Environment

Whiskey complex, wildfires
Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

Fire officials working to contain and control the Whiskey Complex wildfires burning near Garden Valley, Idaho say conditions on the ground are more like late August, not mid July. "This demonstrates how the very dry vegetation challenges the suppression efforts," spokesperson Dave Olson writes.

Whiskey complex, wildfires
Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 9:41 a.m. July 17, 2014

The Whiskey Complex wildfire burning in Boise County has grown to 4,500 acres and could expand today because of forecast westerly winds.

The Boise National Forest reports hot temperatures and dry fuels have been a challenge for firefighters working to contain the Complex. It's estimated at 3 percent contained.

Voluntary evacuations are still in place for residents in Pioneerville and those along the South Fork Payette River road.

Here's an update from the Boise National Forest:

photonut-mi / Flickr

The last few days have been scorchers, and the National Weather Service says the heat will continue at least into next week. Everyone is looking for ways to stay cool.

One spot that should always provide respite is your home. Idaho Power has these tips on how to keep your house cool, while saving a little money on air conditioning.

wild horses, nevada, wildlife
James Marvin Phelps / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it will remove fewer wild horses and burros from the range across the West this summer because of budget constraints and overflowing holding pens.

Under its roundup schedule announced this week, the bureau plans to gather 2,400 of the animals through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. All but 215 of them will be horses.

Triple-digit temperatures are expected to complicate the effort to battle The Mills Canyon fire in central Washington.  

Greg Dusic / U.S. Forest Service

Fifty years ago, the Wilderness Act was signed into law, setting aside large areas of land in their natural state. Today, almost 110 million acres have been designated as wilderness by the U.S. Congress.

Idaho is celebrating the milestone with a lecture series in the shadow of the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, sandwiched between Atlanta and Stanley.

Whether it’s due to negligence or arson, thousands of wildfires each year are caused by humans. And the person or business who starts a fire can expect a bill.

USDA / Flickr Creative Commons

Blaine County Sheriff officials say a central Idaho wildfire that caused 20 homes to be evacuated was started by an 18-year-old man lighting fireworks on private property.

The sheriff's office says no charges have been filed but an investigation is ongoing. The office has not yet released the man's name.

Officials say the teenager confessed to causing the 728-acre Colorado Gulch Fire —which started last Sunday— after investigators found fireworks where the blaze first sparked.

weather, temperature, chart
Data: National Climate Data Center | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The National Weather Service in Boise is predicting a week of triple-digit, or near-triple-digit temperatures for the Treasure Valley.

Over the last 30 years, Boise has logged, on average, nine days of 100 degrees or warmer each year. The last two years have exceeded the average with 14 days at or above 100 in 2013, and 12 days in 2012. Data from the National Climate Data Center show Boise has had 45 days of temperatures at or above 100 degrees from 2009-2013.

A top federal wildlife official says there's too much uncertainty about climate change to prove it threatens the snow-loving wolverine — overruling agency scientists who warned of impending habitat loss.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Noreen Walsh said there's no doubt that the wolverine's high-mountain habitat is getting warmer.

But she said any assumptions about how that will change snowfall patterns are based on "speculation."

transportation, river, train derailment
Kagan Yochim @TripwithKagan / Twitter

A Montana Rail Link spokeswoman says it took about 12 hours to remove the first of three commercial airplane bodies that fell into the Clark Fork River after a train derailed.

Spokeswoman Lynda Frost said Monday that specialized machines are pulling the 20-ton fuselages attached to 50-ton flatbed cars from the embankment one at a time at a rate of 20 feet per hour.

Frost says the most difficult fuselage to retrieve was removed safely Sunday. Crews are working on the second fuselage Monday and plan to remove the third by Tuesday.

Colorado Gulch Fire
Andrew Kane / Backcountry Image Productions

This story was updated at 4:26 p.m.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office has lifted all mandatory evacuation orders for residents near Hailey impacted by the Colorado Gulch Fire.

The sheriff's website says some roads and bridges are still closed, but residents can return.

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.

Authorities have expanded mandatory evacuation orders as a growing wildfire nears the community of Hailey.

Water is a common and often contentious issue in the West. But now, farmers across the country are also riled up because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge has blocked a logging project in the Kootenai National Forest over concerns that roads built for the project may harm a threatened population of grizzly bears.

In approving the 36,600-acre Pilgrim project, the U.S. Forest Service called for installing gates on some of the planned roads that would allow future access.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled Monday the forest's management plan requires officials to permanently close the roads once the logging project is completed, or else close other roads in the area.

Lefteris Katsourmits / Flickr Creative Commons

Five environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Idaho over incidental trapping of federally protected Canada lynx.

The groups filed suit Monday in Idaho federal court. They contend the state is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing recreational trapping that inadvertently ensnares lynx.

Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho has long restricted cutting down trees along stream banks as a way to keep water cool for trout and a salmon. On July 1, an updated version of the so-called shade rule goes into effect.   

Douglas Forest Protective Association

The number of acres burned by wildfires across the U.S. so far this year is less than half the 10 year average.

Figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise show 865,030 acres have burned this year throughout the country. That’s just 44 percent of the 10-year average. The 25,096 fires are 70 percent of the average.

Nathan Rupert / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge says the government has until 2018 to come up with a long-delayed recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx in the Lower 48 states.

Wildlife advocates had asked the court to force faster action for the snow-loving big cats, which were added to the threatened species list in 2000.

But U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says in a Wednesday order that a January 2018 deadline proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reasonable.

Molloy also ordered the agency to submit semi-annual progress reports.

Jeff Myers / Flickr

More than 75 scientists are appealing to President Barack Obama to create a policy for preserving old-growth forest.

The U.S. and Canadian scientists sent a letter to the president Wednesday urging the U.S. Forest Service to draw up plans to conserve ecosystems distinguished by old trees, accumulations of dead woody material and diversity of plant life. Most are found in the Pacific Northwest or Southeast Alaska.

Idaho is starting the process of taking over wastewater permitting from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, under a law that quietly cleared the Idaho Legislature earlier this year.

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