their birth in Idaho’s Redfish Lake to the Pacific Ocean ties Oregon, Washington and the Gem State together. But that trek is a brutal one that kills many fish each year, and advocates say their journey is made more difficult by four federally run dams on the Snake River in Washington.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

A draft management plan for two recently created central Idaho wilderness areas prohibits campfires at high elevations to protect whitebark pine and eliminates horses and other recreational stock in some areas to protect alpine soils.

The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Monday the availability of the 67-page document intended to guide management of the 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness and the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness.

Salmon
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

In May, a federal judge ordered dam operators in the Northwest to put all options back on the table to save endangered salmon. That means giving a close look at four dams on the lower Snake River. Now, Boiseans will have the chance to weigh in on the proposal.

The debate over the best way to protect salmon has been caught in court battles for the last 20 years.

BLM Boise District

Federal officials are proposing one of the largest ever projects to remove juniper trees to protect habitat for imperiled sage grouse.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Monday that it's taking public comments through Jan. 3 on the plan to eliminate trees from 940 square miles in southwest Idaho.

Experts say juniper trees have expanded to displace sage brush needed by the bird in many places in the West due to fire suppression efforts and other human activities.

Idaho Department of Agriculture

Officials from across the U.S. Northwest hope it's not too late to contain invasive mussels found for the first time in Montana.

State Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials announced Nov. 8 that larvae were discovered in the Tiber Reservoir, The Spokesman-Review reported.

During a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region coalition in Boise this week, officials from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and three Canadian provinces discussed the troubling development.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Federal officials are reconsidering how roads and motorized trails in part of the Sawtooth National Forest could harm threatened bull trout following a lawsuit by an environmental group.

As a result, a federal judge on Wednesday put a lawsuit by WildEarth Guardians on hold until Feb. 14 while the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyze how motorized travel and climate change could harm critical habitat for bull trout, a torpedo-shaped fish that needs clear, cold water to survive.

BriarCraft / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Power is working to improve water quality and habitat in parts of the Snake River upstream from dams in Hells Canyon.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that the utility company recently wrapped up a project to deepen a stretch of river and plant more than 18,000 trees near Walter's Ferry and other efforts in different parts of the river are expected.

Charles Peterson / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Fish and Game officials are in Lewiston today discussing the biggest wildlife issues in the state.

The seven-person fish and game commission has a lot on their agenda, including the review of public input on a proposal for the state to take over management of Yellowstone grizzlies.

Screengrab Idahowines.org

Idaho's wine grape crop is rebounding after a small harvest in 2015.

The Capital Press reports that a November 2014 freeze sharply reduced the amount of wine grapes available in 2015. This year, however, growers and vintners say the yields are 50 to 100 percent above last year's, making the harvest slightly larger than normal.

Some growers told the Capital Press that they won't finish picking the remainder of the crop because they've already harvested plenty of grapes.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Scientists in southwestern Idaho are experimenting to find out if bacteria can stop an invasive weed that is taking over the West.

Cheatgrass gets its name by sending out early roots and cheating other plants of water in the spring.

Then it dries out in the summer, becoming a powerful catalyst for wildfires that kill neighboring plants and destroy habitat needed by sage grouse and other wildlife.

The results are huge, cheatgrass-filled landscapes that cycle through frequent wildfires.

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