Idaho: Zena-Loon Fire Progression Map – July 15 to August 31, 2007.

Map. Oh my !!

The Zena-Loon is the bulk of the “East Fork Fire Complex” which is now 217, 263 acres. Here is a color coded fire progression map. They seem to update it daily.

Another map I would like to see someone produce is how much of the country surrounding this fire progression map has already burned between 2000 – 2006. I imagine it is a lot, maybe even the majority.

On top of this, the Cascade Fire Complex (Boise National Forest to the south) has burned 242,709 acres. The Rattlesnake Fire to the north (Nez Perce National Forest) has burned 102,212 acres. The Showerbath Complex in the Frank Church Wilderness NW of Challis has burned 130,784 acres.

Much later. Well, unfortunately, as time went by the URLs to the maps disappeared. Webmaster.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Idaho: Zena-Loon Fire Progression Map – July 15 to August 31, 2007.

Citizen testimony strongly against Idaho joining mercury emission “cap and trade” program

Idaho has no coal-fired power plants, notorious spewers of the toxic element mercury (which is a natural “contaminant” of coal). The emissions cap and trade program is a pollution control method designed for states with sources of atmospheric mercury (mostly coal plants). If Idaho were to opt into the program, that is basically saying “build coal plants in Idaho.”

One might ask, why shouldn’t Idaho help bear the burden of mercury emissions? The primary reason is that Idaho is already suffering greatly from mercury blowing north from the Canadian owned gold pits in Nevada, which in total produce mercury emissions equivalent to scores of coal plants, according to some estimates.

Story in the Magic Valley Times News. By Nate Poppino

Enviros: northern Arizona could be home to jaguars.

Enviros: northern Arizona could be home to jaguars. By Cyndy Cole. Arizona Sun Staff Reporter.

This certainly makes sense from the perspective of climate change, as the topics extend further and further north.

Rocky Barker’s blog: Craig’s departure would fundamentally change salmon debate in Congress

Craig has been just about enemy number one of preventing extinction of salmon runs in Idaho. Barker doesn’t say “enemy of salmon.” He takes the lighter, “leading defender of the BPA” (Bonneville Power Administration, which “wheels” the electricity from many of the salmon-killing dams on the Columbia River and the Snake River (both in the state of Washington).

Barker’s blog in the Idaho Statesman.

“He’s consistently made a nuisance of himself on every environmental issue since he’s been there,” said Janine Blaeloch of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project. “The legislation he’s supported has left public lands policy in the Dark Ages.” This is from another article on Craig. Craig fallout: Idaho will lose millions, influence. By John Miller. Associated Press Writer.

And here is another column about Craig’s hostility to conservation, plus a good history of things he has done over the years, which we remember, but the public has forgotten (assuming they every became aware of them). Craig no friend of ‘greens’ in the Northwest. By Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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Wildlife copes with threat of [Castle Rock] fire

No doubt similiar situations are taking place all over the burning parts of Idaho (the Castle Rock fire is not nearly as large as the East Zone fire complex, east of McCall, for example).

No doubt many wolf packs have moved too, out of the necessity of avoiding the flames and to follow the elk and deer. We will probably hear more about that in the future with the wolves killing a few more sheep and cattle than usual, with headlines as big as those about the fires.

Story: Wildlife Copes, By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

Castle Rock Fire on YouTube (great time lapse video).

Posted in Grazing and livestock, Idaho wolves, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat, Wolf dispersal, Wolves. Comments Off on Wildlife copes with threat of [Castle Rock] fire

Castle Rock Fire battle ends where it began

Castle Rock Fire battle ends where it began. Majority of remaining fire activity is along Warm Springs Creek. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

The fire began in Warm Springs Creek, burned all over the place, and now the last major flames are back in Warm Springs Creek.

Castle Rock Fire Perimeter Map. Updated at noon. August 31, 2007.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Castle Rock Fire battle ends where it began

Wolfwatching on Dunraven

Salle Englehart, WRF’s Vice President, was kind enough to email me this report from Aug. 27 (or 28?). People are seeing the Agates. Kathie Lynch told me the same.

– – – – –

Wolfwatching on Dunraven
by Salle Engelhardt

Yesterday I was given the day off and decided to take my brand new 10×42 binoculars out and see how well they work for my needs in the Park. They were as good as any spotting scope I have used.

I originally wanted to go see the now famous grizzly sow with the four cubs again but was not able to catch up with her while I was on the mountain. There were also four black nears near the Dunraven Trailhead but I never saw them either. I concluded that it was a wolf watching day instead so I went down the northern slope and parked about halfway down.

Within minutes I spotted a big black wolf on the eastern edge of the floodplain on the valley floor. Moments later there was a large gray that emerged from the deep creek bed, wandered over to the shady spot where the black wolf lay, they “talked” a moment and the gray went off in a northwesterly direction.A few minutes later a French couple showed up and wondered at what I was watching. As we sat on the edge of the grass and talked about the wolves, sharing my bino’s, I decided that I didn’t really know enough about this pack so I cheated, I called Ralph from a cell phone and asked him about the pack. While I was speaking to Ralph, several other wolves emerged from the creek bed until there were seven of them visible. Three blacks, four grays. One gray is so light that its whiter parts look alabaster in the sunlight, another is so dark that it looks like it has light dappling on a dark, almost black, background. the other grays look silvery in the sun.

Read the rest of this entry »

Invasive weed (cheat grass) a fuel for West’s wildfires

Invasive weed a fuel for West’s wildfires. By Patrick O’Driscoll, USA Today.

This is a fine and an easy-to-understand article on the role cheatgrass plays in the range fires of today’s West.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way — conservationists were to be held to blame for the fires and Larry Craig was to roll onto an easy reelection victory. Instead we have USA Today explaining cheatgrass and fires to the masses, and Larry Craig not going to be reelected, and maybe gone from the Senate before the end of 2007.

Posted in invasive species, wildfire. Comments Off on Invasive weed (cheat grass) a fuel for West’s wildfires

Bears wandering into Jackson, WY

Scarcity of wild food and ample food in town, led 3 bears into Jackson on Aug. 28 (at least I guess because the story is written in an unusual tense).

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.  By Corey Hatch.

Posted in Bears. 3 Comments »

U.S. Senate Environment Committee Member Fined for Lewd Behavior

Senator Larry Craig’s predicament is hardly news, so most of this story is now old news. U.S. Senate Environment Committee Member Fined for Lewd Behavior. ENS. However, the story describes some of the recent actions the Senator has taken against protecting our environment. This and the WWP blog have also chronicled his attempt to use the big range fires to advance an agenda that would not heal the land, but continue old practices of grazing that have played a major role leading us to their extremely flammable condition.

The ENS story only mentions his recent assaults against good conservation practices, but the Senator has boosted welfare ranching, the timber industry, oil and gas, and numerous polluters for a generation and a half. The latest news is that he is now resigning from his Senate Committees, places where he plotted midnight riders to sweep aside laws that benefited wildlife, clean air, and regulation of natural resource industries.

Many suspected until just the other day that Craig would force through some measure to guarantee that the awful grazing status quo would remain in force in the area swept by the giant Murphy Fire. Now with his Republican colleagues telling him to step down, there is more hope for our native wildlife, vegetation and land.

– – – –

Note: more specifically, Craig was asked and agreed to temporarily step down as the ranking (top) Republican on the Veteran Affairs Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, and Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. The last two are critically important for management of our public lands.

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Fire rages on Baldy, site of the famous ski area

Yesterday was expected to be kind of a “breather” on the fire. Predictions were for little wind. It was not like that at all !

Latest inciweb on the Castle Rock Fire. Link to a series of photos of the fire.

Updates on all the major Idaho fires (from the Idaho Statesman).

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Fire Myths and Fire Realities

George Wuerthner, who wrote the essay below, is the editor of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy published by Island Press. He has 33 other books on natural history and ecological topics. This essay is a reflection on the current fire season compared to the past and what should be done.

