US Facing Air Tanker Shortage

Jul 6, 2012

As wildfires continue to burn here in the West, the US Forest Service is going to battle this summer with fewer air tankers.  The number of planes that drop retardant on fires has shrunk significantly over the last 12 years. 

On a sunny, warm morning at the Boise airport.  A shiny white and green plane slowly pulls onto the red retardant-stained tarmac.  Pilot Lyle Ehalt is returning from a drop over a grass fire near Murphy.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Idaho's U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “go back to the drawing board” on the agency’s woodland caribou proposal. 

They released a letter Thursday expressing “deep concerns” with the agency’s idea to designate nearly 600 square miles in the Selkirk Mountains as critical habitat for the endangered species. 

Scott Ki / Boise State Public Radio

After weeks of sunny, warm weather, it finally rained today in parts of southern Idaho. Bill Wojcik is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boise.  “Well this morning we had the rain falling as far west as Jerome and Twin Falls and at this time it extends all the way back to Idaho Falls and probably even into the western part of Wyoming.”

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Some firefighters from the Northwest have been sent to blazes across the West. But the firefighters still at home are playing the waiting game.

In Colorado, crews are approaching two weeks of battling the Waldo Canyon Fire. Meanwhile, the Northwest has been so wet, some fire managers dubbed last month “June-uary.”

There have been so few blazes, wildland firefighter Emily Emmons has had to pick up odd jobs. “I’ve been doing landscaping and washing dishes at the Elks Lodge, playing music … lots of reading. Haha.”

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. secretaries of Homeland Security and Agriculture made a stop in Boise Tuesday afternoon.  Janet Napolitano and Tom Vilsack thanked National Interagency Fire Center employees for their work in recent weeks, and asked homeowners in fire-prone areas to take precautions against wildfires. 

Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, says she’s long had an appreciation for the work done in Boise.  The Fire Center serves as the heart of  U.S. firefighting operations.  Napolitano called the facility’s coordination’s “remarkable”.   

Katherine Whitmore / USFWS

Few sounds symbolize American patriotism like the piercing shrill of a bald eagle. But just like George Washington and his cherry tree, that majestic call … is a myth. The screech associated with the bald eagle, in fact, belongs to a different bird.

Bird expert Connie Stanger blames Hollywood. You know the scene:

“You’ve got John Wayne riding through the sunset and you hear the jingle of spurs and often that piercing, loud cry," Stanger says. 

The Pocatello wildfire that destroyed 66 homes and caused the evacuation of more than 1,000 people last week has been contained. 

Crews began fighting the fire last Thursday.  They had it contained by Monday morning. 

Lieutenant Paul Manning of the Pocatello Police Department says today will be the last day fire crews work the scene, but they’ll continue to limit access to the area.  “We’re keeping the area secure, meaning that all the residents can only enter the area with proof of residency,” says Manning. 

Pocatello Fire Now 50 Percent Contained

Jun 30, 2012
Bill Volk / BLM, Pocatello office

Update (12:50 PM Saturday)  Officials in Pocatello said Saturday the Charlotte fire that’s burned more than 60 homes is now 50-percent contained.  They hope to have the fire fully contained Sunday.

According to TV station KPVI, police are providing escorts for those evacuated residents who wish to visit their homes.  That will last until 5 PM Saturday.  No escorts are planned for Sunday.  Authorities say it will likely be Monday before evacuated residents are allowed to return to their homes for good.

Ada County

Ada County Commissioner Dave Case grilled executives from Dynamis Energy Friday morning.  The Eagle-based company wants to build a plant at the Ada County landfill that would turn trash and tires into electricity.  Case, though, failed in his attempt to bring an end to the county’s contract with Dynamis.

Ada County

Ada County Commissioners want answers  from the CEO of a company that plans to create energy from garbage.  A citizens group has accused the County and Dynamis Energy of fraud.  Commissioners have called a meeting on the project for Friday morning. 

Eagle-based Dynamis Energy plans to convert garbage to electricity at the Ada County Landfill.  County Commissioners gave the go ahead for the project about two years ago. They also provided the company with $2 million for design work, but the project is now behind schedule. 

Russell Lee

The US Supreme Court will hear an appeal in a case that asks if sediment running off logging roads is industrial pollution. 

It’s starting to rain on a recent afternoon in the Tillamook State Forest. Muddy water is collecting in ditches alongside a logging road. Muddy water may not sound like a big deal.

“But it’s one of the most pervasive pollution sources," says Chris Winter, with the Crag Law Center. Winter finds a culvert that is diverting the runoff from this road into the nearby Trask River.

He says the sediment in the runoff can be disastrous for salmon.

Century-Old River Gauge Tells A Story

Jun 26, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix


In the West, people place all kinds of demands on water. Fish and wildlife need this limited resource, too.

Parceling it out requires accurate data about water amounts and levels - That’s why the federal government started to build river gauges 123-years ago. One of the oldest in the Northwest can be found in Idaho.

The Boise River starts as melting snow in the Sawtooth Mountains. It twists and turns through 102-miles of forests, deep canyons, open range, and urban areas to the Snake River.  Along the way, every drop of water serves a purpose.

The Peregrine Fund

The five baby kestrels born in a nest box at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise have grown up and are beginning to leave their cradle. 

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Every year in cities like Houston, Texas and Venice, California, people tour through backyard gardens.  It’s like a Parade of Homes for garden lovers.  Something similar is happening this Sunday in Boise.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

On the 26th anniversary of the Idaho Botanical Garden’s Garden Tour, 1,000 people will visit the private yards of 9 skilled gardeners.  One of those belongs to Craig and Vanessa Lang of Boise.  Craig Lang’s passion is Japanese Maples and he has several varieties or cultivars around his Boise home. You can hear Lang as he takes you on an audio tour through his garden. Just click the audio link for more.