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U of I student critical after bike crash

According to Moscow Police, Coic was riding east on Pullman Road around 8:20 a.m. when he attempted to turn right onto Peterson Road and went off the roadway, striking the university's brick entryway sign.

Coic was not wearing a helmet, suffered serious head injuries and was knocked unconscious, according to police.

He was transported to Gritman by the Moscow Volunteer Ambulance Service before being airlifted to Spokane.

A witness told police that it appeared Coic was riding too fast to make the turn safely. CdA Press

University of Idaho students top competition in outdoor skills

OUTDOOR SKILLS — Idaho college students have proved they can shoot, call game and find their way with the best of them.

The University of Idaho Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society brought home top honors from the Western Student Conclave, one of five regional events held annually across the U.S. and Canada.

The event, held recently at Texas A&M in Kingsville, Texas, is a three-day competition of skills in telemetry, orienteering, plant and animal identification, fly fishing, skeet shooting, game calling, photography and more.

“The events are incredibly diverse and give each student a chance to bring out their talents and knowledge,” said club advisorJanet Rachlow, professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources.

The team of 12 students had been training with Rachlow since last fall to prepare for the event.

Individual awards were won by:

  • Katey Huggler, Priest River, first place, orienteering (team with Anderson)
  • Shelby Anderson, Twin Falls,  first place, orienteering (team with Huggler); first place, whitetail deer calling
  • Mike Berg, Sandpoint, second place, air tranquilizer context
  • Jenna McCullough, Boise, first place, trail camera photography; first place, sculpture art
  • Tyler Westbrook, Potlatch, first place, rifle shooting contest
  • Luke Teraberry, Nampa, first place, skeet shooting; third place, waterfowl calling contest; third place, casting competition
  • Courtney Comer, Coeur d’Alene, Best of Show, photography; first place, animal photography
  • Kyle Grunwald, Coeur d’Alene, first place, landscape photography

Other students competing were Mikaila Bristow, Sandpoint; Nichol Weiland, Roy, Washington; Caitlyn Reeves, Couer d’Alene; and Meaghan Elliot, Boise.

Mumps outbreak hits University of Idaho

A mumps outbreak at the University of Idaho has prompted the state Department of Health & Welfare to advise students to use their winter breaks to make sure they're caught up on vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, which is for measles, mumps and rubella. More than 30 cases of mumps are being investigated at the Moscow campus, including 10 that already have been lab-confirmed. Click below for the full announcement from the state Department of Health & Welfare.

University Of Idaho hold symposium on energy in the West

​The inaugural Idaho Symposium on Energy in the West, a new collaborative event series presented by the University of Idaho College of Law, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at Idaho National Laboratories and the Energy Policy Institute at Boise State University, will be held Nov. 13-14, 2014, at the Sun Valley Inn and Conference Center in Sun Valley, Idaho. The topic of the series’ first meeting will be “Transmission and Transport of Energy in the Western U.S. and Canada: A Law and Policy Roadmap to 2050.” Meeting topics will include the future of transmission and transport in the oil and gas, wind, solar and electricity markets; regional energy planning; effects of proposed EPA power plant regulations; distributed generation and models of state utility regulation.

Confirmed speakers include some of the nation’s leading energy law scholars. In addition, an emerging scholars’ panel will provide a forum for younger voices, and a panel on careers in energy law will engage law school students.

UI and EWU go 1 and 2 in college bass fishing tourney

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Two Inland Northwest bass fishing teams traveled to California this weekend and thumped the home-state rivals on their own water.

A two-man University of Idaho bass fishing team — North Idaho boys — won the FLW College Fishing Western Conference Invitational tournament on Clear Lake today with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 41 pounds, 11 ounces.

They finished more than six pounds heavier than the runner up team from Eastern Washington University.

Tanner Mort of Moscow and Austin Turpin of Coeur d'Alene earned their club $4,000 and qualified the team for the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship.

