Canadian scientists' report offers Idaho, Northwest strategy for climate change

Our neighbors to the North, Canada, have had a similar debate over climate change to the one we have here in the United States.

There remain politically, if not scientifically, many skeptics that humans are the cause of the climatic changes that obviously are happening. But there is an added angle. Warming in large portions of the Great White North is actually welcomed.

The growing season is expected to continue to lengthen, a phenomena we in Idaho also are experiencing. Winters may not be as harsh. The concept of adaptation to climate change, a subject that gets far too little discussion in the polarized debate over how we reverse it, is not as daunting as it would be in someplace like Bangladesh, which could see huge portions of its overpopulated landscape inundated by the Indian Ocean.

Ranchers worry about meat packing consolidation

Jon Marvel and his campaign to drive ranchers off of public lands may appear to their biggest threat for the future. But ultimately economics has driven the transformation of the West more than environmental initiatives.

The latest threat to western cattle ranches is a Brazilian company’s proposed $1.1 billion buyout of Smithfield Beef Group Inc. and National Beef Packing Co. Wyoming cattlemen are trying to stop the buyout because they see it as a threat to the prices they get for their beef on the hoof.

Should Idaho become "famous green power" state?

Led by Gov. Butch Otter, Idaho government and business leaders are embracing renewable energy sources and conservation as a critical part of Idaho’s energy future. The Idaho Legislature is already on record calling for the state to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable and conservation by 2025, Idaho Power is aggressively pushing conservation and wind energy development.

Lawmakers this session approved an energy efficiency bill for state buildings. Simplot Co. has embraced conservation as a way to improve its bottom line.

Farmers are increasingly looking to biofuels not only as a market for their grains but also as a homegrown fuel for their trucks and tractors that reduces our investments in Middle East and Latin American countries that don't like us.

Global warming removes pines but delivers thistles to grizzlies

Climate change continues to challenge long time positions on how to manage natural processes.

Among grizzly bear advocates, the loss of whitebark pine in Yellowstone and surrounding forests, due to the climb up mountains by pine beetles enhanced by global warming, is one of the greatest threats to long-term survival. They rightfully worry that the loss of this critical late summer and early fall food source presents a long term threat to grizzly bears.

Now, biologists are seeing how climate change has helped an alien, invasive species, take hold in the park and actually provide additional food to Yellowstone. The Canada thistle, the bane of every farm boy who ever had to pull weeds along a roadside, thrived in the park in the absence of control and due to the warming climate, Montana writer Jim Robbins reports in the New York Times.

Idaho could avoid federal air intervention with Early Action Compact

Since the Treasure Valley would have to keep ozone levels below 65 parts per billion this summer – a nearly impossible task -- to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ozone standard the game’s over right?

Not necessarily, according to Toni Hardesty, Administrator of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The Senate will vote this week on a new, expanded auto emissions testing program that would cover Ada and Canyon counties.

Hardesty told the Senate Environmental and Resources Committee Friday that such a program could be the anchor of proactive program negotiated with the EPA called an

Climate scientist wants public to consider climate change like court case

Stanford biologist Stephen Schneider, one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, wants to help the American public put the science on climate change into a context they can understand.

He spoke Thursday night to several hundred members of the American Society of Environmental Historians at the Basque Center in Boise, appealing to them and anyone to help make the complex subject easier to fit into their own personal decisionmaking.

He comes at it like a legal case. Is the jury still out on climate change?

Look at it like a criminal case. The jury must weigh the evidence and decide a person’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. What does that mean? Schneider asks rhetorically. There is no number that can be put to reasonable doubt.

Federal agency may close Pacific salmon fishery

Idaho may be expecting a good fishery this year on the hatchery salmon that begin their migration into the Columbia right about now.

But for fishermen along the California and Oregon Coast there won’t be a season. Federal officials have said they likely will close the salmon fishery from Washington to Mexico, which would be the largest closure in U.S. history. This time the center of the controversy is the Sacramento River and the California Central Valley’s fall Chinook. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which includes Idaho member Jerry Mallet, said this week it is prepared to shut down the fishery for 1000 commercial fishermen and 2.4 million sport anglers.

Environmental historians meet in Boise

The American Society for Environmental History is in Boise at the Centre on the Grove through Saturday for a conference titled, “Agents of Change: People, Climate and Places through Time.”

Non members can participate in the conference for $105 or $40 daily. Some of the nation’s top environmental historians will be talking about wild fires, climate change, energy, wilderness and agriculture.

I’m on a panel today that examines the how the policy of fighting wildfires in and around urban areas developed, a major issue here especially since the Eighths Street Fire burned into Boise in 1996. Thursday I’ll share a panel with wild fire expert Stephen Pyne of Arizona State University reexamining the Yellowstone fires of 1988.

Bush Administration says wolverines safe in Canada and Alaska

For years, westerners whose livelihoods were threatened by restrictions of the Endangered Species Act complained that species ranging from grizzly bears, wolves and even caribou did not deserve special protection because there were plenty in Alaska and Canada.

Now for the first time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has attempted to make that view policy. The agency announced that wolverines, while scattered, fragmented and inbreeding in the lower 48 states, do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act because their population is contiguous with Canada and management here is not much different than used up north.

Retired bald eagle researcher worries about national bird's future.

Research biologist Karen Steenhof retired last week after contributing to one of the nation’s great environmental success stories, the recovery of the bald eagle.

But Steenhof hopes success doesn’t make the nation lose its vigilance.The 2007 decision to remove eagles from the endangered species list has already reduced monitoring of the majestic birds nationwide. That’s why Steenhof looked at the decision with mixed feelings.

The woman who has long coordinated the national midwinter bald eagle count has watched as several states have dropped their monitoring programs. The federal government has not stepped in to fill those gaps.

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