Wildfires in the West: Myths and Realities-

With most science, it takes a while for the latest research and observations to be published, and then be assimilated into the public consciousness. Typically new science does not entirely invalidate the old ideas, but provides new insights and nuances. I see that happening now with fire ecology and how fire issues are reported in the media.
One of the frequently repeated “truths” is that fires are more “destructive” than in the past due to fire suppression. By putting out fires, we are told, we have contributed to higher fuel loads in our woodlands that is the cause of the large blazes we seem to be experiencing around the West.
But like any scientific fact, the more we know, the more we understand how little we really understand. While fuels are important to any blaze, the latest research is suggesting that weather/climatic conditions rather than fuels drive large blazes. In other words, you can have all the fuel in the world, but if it’s not dry enough, you won’t get a large blaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in wildfire. Comments Off on Fire Myths and Fire Realities

Opinion: Voluntary buyout programs should phase out sheep in Western Idaho wolf country

This link to the WWP Blog is to a piece is by Debra K. Ellers, Western Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. She wrote in response to a story in the McCall, Idaho newspaper that was complaining about wolves making it hard to raise sheep in the mountains of the area (actually, wildfires in recent years have greatly increased the forage for sheep and elk).

Wild horse roundup in the Great Divide Basin

The BLM is going to remove about half the wild horses in the Great Divide Basin of south central Wyoming. Story by Cat Urbigkit in the Casper Star Tribune.

I found it interesting that they have done a genetic analysis of the origin of the horses.

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Reid Fire starts near Arizona Creek in Grand Teton

This fire will be monitored and treated as a wildland fire (allowed to burn as long as it does not surpass pre-established conditions).

Arizona Lake and Creek are in the extreme NE part of the Park adjacent to the huge Teton Wilderness on the national forest. Much (most) of the west half of the Teton Wilderness burned in 1988 in the huge fires of that year.

Lee Mercer and I walked through miles and miles of burned timber in the West half of this Wilderness when we were writing our guidebook to the area in 1996-7. I’m not so sure that more burning in the area is harmless, given the wholesale transformation of the landscape and ecology of the area after 1988.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Reid Fire starts near Arizona Creek in Grand Teton National Park.

Posted in national parks, wilderness roadless, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Reid Fire starts near Arizona Creek in Grand Teton

Getting inside bears’ brains

Bear brains and bear noises are so sensitive to odors that that their perception of their surroundings is totally unlike humans.

Story on bear brains by Michael Jamison. Missoulian (mirrored in the Casper Star Tribune).

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Posted in Bears. 1 Comment »

Rocky Barker’s blog: Homes in Ketchum area are the hardest fuel to treat

Rocky Barker’s blog: Homes in Ketchum area are the hardest fuel to treat. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Regarding the impact of the Castle Rock Fire, Barker writes; “This [fire] will have bigger economic impacts than the Murphy Complex did on ranchers and the fires near McCall are having on little communities like Warren and Yellow Pine.”

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Posted in wildfire. Comments Off on Rocky Barker’s blog: Homes in Ketchum area are the hardest fuel to treat

Fires and the Idaho hunting season

Idaho Fish and Game has some info on closures and possible effects on the hunt.

Fires close backcountry trails, roads. Idaho Fish and Game.

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Wildfires. Comments Off on Fires and the Idaho hunting season

Federal recreation access fees have become a shakedown of the public.

Ted Williams wrote this. It’s in Read It Here Magazine.

The fees are on other folk’s minds too. The Forest for the Fees. By Brian Park and Joshua Zaffos. Rocky Mountain Chronicle. 

New York Times editorial on the Bush/Kempthrone new strip mining regulations

Ravaging Appalachia. Editorial by the New York Times.

Posted in mining. 2 Comments »

Federal Investigation Sought into Intimidation of Wolf Biologist by Rogue Federal Agency

Remember this recent story? Wolf biologist says federal wildlife agent pointed rifle at her. Rocky Barker Idaho Statesman.

The incident won’t die, but an investigation by the Catron County Sheriff’s Department will have no credibility.

Federal Investigation Sought into Intimidation of Wolf Biologist by Rogue Federal Agency. Press Release. Forest Guardians

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Posted in Mexican wolves, politics, predator control. Comments Off on Federal Investigation Sought into Intimidation of Wolf Biologist by Rogue Federal Agency

Middle of the Wood River Valley is under Mandatory Evacuation

Heavy winds pushing the Castle Rock Fire have led to a mandatory evacuation of what amounts to all residents of the Wood River Valley between Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho on both sides of highway 75 which runs up the middle of the valley.

The details are in this story. Mid-valley under mandatory evacuation. Windier, drier conditions challenge firefighters. By the Idaho Mountain Express Staff.

Updates starting mid-afternoon Aug. 26. Flames are bearing down on homes in Greenhorn Gulch. Idaho Mountain Express.

Aug. 26. Castle Rock Fire Near Ketchum Grows, Forces New Evacuations. By Gary Stivers and Dave Chase. SunValleyOnline.Com (mirrored in New West)

Updated Aug. 27. Greenhorn Gulch may have been saved, but fire has burned onto Bald Mountain, Sun Valley’s famous ski hill. Story in the Mountain Express — Bald Mountain on fire.

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Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Middle of the Wood River Valley is under Mandatory Evacuation

Guest opinion: Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires

Some time ago, this web site posted the opinion of public lands rancher and state legislator Bert Brackett on the Murphy fire complex.

Here again is Brackett’s opinion. Failed policy based on flawed science has gotten us here. Guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Brackett blamed the Western Watersheds Project because it won a lawsuit and then entered into an agreement that reduced grazing by 30% in the BLM’s Jarbidge Resource Area where a good deal of the fire burned.

The Statesman then published a guest opinion from Jon Marvel, executive director of the WWP.

Here is Marvel’s guest opinion. Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires. Idaho Statesman. In addition to the extreme dryness and heat, Marvel blamed it in 100 years of mismanagement of ranchers and the BLM from over grazing that promoted the spread of cheat grass and the planting of exotic grasses like crested wheatgrass which did not, as predicted, retard fire. The end result was more fuel to burn than before cattle and sheep were brought to this land. The livestock also wiped out the green riparian areas that served as barriers to range fires. This included not just green grass, but green shrubs and trees that supported beaver ponds. The ponds created large hard-to-burn areas that were difficult for fires to cross over.

Challenge to Wyoming’s elk feeding/killing program fails in federal court

The judge ruled Wyoming’s program to test elk for brucellosis before they enter a winter feedlot (and kill the elk if it tests positive for brucellosis anti-bodies) was not an arbitrary and capricious decision. Indeed that legal standard is a high bar (that a government program is arbitrary and capricious).

Livestock groups were happy because it means they won’t have to share any winter range with elk (as ranchers do in most other Western states).

There is no way this test and slaughter will reduce the brucellosis infection rate because there are too many “false negatives” as well as even more “false positives” in the crude test they use.

I continue to be amazed that Wyoming’s version of the group “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife” continues to support this worthless elk killing program and yet keep a straight face when they talk about how horrible it is that predatory animals kill elk. I guess elk dying a natural death to predation is bad and a stupid bureaucratic-ordered death is acceptable.
Story in the Billings Gazette. Elk-feeding challenge rejected

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Idaho wolf pack of nine killed by government, west of Fairfield.

Wolf pack west of Fairfield eradicated. By Trey Spaulding. For the Times-News.

“Nadeau [the state’s large carninovore manage] said we are going to see more and more of these scenarios since the prime wolf habitat in Idaho is now all occupied by other packs.”

This prediction has in fact been made several times by past wolf managers in Idaho (as when the federal government was managing them). It didn’t happen. The rate of wolf “control” did not increase more than proportionately than the number of wolves, nor did the number of “depredations.”

August 27. The Times-News has taken down their story and the link above doesn’t work, but Idaho Fish and Game just released their own story. Here it is: wolf report: wolf pack removed

Idaho wildfires cost feds millions.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Idaho wildfires cost feds millions.

Industry darling: Mining law of 1872 should be reformed

The Salt Lake Tribune has an editorial today against the 1872 general mining law, which has endured attempts to reform it since the 19th century. Its harmful consequences to our public lands is increasing because of the recent rush to stake new uranium and other “hard rocks” claims.

These minerals are basically given away free under this law and the surface of the law is permanently privatized if the mining claim is patented. Meanwhile oil, gas, phosphate, potash, sulfur, coal, and geothermal, are classified as leasable minerals and bo th the federal government and the state receive receive royalties from their development.