EWU's veteran collegiate angling duo, Jarred Walker and Nick Barr, both of Cheney, finished second with 10 bass totaling 35-pounds 1 ounce. They won $2,000)

“We were targeting rocky shorelines,” said Turpin, a freshman majoring in criminology.
“We had about five spots that we cycled through. Timing was a big factor. We knew that at certain times we could go to certain spots and catch them. Some of the spots wouldn’t be good until the sun was straight overhead and the baitfish would come up, and some of the spots wouldn’t be good unless the wind was pushing the baitfish up on them.”
“We had a spot that we went to twice during practice and the first day of the tournament,” said Mort, a sophomore in electrical engineering.
“We could roll up to it and make three casts and put 12 pounds in the boat. That spot didn’t produce for us today. Today, we didn’t have a good morning bite so we started drop-shotting a lot. Our biggest fish today actually came on the drop-shot. We were fishing the drop-shot in the same places, but a little deeper.”
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Mort. “I don’t know if this has really hit me yet. Having the lead after day one really put the pressure on us. We knew we had the fish and the spots, we just had to put them in the boat.”
“It feels amazing to win,” said Turpin. “We’re a brand new club. We’re pretty excited to be the underdogs and come out and show what the University of Idaho can do.”
The top 10 teams that advanced to the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship are:
  1st: University of Idaho – Tanner Mort, Moscow, Idaho, and Austin Turpin, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (10 bass, 41-11, $4,000)
  2nd: Eastern Washington University – Jarred Walker and Nick Barr, both of Cheney, Wash. (10 bass, 35-1, $2,000)
  3rd: San Jose State University – Adam McAndrews, Santa Clara, Calif., and Joey Fortina, Ben Lomond, Calif. (10 bass, 32-12, $1,000)
  4th: California State University-Chico – Andrew Loberg, Rocklin, Calif., and Michael Braswell, Chico, Calif. (10 bass, 31-4, $1,000)
  5th: Humboldt State University – Christopher Childers, McKinleyville, Calif., and Erich Coulter, Arcata, Calif. (eight bass, 27-6, $1,000)
  6th: Oregon State University – Peter Kawamura and Eric Strickler, both of Corvallis, Ore. (10 bass, 26-11)
  7th: Sonoma State University – Brent Nelson, Santa Rosa, Calif., and Jake Banuelos, San Pablo, Calif. (10 bass, 24-1)
  8th: Oregon State University – Ryan Sparks, Gearhart, Ore., and Chase Cochran, Corvallis, Ore. (nine bass, 24-0)
  9th: Eastern Washington University – Cy Floyd, Wenatchee, Wash., and Tyler Wasilewski, Cheney, Wash. (nine bass, 23-3)
  10th: University of Oregon – Kyler Schneider, Beaverton, Ore., and Jacob Wall, Jacksonville, Ore. (seven bass, 18-10)
Complete results can be found at CollegeFishing.com.
The FLW College Fishing Western Conference Invitational was hosted by the Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina.
FLW College Fishing teams compete in three qualifying events in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top 15 teams from each regular-season tournament will qualify for one of five conference invitational tournaments. The top 10 teams from each conference invitational tournament will advance to the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
College Fishing is free to enter. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.

Of democracy, fundamental rights, and one key U.S. Supreme Court justice…

Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter, said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the Windsor decision, has “sort of carved himself out as the swing vote, and we’ll see which side he goes on.” Said Perry, “This is a question of state authority, a question of the democratic vote in 2006 where Idahoans nearly 2-1 voted to retain the benefits of man-woman marriage. Justice Kennedy, as an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, is also a big proponent of democracy and federalism. So that’s where you’ve seen kind of the push and pull here.”

Deborah Ferguson, attorney for the couples challenging Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, said, “If we are discussing a fundamental right … then that is not subject to the will of the majority, and we all don’t get to decide what the fundamental rights might be of a minority group. That is not the American way.”

She said, “There is the question: Is this a fundamental right? That’s our due process argument. The other is our equal protection argument. These are laws that discriminate against a group of people. … So does the government have a legitimate reason to discriminate against that group of citizens? That’s the equal protection argument I think in a nutshell.”

