Monthly Archives: September 2015

Otter, Legislature Sue Feds Over Over Sage Grouse Restrictions

Idaho Governor Butch Otter and the State Legislature are suing the federal government, saying the Fed didn’t provide a transparent process in setting new public land-use restrictions on greater sage grouse habitat. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:60  )

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The Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement in a video on Tuesday:

Sally Jewell (from video): “Because of an unprecedented effort by dozen partners across eleven Western states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater sage grouse does not required protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

But also on Tuesday, the federal government released changes to federal land-use plans in those eleven Western states. It says the changes are designed to help protect the bird’s habitat.

That led to Idaho Governor Butch Otter and other stakeholders in Idaho, including the State Legislature, to file a lawsuit Friday, saying the process behind the amendments to federal land use plans impose unprecedented and unnecessary restrictions on Idaho farmers, ranchers, sportsmen, employers, and others.

Otter says the lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of Idaho citizens to take part in public lands decisions that impact their communities.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted September 25, 2015

On the web:

Governor Otter press release


Rare Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse Coming Sunday Night

For the first time in 33 years, a ‘super moon’ will combine with a lunar eclipse, making the moon glow red and appear slightly bigger. The visual treat is coming Sunday, September 27th. Idaho Public Radio’s  Alyssa Charlston  has more. (: 60  )

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It’s an unusual combination of planetary events that’s coming in the early evening on Sunday– a Super Moon Lunar Eclipse.

Washington State University astronomer Michael Allen says the moon’s dusky red color should be impressive.

The reddish hue is caused when most sunlight is blocked from hitting the moon’s surface as the moon passes through the earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse. The color is why many refer to it as the Blood Moon.

Coincidentally, this eclipse will occur during a ‘super moon,’ when the moon is closer to earth than at any other time of year. This can make the moon appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than it typically does.

Sunday night, the moon will rise just after 6:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Allen says you should look east, just above the horizon, to see it.  If the skies are relatively clear, the large blood moon will be visible for more than an hour before returning to its normal color.

The blood moon last happened in 1982 and won’t happen again until 2033.

I’m Alyssa Charlston.

Reporter’s note: 

Ranger Kevin Peters of the Nez Perce National Historical Park and professor John Morrison of Lewis-Clark State College’s Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division will host a viewing of the total eclipse of the moon on Sunday night, Sept. 27, at the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding, Idaho. The event, which is free and open to the public, starts at 6:30 p.m. For more information call 208-843-7009.

Posted September 25, 2015


Reaction to Sage Grouse Decision: “A Complex Challenge,” “Political Cover.”

On Tuesday, the Department of the Interior announced that the sage grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act. DOI said that, “Over the past five years, an unprecedented, science-based land conservation effort across the west has taken place to protect the sagebrush landscape and reduce the threats to the sage grouse’s habitat.”


(Photo courtesy Department of the Interior)

University of Idaho scientists said the decision validates the collaborative approaches taken by many agencies.

“Conserving sage grouse is a complex challenge that requires the collective efforts of land managers, scientists and all those who enjoy the vast sagebrush ecosystems. This announcement is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of many people,” said Karen Launchbaugh, professor in the UI College of Natural Resources and director of the UI Rangeland Center, said in a statement.

The Rangeland Center has been working to help ranchers understand the relationships between grazing and sage grouse habitat.

Courtney Conway, professor in the UI College of Natural Resources and director of the USGS Idaho Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, and is one of several scientists at UI involved in sage-grouse research.

“The listing decision was made possible due to the hard work and collaboration of landowners and our agency partners, but many of the threats that have caused sage grouse declines still exist,” Conway said in a statement. “We still have our work cut out for us to ensure that sage grouse populations don’t decline further and that high-quality habitat persists for future generations.”

Idaho’s two United States senators said they were skeptical of the decision.

“While a ‘not warranted’ decision is better than a listing determination under the Endangered Species Act, the Department of Interior’s reliance on heavy-handed land-use management plans to arrive at this decision is unacceptable,” Senator Mike Crapo said in a statement. “The Department ignored much of what the Idaho Sage Grouse Task Force recommended and, instead, opted to move forward with top-down federal lands-use management plans.  While the agency cited collaboration as the basis for its decision, the move to abandon the state’s planning process that adequately addressed true threats to the bird–namely the impact of wildfires and invasive species on sagebrush habitat–will ultimately lead to greater uncertainty for sage grouse populations in the future.”

Senator Jim Risch said, “While I am pleased Secretary Jewell has acknowledged the greater sage-grouse population is on the rebound, I am concerned the regulations generated by the Department of the Interior to reach this decision will do little to continue the recent population rebound in Idaho.

“We had pressed DOI early on to rely on a locally-driven, collaborative process to conserve the sage-grouse, but this process changed when it came to Washington, D.C. The two main threats to the greater sage-grouse in Idaho are fire and invasive species. The Secretary adopts a plan that relies heavily on regulation of the mining, oil, and gas industries when it should focus more heavily on fire control. Today’s announcement serves as political cover for another top-down mandate that will not be the best prescription for sage-grouse in Idaho.”

