Salmon, roadless and wolves will come to a head in 2008

So what’s going to happen in 2008. Here’s my scorecard:

1. The legal battle over endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin is going to finally come to a head. U.S. District Judge James Redden is going to issue a final decision on the biological opinions for both the Lower Snake and Columbia dams and the Upper Snake dams in Idaho. Since the Bush administration won’t even consider breaching four dams on the Snake and a most scientists say the four stocks of Snake River salmon and steelhead can’t be saved without it, Redden will likely force the region to spend even more money to draw down reservoirs, spill water over dams and flush water from Idaho to help the fish. This will cause a political crisis that may or may not come as Americans elect a new president.

Climate change dominates Idaho environmental issues in 2007

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.

Hope lies at the heart of the Christmas story

Americans have spent many Christmases at war. We have shared the mixed feelings that come from the contradiction between the Christmas spirit, patriotic fervor and the deep sense of loss all of us share when soldiers die fighting for our country.

Henry David Wadsworth Longfellow, the American poet of the 19th century, knew these feelings well. For him they were strongest at Christmas time in 1863, when a weary America was in the middle of a bloody Civil War.

The battle of Gettysburg, where the two armies suffered 40,000 casualties, had ended little more than five months before. The suffering touched millions of Americans, including Longfellow, whose own son lay bleeding, soon to die.

Nuclear executive faces skeptical Payette crowd

Bill Fehrman stood before a skeptical crowd in Payette of more than 400 people patiently answering every question and listening to every comment about the nuclear plant he wants to built near their town.

The residents of Payette, New Plymouth, Fruitland and Ontario who filled the Payette High School auditorium had only learned two weeks before that MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holding Co., controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, wanted to build a nuclear power plant next door. The company itself had only been formed just before the rumors were confirmed by the Idaho Statesman’s Ken Dey Dec. 4.

When does human activity destroy "roadless characteristics"?

Idaho’s roadless rule was rolled out Wednesday with few surprises.

Those who supported it when then-Gov. Jim Risch announced it, including some environmental groups like Trout Unlimited and Idaho’s timber industry, still like it. Other environmental groups, like the Wilderness Society, who prefer the roadless protection under the Clinton 2001 rule, hate it.

Some, like the Idaho Conservation League are riding the fence. The U.S. Forest Service’s analysis in its draft Environmental Impact Statement provides one of the interesting surprises.

It says, in a graph comparing the impacts under the Clinton Rule and the Risch rule that “Acres retaining natural processes and roadless characteristics,” total 9.3 million under the Clinton plan and only 3.2 million under the Risch plan. What it suggests is that the 5 million acres designated backcountry restoration, where limited logging and temporary roads would be allowed, would all lose their roadless characteristics.

Idaho Roadless rule seeps on to the streets in the Christmas mail rush

The U.S. Forest Service put in the mail last week its draft environmental impact statements for Idaho’s petition to protect the state’s roadless national forest its way.

Groups started getting their DEIS delivered Tuesday and I expect a press release and my own copy today or Thursday. The Wilderness Society’s Brad Brooks in Boise got his copy and he gave me his first analysis: He doesn’t like it.

He says the language for the critical backcountry restoration area, where temporary roads would be allowed to protect communities is new, broad and will allow lots more logging.

The Forest Service even took more acreage out of protection and opened it up for development, Brooks said. Now I weigh his analysis against the fact the Wilderness Society supports keeping President Bill Clinton’s 2001 roadless rule intact.

I love the smell of Douglas fir in the morning. It smells like ethics

I must confess that as an environmental reporter I have not shaped my personal consumerism around the values of environmentalism.

I recycle my newspapers but little else regularly. Like most Idahoans whose power comes mostly from hydroelectric dams, my carbon footprint is relatively low. But it doesn’t keep me from flying places at the drop of a hat.

My taste for fresh vegetables and local foods has not changed my eating habits. But like most people,I have some patterns driven in part by my environmental values such as they are.

I don’t litter. I practice light-on-the-land camping. I try to limit car trips and I mow my lawn in the evening during yellow alerts. Most of all I feel guilty for all the steps I’m not taking.

Air quality solutions no easier today than they were in the 1990s.

When I moved to Boise I rented a room at the foothills home of Gary Richardson and Diane Ronayne for a month.

Every morning I would have espresso and listen to Gary’s often critical commentary as he read the Idaho Statesman and watched the smog roll into Ada County with the traffic from Canyon County. It was 1996 and Richardson was running what appeared to be a quixotic campaign for Ada County Highway District Commissioner.

Richardson, a former Idaho Public Television producer was the spokesman then for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. He rode his bike to work every day and advocated making the road system more bike friendly.

More laughter than anger at Fish and Game wolf meeting

Idaho Fish and Game’s meeting on its wolf plan prompted laughter, not anger Thursday night in Boise.

Jon Rachael, the southwest region wildlife manager for Fish and Game moderated the meeting that had an even number of wolf advocates and opponents. Some of the other meetings around the state have been as heated as ever, demonstrating that, as Yellowstone wolf biologist Doug Smith says: “The wolf issue is the abortion issue of wildlife management.”

But here in Boise people on both sides of the issue were respectful of the questions raised by their opposites. Rachael's humorous, laid back style of presenting the plan kept everyone loose and the tension low.

Redden still holds out hope region can bring him legal salmon plan

Judge James Redden made it clear Wednesday he believes federal dam managers have to do more if they want to avoid the regional train wreck environmental groups, sportsmen and others represented by environmental lawyers Earthjustice advocate.

He warned of “very harsh” consequences he had previously identified, including ordering more water from Idaho reservoirs, less water for hydroelectric generation and even drawing down reservoirs behind dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

He specifically pointed to Oregon’s suggestion of the drawing down of the John Day Dam on the Columbia, which kills more fish than any of the other eight dams between the Pacific and Idaho. But he acknowledged he didn’t expect the Bush administration to include breaching the four dams in its final biological opinion, according to the Oregonian.

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