Environment

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.

Sean Dahlman

It’s been more than four months since the Table Rock Fire blackened the prominent plateau in Boise.  The fast-moving wildfire ate up 2,500 acres where invasive weed species had taken over, fueling the flames overnight and destroying important mule deer and elk wintering grounds.

That’s where Martha Brabec comes in. Brabec is the foothills restoration specialist for the city. She’s been on the job for two months, and she immediately got to work on Table Rock.

Elk
GoCyclones / Flickr Creative Commons

State officials have made safer a central Idaho elk feeding station where 43 elk died last winter, including 38 calves.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports in a story on Wednesday that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game upgraded the feeding station and cleared brush at the site eight miles west of Ketchum.

Agency spokesman Kelton Hatch says snow accumulations last winter forced elk to the feeding station.

Mike Gabelmann / Flickr Creative Commons

Three of four wolves fitted with tracking collars in a central Idaho wilderness area last year by state officials without federal approval are surviving as another winter approaches.

State officials say the surviving wolves from three different packs are still roaming the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Officials say an adult female died in May due to unknown causes.

Bogus Basin Recreation Area

The far western United States set records for low snowpack levels in 2015, and a new report blames high temperatures rather than low precipitation levels.

The new study suggests greenhouse gases were a major contributor to the high temperatures. The study was published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Federal officials on Monday released an ambitious wildfire-fighting and restoration plan to protect a wide swath of sagebrush country in the intermountain West that supports cattle ranching and is home to an imperiled bird.

The 139-page plan is essentially a how-to guide that follows Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's five-page order in early 2015 calling for a "science-based" approach to safeguard greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin.

Hency T. McLin / Flickr Creative Commons

The sage grouse is one of the most iconic wildlife species in Idaho. But according to a new report, three slightly less-flashy birds are benefiting from conservation efforts aimed at sage grouse.

Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

A new report says nearly 600,000 homes in Idaho are at some risk of wildfire. The data released Wednesday by real estate data firm CoreLogic shows Idaho ranks 11th in the number of at-risk homes out of the 13 Western states examined.

nps.gov

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has had a higher profile than most people who’ve held his position. That’s because the National Park Service this year turned 100 years old. Events to honor the centennial included a summer-long celebration and a push to get more people to connect with America’s outdoor treasures.

Tonight, Jarvis will offer a lecture as a guest of Boise State’s Andrus Center for Public Policy.

Ahead of his visit, our Frankie Barnhill spoke with Jarvis, a 40-year national parks employee. You can hear their conversation below.

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

A central Oregon man who put poison on a deer carcass in a central Idaho wilderness leading to the death of a wolf and a dog has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to pay $10,000 to reimburse the state for investigative costs.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that Tim Clemens of Hines, Oregon, pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of poisoning animals and one count of unlawful take of big game.

AP

A tornado struck an Oregon beach town as strong winds and heavy rain walloped the Pacific Northwest, leaving thousands without power as utility crews prepare for what's expected to be an even rougher storm on Saturday.

Daniel Rowe / Flickr

A conservation group has filed a lawsuit contending the U.S. Forest Service is violating environmental laws by issuing grazing permits to central Idaho livestock growers with a long history of violating permit restrictions.

Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit filed Wednesday says the Forest Service is issuing the permits knowing cattle grazers aren't following guidelines in the area that also includes the newly-formed White Clouds Wilderness.

Jerry McFarland / Flickr

The Northwest's first tribal eagle aviary is opening on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation.

The Spokesman-Review reports the Coeur d'Alene Tribe is partnering with the nonprofit Birds of Prey Northwest to create The House of the Bald Eagle for birds that have been injured and can't survive in the wild.

Seven other tribes have U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits to operate eagle aviaries, but they are all in the Southwest.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

The Treasure Valley Food Coalition this week is asking the question, “why should we save farmland in Idaho?” As growth and development spread across the Treasure Valley, the coalition is starting a conversation about preserving farmland in places like Canyon County.

InciWeb

A new University of Idaho study says human-caused climate change is the reason more of the forest is burning each year in the West.

Researchers at U of I and Columbia University found that, because of climate change, the amount of land burned in Western forest fires has nearly doubled in the last 30 years.

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