Molly Wampler, Boise State Public Radio

Thick smoke from summertime wildfires can present major health risks. Prediction models help locals prepare for poor air quality to come, but the data behind those models is not as conclusive as we might think.


Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Boise’s Gowen Field is home base to NASA and NOAA’s newest collaborative research project on wildfire smoke and air quality.


A recent report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environment Information shows there were 14 severe weather events across the country last year costing a total of $89.4 billion. Five of those affected the Mountain West region.

Andrew Bonamici / Flickr

Idaho Rivers United, a member of the consortium of organizations threatening to sue the state over steelhead season, is backing away from the possible litigation.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

The federal government's management plan for protecting salmon and steelhead killed by federal dams in the Columbia River basin differs little from its earlier version and continues to rely heavily on habitat improvement. 

The Port of Port Townsend, Wash., is providing a temporary home to a piece of literary history. But the dry-docked sardine fishing boat once chartered by the writer John Steinbeck faces an uncertain fate. 

The 76-foot boat's original name was the Western Flyer. In 1940, John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts (who later inspired the character Doc in "Cannery Row") chartered the wood vessel for a cruise around Baja California.

Ed Bowlby / NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Civilian use of aerial drones is still greatly restricted, but the federal science agency NOAA has won permission to test a small unmanned aircraft off the Olympic Coast of Washington. A two week trial run is now underway.

This drone looks like an oversized remote control model airplane. It has a nine foot wingspan and can fly for about two hours on battery power. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary superintendent Carol Bernthal says the drone offers a cheaper, less intrusive way to take high-def video and still pictures of offshore seabird colonies.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Environmentalists, farmers and irrigators could play a bigger role in creating long term management policies for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. The government has asked two university programs in Oregon and Washington to act as mediators over the next six months, talking with more than 200 organizations, states and tribes in order to find a better way of managing fish.

Dams, overfishing, and development are among the reasons for a decline in Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Seventeen of these fish species are now federally protected as endangered or threatened.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Environmentalists, irrigators, and other stakeholders in the Northwest are being offered an expanded role in shaping the long-term recovery plan for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries is the federal agency in charge of salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The agency Tuesday sent letters to hundreds of stakeholders in the Northwest. It invites them to provide input on the plan it is working on to restore salmon and steelhead populations.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

If you’re a resident killer whale Puget Sound can be a busy and noisy place.

Some research shows that during the summer tourist season - when the orcas come into Puget Sound most regularly - they can be surrounded by an average of 20-25 boats.

Scientists are trying to figure out how pleasure boats and larger vessels may be affecting the behavior and recovery of this endangered species.

We get word that the whales are nearby soon after leaving the dock at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island.