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16 Jul

An environmentalist lawsuit aims to shut down a wildlife enhancement project in Idaho’s Caribou-Targhee National Forest because mechanized juniper removal would allegedly disturb sensitive habitat.

Wild lands Defense, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council have filed a complaint accusing the U.S. Forest Service of violating federal law by “categorically excluding” the Rowley Canyon Wildlife Enhancement Project from environmental analysis.

The project aims to improve habitat for elk and deer, as well as ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse species by removing up to 85% of juniper trees — which behave like an invasive species — across nearly 1,700 acres in the forest.

The agency claims its “resource specialists have reviewed the proposed action and do not anticipate the proposed project to lead to any significant impacts or extraordinary circumstances,” justifying the categorical exclusion from environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

However, the environmental plaintiffs claim the project will exacerbate “existing livestock impacts” from grazing with such activities as cutting, grinding and burning juniper near roadless areas and those with wilderness characteristics.

“Project activities will include destruction of sagebrush, sagebrush-bitterbrush, and sagebrush-snowberry communities that may preclude sage grouse recovery in historic habitat,” the complaint said.

Aside from failing to consider the desirable plant and animal species, the Forest Service also didn’t evaluate the cumulative project’s cumulative impacts as required by NEPA, according to the plaintiffs.

“Significance cannot be avoided by terming an action temporary or by breaking it down into small component parts,” the complaint said.

The environmental groups have asked a federal judge to overturn and block the project, remand the decision to the agency, and compensate the plaintiffs for their litigation costs.

Capital Press wasn’t able to reach a representative of the national forest for comment as of press time.

In documents supporting the need for the project, the Forest Service said juniper removal will improve big game winter range, increase grass and shrub diversity and make the area more resilient to fire and other disturbances.

“Research has indicated that complete loss of residual vegetation and high severity wildfire can occur without treatment across variable juniper densities, levels of tree encroachment and a range of sites,” the agency said.

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11 Jul

KETCHUM — Let the good times roll and help uncork summer in the mountains. The Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction will take place July 18 to 20. Your participation in the annual festivities is vital to sustaining the center’s year-round arts and education programs for adults, youth and families.

Be first in line for one of the famed Vintner Dinners by purchasing a Grand Cru or Premier Cru package ticket for an all-access pass to the Wine Auction. Reserve your seat at the lively Auction Gala for exclusive auction lots, winery hosted tables and a performance by Nashville country music star Jake Maurer and the Jake Maurer Band. Attend the ever popular Vine & Dine with live music, tapas-style plates from local restaurateurs and, of course, outstanding wines.

New to the auction this year is the chance to win 50 bottles to start your very own wine cellar. Tickets will be available for purchase during these events:

  • Lot viewing and registration — 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 18 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 19
  • Both Vine & Dine sites — 5 to 9 p.m. July 20

The price of each ticket will be $50 or five tickets for $200. The value of each bottle of wine is more than the price of one ticket.

Be a part of the action by volunteering at the wine auction in the following ways:

July 19 — Be a wine steward and serve wine during the Wine Auction Gala from 5 to 11 p.m. There will be a volunteer meet-and-greet and orientation at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the center, 191 Fifth St. E., Ketchum. As a Gala wine steward volunteer, you will be eligible to receive a complimentary ticket to the Vine & Dine July 20 or a half-price ticket to the Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats concert July 24.

July 20 — Be a food server. Food assembly will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Assist with restaurant set-up and serve or be a wine server from 4 to 9 p.m.

As a Vine & Dine volunteer, you will be eligible to purchase a half-price ticket to the Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats concert July 24.

After you complete this application, you will receive information on how to schedule yourself, manage your schedule and all the details you need. If you’ve volunteered before, please go online and sign up or call Kris Olenick or Chris Carwithen at 208-788-6520 to get scheduled.

For more information about the Sun Valley Center Wine Auction, call Peter Burke at 208-726-9491 or email pburke@sunvalleycenter.org.

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