SLT Editorial.

The Tribune is not alone in covering this. Report: More Than 800 New Mining Claims Crowd Border of Grand Canyon National Park. Many Claims for Uranium: Yosemite, Arches, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree also Threatened. YubaNet.

From July 2007. Sportsmen want 1872 mining law revised. By Steve Lipsher Denver Post Staff Writer.

On Aug 27, the Washington Post had a warming article about the recent upsurge in claims under the 1872 law. Mining Our Treasures: An 1872 Law Paves the Way for a Rush of Claims in the West. By Jane Danowitz and Richard Wiles.  “815 active mining claims lie within five miles of the Grand Canyon, 805 of them staked since 2003. Just outside Arches National Park in Utah, 869 claims have been snatched up, almost all within the past five years.”

The Showerbath Fire

This fire has been burning deep in the Frank Church Wilderness NW of Challis and has received little attention. Some days it has put up very large plumes as this story from the Challis Newspaper indicates, and it has a big impact on wilderness recreation, air quality, and the future ecology of the area.

Shower Bath and Red Bluff fires increase substantially in size. By Todd Adams. Challis Messenger.

Shower Bath plume. Challis Messenger.

Posted in public lands, wilderness roadless, Wildfires. Comments Off on The Showerbath Fire

Otter appoints former Forest Supervisor an Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner

Appointment of these commissioners is one of the most important actions of a governor regarding wildlife.

News story from Idaho Fish and Game about the appointment of Fred Trevey.

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Posted in politics. Comments Off on Otter appoints former Forest Supervisor an Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner

Kempthorne’s New Interior? Mountaintop removal mining and expanded stream dumping

Western Watersheds Blog has located the news the Secretary Dirk Kempthone and his “new honest” Department of Interior has just approved regulations that make the stip mining in Appalachia even worse.

Judge Orders Bush to Report on Global Warming

This dovetails nicely with the story previous about Mark Rey.

The Associated Press reports “The Bush administration violated federal law by missing deadlines to produce a study on the impact of global warming, now as much as two years overdue, and must issue a summary by March, a federal judge ruled. Judge Saundra B. Armstrong of Federal District Court in Oakland, Calif., said the United States government “unlawfully withheld action” required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to update a research plan and scientific assessment of climate change.”

Here is the story as told in Wired. Judge to Bush: Cough Up the Climate Change Reports.  By Brandon Klein.

Once again, they believe obeying the law is purely optional. . .  America’s lawless presidency.

Posted in Climate change, politics. Comments Off on Judge Orders Bush to Report on Global Warming

Bush top forestry official could be jailed for contempt of court

I am reposting this because there were a lot of technical defects in my original post several days ago.

Judge: Bush Official Faces Contempt of Court. By Jeff Bernard. Washington Post.
“If found in contempt, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, could go to jail until the Forest Service complies with the court order to do the environmental review.

Rey, a former timber lobbyist, is the boss over the Chief of the Forest Service. He failed to produce a report U.S. District Judge Donald W. Malloy in Missoula had ordered about impacts of dropping ammonium phosphate on streams. This fertilizer is the main ingredient in fire retardants. Many fish have been killed.

A stint in jail for Rey is being requested because the Forest Service is legally immune to fines. There has to be some penalty to make Bush officials obey the courts. They just seem to think laws, orders from judges, orders from Congress, etc. are all optional. There’s the US Government and then there is the Bush Government.

– – – –
The Sierra Club had plenty to say about Rey.

August 23, 2007
Firestorm at the Fire Service
By Josh Dorner

The Bush administration seems to have mastered the dark art of making the cure worse than the disease. Take people who were the victims of natural disasters and put them in trailers that will make them sick and even possibly kill them; send people to Ground Zero and the surrounding area without proper protection after 9/11 and then lie about the health consequences (and then later lie to cover up the your first lies); or maybe, you know, take away our civil rights in order to “protect” us.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are prey hard-wired to fear predators?

Preliminary data about predators and large ungulates indicates that fear is learned rather than inherent, although not all scientists agree.

Story: Are prey hard-wired to fear predators? By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star-Tribune

Governor Freudenthal to industry: Back wildlife efforts.

Gov to [gas and oil] industry: Back wildlife efforts. By Dustin Bleizeffer. Casper Star-Tribune energy reporter.

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Castle Rock Fire managers rush to establish lines of defense before weekend weather blows in

Firefighters face race against weather. Castle Rock Fire managers rush to establish lines of defense. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

They have been setting many backfires in preparation for predicted high winds this weekend. The backfires burned a lot of country themselves as well as produced towering smoke columns.

Added later on 8/24. Shields of flame. Blaze near Ketchum grows to more than 16,000 acres; only 9 percent contained. By Cass Friedman. Times-News writer

Added on 8/25. Blaze battle continues. Today’s weather will determine how fire goes. Times-News.

Backfire burns up Adams Gulch, a popular hiking and mountain biking area just north of Ketchum. Photo by Lynne Stone

As night falls, wind drives flames to the Fox Creek ridge north of Ketchum. Photo was taken from the Boulder
Mountains. Ketchum was smothered in smoke. Copyright Lynne Stone.

Castle Rock fire near Ketchum, Idaho as seen from Stanley, Idaho (about 60 miles away).
Copyright Lynne Stone

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Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Castle Rock Fire managers rush to establish lines of defense before weekend weather blows in

Governor’s political clout makes Castle Rock Fire Forest Service’s top priority

Otter: Castle Rock Fire now Forest Service’s top priority. By Matt Christensen. Times-News writer

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Firefighting near Ketchum, Saving million-dollar homes.

Saving million-dollar homes. Insurance company sends in private fire crew to protect expensive homes. By Matt Christensen. Times-News writer.

The Castle Rock Fire is different from other wildfires in that the homes it threatens are extremely high end.

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A fungus could halt the advance of cheatgrass

Gonzaga University biology professors Julie Beckstead and David L. Boose were recently awarded $247,000 in federal grants for a three-year study on pyrenophora semeniperda, a fungus that attacks the seeds of cheatgrass.

Something like this could save the rangelands of the West.  Story in the New York Times. Associated Press.

Castle Rock Fire next to Ketchum, ID, growing exponentially

Castle Rock Fire growing exponentially. From 30 acres Friday, blaze increased to 12,058 acres Tuesday. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

Updates on other Idaho fires. From the Idaho Statesman.

  • I visited the Mitchell Fire (east of Rockland, Idaho) again Tuesday. Due to recent rains in Eastern Idaho, I’d say all the fires are basically out.
  • In case you missed the video of the Cascade Complex (160,000 acres) burning near Warm Lake. Here is that video of the fire raging near the fire camp.

A member of FUSEE uploaded a video of the Cascade Complex fire overrunning a firecamp. From Scott Maben at Huckleberries Online

The Yellowstone Park fires are no longer growing. Here is an interesting map (a fire progression map) of the season’s largest fire, the Columbine Fire near the East Entrance.

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Posted in Wildfires, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Castle Rock Fire next to Ketchum, ID, growing exponentially

Deliberately introduced African grass becomes the cheatgrass of Sonoran Desert

While cheatgrass arrived in the West as an accident, African Buffelgrass was deliberately planted. It has changed the fire ecology of the Sonorian desert and has even become a severe fire threat inside cities such as Tuscon, AZ.

“Buffelgrass is like taking a kiddie pool, filling it with gas, and putting it in your front yard,” [said Kevin Kincaid, a fire inspector for Rural/Metro, a private emergency services provider]. “These fires can go from four-foot flames to 30-foot flames in 20 seconds.”

Story in the High Country News. By Michelle Nijhuis

Posted in invasive species, wildfire. Comments Off on Deliberately introduced African grass becomes the cheatgrass of Sonoran Desert

Unchanged (for the Worse) since 1872

The General Mining Law of 1872 is among the last statutory survivors of the boisterous era of westward expansion. Essentially unchanged since Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law, it sets the basic rules for mining hard-rock minerals like gold, copper and uranium on public lands.

Read the rest of the NYT editorial urging reform to bring hard rock mining laws from the 19th to the 21st century. New York Times. Editorial.

