It's no secret that Idaho's grizzly bears, caribou and bull trout are struggling to survive. But few have heard about the plight of the state's northern bog lemmings, western pearlshell mussels, Pacific lamprey, cave obligate mite or dozens of other native species that are declining because of lost habitat and human disturbance. A new state report attempts to identify each and every creature that could be at risk of extinction. A draft version of the massive document, called the "Idaho Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy," was posted last month on the Idaho Fish and Game Department's Web site. The agency is asking for public input, which it will use to prioritize how conservation dollars will be spent.
Bonner County sheriff's deputies will cross Idaho this week collecting supplies for their exhausted colleagues in southern Louisiana. After criss-crossing the state, the officers will lead a convoy of squad cars and at least one moving van directly to St. Charles Parish, where they will deliver the supplies and report for up to two weeks of police duty.
A watchdog group is accusing the Washington Department of Ecology of suppressing a mercury pollution study. The group, Washington Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, also claims the agency's study was deeply flawed.
Despite reports of gas shortages and calls from some political leaders to limit travel, there appeared to be no shortage of campers, boat trailers, big trucks or tourists in Coeur d'Alene and surrounding North Idaho on Friday, the eve of one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year. Some hotel clerks reported cancellations, but many business owners said they expect no hurricane-related slowdown because of the high gas prices.
A 35-lot subdivision proposed for the base of Coeur d'Alene's Best Hill is prompting strong protests from neighbors. The Nettleton Hills project encompasses 30 acres on the eastern edge of the city at the end of Best Avenue. The development company, Halko LLC, is asking the city to annex the project into city limits.
BAYVIEW, Idaho – Within weeks, the U.S. Navy's newest ship will be cruising the waters of Lake Pend Oreille, testing the same jet propulsion and stealth technology that the Navy hopes to employ in its next generation of destroyers. Although the Sea Jet is 133 feet long and capable of traveling at near-highway speeds, the vessel is expected to run as silently as a nuclear submarine. The ship, which will be permanently based at the lake, might turn heads when it zooms past pleasure boaters and kayakers, but its radical hull design is supposed to show up on enemy radar screens as nothing more than a fishing boat.
A group of Idaho conservationists is accusing the U.S. Forest Service and two Shoshone County commissioners of violating the state's open meeting law during a session in Coeur d'Alene on Monday focused on proposed changes to the management of Idaho's roadless forests. Mike Richardson, a board member of the Idaho Conservation League, said he wanted to sit in on the meeting between Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor Ranotta McNair and Shoshone County commissioners Jon Cantamessa and Sherry Krulitz.
Business opportunity: guaranteed income operating popular bike trail in one of America's prettiest spots. You provide the workers. Federal agency handles major upkeep. Estimated revenues of $200,000 or more. That's the gist of a 77-page prospectus issued recently by the U.S. Forest Service in its quest for bids to operate and maintain the Route of the Hiawatha bicycle trail, which follows the old Milwaukee Road rail line crossing the Montana-Idaho border. Every five years the agency is required by law to open up the trail contract for new bids, said Dave O'Brien, spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
Moments after U.S. Forest Service law officer Ron Nelson began his shift on a recent Saturday, he was flagged down by a pair of ATV riders who had come across a dog with a bloodied mouth. The ATV riders were trying to give water to the injured animal, but the dog's jaw and tongue hung shattered from its face. Nelson, who works alone and was the only Forest Service officer on duty that day between Coeur d'Alene and the Canadian border, called the Kootenai County's animal control officer for help. He also took coordinates of the incident on his global positioning unit for a later report. It appeared as if somebody had shot the dog, Nelson said.
ST. REGIS, Mont. – When accused murderer and kidnapper Joseph Duncan needed a place to hide, investigators say he found the perfect spot in the Lolo National Forest, near the Montana-Idaho border. There, he is believed to have camped for weeks with the two children he kidnapped from a Coeur d'Alene home. One of the sites where Duncan allegedly camped – and where investigators suspect he killed one of the children – is perched on a ridge with an eagle-eye view of the Two Mile Creek Valley. Duncan could have spotted possible intruders or law officers from miles away.
WALLACE, Idaho – Ranger Ed Pulaski, known to be a gruff, no-nonsense woodsman, would have probably felt uneasy at Saturday's ceremony naming a trail in his honor. Speeches were read recounting his heroic deeds. Top dignitaries described him in mythical terms. White-gloved honor guards and a bagpiper were on hand at the mouth of the West Fork of Placer Creek.
The annual burning of bluegrass stubble on Rathdrum Prairie could begin at 11 a.m. today, sending smoke skyward while preparing the fields for next season's crop of grass seed. On the eve of burning, clean-air activists are demanding the state of Idaho share the precise locations of the burns "so people have a chance to run for their lives," said Patti Gora, director of the Sandpoint-based group Safe Air For Everyone.