The attorneys are speaking at the University of Idaho's Constitution Day statewide panel discussion, with audiences in Boise, Moscow and Coeur d'Alene. Craig Durham said he agreed with Ferguson on democracy and fundamental rights, but also agreed with Perry that Justice Kennedy likely will be the deciding vote on the nation’s highest court.

‘Never seen access to the courtroom so tightly controlled’

The first question posed to the lawyers from Idaho’s gay marriage case was about the atmosphere in the courtroom at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when the judges heard arguments in Idaho’s case earlier this month. Deborah Ferguson said the arguments were in the San Francisco courtroom that’s normally used for en banc arguments, when larger panels are convened. “It’s a very beautiful courtroom of marble and mosaics,” she said. “The building predates the great earthquake in San Francisco.” She added, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen access to the courtroom so tightly controlled, and every seat was spoken for.”

The arguments were streamed live on YouTube, she noted. “Personally, I’d rather not be videotaped, although you forget about that very quickly as they start asking you questions, the judges, that is.”

Craig Durham said, “I had the unfortunate revelation afterward that I was on YouTube sitting behind whoever was speaking.” Tom Perry said, “I share Craig’s perspective – you would turn on your phone and you’ve got 300 texts, ‘Hey, I see you,’ as you’re pawing through your briefs trying to respond to an argument.”

Asked to rate the 9th Circuit judges’ questions compared to those from other circuits, the attorneys declined. Durham said he was a bit surprised that the 9th Circuit judges didn’t ask the lawyers any questions about Baker vs. Nelson, an early 1970s case that’s been a topic of questions at arguments in some other circuits.

Perry noted, “A lot of times, judges take you to places that really aren’t the principle thrust of your case.” He added said, “For degree of toughness, I really thought Judge (Candy) Dale, on both sides, she was really pretty tough on both of us.” Dale is the U.S. magistrate judge who overturned Idaho’s ban after hearing arguments this spring in Boise.

Lawyers: Marriage law debate offers chance to see ‘cutting-edge’ constitutional law arguments take shape

Deborah Ferguson, the attorney who made the arguments in the 9th Circuit this month against Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, told the UI’s Constitution Day crowd, “It’s been sort of a remarkable turn of events in how quickly everything has developed … in a period of just 14 months.”

Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter – who’s on the other side of the case – agreed. A UI grad himself, he told the law students participating in today’s statewide discussion, “There aren’t really very many opportunities as a student to learn constitutional law from a real-live example,” but the marriage debate is just that. “The briefing in these cases is really quite good across the nation,” Perry said, advising law students to read it. “You’re reading cutting-edge equal protection (arguments), from both sides.” He added, “From both sides, we’re really seeing some fantastic advocacy, and it’s really worth a look to get a better flavor.”

Attorneys from both sides of marriage case address Constitution Day event

In honor of Constitution Day, attorneys from both sides in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case are gathered at a University of Idaho event in Boise today, in which students, lawyers and others are participating from Boise, Moscow and Coeur d’Alene. Here, the attorneys are Craig Durham, left, and Deborah Ferguson, center, who represent the four Idaho couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court; and at right, Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter, who is thumbing through a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution, an item that’s been provided to all the attendees here in Boise. Otter and the state appealed the federal court ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it's now pending.

Shaakirrah Sanders, University of Idaho law professor, said, “This case still very much is in the litigation phase, and so to that extent … we are not expecting any of our panelists to really discuss the merits of the case. Our goal is to help provide a broader understanding both for the public and for the attorneys in the room on how our Constitution applies under these circumstances, and the fact that this is very much an issue that is in the public’s interest.”

Ferguson is starting with an overview of what's happened thus far in the case.

Lawyers on both sides of Idaho’s gay marriage case to speak at UI event

In honor of Constitution Day this Wednesday, the University of Idaho will sponsor a statewide panel discussion on constitutional questions surrounding same-sex marriage. The discussion will start at 4 p.m. MT, 3 p.m. Pacific, at the Idaho Water Center in Boise; students and faculty in Moscow and Coeur d’Alene will participate through video links, and the program is free and open to the public. Speakers will include Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, the attorneys for four Idaho gay couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, and Tom Perry, attorney for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who is defending the state law.

