Drought causes ripple effect in Idaho. Wildlife, forests, irrigators showing stress

This is on Idaho’s deep, deep drought from the Idaho Mountain Express. By Jason Kaufmann.

The last week, the flow of monsoonal moisture coming up from the south (typical of August) has begun with thunderstorms, some quite wet. These have dampened some of the fires, but have little effect on the dry forests. These heavy fuels respond slowly to infusions of moisture.

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Idaho Fish and Game talks about wildlife habitat damage from Murphy Complex

This video shows some of the rangefire damage, and they talk about damage to sage grouse leks and big game habitat. The best is at the end when they indirectly counter Larry Craig and the ranchers with quotes such as “Fuel moisture was at an all-time low…. fire burned right through grazed areas …”

76 sage grouse leks, burned with more still in Nevada where the fire burns on the to the south.

Video from the Times-News.

Incident report on the Murphy Fire complex.

Majority leader Senator Harry Reid, now opposes Nevada coal plants!

“U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he’ll do everything I can to stop construction of three major coal-fired power plants in his home state of Nevada and will push for more alternative energy development.”

Reid had seemed to be neutral to leaning toward the coal plants. They are being proposed not because Nevada has a lot or coal or water, it has neither,  but it has a lot of clean air. Power companies apparently think this clean air is being wasted.

This is welcome news in the fight against global warming, curbing the mercury pollution that Nevada sends to neighboring states (from open pit gold mines), and keeping Nevada’s wide open spaces places where you can see for miles and miles.

Story By Brendan Riley. Reid Opposes Coal-Fired Plants in Nevada. AP

Wild horse round-up begins due to their overgrazing

This is from the Western Watersheds Project blog.

I’m not a great enthusiast for feral horses, although they are lovely to watch . . . prettier than cows. The horses can lead to overgrazing, but they are usually not the real culprit because the BLM does keep their numbers down, a minor factor compared to cattle and sheep.

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Caswell’s nomination to head BLM passes Senate Committe, but Senator Salazar keeps it “on hold”

Although the nomination of Jim Caswell, aide to former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne has now passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Colorado’s U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (Democrat) says he will keep “a hold” on the nomination and not let it come to a vote before the full Senate.

The hold is there because Salazar is protesting how the BLM recently leased the willdife rich Roan Plateau to the gas and oil companies and BLM’s general permissive approach to oil and gas development thoughout the state.

A hold is like an silent filibuster, and they generally stay in place unless the Senator is satisfied. Salazar’s hold may doom Caswell’s nomination, a fact that would please many Idaho conservationists who fear his impact on BLM’s already permissive grazing policies, plus Caswell’s key role in Idaho’s wolf-killing, state wolf management plan.

You might want to contact your own US Senators and tell them to give Senator Salazar a pat on the back, and urge them to join him in a hold on the nomination.

Yellowstone’s Owl Fire now over 2000 acres

The one big fire in Yellowstone keeps growing, and now at over 2000 acres has burned out the middle of Specimen Creek, a major drainage in the NW Corner of the Park.

My earlier stories on the Owl Fire.

Update, from Inciweb on Saturday, July 28. Today 12 handcrews were assigned to the fire line constructing direct handline for perimeter control in divisions B, C, D and G. Weather conditions limited fire growth and was conducive to line construction. Little fire activity is expected for the next 24 hours.

All visitor services, park entrances and roads are open. Some trails and backcountry campsites are temporarily closed. 

The fire was estimated at 2800 acres. 

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Rocky Barker’s blog: Nampa man blows up dam in Oregon to aid salmon

Rocky Barker’s blog: Nampa man blows up dam in Oregon to aid salmon. Idaho Statesman.

Although I don’t write prolifically about salmon and steelhead (prized NW anadromous fish), their management and fate is one of the longest and divisive wildlife controversies in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

One of the major points of contention is the presence of dams which hinder the fish that are trying to return to spawn, and most importantly hinder the migration of the small smolts downstream to the ocean.

Rocky Barker has good news on this front, but those who fish and those who care about restoring the balance to many of Idaho’s rivers and streams have their eyes set on much bigger dams than the one just demolished. As Barker writes: “. . . the big kahuna for them is the four lower Snake dams in Washington that stand between Idaho’s thousands of miles of pristine salmon habitat and the Pacific.”

The four dams are Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Lower Granite.

A related more recent story. Idaho chinook salmon still in trouble. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

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