POMEROY, Wash. – Firefighters launched a massive assault on the School fire Wednesday, hoping to girdle the blaze with fire lines before it can make a run for a maze of steep canyons in a roadless wilderness about two miles south of the current burn. The effort was described as a "last stand," by Stan Hinatsu, a spokesman for the interagency team leading the team of 1,600 firefighters. If the fire manages to continue its run to the south, "hundreds" of additional cabins and homes could be at risk, said Incident Commander Bob Anderson.
POMEROY, Wash. – Doug Parker remembers the time when he prepared for a day of fighting forest fires with "a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a doughnut."Nowadays, every firefighter starts off with a federally mandated breakfast of at least four ounces of sausage or bacon, two fresh eggs, pancakes or toast, coffee, fresh fruit, milk and juice. Trash from breakfast is separated and recycled. Before leaving for the fire line, crews are given pinpoint weather forecasts from on-site meteorologists and maps created only hours earlier.
POMEROY, Wash. – Heavy winds and high heat helped the School fire advance closer to dozens of cabins Tuesday and evade most attempts of control by the hundreds of firefighters sent to protect this small southeast Washington community. Wide fire lines had encircled about a third of the blaze by Tuesday night, but firefighters were having almost no luck stopping the fire's rapid advance toward at least 50 additional cabins and summer homes.
HAUSER LAKE, Idaho – Once a month, Harry Lien lowers a container to the bottom of this small North Idaho lake to collect a water sample. Lien has spent a good part of his 61 years fishing for trout on Hauser, but lately the trout fishing has begun to stink. So does water pulled from the bottom of the lake.
John Bowman only sits about 15 feet from his co-workers, but workplace banter is simply impossible. To communicate over the drone of his Stearman biplane's 450-horsepower engine, Bowman makes a series of jerky head movements.
Silver Mountain resort manager Brian Rhodes said he is reviewing gondola maintenance logs in light of claims by a former mechanic at the ski area that the resort's system is unsafe. The parent company of Silver Mountain, Jeld-Wen, issued a brief statement Thursday from Rhodes in response to allegations by the former mechanic.
KELLOGG, Idaho – At least half the ski lift gondola cabins at Silver Mountain resort are overdue for new parts, safety inspections or both, said Tim Pipkin, a lead gondola mechanic at the resort who resigned earlier this month in what he describes as a falling-out with resort management over safety. Pipkin backed his allegations with a thick stack of maintenance records kept by him and previous mechanics. He said managers at Silver Mountain continually rebuffed his complaints about safety problems so he made photocopies of the records to protect himself from legal trouble should an accident occur. Several other former employees backed Pipkin's claims that the resort was cutting corners on gondola maintenance.
All that spring rain bought the region some time, but the long-expected drought has finally hit. Wildland firefighters are on edge with the forecast calling for continued heat and wind, combined with the prospect of hundreds of campfires this weekend in Inland Northwest forests. On Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Lands increased the wildfire danger rating to high and the National Weather Service issued a "red flag" wildfire warning for southeast Washington.
BNSF Railway is demanding $18 million from the Spokane construction company and the Illinois-based engineering firm hired by the railroad to build a high-speed refueling depot atop the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. A series of fuel leaks discovered at the depot threatened the purity of the drinking water for 500,000 people in the region and prompted an Idaho judge to issue an emergency shutdown order in February. The refueling depot reopened May 10.
HAYDEN, Idaho – A man involved in an apparent domestic dispute with his estranged wife fired a handgun at Kootenai County Sheriff's deputies approaching his house Tuesday afternoon, nearly wounding one of the officers and causing evacuation of some neighboring homes, authorities said. Shot at close range, the bullet glanced off the protective vest of one of the deputies, said Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger. The deputy, who was not identified, was not hospitalized.
A massive federal cleanup plan for mine waste in Idaho's Silver Valley is based on "generally sound" scientific and technical principles, according to a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences. If anything, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ought to expand its efforts to protect residents and wildlife in the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane river basins from the toxic legacy of 100 years of mining, according to the review conducted by 17 scientists. The panel even called for mandatory blood testing for lead in every child aged 1 to 4 in the Coeur d'Alene Basin, which stretches from the Montana border to Spokane.
The public has a right to read the full contents of hundreds of e-mail exchanges between Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas and Marina Kalani, the former coordinator of a now-defunct juvenile court program, according to a ruling issued Friday by Idaho District Judge John R. Stegner. Although the ruling was clear in its determination that the 889 e-mail messages in question are open records and not protected by privacy laws, none of the messages will be released until the Idaho Supreme Court weighs in on the issue.
Facing threats by hungry elk and encroaching homes, officials at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge are considering a plan to purchase surrounding wetlands as well as allow limited elk hunting inside the Cheney-area sanctuary. The measures are part of a long-term conservation plan proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 15,000-acre waterfowl and wildlife oasis near Cheney. The public has until Aug. 13 to comment on the proposal, which will be finalized by the end of the year and will guide management of the refuge for the next 15 years.