Shaakirrah Sanders, UI associated professor of law, will moderate the panel in Boise, and Michael Park, assistant professor of journalism and mass media, will moderate questions and provide commentary in Moscow. There’s more info here. Past Constitution Day observances at the UI have covered free press and fair trial issues, leaks of government secrets, violent images in video games and federal drug laws.

The suspension, and suspense, continue

Say, maybe the Idaho Vandals and Florida Gators can play each other on Xbox 360.

It may come to that. Another day passed with no resolution on whether the two teams' game — washed out by rain and lightning last Saturday — will be played on another date this season, or whether the Vandals will get the $975,000 payday they were counting on for their trouble.

For more on the Vandals, follow the link.

UI Wrestles With Guns On Campus

Questions stemming from the soon-to-be-implemented "guns on campus" law are wide ranging and answers are a bit uncertain. Finding the answers is what a group of University of Idaho officials have been asked to do as part of a 14-member task force established by President Chuck Staben last month. The task force has been assigned to evaluate the changes in Idaho code and State Board of Education policy in an effort to develop a new campus policy in compliance with the recent legislation that permits some people to carry weapons on university and college campuses. Matt Dorschel, executive director for UI Public Safety and Security, said members of the task force are in the information-gathering stage and he's taking input from students, staff, faculty, administrators and Moscow residents/Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune. More here. (Lewiston Tribune photo: Barry Kough)

Question: Are you expecting an incident involving a gun on a Idaho college campus next year?

UI writers signing up for Semester in the Wild

WILDERNESS — Enrollment is open for University of Idaho students up for spending a semester living and learning in Idaho’s beautiful and rugged mountains through the College of Natural Resource’s Semester in the Wild.

What better way for a college writer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act?

Here are the details from UI:

Semester in the Wild combines upper-division science learning, leadership, environmental literature and writing while living in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Students learn the ecological and social relationships in nature through hands-on investigation and writing, while building leadership skills and personal understanding. This limited-enrollment experience unites students from across the country to live, learn and grow together in America’s Wildest Classroom. 

Preferential enrollment is open through April 11. To enroll, go to uidaho.edu/wild.

Semester in the Wild is in its second year, having touched the lives of 11 undergraduates in 2013. The program is possible because of the college’s ownership of the Taylor Wilderness Research Station, which is used for year-round research and education.

“This experience was amazing, it changed my perspective on life and I loved it,” said Susie Everly, a UI student in the inaugural class.

The students live at Taylor with the station managers. Faculty from the college and from the UI English Department fly in on a rotation to teach classes in blocks.

“We knew this was a perfect setting to teach things like river ecology and wilderness management, but it is equally ideal for classes like environmental writing and western literature,” said Tom Gorman, professor and associate dean of the College of Natural Resources. 

University Of Idaho students win sustainability and community outreach grants

The University of Idaho Sustainability Center and the Office of Community Partnerships have awarded grants totaling more than $13,900 to five students and three faculty for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The UI Sustainability Center’s student-led grant program facilitates student engagement in building campus sustainability by awarding up to $9,000 each year to student-led grants. These grants support initiative work in areas such as sustainable transportation, carbon neutrality and climate change. Prior grants have a funded UI transportation survey, climate change seminar series and sub-irrigation system for the UI Pitkin Nursery. UISC Grant recipients for 2013-2014 are:

-Josie Greenwood, a sophomore in environmental science and a member of the University of Idaho Soil Stewards club. Greenwood’s $2,235 grant, entitled “Soil Stewards Investments for the Future,” will fund efforts to help the 10-year-old, student-run farm move closer to campus, purchase needed farm equipment to increase the capacity for growing produce, sell more produce to Campus Dining, and promote the farm.

-Nick Plass, a senior in animal and veterinary science. Plass’s $3,000 grant, entitled “Food and Farm Compost Facility Upgrade: Static Pile Aeration,” will upgrade the compost facility located at the University of Idaho Dairy north of campus. Currently, compostable material generated on campus is delivered to the UI Dairy for composting but the system is near capacity. The static pile system will significantly increase capacity and efficiency as well as increase the quality, safety and sustainability of the final product.

