Idaho fire season, drought and even air pollution issues all were tied to the world’s now dominating environmental issue, climate change.
The year 2007 will be remembered as the year that the world’s scientists, working through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, removed doubts from all but the most dedicated skeptics that the world’s climate is changing and human activity is a major contributor.
The co-authors of the report and former Vice President Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for spreading the news. Gore came to Republican Idaho and attracted 10,000 people at Boise State University in January to see his slide show.
Meanwhile fires burned nearly 2 million acres in 2007 with firefighters seeing conditions they had never seen before. Forest scientists said to expect more especially in Idaho and Montana where climate change could have the most dramatic effects of anywhere in the West.
The same is predicted for Idaho water as warmer winters and earlier runoff reduces Idaho’s ability to store water and meet its already overtaxed water demand. A dispute between groundwater and surface users nearly led to a confrontation between state water officials and farmers. That dispute could
return in 2008 and court cases between Idaho Power and the state over a landmark agreement and irrigation districts and the federal government over whether to keep water running down the Boise River in the winter could spread the issue to the Treasure Valley.
Earlier warm weather brought air pollution alerts in April and May in the Treasure Valley and accounted for a record of nearly 150 alerts in 2007.
Despite local efforts the Legislature turned down initiative to address air pollution and refused to consider local option tax to improve mass transit. Still Gov. Butch Otter began a statewide initiative to monitor and eventually reduce greenhouse gases, even if he himself is not convinced climate change is human caused. He also bases his support of nuclear power on climate concerns and two companies announced plans to try to build nuclear plants in the state.
Endangered species once again remained often in the headlines. A judge is forcing the Department of Interior to reconsider whether to list sage grouse as an endangered species, which could have the same effect across the sagebrush steppe that the spotted owl had on coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Idaho prepares to get control over wolves when the federal government removes them from the list in scheduled in March. But wolf lovers vow to stop it using Butch Otter's desire to shoot the first wolf as a rallying cry.
The federal government came up with a new endangered salmon biological opinion under orders of a federal judge but it did not include consideration of breaching four dams on the Snake River. Salmon advocates and the judge himself say it won't meet scientific and legal muster and that the judge could hand out harsh action when the case comes back to him in 2008.
There is enough left over to keep me busy in 2008.