Idaho has enough money to buy 130,000 acres of timberland
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — If Idaho spent the remaining $150 million of the estimated $240 million it's getting from the sale of residential properties and commercial real estate, state officials could buy another 130,000 acres (53,000 hectares) of timberland.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, both Republicans, and a financial expert took in that information Thursday as part of subcommittee examining options for the Idaho Land Board.
The five-member Land Board oversees about 3,800 square miles (9,800 square kilometers) of land and is constitutionally mandated to get the greatest return over the long run.
But spending the money to buy more land is fraught with politics because private entities have complained about unfair competition from the state.
The board has already spent $50 million buying 36,000 acres (15,000 hectares) of timberland while another $46 million has gone into the stock market.
Potato, onion, sweet corn farmers rush amid early freeze
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An early deep freeze has Idaho potato and onion farmers rushing to harvest crops or hoping the buried vegetables will survive the frozen nights this week.
Travis Blacker with the Idaho Potato Commission says an estimated 15% to 20% of Idaho's potato crop remained in the ground Wednesday. The Idaho Department of Agriculture says onion growers are in similar straits and working overtime to finish the harvest. Other crops at risk include sweet corn and dry beans.
Blacker says harvesting during freezing temperatures can hurt the quality of the potatoes, and rushing can lead to accidents.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Wojcik says a low pressure system from Canada is causing the high winds, low temperatures and snow. He says Boise's temperatures were about 20 degrees below average on Wednesday.
Former wrestling coach sues an Idaho college over firing
(Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press, http://www.cdapress.com)
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A former northern Idaho college head wrestling coach has filed a lawsuit against the school in federal court after he was fired.
Coeur d'Alene Press reports that Pat Whitcomb sued North Idaho College stating claims of discrimination, reputation harm, retaliation and misconduct.
Whitcomb believes he was fired for speaking out over possible rights and security violations the college committed against students and employees, not for academic integrity violations.
Whitcomb says the lawsuit seeks a jury trial, but doesn't ask for a monetary amount.
Officials say a tort claim filed last year estimated damages between $50,000 and $100,000.
College spokeswoman Laura Rumpler says the Coeur d'Alene-based college denies wrongdoing and is responsible for making sure the college's values aren't compromised.
Whitcomb coached more than 21 seasons before being fired in January.
Caregiver arrested in connection with scalding bath death
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former caregiver has been arrested in southern California in connection with the death of a disabled Boise man who was left in a scalding bath.
The Boise Police Department says U.S. Marshals arrested 24-year-old Omar Hamadi in San Diego, California on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged Hamadi with felony abuse, exploitation or neglect of a vulnerable adult after 38-year-old Benjamin Reed was badly burned in a scalding bath. Reed, who had advanced Huntington's Disease, died of his injuries on May 27. Prosecutors say at Hamadi was working as a caregiver for Reed at the time.
Hamadi has not been extradited from California, and he has not yet entered a plea.
SUN VALLEY SKI AREA-FOREST PROBLEMS
Forest at famed Idaho ski area facing wildfires, insects
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The forest in and around one of the nation's top ski destinations is in trouble from an ongoing combination of unusually warm temperatures, drought, wildfires, insect invaders and pathogens.
So the U.S. Forest Service is starting an environmental analysis to find ways to improve the forest's health at Sun Valley Resort's Bald Mountain ski area, a huge economic driver for the region heavily dependent on tourism.
The potential Bald Mountain Stewardship Project includes the entire 3,000-acre (1,200-hectare) ski area.
Officials say wildfires in 2007 and 2013 surrounded 9,150-foot (2,789-meter) Bald Mountain with burned forest, increasing bark beetle attacks.
Pine beetles, dwarf mistletoe and white pine blister rust are also killing trees on the ski-run carved mountain that forms a scenic backdrop for the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley.
Fall snowstorm blasts Rockies, heading toward Midwest
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A fall snowstorm is snarling traffic and causing power outages in the Rocky Mountains as it slowly moves across the northern U.S. toward the Great Plains.
Winter storm watches and warnings stretched from eastern Washington state to Minnesota, along with freeze warnings as far south as Colorado and Nebraska on Wednesday.
In Spokane, wet, heavy snow snapped tree branches and took out power lines. Avista Utilities was restoring power to 32,000 customers Wednesday.
Driving conditions are deteriorating across Montana and northern Wyoming as ice and blowing snow covered roadways.
Up to 2 feet (0.61 meters) of snow is expected to fall in the mountains, and up to a foot in lower-elevation towns and cities.
The storm is expected to bring the first snow of the season to Denver by Thursday.
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