Posted September 23, 2015


Help for Colleges To Address The Drinking Problem

The National Institutes on Health has released a new resource designed to help colleges address binge drinking. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:30 )

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Every school year, stories about accidents involving student drinking come in from college campuses all across the country. While not every college student drinks and not every one who does becomes an alcoholic, some of the numbers remain alarming,

A report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Awareness, for example, says 40% of college students admit to binge drinking in the last 30 days– binge drinking defined as five or more drinks at one time.

Colleges and universities have been looking for help.

The NIAAA has released a tool it says can help– called CollegeAIM, the tool pulls together 60 alcohol intervention methods, rates their effectiveness, and provides needed information on a variety of strategies.


Jonathan Gibralter, the president of Wells College in New York, is chair of the NIAAA’s working group on underage drinking and spoke on a webcast Tuesday:

Jonathan Gibralter: “Even in the face of limited resources and time constraints, college administrators are in an incredibly critical position to serve as a catalyst to influence a school’s social atmosphere, to help address alcohol related problems.”

UI President Chuck Staben is one of 13 members of the working group on underage drinking. The UI said in a statement that this new tool will allow universities to implement data-driven, research-based initiatives to combat unsafe drinking.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

On the web:


University of Idaho statement

Posted September 22, 2015


Officials Urge Congress to Fix Fire Budget

Fire seasons around the country have grown longer in recent decades, and the frequency, size and severity of wild land fires has also increased. Federal officials are asking Congress to change the way the nation pays for the costs of fighting wildfires. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley has more. (:52)

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The latest request on making a funding change came in the form of a joint letter to Congress from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The proposal is to treat catastrophic wildfires like natural disasters.

The cost of the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one-week period last month. A record 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget is now dedicated to fighting wildfire, compared to 16 percent in 1995.

Officials say the Forest Service’s firefighting budget has been exhausted, forcing USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the cost of fighting today’s fires.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted September 17, 2015

On the web:

News release


Learning to Live With Fire

About 8.6 million acres have burned in the United States this wildfire season, about twenty percent more than the ten year running average. It has a lot of people wondering about what’s coming next and what what can be done about it. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:20 )

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It’s been a big year for fire, in terms of the amount of acreage burned, and the fire season in Idaho is longer now than it’s ever been, according to Professor Penny Morgan of the Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences at the University of Idaho:

Penny Morgan: “There’s been an uptick in area burned in Idaho and across the West in the last few decades. Indeed, since 1984, the fire season in Idaho is 32 days longer.”


(Dr. Penny Morgan, photo courtesy University of Idaho)

Morgan says Idaho in particular, and the West in a more general sense, has had a lot of large fires, and will continue to have large fires in the future.

She says several things have changed in recent decades. It’s warmer and drier now now, and forest conditions have changed, including everything from bark beetles to forest density. Morgan says we’re very good at putting out fires, which can sometimes allow fuels to accumulate in the forests.

Morgan says as a society we have to accept that fires are going to happen, and think about what it really means to co-exist with fire. It’s projected that by the middle of this century two to five times more area will burn from fire, and Morgan says we need to learn from this fire season, how we prepare our homes and property for fire, and how we’re going to pay for future firefighting efforts.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

On the web:

Posted September 14, 2015


Rural Idaho Since the Recession

Idaho is in the sixth year of recovery since the 2007-09 recession.

A new report from the McClure Center on Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho details how rural parts of the state—which account for about one-third of the state’s population—are recovering from the economic downturn (the recession last from December 2007- June 2009) .

Here are highlights taken from the report, released in August, 2015:
* Since the recession ended, population growth in rural Idaho has been flat, growing less
than 1%. In contrast, urban Idaho has grown by 6%, led by growth in Ada, Canyon, and
Kootenai counties (8.6%, 7.5%, and 6.4%, respectively).
* Most of Idaho’s rural counties experienced net out-migration between 2010 and 2014,
meaning that more people moved out than moved in.
* Since 2010, rural Idaho’s Hispanic population has grown while its non-Hispanic population
has decreased. By 2013, Hispanics made up 14% of the state’s rural population.
* Most of the rural counties that are growing are located in south central Idaho where
agriculture is strong and has a growing workforce, and in selected counties adjacent to
growing urban areas.
* Both rural and urban Idaho lost jobs during the recession, and neither has returned
to pre-recession levels. Since job growth began in 2010, the number of rural jobs has
increased 2.6%, compared to an increase of 4.8% for urban jobs.
* At least since 1990, rural parts of the state have had weaker economic performance,
as measured by indicators such as unemployment rates, average wages, and per capita
income. Since the recession, however, the gaps have narrowed. For example, in 2007,
per capita income in rural Idaho was $4,329 lower than in urban Idaho. By 2013, the gap
had decreased to $515.

Read the full report here:

Posted September 14, 2015