Friday, July 1, 2011

Briefs


Folk Festival seeks volunteers

The 34th annual Northern Rockies Folk Festival needs volunteers to help take tickets during two-hour shifts from 4-10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6. Volunteers will receive a free pass to the festival on the day they work for each two-hour shift worked.

This year's lineup includes James McMurtry on Friday night and the Gourds on Saturday night. Any-one interested should call Stefany Mahoney at 720-8227 or email at stefmahoney@yahoo.com.

Unemployment benefit activity slows

Pressure on Idaho's once-broke Unemployment In-surance Trust Fund is finally easing, but the impact of the worst recession since World War II is still being felt.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, regu-lar unemployment benefit payments have been run-ning below year-earlier levels for the past 18 months for both the number of recipients and amounts paid weekly. Regular benefits totaled just under $3.5 million for 15,000 jobless workers during the third week of June, less than half the amount paid during the same week in 2009 to nearly 27,000 workers.

But even that two-year decline leaves the state's un-employment program at levels unprecedented before the recession that began in December 2007. During the third week of June 2006, when Idaho was in the midst of a significant economic expansion, less than $1.3 mil-lion in benefits was paid to 5,700 jobless workers.

To some extent, the declining pressure on Idaho's regular benefit program is the result of workers' ex-hausting their 10- to 26-week allotments without find-ing jobs and moving to federally financed extended benefits. Nearly 16,000 jobless workers received ex-tended benefits during the third week of June.

In addition, more than 10,000 unemployed workers have exhausted all benefits without finding jobs. Fed-eral extensions run from 29 to 73 weeks.

The latest report from the New York-based Confer-ence Board, a business think tank, showed there were still nearly four unemployed Idaho workers for every job opening in the state.

Goats ready to munch weeds

For six weeks beginning July 11, about 700 goats will be eating noxious weeds along the Wood River Trail to control species like knapweed, leafy spurge and other unwanted plants along the path from Bellevue to Ketchum.

The project is the result of a partnership between Pesticide Action Network of Blaine County, a local citizens group advocating for alternative weed-control techniques, and the Blaine County Recreation District.

"This is a huge step forward in showing the entire community and everyone who visits our valley that there are safer ways to control weeds," said Kathryn Goldman, campaign director for Pesticide Action Net-work of Blaine County.

The goats are hungry every day, they prefer high-protein species like knapweed over desirable plants like grasses and they don't mind long days in the sun. Their digestive tracts also break down more than 95 percent of the knapweed seeds they eat, preventing those seeds from taking root.

The contractor will use fencing as needed to manage the goats as they move along the path so that trail us-ers will be minimally impacted. The Recreation Dis-trict encourages everyone using the Wood River Trail to stop and observe, but to let the goats do their work and refrain from petting them or otherwise interfere with the weed eating.

For more information about goats on the Wood River Trail, contact Janelle Conners at 578-5453 or visit www.bcrd.org. For more information on alternatives to chemical weed control, contact Kathryn Goldman, Pesticide Action Network of Blaine County at 721-3108 or visit www.pesticideactionnetwork.net.

Marten relative denied protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined Wednesday that fishers in Montana and Idaho do not warrant federal protection under the Endangered Spe-cies Act.

The fisher, a rare mammal prized for its thick, soft fur, is a member of the weasel family similar to otters and minks and closely related to the marten. Fishers live primarily in old-growth forests, where they prey on snowshoe hares and other small mammals. Timber companies often value fishers because they can reduce tree damage caused by porcupines.

The service reported that it studied the impacts of trapping, habitat loss, human development and climate change on the fishers. However, the service concluded that the species was not being impacted enough to jus-tify protection.

"Today's decision is a major disappointment," said David Gaillard of Defenders of Wildlife, who drafted the petition to protect the Rocky Mountain population.

In the Western U.S., fishers once roamed throughout the dense forests of the Northern Rockies and from the Pacific Northwest to the southern Sierra Nevada, in-cluding the Idaho Panhandle. Today, populations have declined significantly due to historic and ongoing trapping and logging.

Brits to rock pavilion

The Sun Valley Pavilion will be the site for The Great British Invasion live music concert on Saturday, July 16.

The concert will feature English rock bands Thunder and The Union and special guest Marina V with proceeds benefiting Childline, a free 24-hour help line in Britain for children in distress, and the service men and women of the U.K., Canada and the United States. Proceeds will also go to Sun Valley Adaptive Sports' Higher Ground program and the U.K.'s Force Select program that similarly benefits wounded British veterans.

The Hands Across the Water fundraiser will begin July 10 in Cranbrook, B.C., in the form of a Harley Davidson charity motorcycle ride. Some of the most breathtaking scenery through British Columbia, Alberta, Montana and Idaho will connect 50 motorcycle riders with their final destination in Sun Valley on July 16.

The concert will take place at 5 p.m. in the pavilion. For details and tickets, visit www.seats.sunvalley.com or call 622-2135.

State launches mussel offensive

Mandatory boat inspection stations are now open across the state as the Idaho Department of Agriculture launches its efforts to keep out invasive mussels.

Watercraft inspectors are looking for high-risk boats that have been in quagga mussel- and zebra mussel-impacted states.

Zebra mussels and quagga mussels are European in origin and range in size from microscopic to the size of a fingernail, depending on the life stage. They are prolific breeders that foul freshwater ecosystems and clog intake pipes that draw water from infested waterbodies. They cause significant maintenance challenges for raw-water systems, requiring millions of dollars annually to treat.

Boats coming from waters at Lake Mead, Lake Havasu, Lake Pleasant and the Great Lakes are at special risk for carrying mussels and noxious weeds. According to a press release from the Department of Agriculture, all Idaho waters have tested negative for these species, but they have been found in waters of other Western states and are causing severe economic and environmental harm.

"Idaho's inspection program underscores the importance of preventing these mussels from becoming established in Idaho," said Agriculture Director Celia Gould.

Mussels attached to watercraft or trailers can easily be transported to other waterbodies. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry microscopic mussel larvae to other water bodies. Multiple state and federal agencies are urging boaters and watercraft users to clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before entering Idaho.

All 15 inspection stations, concentrated on the state lines, are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. About 10,000 boats have already been inspected, with 18 infected boats intercepted, since stations began opening in March.




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