BAGHDAD – On a bright Sunday morning in March, Ambassador Ryan Crocker stepped out of a meeting with top embassy staff, adjusted his silk tie and greeted two visitors from his hometown under the rotunda of Saddam Hussein's former palace. Diplomats of his caliber – 37 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, ambassador postings to the world's toughest countries and now America's leading political problem-solver in Iraq – are typically known as masters of restraint and decorum. But Crocker's grin can only be described as dumbfounded.
A few decades back, Bruce Shadduck could climb the foothills of Canfield Mountain and stare out across a scattering of small farms, patches of forest and the huge green carpet of the Rathdrum Prairie. On Saturday, the retired teacher climbed the same slope and saw acres and acres of beige houses, winding ribbons of fresh asphalt and emerald green patches of fertilized lawn. But the land where he stood remained largely the same as when it was owned by his grandfather.
BAYVIEW, Idaho – Just in the nick of time, Lake Pend Oreille's kokanee salmon should again have a clean bed of gravel for fall egg-laying. The gravel beds and tens of thousands of fertilized eggs were smothered by silt in April as a result of an expansion project at the Harborview Marina in Bayview. The work was illegal, officials say, and likely wiped out a large portion of this year's class of native kokanee on Lake Pend Oreille.
Officials have not yet decided whether to pursue criminal charges in connection with the late-afternoon shooting death Tuesday of a hunter near Bayview, according to a statement issued by Kootenai County sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger. It was the second hunter death in as many days in North Idaho. On Monday, a St. Maries hunter was found dead. Officials believe the hunter slipped and accidentally shot himself in the chest.
Despite pressure from leaders of surrounding counties, Kootenai County commissioners rejected a proposal Tuesday that could have slowed or derailed the adjudication of water rights in North Idaho. "It's important to get the water adjudication going. It's going to benefit all the counties," Kootenai County Commissioner Todd Tondee said.
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but is it worth the life of one of the nation's rarest mammals? That's the question wildlife experts are asking after a 2-year-old Selkirk grizzly was shot by Idaho Fish and Game officials Oct. 4, when rubber bullets, noise-making shotgun shells and a live-trap relocation failed to keep the bear from returning to easy food sources in the tiny lakeside community of Nordman.
CATALDO, Idaho – On Monday, the swans were swimming and feeding in the marsh. A couple of days later, they were sluggish and barely moving. By Friday, the swans were dead – victims of lead poisoning. The deaths happened a few years back, but the memory remains fresh for Anne Dailey, an environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Although they're half a world away from Idaho, the Marine fighter pilots serving with the Black Sheep Squadron have been following efforts to rename the airfield at the Coeur d'Alene Airport after the squadron's legendary founder, Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. The airport was renamed Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field last month after Boyington, a fighter ace and Medal of Honor recipient who was born in Coeur d'Alene and went on to lead the Black Sheep Squadron during World War II.
A white-water park planned for downtown Spokane is prompting an undercurrent of anxiety over possible impacts to the river's remaining population of native fish. Although the park's designer insists fish will factor foremost in shaping and building the white-water play area, environmental advocates say the site is too close to some of the last, best remaining spawning grounds for redband trout.
South Stevens County residents are holding out hope that a proposed exchange of state parcels won't strip their area of public recreation sites. The Washington Department of Natural Resources has proposed swapping about 15,100 acres of scattered, typically isolated parcels for 15,900 acres of lands more contiguous to other state trust lands.
MOSCOW – Scientists and energy experts stood on a podium at the University of Idaho on Monday and proclaimed that the debate over climate change is dead. Humans are making the planet warmer, they told the audience at the university's inaugural sustainability symposium. Gov. Butch Otter also took a turn at the microphone. Otter is not known as a climate change bulldog. Earlier this year, he continued to question the link between humans and global warming, and he was noticeably absent at a July meeting of Western governors aimed at addressing the issue. But on Monday, the governor said the debate was moot.
The vast pool of water buried below Spokane and Kootenai counties needs to be protected and conserved now, before it's unable to slake the region's thirst, according to political leaders and experts attending an aquifer summit Thursday in Post Falls. "We are borrowing it from our grandchildren," said Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, whose city was the first above the aquifer to implement summer watering restrictions in 2003.
Firefighters are increasingly at risk and American taxpayers will face soaring costs to protect the growing number of homes popping up across forested stretches of the West, according to a recent study. The Inland Northwest faces some of the highest risks, according to the county-by-county study by Headwaters Economics, of Bozeman, Mont.
Decades ago – possibly even centuries – Mustang 2359's ancestors had been turned loose by a pioneer, a cavalry officer, a tribal member or maybe even a conquistador. But the open range grows only so much grass and can hold only so many horses. That's why the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent in a helicopter in late July to chase the 4-year-old mare and several dozen other mustangs from the herd into a makeshift pen.
A huge reservoir proposed to irrigate farms in the parched Yakima Valley could also saturate radioactive soils below the nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation and push the contamination into the Columbia River, according to a report issued Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The findings have prompted deep concerns within the Washington Department of Ecology – not to mention environmental groups – but state and federal agencies plan to move forward with additional studies on the Black Rock Reservoir proposal.
Any doubts over the return of wolves to Washington were erased Friday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that a calf in northeastern Washington had been killed by one. The livestock death is believed to be the first in Washington caused by a wolf since the predators were effectively erased from the state through bounty-hunting, poisoning and trapping in the 1930s.
This morning, a conservation easement will be signed to forever preserve 1,643 acres of private forest ground in the Cabinet Mountain foothills southeast of Bonners Ferry. The land supported three generations of a local family and untold generations of creatures ranging from grizzlies to salamanders. Amid the Panhandle property boom, the acreage also has captured the attention of real estate developers.
A pair of Kootenai County residents face 21 counts of animal cruelty after law officers found a menagerie of emaciated animals – including dogs, cats, guinea pigs and two whitetail deer – living inside their double-wide trailer home. When officers arrived at the mobile home Thursday to follow up on a previous report of animal abuse, they spotted a scrawny horse in a small dirt pasture near the home, according to a Kootenai County sheriff's report. The horse's rib and hip bones were protruding, and the animal had no water in its trough.
Severe drought conditions are expanding across the Inland Northwest, with forests and fields crackling under weeks of heat and rivers trickling with record-low flows, according to a briefing issued Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center. All of Idaho is now under severe drought conditions and a third of the state – mostly centered in the Clearwater River area of north central Idaho, where huge wildfires have burned this summer – is considered to be suffering from extreme drought, according to information from the University of Nebraska-based drought tracking center.
Larger septic systems are needed across North Idaho to prevent the further fouling of surface and groundwater, according to a unanimous vote Thursday by the Panhandle Health District Board of Health. The proposal calls for roughly doubling the size of new septic systems, but the plan first must be approved by the Idaho Legislature. Representatives from the building industry and several Republican legislators attending Thursday's meeting expressed skepticism of the idea, which they worry could add too much expense to new homes.
The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge near Colville won't be reopened to widespread cattle grazing after a ruling last week by U.S. District Judge Edward Shea of the Tri-Cities. Local officials and ranchers have decried the decision as a blow to the region's economy and an example of federal heavy-handedness. Environmentalists, however, say the ruling is a rare victory for wildlife in the livestock-dominated West.