Mining reform goes to vote in the House on Halloween but the Senate is where the action is

The House is now scheduled to vote on West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall’s mining reform bill Wednesday, Halloween. As expected, Idaho’s two Republicans will vote “No.”

In a state where the mining industry remains an important employer in places like Challis and the Silver Valley, both former miner Rep. Bill Sali and Rep. Mike Simpson are not going to roam far from reform positions that go all the way back to Sen. James McClure’s unsuccessful efforts to get the mining industry to seek limited reforms in the 1980s.

1193757127 Mining reform goes to vote in the House on Halloween but the Senate is where the action is Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

INL still hides its nuclear weapons past from the public and its workers

The Idaho National Laboratory fashioned itself for years as a the nation’s manifestation of the peaceful atom. It’s first and second generation of workers prided themselves on its civilian research role, believing its myth that it was not involved in the research or production of nuclear weapons.

From the moment it began storing radioactive waste from the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado it became a part of the nuclear weapons production system developed by the United States to create thousands of the most fearful machines ever developed.

This Cold War creation spawned a secrecy that still challenges our democracy today. Cory Taule, a reporter with the Idaho Falls Post Register, encountered this still intact system as he reported Sunday on a 1958 nuclear accident at the INL and the effort of one of the workers, Don Hill, to learn how badly he was exposed to radioactive iodine.

Idaho gets new reports of cattle mutilations

Cattle mutilations are back and Idaho is once again ground zero.
Monteview rancher Kyle Stoddard reported the deaths of two bulls to Clark County Sheriff Craig King Oct. 16. And it wasn’t wolves that killed the $2,000 animals.
The two bulls had apparently been tranquilized and their sex organs had been removed. Stoddard told the Idaho Falls Post Register he suspected some kind of ritual was behind the odd deaths.
It’s been a few years since Idahoans reported the strange practice in their backyard.
Cattle mutilations have been attributed to everything from satanic cults to aliens or the long-haired hippies down the road. The phenomena started getting attention in the 1970s when a rash of mutilations all over the West caused law enforcement officials to hold a big conclave in St. Anthony. The governor of Colorado issued a statement decrying the mutilations.

California fires get caught up in global warming debate

The same scientist who attributes the back-to-back big fire seasons in Idaho and the Northern Rockies as signs of human-induced climate change says the fires in California are not.

Anthony Westerling, who co-authored the Science article that documented the shifting climate that has made fire seasons in most of the West longer and with bigger fires, told the Los Angeles Times drought and the seasonal Santa Ana winds, are normal in southern California.

More Nevada gold mines spew more toxic mercury than they reported

Nevada keeps finding more large sources of mercury among the gold mines that are among the biggest drivers of its rural economy. Unfortunately for Idaho we are downwind of these mercury emissions that accumulate in fish and can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in babies and young children.

The Idaho Conservation League has sent two additional “notice of intent to sue” letters to to the Florida Canyon Mine and Kennecott’s Denton-Rawhide Mine for failing to lawfully report these mercury emissions.

New data, collected by the state of Nevada, showed that in 2006 the Florida Canyon Mine emitted over 440 pounds of mercury and the Denton-Rawhide had emissions of over 350 pounds. Both mines reported little or no emissions previously.

Modern living culls the herd of American hunters

The number of hunters continues to drop nationwide and with it the connection to the land of the next generation.
According to USA Today,, hunting license sales have dropped from 19.1 million in 1975 to only 12.5 million in 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports. It’s a continuation of the trend that is both cultural and generational.
Last weekend, I took my son David and my six-year-old grandson, Alex, deer hunting. David worked his way down the mountain as Alex and I still-hunted along an old logging road.

Federal wildlife official blames deer feeder for grizzly bear's death

Tom Holman of Nordman in North Idaho knows his rights.

He has lived on Priest Lake in North Idaho for 40 years, the “crown jewel of Idaho."

It’s in the heart of habitat for one of the most imperiled grizzly bear populations in North America. But that doesn’t change the fact he has the right to leave corn out in his back yard to attract wild animals so he can photograph them.

It’s private property, after all.

The millions of dollars the federal government is spending to recovery grizzly bears in the Selkirk Mountains is its own problem. He’s just trying to make a little extra money as a wildlife photographer selling photos on his website.

New rule grass-fed beef rule pits two environmental ideas against each other

The Union of Concerned Scientists is applauding a new federal rule that ensures people who buy grass-fed beef don’t get meat from cows raised in feedlots.

The Washington-based environmental group, which prides itself on its scientifically based political positions, said beef from cows that are truly fed on grasses on the wide open range are not only healthier but better for the environment.

“Raising livestock on pastures avoids the crowding and illnesses that plague livestock in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs),” the group said in its press release Thursday. “Modern grass-fed methods are also more cost-effective and environmentally friendly because they take advantage of low-cost grasses that typically require little added water, and few or no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. A growing number of farmers across the country are now turning to this modern approach to livestock production.”

"60 Minutes" report on fires and global warming highlights Idaho

Idaho and the West’s long, hot fire season, and its connection to global warming, is the subject of a segment of “60 Minutes,” scheduled to run at 6 p.m. MDT this Sunday.

Idaho Statesman readers will recognize many of the sources for the story who were interviewed by Scott Pelley, a former chief White House correspondent for the CBS Evening News. They are the many of the same experts I relied on for my series of fire stories this summer, including the Bureau of Land Management’s Chief of Fire Operations Tom Boatner, of the National Interagency Fire Center.

Idaho delegation has tough task convincing downstream Democrats to protect its water

Led by Sen. Mike Crapo, the Idaho congressional showed solidarity Friday with Sen. Larry Craig when it backed his rider to the Interior spending bill that told officials to implement an operations plan for the federal Snake River dams in Idaho and Wyoming that a federal judge had struck down as illegal.

The letter, urging two Democrats to support the rider because it protected the 2005 Nez Perce water rights agreement, was the delegation’s attempt to show it will stand tough to protect Idaho’s water, a truly bipartisan goal in our state. It also sought to express that Craig’s rider was not an attempt by Craig, Crapo Reps. Bill Sali or Mike Simpson to back a dam plan found illegal under the Endangered Species Act.

1192454000 Idaho delegation has tough task convincing downstream Democrats to protect its water Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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