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Bears by the numbers

Like wolves, grizzly bears that are captured at least once, are given numbers. And like some wolves, some of these grizzly bears become well known, even famous, or infamous when they cause trouble (as humans conceive trouble).

Bears by the numbers. By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star Tribune.

Posted in Bears. Comments Off on Bears by the numbers

Three grizzly bears removed from the wild in Island Park, ID for bad behavior.

Story by Idaho Fish and Game-

Multi-agency effort nets three grizzlies

Three grizzly bears that had been raising havoc in the Island Park Ranger District of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest have been captured.

No humans were injured in the process, nor were any of the bears. But these bears will never be able to return to the wild.

The bears were a family – a 5-year-old female, first captured two summers ago in Harriman State Park, and her two cubs of this year. Since her first capture after forcing her way into a trash compactor at the state park, the female was given the number 502, and she has been flirting with trouble.

After two relocations and some apple tree raiding outside Ashton, she apparently was passing on her marauding lifestyle to her cubs. Raiding a vacant tent near Moose Creek, just off the Big Springs loop on the evening of August 16, was the final straw.

The area was closed by U.S. Forest Service officials, allowing biologists and conservation officers to set up traps to capture the troublesome threesome before they got into any more trouble.

Because three bears were involved, wildlife officials needed a variety of trapping strategies. They used large culvert traps and cable snares, as well as CO2 dart rifles. In addition to odiferous baits, the bears themselves were used as lures.

The first cub was caught in a culvert trap on Saturday. The trappers made it comfortable and then used it to draw the mother bear closer. Saturday evening, she approached, keeping an eye on the cub in the large culvert trap; she failed to notice a cable leg-hold snare.

Once caught, biologists sedated her and moved her to another culvert trap, where she too was made comfortable and used to lure the remaining cub. Hoping the free cub might seek out its mother, the trap was left open just enough to let the cub crawl in.

Regional wildlife manager Daryl Meints lay waiting the brush just yards away with the trigger rope. As a precaution, senior conservation officer Charlie Anderson waited nearby armed with a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs.

Because the female bear had been tranquilized, biologists hoped the cub would crawl into the trap before she woke up. But all the commotion had made the cub wary, and he would not enter the trap. And then the mother bear began to come out of her drug induced slumber.

Craig Whitman of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee moved in with a dart rifle. The startled cub climbed into a small tree, where Whitman easily darted it. He secured the cub with a catch-pole to keep it from being injured in a fall. The cub was put in a culvert trap, sedated and examined.

While their future is uncertain, these bears won’t return to the wild. The female had learned to associate humans with food, and she was passing that on to her cubs. That and the loss of almost any fear of humans mean they can’t be released.

The bears were put in separate traps for transport. The female will go to the College of Natural Resources Bear Research Center at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. But the facility can’t take all three bears. Fish and Game continues to look for another facility to send the cubs.
“If an appropriate facility cannot be found then the cubs may have to be euthanized,” Fish and Game regional wildlife biologist Lauri Hanuska-Brown said.

Bears naturally seek out things that smell interesting or taste good, and if that leads to contact with people, the bears get in trouble. Every trash can and ice chest left out for these bears was another step closer to their removal. Fish and Game asks that campers and homeowners keep ice chests, dog food or any other food item or container secured inside cars, homes, or campers while in bear country.

To help keep bears out of such trouble, the Caribou-Targhee in June extended bear-safe food storage requirements to national forest areas where the grizzly bear have expanded. Details of the storage requirements are available at Forest Service offices.

Idaho Fish and Game, Forest Service, the Grizzly Bear Study Team, and the Fremont County Sheriff’s office cooperated on the trapping effort.

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Posted in Bears. 3 Comments »

BLM Sees Worsening Off-Road Crisis (Marauding bands of off-roaders now threaten the public)

BLM Sees Worsening Off-Road Crisis Risking Visitor Safety. Ranger Ordered to Ignore Emergency in “Near Riot” at Utah’s Little Sahara. News Release form P.E.E.R.

“Over last Easter Weekend at Little Sahara,  37 injuries, including a state Highway Patrol officer, and some 300 arrests and citations were tallied. More than 50 officers from state, federal and local agencies called to the scene tried unsuccessfully to cope with numerous sexual assaults and other attacks attributed to marauding bands of off-roaders.”

Fires cause evacuations near Ketchum, Idaho. Rain does not stop the central idaho fires.

Other Idaho fires-

High resolution map of two of major fires in the Landmark complex, showing their relation to Yellow Pine, and Stibnite.

Aug. 29 For more recent information on the Castle Rock Fire, go here.

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Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Fires cause evacuations near Ketchum, Idaho. Rain does not stop the central idaho fires.

A grizzly anomaly

Interesting email . . . . thanks Salle!

A Grizzly Anomaly.
These photos were taken this past Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007, on the north slope of Dunraven Pass. According to the ranger that was interviewed about this speculated that the sow had an altercation with another sow who had three cubs. This sow with two, left the scene with all four of these cubs. Nothing more is known of the fifth cub that was allegedly present at that time or the other sow.

This particular sow has been seen with these four cubs over the past month. The cubs appear to be of two different ages as they are clearly two different sizes.
I would offer that they may be from the same sow over two successive breeding rounds that were a little close together time-wise with her ending up raising two litters rather than one this year. Hard to tell.

Salle Engelhardt, Vice-President
Wolf Recovery Foundation

Sow with the 4 cubs. Copyright Mike Burdic

Sow with four cubs. Copyright Mike Burdic

Road to Yellowstone East Entrance closed by mudslide

Although almost an inch of rain dropped on the Columbine Fire in Yellowstone Park, a fire which has twice caused the entrance to close, the rain itself closed the road again by causing a mudslide across the highway 7 miles outside (east) of the Park. The mud and boulders flowed accross the highway and into the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Story by Gazette News Services.

Aug. 20. The debris have been cleared from the highway and the East Entrance is now open once again. Rain has rendered fire activity at the Columbine burn minimal.

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Posted in Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Road to Yellowstone East Entrance closed by mudslide

Some conservation groups become ranchers — baaad idea!

The WWP blog has a good take on a fairly recent, and continuing development. Conservation groups are buying ranches and assuming the grazing permits on adjacent public land, and in their words showing how running livestock can be done right.

Wrong. The lands of the Western United States did not evolve with cattle grazing them, and cattle do not take the place of bison, elk, deer, etc.

1. Consider that cattle are today completely artificial animals. There are no wild cows. The ancestors of cows no longer exist. They are extinct.

2. While the Texas longhorn cattle used in the early days of the West were much more capable animals at survival, they have long been replaced by tender cows like Angus.

3. Grasses and forbs did evolve under the pressure of grazing, but not grazing by cows. They were grazed variously by elk, deer, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, all large ungulates to be sure, but they graze differently than cows. They were, and still are also grazed by rodents and insects.
Read the rest of this entry »

Bush Administration tries again with new Forest Service regulations

The Administration’s earlier attempt to revise the rules for national forest planning were quickly shot down by a federal court because they made the forest plans no longer subject to serious public comment and attempted to avoid NEPA for what had been the guiding document as to how a national forest would be managed for about a ten year period.

But these things were hardly the only things wrong with the new planning rule. Opponents argued in court that both the intent and the specifics of the guiding law, the National Forest Management Act of 1976, were being changed. The judge didn’t even bother to get that far before he told the Administration to start over, so they have.

Now they propose basically the same rules, but with public involvement and an environmental impact statement restored.

This will probably be struck down in court again, just like their proposed new grazing rules for BLM lands were.

The fundamental problem with this Administration is they don’t like public lands, they don’t like the public land laws, and they don’t think they have to obey any law they don’t like whether it has to do with public lands, the military, or anything else.

Bush and Cheney should have been impeached, removed from office, and made subject to penalties for the crimes they may have committed (after appropriate due process of law). They have violated their oath of office and committed high crimes and misdemeanors, IMO.

Jan. 2009, when they are gone, seems like forever away.

In the last line of this story, Matthew Daily wrote, “A Forest Service spokeswoman said the new plan would take effect after 60 days and was not subject to judicial review.” Yes, I suppose the Administration believes they are no longer subject to the courts as well as to statutory law.