-Kelly Moore, a junior in mechanical engineering. Moore’s $3,000 grant, entitled “University of Idaho Wind Resource Assessment,” will identify UI buildings suitable for wind energy systems and measure the wind source available on those buildings. This research will show whether wind energy could substantially supplement the energy use of the Moscow campus, making the university more sustainable and helping it to realize its energy independence.

University of Idaho looks at new uses for wood in architecture

Cool story out of U of I: Taking inspiration from their own backyard, architecture students are finding new ways to use wood in architecture with the help of the Idaho Forest Products Commission’s Best Use of Idaho Wood Architecture Design Awards.

Winning designs will be recognized during a luncheon, featuring guest speakers architect Chris Patano and Kevin Esser, chief financial officer of Idaho Forest Group, on Monday, Dec. 9 at 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in the Idaho Commons Clearwater/Whitewater rooms.

Students, faculty, professional architects and members of the forest products industry are encouraged to attend the luncheon, where they’ll learn of the outcome of the competition. Awards include a $500 prize for first place and two additional $250 awards.

“During the project, the students were able to explore the woods and mills of North Idaho and apply their findings to a realistic design project, “ said Bruce Haglund, UI professor of architecture. “Overall, they've acquired new perspectives on wood as a building material and new skills in systems integration in design. We are grateful that IFPC and AIA Idaho have sponsored this invaluable experience.”


South Dakota’s Chuck Staben named new president of U of I

Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota, has been named the new president of the University of Idaho; the state Board of Education voted unanimously today in favor of the choice. Staben’s salary will be $350,000 a year, and he was appointed for a term of three years, starting March 1. Asked how long he plans to stay in the position – at a university that’s seen considerable turnover in its top position in recent years – Staben said, “Longer than three years,” to loud applause from a crowd gathered for the announcement in an auditorium on the U of I campus in Moscow.

Staben, 55, said, “What I was really looking for as I looked at this opportunity, was the opportunity to have what I call … one last good job for me. I can work 10 or 15 years more. … My wife hates to move. It turns out she’s enthusiastic about this move, but she may not have any more in her, and that’s OK.”

You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. Staben cited increasing the number of students who both enroll and graduate, and strategic expansions in university research as among his priorities. He is a biochemist with a Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. He's been at South Dakota since 2008, and previously served as a vice president and professor at the University of Kentucky, from 1989 to 2008. His wife, Mary Beth, is a physician; they have three grown children, all in college or graduate school. Among Staben’s successes at South Dakota has been managing through a series of state budget cuts.

UI to help research how to turn beetle-killed trees into liquid biofuel

The University of Idaho is among a group of research partners, led by Colorado State University, who have been awarded nearly $10 million in USDA grant funds to study how to convert insect-killed trees into an advanced liquid biofuel, right on-site in the forests. The project would explore “recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an announcement today. The hope is that this kind of processing of beetle-killed trees could generate highly usable biofuel, while avoiding the harvest and transportation costs otherwise present in salvaging the logs.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have impacted over 42 million acres of U.S. forests since 1996, and a changing climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetles on our forest lands. As we take steps to fight the bark beetle, this innovative research will help take the biomass that results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy that holds potential for job creation and promises a cleaner future for America.”

He also took the opportunity to note that the research effort, made possible by a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill, points up the “critical need” for passage of a new farm bill this year, something that’s been stalled in Congress. “I urge Congress to achieve passage of a new, long term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible,” Vilsack said.

The research project also includes the University of Montana, Montana State University and the University of Wyoming; it’s led by Colorado State’s Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies. The grant, which covers five years of research, comes under a program for research that contributes to reducing dependence on foreign oil, has net positive social, environmental and rural economic impacts, and is compatible with existing agricultural and forest production systems.

