Lawsuits over North Idaho's leaky BNSF Railway depot continue to trickle into federal court. With $18 million at stake, the case now seems to involve more finger-pointing than a preschool playground dispute. Subcontractors of subcontractors of the railroad's general contractor are now being dragged into the quarrel.
After nearly six years of legal wrangling, the battle between North Idaho grass farmers and 283 Inland Northwest residents with breathing problems came to an end Tuesday in a Coeur d'Alene courtroom. Neither side seemed particularly satisfied.
It was at the end of a long day of worm research when University of Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon dug into the prairie soil and spotted the quick flash of white skin. Her shovel came up with a small segment of the pale flesh. She took another scoop on that sunny May afternoon last year and retrieved the rest of the worm. Sanchez-de Leon immediately suspected she might have found a giant Palouse earthworm, an extremely rare worm that reportedly grows to 3 feet in length, is as thick as a pinky finger and spits a lily-scented saliva when frightened.
Reservations for U.S. Forest Service rental cabins and lookout towers will be handled by a national computerized database beginning Thursday. The Forest Service said the switch is expected to make the cabins and towers more accessible to people across the nation. Translation: There will be more competition for the region's neatest places to sleep.
Deer, elk, bears and moose travel, too. But they haven't exactly benefited from the modern highway system. The state of Idaho is hoping to make one of the Panhandle's busiest creature crossings near McArthur Lake safer for both humans and wildlife.
NORDMAN, Idaho – A snowmobiler's dream: Deep powder, sunny Saturday and miles of trails through some of Idaho's prettiest cedar groves and mountains. But this winter, the snowmobile trailhead parking lot here is nearly empty following a recent decision by a federal judge that halted grooming on 77 miles of popular trails through endangered caribou habitat. The ruling has not only made the forests quieter, it is also suffocating this lakeside community's winter recreation economy, business owners say.
For the first time in two years, Inland Northwest mountains have their normal winter mantle of snow. Most of it has fallen in the past three weeks – nearly halfway through what started off as another below-average snow season – prompting federal snow tracker Scott Pattee to declare an "astonishing" turnaround.
Biologists think they might know how to restore legendary fishing to Lake Pend Oreille. But not even the best scientific plan has a chance unless it's supported by the many anglers who fish Idaho's largest lake, said Ned Horner, regional fisheries manager for the state's Fish and Game Department. The state hopes to convince Lake Pend Oreille anglers and local residents that more lake trout need to be caught and killed. Horner said focusing on the exotic predatory fish is the only hope for salvaging the rest of the big lake's fishery.
A brick of silver weighing as much as a golden retriever was among the loot stolen recently from the Coeur d'Alene corporate headquarters of Hecla Mining Company. The bar and an untold number of silver medallions were stolen from a metal safety deposit box sometime between Dec. 28 and Jan. 9, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood.
PLUMMER, Idaho – A tract of forested lakeshore 40 miles south of Coeur d'Alene was once mentioned in the same breath as Yellowstone and Yosemite as a contender for national park status. It didn't make the final cut. Heyburn State Park, the oldest state park in the Northwest, still has the scenery, but the park facilities are becoming musty and mossy with age. Cabin logs are starting to crumble and rot. Bats have taken up residence in the attic of the main lodge. And visitors are clamoring for the latest campground comforts, things like Internet access and hot showers.
Tiny beetles chewing through British Columbia's forest are creating big worries for the Inland Northwest timber industry. The province is now attempting to slow the spreading plague of mountain pine beetles by cutting as much infested forest as possible. An area of forest half the size of Washington – some 21 million acres – is already infested in what provincial officials say is the worst natural disaster to ever befall British Columbia.
PRIEST LAKE, Idaho – Avalanches weren't much of a worry during the eight years Jose Leal spent guarding California's sunny border with Mexico. But the senior U.S. Border Patrol agent now works out of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, where days can be so cloudy and snowy even his satellite phone is useless. There might not be as many illegal aliens wandering the thick forest along the Canadian border, but Leal has a new set of risks on his patrols, including grizzly bears, snow slides and hypothermia.
A mudslide Tuesday that sent 11,000 gallons of raw sewage into Hayden Lake has prompted a call for Kootenai County to take a closer look at hillside construction projects. The slide occurred early Tuesday morning, when heavy rains caused a torrent of mud to flow off a residential construction site on East Upper Hayden Lake Road and break a 11/2-inch sewer line at a home downhill.
Kootenai County Commission Chairman Gus Johnson filled his "state of the county" speech Tuesday with the freshest facts and figures available. But at the county's current growth rates, any numbers quickly become stale.
From 3 feet of snow to a foot of mud to record-high rivers and widespread blackouts, a series of recent storms brought wild weather to Inland Northwest residents. The Spokane International Airport received three-quarters of an inch of rain for the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Tuesday, said Laurie Koch, National Weather Service meteorologist. Two inches have fallen since the beginning of the year, more than 11/2 inches above average.
BOISE – A decade after gray wolves were released from cages and reintroduced to the mountains of central Idaho, the state has assumed most management authority over the predator, under an agreement signed Thursday with the federal government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to look over the state's shoulder to ensure a minimum number of packs are allowed to roam free, but the agreement will give the state greater flexibility in day-to-day management, including handing kill permits to ranchers.
Idaho's open meeting law was violated when state officials held two days of meetings with grass seed company officials without notifying the public, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a public health group that's been pushing for an end to field burning in North Idaho. The group, Safe Air For Everyone, or SAFE, learned of the December meetings through documents obtained in a request of records and correspondence from the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Decisions on field burning management were made at the sessions, which were held at a hotel in Moscow, Idaho, and neither publicized nor opened to residents, according to a copy of the complaint filed in Idaho's 4th District Court in Boise.
Ten trillion gallons or four tablespoons. Depending on whom you ask, that's how much of the region's drinking water has been threatened by fuel leaks at BNSF Railway's refueling depot near Hauser, Idaho.
There might be better places than a truck stop to spend Christmas morning, but Bob Sawyer doesn't seem fazed. Sawyer, a trucker from Minnesota, stopped at the Flying J Travel Plaza in Post Falls just long enough to top his twin tanks with diesel. His only Christmas wish was to have his load of frozen food to Portland by nightfall, in time for him to cook some pork chops and catch a Vikings football game in the comfort of his tractor's cab.
In a move to protect the Lower 48's last remaining caribou, a federal judge has barred snowmobile trail grooming for the rest of the season on federal land in some of Idaho's most popular snowmobiling territory. The order issued late Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Robert H. Whaley, of Spokane, will halt grooming of snowmobile trails on U.S. Forest Service land near Priest Lake. Trails on state land, mostly on the east side of the lake, will continue to be groomed.