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Some photos of the Idaho fires near Warm Lake (South Fork Salmon River headwaters area)

These were sent to me by a local resident. The photographer told me these are typical of “what I saw in that area and it is what burned on Monday.”


Read the rest of this entry »

Feds, Conservationists Offer Reward for Oregon Wolf Killer

PORTLAND, Oregon, August 17, 2007 (ENS) – Two conservation groups have sweetened the pot for anyone who has information about the illegal shooting of a female endangered gray wolf in eastern Oregon last October.

Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity Thursday offered a $4,000 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of the crime.

The fund is in addition to $5,000 that has been offered as a reward by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The animal was found dead in early October between Battle Mountain and Whittaker Flats along Oregon Highway 395 near Ukiah, Oregon.

Tests, recently completed at the agency’s national forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, confirmed that it was a wolf and that it was killed by a bullet from a high velocity rifle.

Tests on the contents of the wolf’s stomach show that it had not been feeding on livestock. Read the rest of this entry »

Good news for trout in American Fork Canyon. Old hydro facility to be shut down.

Folks will also recognize this as the canyon where the bear killed the Utah boy this summer. It is a very scenic and popular place.

Story on removal of power plant on river. Salt Lake Tribune.

Posted in Fish. Comments Off on Good news for trout in American Fork Canyon. Old hydro facility to be shut down.

Columbine Fire in Yellowstone now at 18,500 acres. Rain helps.

The spread of the fire was almost stopped by a modest rainstorm (one tenth of an inch). Conditions for burning are predicted to increase by Monday. The East Entrance road was reopened for the time being at 9 am today, Aug. 17.
The Beaverdam and Promontory fires continue to grow slowly in SE quadrant of Yellowstone Park.

Posted in Wildfires, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Columbine Fire in Yellowstone now at 18,500 acres. Rain helps.

Update on the wildfires of Montana and Wyoming. Aug. 17, 2007.

A fast moving fire burned into Frenchtown, MT. 200 homes were evacuated. The number that burned is not known yet. By Matt Gouras. Associated Press Writer

Note that the Teton Pass area mentioned is not the pass leading into Jackson Hole, but the Teton Pass on the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Update on the wildfires of Montana and Wyoming. Aug. 17, 2007.

Roundup of wildfires burning in Idaho. Aug. 16, 2007

Updates on major Idaho firesIdaho Statesman

Seventeen fires and fire complexes are burning on more than 632,269 acres in Idaho, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

I visited the Mitchell Fire

I did go visit the Mitchell fire burning in the Deep Creek Mountains of SE Idaho yesterday.

Earlier story (which prompted my visit).

A violent thunderstorm came up just about as I arrived. I ate a lot of dust and smoke. The storm redistributed the fire, which was burning in heavy fuels up the west side of Bull Canyon into higher and higher country. A lot of rain dropped near the head of the fire, which will hopefully help bring this under control.

The fire is mostly burning native grasses, aspen, chokecherry, mountain mahogany, bitterbrush, sagebrush, and pockets of fir. This is great wildlife habitat. The “heavy fuels” should not be interpreted to mean the area needs to burn. There was little or no cheatgrass and the area ought to regenerate well (my opinion) if they can keep off road vehicles off the fire lines they have constructed.

The fire was started from sparks generated by a combine (ag equipment).

I put up some photos on Google Earth.

Burn pattern of Mitchell Fire. Aug. 14, 2007. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Yellowstone East Entrance closed again

It was closed again at 8 pm Tuesday due to a spot fire along the East Entrance road. It is closed until further notice.

The road had been open for 12 hours since the previous closure.

Update Aug. 16. The East Entrance is still closed. Here is the detailed story from the Billings Gazette. Fire jumps outside Yellowstone Park. Businesses see traffic redirected from East Entrance closure. By Ruffin Prevost. Billings Gazette Wyoming Bureau.

Here is the latest on the Columbine Fire from Inciweb. It’s now 13,000 acres.

The fire on The Promontory in Yellowstone Lake was very active yesterday too, and my colleague Mark McBeth captured a good photo of it.

Telephoto of fire on The Promentory Aug. 15. Copyright Mark McBeth.

Posted in Wildfires, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Yellowstone East Entrance closed again

Idaho wildfire news. August 15.

Numerous stories today.

Yellow Pine resists ‘mandatory’ evacuation. ‘There was about to be a revolution if they said we had to leave’. By Heath Druzin. Idaho Statesman. This story could be repeated many times around the globe. Local residents are warned of a volcano, landslide, hurricane, flood, fire, etc.. Some refuse to leave and pay with their lives, but often their risky decision pays off.

Forest Service closes upper portion of the Middle Fork of Salmon River indefinitely. By Roger Phillips and Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. The main and most of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River are now closed to float trips due to nearby (or immediate) forest fires. These are major backcountry tourist destinations for those looking for a scenic, wilderness river experience.

Sheep rancher [Mike Stevens] seeks peace with wolves

Sheep rancher seeks peace with wolves. Lava Lake Land and Livestock uses non-lethal measures to protect herds. By Jason Kaufmann. Idaho Mountain Express.

If there are a lot of wolves around your sheep bands, you are going lose quite a few sheep, right? And so every so often you have to have the government kill a bunch of wolves?

Lava Lake Land and Livestock which runs sheep on over 700,000 acres of central Idaho wolf country has proven this to be wrong. Their magic method is don’t respond to wolves in the traditional rancher fashion.

Fires threaten Wyoming highways

Fires threaten roads. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole Daily.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Fires threaten Wyoming highways

Otter orders mandatory evacuation of Yellow Pine, Idaho

Yellow Pine is a very deep backcountry town. I visited it for the first time in June 2006. A month later it was beseiged by forest fires on all sides. This year is may be worse, and invoking a rarely used authority, Idaho’s Governor Butch Otter has ordered people to leave.

Story. Governor orders Yellow Pine evacuation. By Heath Druzin. Idaho Statesman.

Yellow Pine on Google Earth. The photos on Google Earth are quite new and you can readily see the burns from last year.

Larry Craig: wildlife, safety, and arrowheads gotta go; cattle – stay.

Here is another great clip of Senator Larry Craig discussing how they need to stop bothering to look for Native American artifacts when they are fighting fires (something they don’t do anyway). I guess he forget that Kyle Prior, chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes was sitting at the end of the table for their news conference on the Murphy Fire as he gave out his misinformation.

Story and video on the WWP blog.

Posted in politics, wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Larry Craig: wildlife, safety, and arrowheads gotta go; cattle – stay.

Mitchell Fire burns Deep Creek Mountains of SE Idaho

This fire has been dumping a bit of ash on Pocatello, but the major threat is to wildlife habitat (sage grouse) and a steep scenic mountain range if they use bulldozers. It’s another fire where there might be contention over grazing and rehabilitation methods subsequent to the fire (a BLM mountain range). Part of the range burned last summer. I visited in June this year, and it looked good except for mixed cheatgrass on the lower benches.

It has grown rapidly, and I’d better go take a look at it tomorrow. I would hate to see dozer lines on roadless Deep Creek Peak.

Inciweb report on the Mitchell Fire.

Meanwhile the Cleveland Fire has been burning rapidly through brush and old timbering in the southern end of the Portneuf Range 15 miles north of Preston, Idaho. It has grown to over 15,000 acres. Highway 34 was closed for a while. The fire has not jumped the Bear River so far.

These SE Idaho fires haven’t gotten a lot of attention in media, except locally.

Posted in mountain ranges, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Mitchell Fire burns Deep Creek Mountains of SE Idaho

Every member of Alaska’s all-GOP congressional delegation is embroiled in scandal.

This just appeared in Salon Magazine. The full text may require a subscription.

Alaska’s delegaton over the last 20 years has been stidently anti-conservation, and now it turns out they are all a bunch of crooks.

What’s wrong with Alaska? Every member of Alaska’s all-GOP congressional delegation is embroiled in scandal. By Benjamin Wallace-Wells. Salon Magazine.

Rocky Barker drives another nail in coffin of Craig/Crapo/Otter analysis of the Murphy Fire

If the BLM had only fought faster, if there were not all those regulations to protect the environment and native artifacts, then the huge Murphy range fire would have been quickly put out by nearby ranchers . . . that’s a key part of the tale they tell.