Boise State Can’t Play In UI’s League

Memo to Don Soltman, President, Idaho Board of Education:

With all due respect allow me to bring to your attention the most recent ranking of universities and colleges in the United States put out annually by U.S. News and World Report. Please note that Idaho’s land grant university, the University of Idaho, despite the reduced rations the board and legislature have had it on, still is ranked 161list of national universities. The faculty, the administration, boosters, alumni and students are all to be congratulated on this accomplishment for it comes despite your and Governor Otter’s systematic starving of its budget and your increasingly burdening students with more fees and charges. … Boise State is listed as #65 on the list of best REGIONAL universities in the west. Idaho State made the list of “also rans” (somewhere between 200 and 300) among NATIONAL universities. Spokane’s Gonzaga University is listed as #4 on that list of best western regional universities/Chris Carlson, Carlson Chronicles. More here.

Question: Would you rather have a nationally ranked football team (which Boise State currently doesn't) than a college known for quality academics?

5 Finalists Contend For UI Presidency

Item: Board names five candidates for UI job: Former UI College of Law Dean Don Burnett has been serving as interim president/Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune

More Info: The candidates include James Applegate, a consultant for higher education and philanthropy; Donald Birx, chancellor and professor at Penn State Erie; Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University; Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and administrative head for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science at the University of Florida; and Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota.

Question: What would you like to see in a new University of Idaho president?

Five finalists named for president at University of Idaho

Five finalists have been named for president of the University of Idaho, hailing from Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida and Pennsylvania. “The search committee was impressed by the number of outstanding applicants for the position,” said state Board of Education member Emma Atchley, who is chairing the search committee. “We are looking forward to having the final five candidates visit Idaho and tour University of Idaho sites across the state.”

Former UI President Duane Nellis left this year to become president of Texas Tech University, which is more than double the size of UI. Law school Dean Don Burnett is now serving as interim president, but said he didn’t plan to seek the permanent position. The five finalists named today are consultant James Applegate, formerly with the University of Kentucky and the Lumina Foundation; Donald Birx, chancellor and professor at Penn State Erie; Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University; Jack Payne, senior vice president, agriculture and natural resources, University of Florida; and Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs, University of South Dakota. You can read the state board’s full announcement here.

WSU defeats Idaho 42-0

S-R photojournalist Tyler Tjomsland covered the WSU vs. University of Idaho game in Pullman.  Check out this big picture gallery of his photos.

UI Grads Earn More Than BSU’s

The 2013-14 PayScale College Salary report offers an interesting factoid — University of Idaho graduates start with higher salaries and are still earning more at mid-career that their Boise State University counterparts. The report shows that University of Idaho graduates average a beginning salary of $45,300 and are earning an average of $82,700 by mid-career. By contrast, Boise State graduates average a starting salary of $43,100 and are earning $67,000 by mid-career. UIdaho is tied for 242nd among USA's colleges, while Boise State ranks 648th. Maybe there's more to Idaho secondary education than a natonal college football ranking? You can see the entire report here.

Question: What do you make of this report?

State Lands Dept. under fire over family burial ground auction, land swap…

Idaho’s state Lands Department is under fire from two different directions this morning: In a new lawsuit that charges it’s about to hold a conflict auction on a family burial ground, and from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who say an inadequate appraisal allowed a private party to benefit to the tune of $1.6 million on a state land exchange, instead of the state endowment’s beneficiaries.

The new lawsuit over Priest Lake state-owned cabin sites charges that two cabin-site lessees who will face conflict auctions in late October haven’t been allowed to challenge their appraisals, as all other lessees at the lake were allowed to do after big concerns were raised over the newly set values; that the two weren’t allowed to go into land exchanges to avoid the conflict auction, though the department had indicated earlier that would be allowed; and that one of the cabin sites has been held by the same family since its inception in 1933, and five family members' remains are located there, including scattered ashes and permanent memorials. “The earliest of these human remains has been on the property since at least 1939,” says the lawsuit, filed in Bonner County.

Lands Department Deputy Director Kathy Opp said she knew nothing about the graves and hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit; she confirmed that lake cabin lessees who were targeted with conflict bids this year – there were four, including three at Priest Lake and one at Payette Lake – aren’t being allowed to appeal their appraisals or join land exchanges until the conflict auctions have been held.

