Rain Brings Some Breathing Relief in Salmon

Sep 24, 2012
Beale Monday / Salmon-Challis National Forest

Salmon has seen some of the worst air quality in Idaho this year.  This month, the town has had several “purple” or very unhealthy air quality days.  The Mustang Complex fire is still burning mostly uncontained near the mountain town.  Smoke from the blaze has plagued the area for weeks.   

But a trace of rain over the weekend and into Monday has given residents of Salmon some much-needed fresh air.

“We’ve never been so happy to see rain in I don’t know how long," says Salmon Public Library employee Anne Schwartz. "So we are thanking God for sure.”

Evin Oneale / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The black bear cub - known as Boo Boo - is expected to make a full recovery. The bear was burned in the Mustang Fire north of Salmon. 

Boo Boo could be ready to leave the Idaho Humane Society, where he’s been recovering from his burns, in as little as two weeks.  The three-to-four month old cub has 2nd degree burns on all four of his paws. 

Salmon Air Quality Unhealthy Because Of Wildfires

Aug 30, 2012
Boise National Forest

Wildfire activity caused a purple air quality advisory for Salmon today.

Rensay Owen of the Department of Environmental Quality says that this advisory is more serious than previous ones issued this summer. “We have been issuing an air quality advisory for Lemhi and Custer county areas for the last three weeks now. The last week or so these advisories have been in the unhealthy category.”

Owens says that the purple warning is the second highest level on the air quality index. “The very unhealthy category – folks should stay indoors and limit any exertion.”


The Lemhi County Sheriff today warned homeowners near Butcherknife Ridge to be prepared to evacuate if the Mustang Complex Fire gets closer.  The 181,000 acre fire is threatening homes in the Highway 93 corridor north of North Fork. 

Boise National Forest

Update: August 29, 2012

The Idaho state veterinarian, Mark Drew, says the injured bear cub needs more help than previously thought.  The cub, nicknamed Boo Boo, was burned in the Mustang Fire near Salmon.  All four of his paws were severely burned. 

First Sockeye Reach Idaho's Stanley Basin

Jul 27, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The first sockeye arrived in Idaho’s Salmon River this week. That’s later than usual.

Most of Idaho’s sockeye come from the Salmon River. It’s also where they return to spawn. Tom Stuart is a salmon advocate. He says the endangered salmon species is more than two weeks behind schedule. That has him worried.

“It tells salmon advocates that the red fish of Redfish Lake are still at risk,” he says.

Lonesome Larry Hits 20-Year Anniversary

Jul 19, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

This year marks the twenty year anniversary of Lonesome Larry, a lone sockeye salmon that made the 800 mile trip from the ocean to Redfish Lake in central Idaho. It helped jump start a multi-billion dollar effort to save Snake River salmon from certain extinction.

Lonesome Larry wasn’t a large salmon - in fact he was barely a foot long. Sockeye aren’t the largest species of salmon. An average Chinook is typically twice that size or larger. But Lonesome Larry didn’t care, he swam - upriver past eight gigantic federal dams, up raging waterfalls and past countless natural predators.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

This week crews are cleaning up about 30 train cars full of coal that overturned near Mesa, in Eastern Washington. The accident has raised questions about proposed increased train shipments of coal through the nearby Columbia River Gorge.

Huge machinery had to be trucked in from the Tri-Cities to clean up the black dusty mess in the rural burg east of Yakima. Car loads of coal overturned and damaged the tracks there.

Spring Chinook Numbers Lower Than Expected

Jun 20, 2012
endora57 / Flickr

You might remember predictions of really high spring chinook runs this year. But, turns outs, after spring salmon runs wrapped up, the numbers were not as high as everyone had hoped.

Biologists had predicted the Columbia River would see one of the stronger spring salmon runs in the past decade. But it looks like forecasts were off by a little more than one-third. Biologists say, still a decent run, just not all that exciting.

One tool they use to predict salmon runs are early returns of male salmon, known as “jacks.”

Sea Lions Under the Gun

Jun 6, 2012

Since April, 20 sea lions have washed up dead in Oregon and Washington.  The majority of the animals were shot.

The dead sea lions have been found mainly near the mouth of the Columbia River, a hot spot for salmon.

Many believe the animals are being killed by fishermen who view them as competition for their catch.

Sean Stanley is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement in Portland.

Gold mining with small dredges is popular in the rural Northwest. Friday, the 9th circuit court ruled that the Forest Service has to strengthen its regulation of this kind of mining in salmon streams.

The Forest Service has been streamlining permitting for small scale dredge mining.  Even on rivers where endangered species like Coho salmon might be harmed.

CRITFC / Northwest News Network

A coalition of tribal groups says sea lions are eating far more salmon along the Columbia River than previously thought. The claim comes in a legal fight over whether wildlife officials should be killing some of the hungry sea lions.

A federal judge has authorized wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington to kill as many as 30 California sea lions each year near the Bonneville Dam. Four have been killed so far this spring. A conservation group has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the killings.