Rocky Barker’s blog today says that “On July 16, more than 1,500 lightning strikes were recorded on the Twin Falls District of the Bureau of Land Management in southern Idaho alone.” Nineteen fire starts were confirmed. The thinly stretched BLM actually put out 15 of the 19 confirmed starts (there were probably more because 40 were called in).

Rocky Barker’s blog: Firefighters overwhelmed by lightning [on Murphy Fire complex]. Idaho Statesman.

Regarding the resources available to fight these fires, it’s time folks start to look at Craig and Crapo’s actions in Congress to provide resources for firefighting. In addition, in recent years monies to fight fires have been stolen from the recreation, wildlife, and other segments of the public land agencies budgets.

Posted in politics, public lands, public lands management, Wildfires. Comments Off on Rocky Barker drives another nail in coffin of Craig/Crapo/Otter analysis of the Murphy Fire

Columbine fire explodes. Yellowstone East Entrance closed.

Sunday was great fire expansion day all over Western Montana, NW Wyoming, central Idaho, and SE Idaho. Among the many fires, the Columbine Fire which had been slowly growing about 7 miles south of the East Entrance, blew up.

Story on many of these fires in today’s (Aug. 13) Billings Gazette. Park’s East Entrance remains closed; Hicks Park fire still east of road. By the Gazette staff.

Photo of Columbine fire on Aug. 12 from near Fishing Bridge. Park Service Photo.

Update. The East Entrance to the Park will probably be opened at 8 am on Tuesday, August 14.  

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Columbine fire explodes. Yellowstone East Entrance closed.

Watch the Idaho and NW Wyoming fires grow

This is the link to the animated satellite image for Pocatello, Idaho and a wide area around it. Click on the link for 1 km animation and watch as the day progresses.Morning finds the many canyons of northern Idaho filled with dense, stable clouds of smoke. Moreover most of Montana is covered with smoke. As the day goes on you will probably see plumes emerge in north central Idaho and Yellowstone Park and the surrounding country. Yesterday, Aug. 12, the tall and long plumes were very impressive by mid-afternoon.

Note some other NWS websites (Missoula?) might work even better.

Update on late Aug. 13. Although they were slow to develop today, the west central Idaho fires eventually put up very large plumes that drifted across the state and over to Montana.

Three fires now actively burning in Yellowstone

Although the Owl Fire has been contained and personnel demobilized, the Beaverdam, Columbine 1, and new Promontory Complex are burning rapidly. All three are SE Yellowstone backcountry fires. Folks will recognize The Promontory, which sticks out into Yellowstone Lake. It is on fire.

Here is the Park’s wildfire page.

The Inciweb Page is usualy better, but it is overloaded and hard to access due to the demand for fire information.

Beaverdam Fire. Info is six days old on 8/12

Beaverdam Fire. Credit Yellowstone National Park.

Columbine 1 Fire. Updated on August 13, 2007. Text is now correct.

Study: Antelope flourish in gas fields

Study: Antelope flourish in gas fields. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

The headline is contradicted by the very first paragraph of the story.  “JACKSON — Antelope do not appear to be unduly stressed so far on and around the Pinedale Anticline, but increased energy activity may change their use of the area, according to recent results of an ongoing study.”

“Unduly stressed so far” is not the same as “flourish.”

Nevertheless, this study raises hope that the gas developments might not wipe out the pronghorn in the area.  Snow depth and the presence of fences seem to be more important than gas development so far.

While most readers are probably aware of the impact of fences on pronghorn, it should be reiterated that pronghorn and fences do not mix. Pronghorn, though very swift, do not jump fences over 3 feet high. They try to crawl under them.  A relatively benign fence for pronghorn is a wire fence with no barbs on the bottom strand with that strand being at least 18 inches above the ground. Most of pronghorn killer fences are associated with sheep grazing, with coyote proof woven fences being the worst.

Additional info. Pronghorn Management Guide – 2006 (fences). Game and Fish Department of North Dakota. This has good illustrations.

More on this year’s Western fires

2007 fire conditions are off the charts

Officials are finding it difficult to predict fire behavior because this year’s data don’t fit any model. Experts say climate change is a big part of this season’s extremes. By Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.

Busy Week for Fires in Northern Rockies. Record-Breaking Fire Season? New West. By David Nolt.

New fire threatens home in Southeast Idaho [near Preston]; 14 other fires rage. By Tessa Schweiger. Idaho Statesman.

My view is that a century of bad grazing practice, suppression of forest fires, logging with little consideration of its effects (positive or negative) on future fuel conditions are major factors, but number one is the drying and warming climate. This makes the fight against cheatgrass, the need to restore native grasses and forbs, conservation of large trees in unlogged areas, and judicious thinning (not just any kind of thinning) of forests more important than ever. Read the rest of this entry »

Newsweek Takes On Global Warming “Deniers”

Newsweek Takes On Global Warming “Deniers”. Blogged in Green Options.

I read the Newsweek article. It thought the most significant point made is that contrary to those who say global warming deiers are being marginalized and can’t get funding to pursue their studies, just the opposite is true.

If you have a Ph. D attached to your name and are willing to write a piece to tell the media that global warming is natural — not caused by human activities — money will flow to you.

The situation is very similar to the cigarette smoking and cancer controversy of 30 years ago when all the science pointed to cigarettes, but well funded counter “research” by the cigarette companies for years maintained public suspicion that smoking was not harmful. All the research and pro-tobacco op-eds were false.

Montana prepares for its first wolf hunt

Wildlife officials start laying groundwork for wolf hunts. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

While this might turn out to be an erronous belief, most supporters of wolf recovery believe Montana will conduct a more restrained and thoughtful wolf hunt than Idaho.

Wyoming, of course, is still a bit in limbo, but all the rhetoric is kill as many wolves as possible and hope that Yellowstone and Grand Teton will provide the minimum 15 wolf packs required.

New fire in Yellowstone burns south of Sylvan Pass

A thunderstorm started the Columbine fire on Friday. It has grown to over a thousand acres. It is 7 miles south of Sylvan Pass (over which traffic from the Park’s East Entrance passes).

Story in the Billings Gazette. By Lance Benzel.

Meanwhile the Owl Creek fire in the NW corner of the Park has been contained and crews are being withdrawn.

See update on Aug. 12 on this blog.

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Posted in Wildfires, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on New fire in Yellowstone burns south of Sylvan Pass

Residents of historic Warren, Idaho urged to flee fire

Warren is a partial ghost town in Western Idaho. There is no longer any mining going on there. Much of the timber for miles around has burned in the last 20 years. Now it is threatened by the Zena/Loon Fire.

Warm Lake, about 50 miles to the south of Warren may burn down too. It is an extended area of summer homes around and near this lake that lies in a mountain valley.

This is all very important wildlife habitat. The forest fires of recent years have done much to stimulate the growth of grasses and forbs, leading to an increased elk (and, therefore too) wolf population. The effects on the streams are not beneficial because the the ground mostly decomposed granite (sand). Erosion sends it into the streams where it fills up the salmon and steelhead spawning beds.

Story in the Idaho Statesman. Residents of historic Warren urged to flee fire (see video). in Warm Lake, a fire might prevent residents from returning for their valuables. By Heath Druzin.

-Update. Early August 11.

Inciweb seems to have collapsed, leaving a big hole in official fire news. Regarding this fire, however, it is one of many medium sized forest (not range) fires that have started in the mountains to the north, northeast, and southeast of McCall, Idaho. This is in Western Idaho.
A number of small former ghost towns in the backcountry like Warm Lake and (gravel road access only) like Warren, Yellow Pine, and Stibnite are threatened. Given dry weather and wind some of these fires could burn together, although so much of this country has burned in the last 20 years that the fuel load has been reduced somewhat (this is just my opinion). Stibnite is the most remote. I didn’t know anyone really lived there anymore.

-Update. Late August 11.