The land exchange issue involves the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School Campus, which had been owned by the state endowment, but last year was traded for commercial property in Idaho Falls that houses Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC, the operating contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory. Both properties came in with identical appraisals of $6.1 million; after the swap, the private owner of the Idaho Falls property, IW4 LLC, sold the newly acquired McCall property to the university for $6.1 million. That left the university in control of the site, which had been the source of increasing tensions as the Lands Department considered big rent increases to match its constitutional requirement to maximize income from endowment lands.

But House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and House Assistant Minority Leader Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, have joined a new group with former GOP Rep. Bob Forrey and attorney John Runft, the Tax Accountability Committee, that commissioned its own review appraisal on the Idaho Falls property, and it came in at just $4.5 million. If that’s right, the private owner in Idaho Falls profited to the tune of $1.6 million, at the expense of the state’s endowment, something the TAC group dubbed “a travesty.” Vander Woude and Burgoyne, who held a Statehouse news conference this morning, say they’ll bring legislation requiring review appraisals in all future endowment land exchanges, along with more legislative scrutiny over such transactions. You can read the TAC letter to the Land Board here.

Opp said the department stands by its appraisals, and hasn’t routinely ordered review appraisals in addition. “It can be costly – you’re paying another appraisal fee,” she noted. Opp said the Idaho Falls property has been “performing as expected” as an endowment investment; it earns annual rent of $538,312, more than double the annual rent from the McCall science campus lease of $248,000. The series of transactions was approved by both the state Land Board and the State Board of Education.

UI’s Fire Ecology and Management Receives National Academic Certification

The University of Idaho is blazing the trail for fire ecology programs across the nation. The program received national academic certification by the Association for Fire Ecology.

UI’s program is one of the first fire degree programs to receive the national certification and will serve as a model for other higher education programs. The program has grown quickly and now enrolls about 100 undergraduate students from around the country.

“The wildland fire ecology and management program educates tomorrow’s students and professionals in wildland fire. The faculty also has a strong emphasis on peer-reviewed research on the physical, ecological and social aspects of wildland fire. I am proud that our program is a national leader in fire education and research,” said Kurt Pregitzer, dean of the UI College of Natural Resources.

For more than 35 years, the College of Natural Resources has been a leader in wildland fire education and research. The wildland fire program offers more courses focused on fire than any other natural resources school in the country.

Snake River dunes patrolled for college parties

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning college students that officers will be patrolling popular sand-dune party spots along the Snake River.

Some public land areas are notorious for big parties, especially after the Aug. 25-26, 2012, blowout at Illia Dunes that attracted about 3,000 partiers and left behind thousands of pounds of trash, broken glass, foam coolers and other liter along the beach as well as about three miles of road ditch. The area had to be closed to the public for cleanup.

Illia Dunes, on the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam, is a popular end-of-summer gathering place for students — but it will be patrolled. 

Read on for the rules from the Corps:

U of I gets ‘best value’ ranking in Forbes

The University of Idaho was ranked 25th in the newly released Forbes Magazine list of "Best Value" colleges across the country.

U of I was one of four universities in the western U.S. to make the list. The other 3 are Wyoming, BYU and University of South Dakota.

Any Vandals out there?

UI looks at building new mansion for its next president

The University of Idaho is asking the state Board of Education for approval to demolish its current president's mansion and build a new $2 million one, as part of its efforts to attract a new UI president, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports. It would work with the UI Foundation to fund the project, after determining that renovating the existing 1967 structure wouldn't be feasible or cost-effective. Click below for a full report from the Daily News via the AP.

Trib: Nellis Squandered Opportunity

Idaho needed candor from Duane Nellis as he departed the University of Idaho presidency on his way to Texas Tech in Lubbock. Nellis didn't provide it. In a farewell essay published in the Idaho Statesman Tuesday, Nellis wrote: "If I could give one final piece of advice to my friends in the state Legislature, it would be to invest in these people (faculty and public employees). I would hope that your highest priority next year is CEC - Change in Employee Compensation." Faculty and state workers have taken it on the chin these past few years as first the bottom fell out of the state budget and then lawmakers opted to funnel what little new money they received into tax cuts for the well-off and corporations. But is that really the primary crisis facing Idaho education?/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Does Nellis leave behind any kind of significant legacy?