Environment

A conservation easement has been signed on an east-central Idaho ranch that's been a top priority for state and federal authorities for years because it contains prime spawning streams for threatened salmon and steelhead.

The agreement between the Bonneville Power Administration and ranch owner Karl Tyler signed last week protects 10 miles of the meandering Lemhi River and half a dozen tributaries.

Lorraine Bodi of Bonneville Power says the agency paid several million dollars for the easement.

Idaho Statesman

The people trying to keep Skinny Dipper Hot Springs open are still fighting despite government setbacks.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office sent a letter to the advocate group Growing Change, saying it could not accept a document from the group outlining proposals for long-term public use of the springs because they were not specific enough.

BLM Four River Field Office manager Tate Fischer announced that he would close Skinny Dipper in April due to concerns about health and safety.

Chris Willey / Flickr Creative Commons

The migration of sockeye salmon from the ocean to inland parts of the Northwest has been deadly this year. Hotter than normal temperatures early in the summer warmed up low-flowing rivers, and more than a quarter million sockeye are dead or dying in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

But Idaho Fish and Game biologist Mike Peterson says the conditions are allowing scientists to observe just how resilient salmon can be in warmer water.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

When Rick Johnson learned Monday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would designate nearly 300,000 acres in central Idaho as wilderness - he was cautiously optimistic.  

Johnson is the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. He’s among the Idahoans closely watching the progress of a bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

“It’s not the most functional legislative body the world has ever seen these days, so I think a lot of people retain a certain amount of skepticism,” he says.

Don Barrett / Flickr Creative Commons

Southwest Idaho stands out in bright red on the most recent drought map. The color signifies the area is in extreme drought. Jay Chamberlin of the Owyhee Irrigation District says that's not surprising, given the lack of snowpack last winter.

Jerry McFarland / Flickr

More than a quarter million sockeye salmon returning from the ocean to spawn are either dead or dying in the Columbia River and its tributaries due to warming water temperatures.

Federal and state fisheries biologists say water that is 5 to 6 degrees warmer is wiping out at least half of this year's returning population of the cold-water species.

Ritchie Graves of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says up to 80 percent of the population could ultimately perish.

Officials are trying to cool flows by releasing cold water from selected reservoirs.

The Idaho Transportation Department has agreed to pay a $52,000 fine after demolishing an asbestos-containing building in northern Idaho and potentially exposing the public to the cancer-causing fibers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement Thursday involving the November demolition of the state-owned building in Priest River.

The federal agency says the state agency failed to do an asbestos survey before the demolition and only learned of the demolition after receiving a public complaint.

BLM

Authorities say a cyclist started a 73-acre wildfire in southwest Idaho by lighting his toilet paper on fire after taking a comfort break.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say the cyclist stopped to defecate in a ravine in the Boise foothills on Wednesday afternoon. The man then lit the toilet paper on fire but lost control of the embers in the dry grass while trying to extinguishing the waste.

Firefighters contained the flames several hours later.

Wendy / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from an environmental think tank ranks Idaho among the states with a low ecological footprint. The study from the Global Footprint Network ranked states against one other on a number of green measures. Idaho received the top ranking for electricity generated from renewable energy. Washington and Oregon come in second and third, respectively.

A close look shows the renewable source that earned Idaho its high ranking is hydropower, with wind and biomass taking up smaller shares.

Kari Greer / Boise National Forest

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says closing public access to some state forest lands amid wildfire concerns by private timberland owners is an option that has to be considered due to extreme fire danger this year.

Consultant Jim Riley on Tuesday told Otter and other members of the Idaho Land Board that a million acres of private land has been closed this year to the public due to potential wildfire.

Riley says the private owners are concerned about human-caused fires starting on state land and spreading to neighboring timber stands.

Forest History Society / Flickr

State officials have given their OK to modify a northern Idaho timber sale to include helicopter logging that will cost the state up to $1.5 million in lost revenue.

The Idaho Land Board voted 4-0 on Tuesday following a federal court ruling earlier this month that put the Selway Fire Salvage timber sale on hold by temporarily banning the use of a contested U.S. Forest Service road.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says it's disappointing but the Land Board had little choice.

National Interagency Fire Center

When officials at the National Interagency Fire Service (NIFC) forecast the 2015 season, they made it clear that what we know of as “normal” in wildfires has shifted in recent years. Prolonged drought, larger and more difficult to manage fires, have become regular occurrences in the West.

Zoo Boise

Two red panda cubs were born at Zoo Boise this summer. The male and female cubs were born June 18 and are just now being seen in the red panda exhibit.

The cubs were born to parents Dolly and Winston. It’s their third litter of cubs and the fifth litter born at the zoo. Their first litter was born in June 2013.

Federal officials say that more than 90 percent of Idaho's counties have either been declared natural disaster areas or are bordering disaster areas because of prolonged drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai and Latah counties as the most recent regions to qualify as primary natural disaster areas.

The declaration means farmers and ranchers in those counties are eligible to apply for low interest federal emergency loans. Eligibility is open for eight months from the date of the declaration.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has decided it won't use an option made available by lawmakers earlier this year intended to speed the commission's natural gas and oil decision making process.

The commissioners with the 3-0 vote on Wednesday chose not to use the option given to them by lawmakers earlier this year that allowed the commission to exempt itself from the contested case provision in Idaho law.

Tristan Buckner / Flickr Creative Commons

The drought is killing wheat crops in a northern Idaho county where commissioners declared a state of emergency.

The Lewiston Tribune reports some Clearwater County farmers have seen drought conditions eliminate almost two-thirds of this year's crops.

Commission Chairman Don Ebert says recent rains were too late to save wheat crops, and that harvests are down 40 percent.

The National Weather Service forecasts more rain this week, but not enough to end drought conditions.

Boise National Forest

The Boise National Forest is reporting an increase of trash and human waste being left behind at campsites.

All ranger districts are reporting more trash, but the Lowman Ranger District has been hit especially hard along Highway 21 and in the Deadwood Reservoir areas.

Fire pits have been loaded with trash. Fecal material has been found near the camps. Toilet paper has been left behind. That’s according to John Kidd, Lowman District Ranger.

Rick Payette / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge has halted a salvage logging project on state land in northern Idaho by temporarily banning the use of a contested U.S. Forest Service road on private property.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in an 8-page decision released late Friday granted a temporary restraining order requested by the property owners and an environmental group.

Morgan and Olga Wright and Idaho Rivers United say the federal agency incorrectly approved the use of the road without issuing a special use permit.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

A recently completed Idaho fish consumption survey that's part of a state process to set new water quality standards could mean greater restrictions for towns and businesses with wastewater discharge permits.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality released the report Wednesday as part of a process that started after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected the state's current standards in 2012.

A wildfire burning near the Idaho town of Bayview didn't change much overnight.

The fire remains at about 2,000 acres and has destroyed at least six homes.

Fire spokesman Geremy Olsen says fire crews are hoping to make progress Wednesday in containing the fire, if weather cooperates.

Olsen says progress depends on winds staying down. He also says there are predictions of thunderstorms in the Idaho panhandle, which could spark new fires.

Bayview is located on the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille (PAHN-duh-ray) and the fire started on Sunday.

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