Inciweb is finally back online. Northwest of large town of McCall, the East Zone Fire Complex (three forest fires) has expanded to 86,953 acres. These are the fires threatening the backcountry hamlets of Warren and Secesh. The complex remains just 15 percent contained. The towns of Secesh and Warren as well as historic sites and bridges remain threatened. Inciweb says, Weather conditions are expected to become more severe over the weekend, with lower relative humidities, higher temperatures and stronger winds. Along the ridgelines, wind gusts of 25 mph may be experienced. These conditions will contribute to more active fire behavior. Map of all Western Idaho road closures and fires as of Aug. 11.

Warren, Idaho on the afternoon of Aug. 9, 2007.

Boat trips down the Salmon River from Corn Creek are now prohibited.

The Cascade Complex Fire
has a perimeter of 44,036. This is about 15 miles NE of Cascade. This one is the threat to the Warm Lake summer home area. Extreme fire behavior was reported, but backfires are being lit that might save structures. The Warm Lake Highway (from Cascade) is closed.

The Rattlesnake Fire has burned 57,608 acres 25 miles south of remote Elk City in north central Idaho. It is about 3 miles from the group of cabins named “Dixie.” It is burning along the Salmon River and well up into the Salmon River breaks. So far the fire is completely uncontained. Map from Inciweb.

The Landmark Fire Complex it as 47,058 acres and threatens tiny Stibnite, east of Yellow Pine in Valley County. It consists of 3 fires. It’s 29 percent contained.

Update Aug. 12.

These fires put up huge plumes Sunday (very impressive on Earth satellite). Smoke covered most of northern Idaho and NW Montana. The latest report on the East Zone Complex reports that flames are crowning at 200 feet high on the outskirts of Warren, Idaho. Some buildings now lost.

Late afternoon fire plumes in central Idaho, Yellowstone and vicinity (circled in red). 

The Landmark Complex incident page indicates an inversion has kept planes grounded, and supply is on horseback and mules.

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Endangered ferret bounces back in Wyoming

Here is some good news about one of the very most endangered mammals.

Endangered [black-footed] ferret bounces back in Wyoming. By Alison Williams. LA Times

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Posted in endangered species act. Comments Off on Endangered ferret bounces back in Wyoming

Hot headed Idaho politics

Flamin’ Blame Game Western Watersheds Project has been taking some heat from Idaho state legislator Bert Brackett – not to mention his politicians in Washington. Here is Western Watersheds Project’s response.

And here is a picture of a sign erected in WWP’s honor near what remains of the Murphy Complex Fire.

Added Aug. 10. The Idaho Fires were recently a part of Greenfires’s diary on the Daily Kos. Idaho Burning.

Feds ask public for input to aid recovery of Mexican Gray Wolves

FWS intends to modify the Mexican Gray wolf recovery rules given the disappointing recovery thus far. As many wolves died so far this year as pups born.

Feds ask for input on gray wolves program

55 or less remain in Arizona and New Mexico, far fewer than the 102 hoped for by 2006. FWS has killed or otherwise removed 53 wolves since 1998 given the restrictive rules of the recovery plan – which among other things contain the wolves in the ‘Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area’.

In 2006, Center for Biological Diversity filed suit when FWS failed to respond to the Center’s legal petition to alter the rules.

Here is the Center’s full press release.

And here is a blog post on the Huffington Post by Glenn Hurowitz that grants kudos to New Mexico’s Governor, and Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Richardson for his call to end federal policy which kills Mexican gray wolves.

Addition Aug. 10. From the Albuquerque Tribune. Commentary: It’s time to confront policies that harm Mexican gray wolf numbers. By Melissa Hailey.
“Stymied by political interference, the [Mexican] wolf recovery program has been a marked failure. If federal managers continue to swap science for politics when it comes to wolf management, both the lobos and the will of the American people may be lost forever.”

Casewell Confirmed as BLM director

Jim Caswell gets confirmed as BLM director of 264 million acres of public lands by voice vote Friday as Colorado Senator Ken Salazar folds his hold when promised a letter from Kempthorne. Salazar’s hold on the nomination was to protest against natural gas development in his district.

Caswell’s comments to FWS in support of the Wolf (10j rule) changes:

Update. Story on what led to Casewell’s confirmation — a deal to mitigate oil and gas damage to the Roan Plateau in western Colorado. Salazar wins delay in Roan Plateau plan. By Todd Hartman.  Rocky Mountain News. 

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Thiel honored for wolf education in mid-West

Richard Thiel, Wisconsin’s first wolf biologist, received honors in DC for his role with wolf education.

The article also gives a brief description of recovery in the mid-West.

Tomah man honored for work with wolves
The Tomah Journal
By Keith Zukas

Posted in Delisting, Wisconsin wolves, Wolves. Comments Off on Thiel honored for wolf education in mid-West

Western governors declare war on cheatgrass

Western Governors yesterday held a press conference to declare war on cheatgrass.

I can’t help but think back to an article on NewWest describing the importance of words when considering conservation politics – politics in general.

We’ve got a good idea how politicians in cowboy suits conduct their perpetual wars. Now it’s been declared in the West, on up to a million acres recently charred by fire – against an infliction of the range which follows the very ‘prescriptions’ that they call for. They’re chasing their tails, and in the process turning your public lands into their private pasture.
Read the rest of this entry »

Yellowstone’s Wolves Save Its Aspen

This was nice. The New York Time’s does a piece on “The Basics” with wolves and Yellowstone’s aspen. I like the cartoon as well.

Posted in Wolves, Wolves and prey, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Yellowstone’s Wolves Save Its Aspen

Many troubles for the sage grouse

WWPblog has a story about many of the threats to sage grouse.

Here’s a link to the West Nile concerns

This just goes to show how important rehab efforts after the fire will be to get these birds, and a host of other wildlife, proper habitat. Siberian wheat-grass, another non-native very similar to Crested Wheat, is being considered.

This Western Watersheds webpage has a pretty good rundown of the concern.

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It’s starve or sell for cattle ranches

The Salt Lake Tribute describes the stifling conditions ranchers are finding themselves in. The fire and drought are coming down hard right as the price of feed stretches just beyond many’s reach. This ought to give buy-outs a new breath.

While smaller operations engage in hard to swallow realities about the conditions on the land, Simplot stocks up:

Simplot's reserve
That’s retardant from the Murphy Complex fire effort along the road.

The parch conditions favor larger operations ~ especially controllers of the entire commodity chain like Simplot.

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Bangs predicts no wolf populaton growth in Wyoming this year

But is wasn’t supposed to be this way, the Wyoming wolf population would grow 20% forever! Just ask Gov. Dave or that Crank guy who is the State’s AG.

Here is the brief item from the Bang’s weekly report:

Mid-summer pack counts in Wyoming include: 15 breeding packs with pups, 7 packs with unknown breeding status, and 2 suspected packs outside the Parks and Yellowstone reports 10 packs/breeding pairs, the same number as last year. It is likely the wolf population estimate in Wyoming in 2007 will be similar too or slightly lower than it was in 2006 [311 wolves in 25 breeding pairs].

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Public meetings, comment period scheduled on Washington State’s wolf plan

Here is a news release from the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildife

Citizens can comment on gray wolf management in Washington state, during public meetings Aug. 14-23, and in writing through Aug. 31. 

The series of public “scoping” meetings is being held by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and an 18-member citizen working group that is advising WDFW on development of a draft wolf-management plan.

“This public comment opportunity is intended to ensure that we receive a full range of citizen views as we develop a conservation and management plan for the gray wolf,” said Rocky Beach, WDFW wildlife diversity manager. 

While the state will not re-introduce wolves, the species is expected to re-establish in Washington on its own as wolf numbers increase in neighboring states and Canada. 

Read the rest of this entry »

George Wuerthner interviewed on “Off the Trail” about benefits of wildfire

George Wuerthner does an interview on the KBSU public radio program “Off the trail” with Jyl Hoyt. Wuerthner describes the upside of forest fire. You can listen to a stream of the interview here.

Posted in Trees Forests, wildfire. Comments Off on George Wuerthner interviewed on “Off the Trail” about benefits of wildfire

There is still time to comment on the proposed new (and just plain awful) wolf rules.


Although I earlier posted a lot of material about the USFWS proposed changes to the 10j rule on the “non-essential, experimental” population of wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and much of Montana, a month ago, I’ve been asked to post again now that the due date approachesAugust 6.

Here is the proposed new 10j rule as it was published in the Federal Register on July 6.

What do these changes mean? Fact sheet from Defenders.

What is the worst part? It is the new allowance for killing of wolves by the government for “herd management” purposes. The proposed new rule defines “herd management” in such a way that a state could kill wolves that affect ungulate herds in any manner they choose to find objectionable. It is no longer just a reduction in the herd’s size that may merit state ordered killing, it might just be that wolves have made elk more wary and so harder for the least capable hunters to find. In other words, some of the beneficial reasons why wolves were restored under 10j rule, may now be the basis for their termination — wolves just being wolves and making the elk, deer, and moose more wild, could result in an order from them to be gunned down.

Here’s what it says in the Federal Register about wolves having an unacceptable impact on “herd management goals.”

Unacceptable impact—State or tribally determined impact to a wild ungulate population or herd, with wolves as one of the major causes of the population or herd not meeting established State or Tribal population or herd management goals. Read the rest of this entry »

Contact Governor Brian Schweitzer (Buffalo Field Campaign update)

This is the time to contact Governor Schweitzer asking for bison habitat, especially since Republican Montana congressman Dennis Rehburg shot down an effort in Congress to provide it.

I’d think the Democratic governor would want to knock of this obstreperous retrograde Republican holdover.


Here is the BFC update.

In this issue:

* Update from the Field
* Letter from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
* ACTION: Contact Governor Brian Schweitzer
* Buffalo in the News
* Last Words


* Update from the Field

Dear Buffalo Friends,

Thanks to everyone who forwarded us copies of the letter and news article you received from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer regarding his buffer zone idea for Montana lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Apparently, Schweitzer sent this form letter and article out to everyone who has contacted him via email regarding the last wild buffalo. For those of you who may not have seen the letter, a copy is pasted below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Montana gets a bison hunt proposal from two tribes.

Story by the Associated Press.

If Montana is not willing to provide bison habitat, I’d certainly prefer that tribes get their treaty priority first. Montana should not just get to suck off of the surplus from Yellowstone Park. If they want bison to hunt, they should allow bison to use the vacant habitat just west of Yellowstone Park.

Posted in Bison, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Montana gets a bison hunt proposal from two tribes.

Las Vegas’ groundwater pumping plans could leave Utah in the dust.

Plans and developments already underway to grab what little groundwater there is under the Great Basin desert valleys so endless growth at Las Vegas can continue could devastate not just the rest of Nevada, but Utah too.

Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. Downwind again: Utah must guard against Nevada Dust Bowl. Tribune editorial.

Where’s the smoke coming from? An estimated 900,000 acres-plus burning across Idaho

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Where’s the smoke coming from? An estimated 900,000 acres-plus burning across Idaho

Rocky Barker’s blog: We live in the indefinitely bad fire season with conditions off the chart

Rocky Barker says that we ( in Idaho) are now living in conditions like those in Yellowstone in 1988 when the fires exploded, and a month early at that!

We live in the indefinitely bad fire season with conditions off the chart. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

I have added the following after receiving comments to the post. Fires close all roads to Yellow Pine. Idaho Statesman. By Heath Druzin and Cynthia Sewell

Inciweb East Fork complex. Explosive Western Idaho forest fires and numerous emergency road closures.

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Kathie Lynch on Druids return to the Lamar, the Haydens, Sloughs, Agates and more

The Druids returned to the Lamar for the first time since late June. Although their visit may have been brief, Kathie Lynch describes it all.

Her report.

– – – – –

Copyright By Kathie Lynch.

Just when I was wondering what excitement I’d write about for a late summer wolf report, the Druid Peak pack made a return visit to Lamar Valley! Early on the morning of August 1, nine Druids (five black and four gray) galloped down the low southern flank of Mt. Norris and emerged near the Chalcedony fan, headed toward their old rendezvous site in Lamar. They had made a similar boundary check one week earlier, but prior to that had not been seen in Lamar since June 30. I was thrilled since I had not seen them all summer!

Read the rest of this entry »

Boise has the hottest month ever in July

Boise has the hottest month ever in July. By Heath Druzin and Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. Do you think this might explain why the fires exploded in the country to the south of Boise?

Given this knowledge it’s fascinating to watch Larry Craig’s views on climate from video on the WWP blog. Craig walks tightrope to avoid Global Warming’s contribution to wildfire.

It’s time for sagebrush patriots to rally against the land stealing rebels

The winter before last, emboldened by their power, California’s Representative from the Tracy area area, Richard Pombo, teamed up with Jim Gibbons of Nevada and hatch a scheme to steal the public lands under the disguise of mining reform.

In a move surprising to many, Westerners rallied against them, and before long Western Republicans who’d long had little good to say about public lands such as Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi, and even Larry Craig were backpeddling, and pledging their fealty to our birthright of room to roam, our great public land heritage. Even Butch Otter, then a member of the House who was proposing to sell off 20% of the national forests, etc. to pay for Hurricane Katrina, was quickly forced to drop his bill lest he lose his race for governor.

Of course, their conversion was “lite.”Now they are back at it, using the fires as the latest weapon against the public lands. John Miller’s article on the fire’s stirring an “ember of the sagebrush rebellion” should be a wake-up call. This isn’t really about fire. The fires are their vehicle to attack the public land management agencies, the firefighters, policies designed to elevate the importance of wildlife, recreation, and the average citizen. They mean to take it away from you.

It’s got to be once again more into the breach for the public land patriots.

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Western fires stir embers of ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’

Western fires stir embers of ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’. By John Miller. AP

First of all, I have always been a sagebrush patriot, not one of these “rebels” with their hand out whining for federal money and complaining that they have to follow rules. One of reasons the sagebrush rebellion was defeated was that folks saw them as band of well-connected people out to steal the public’s land for their own purposes.

It’s interesting that when a wildfire fighter is killed in the line of duty, these same politicians are the first to demand in inquiry.

Last year when Montana’s now ex-senator Conrad Burns belittled a hot shot fire crew (because ranchers had complained), his rating in the polls plunged and from there on it looked like he could well lose the election. He did lose.

From a year ago about this time . . . Report: Burns called firefighters lazy. By Charles S. Johnson.

Larry Craig is up for reelection in 2008. He will have major primary election opposition. He will also face a Democrat.

– – – –

–The Idaho Statesman today came down hard on Idaho’s “armchair” fire-fighting policians. Our View: Don’t play blame game with fire management. Editorial view of the Idaho Statesman.

Kayaker fights off hungry wolf on B.C. coast

Here is story from heaven for anti-wolf folks.

Kayaker fights off hungry wolf on B.C. coast. By Larry Pynn, CanWest News Service

Fires tax crews to the limit

Managers say no teams have all the people or equipment they need to battle wildfires in today’s hotter, drier world. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Rocky Barker has written a story that gives little support for the Craig/Crapo/Otter position that too many regulations on grazing and protection for the environmental have played a major role in this year’s very severe fire season.

Barker is also one of the first to mention the Bush policy of making agencies take fire-fighting costs from their other programs. My view is that if matters continue to deteriorate, the fact that so many national guard units are in Iraq will start to be an issue — they are off fighting in a hard-to-fathom civil war when their number priority in the past has been to protect the homeland.

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IDFG considering whether to kill off Phantom Hill wolf pack

This wolf pack has become a favorite for folks traveling up and down Idaho Highway 75 between Galena Summit and North Fork because they are seen near by the highway.

On one side of the road is the grazing allotment of Lava Lake Sheep and Livestock, run by Mike Stevens, a very progressive outfit that elected not to put sheep in the area this summer once the wolf pack was discovered. On the other side of the highway are the sheep of Gooding-based Faulkner Land and Livestock Co., who is beginning to see losses to the Phantom Hill wolf pack which was first discovered this year, but has apparently had pups before this year’s litter.

Volunteer Cindi Hillemeyer has been working for the Idaho Fish and Game Department trying to keep the sheep and wolves apart. Although the article doesn’t say it, Hillemeyer is about to return to school for the year.

There are some local efforts to find volunteers to replace her. Support from local elected officials (Sun Valley/Ketchum) could help save this pack which could probably be moved away from the sheep by a good hazing by several individuals.

Story by Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express.

Research: Good pine nut years help grizzly bears

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