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Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

Treefort Music Fest Kicks Off Encore

Finn Riggins

If you’re going to Boise for the annual Treefort Music Fest, be sure to wear some feathers in your hair. Although it has been 45 years since the Summer of Love and Boise is no Haight-Ashbury, a music festival has arrived that has the young people of Idaho’s capital city unified in the possibility of a unique celebration. Some Treefort ...

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Idaho Family Makes The Lunatic List

It’s official. We are the crazy neighbors. We’ve made the lunatic list because we take in strays. Okay, mostly I take in strays. But the family wouldn’t go along as much as they do if they didn’t like it, too. From time to time, a stray person will live with us awhile and recover from something. One-legged ducks have paddled in our backyard stream, last winter a fox with a cough slept on our front porch at night, and we have to keep an eye on a stunningly stupid mourning dove who sleeps where the dogs could eat her. We’ve raised a duck, rescued baby birds, pulled screaming orphaned baby squirrels out of trees, and had two raccoons run rampant through our house because the dog door was open. A shoe box or cat carrier with some recovering creature in it is pretty normal around our already two-cat, two-dog household. After it rains, my daughter and I both pick up earthworms from sidewalks and gutters and throw them back in the dirt. I learned this valuable skill from my mother, who learned it from hers. Which is to say that lunacy is inherited. I should add here that the mascot of all this is our elderly Welsh Corgi, Sam, who is deaf and demented and not too bright to begin with. Sam staggers around the yard all day wondering what the hell.

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Report: Mountain West Cities Should Step Up Exports To Drive Economic Recovery

Doubling the exports of goods and services in the next five years would be a “major boon” to metropolitan areas of the Intermountain West. That’s the conclusion presented by a new study by the Brookings Mountain West Institute which presents a comprehensive collection of quantitative research on how the region can transition to a different economy. The report says that a jump in exports would bring thousands of good jobs to the region. “Export-related jobs pay relatively well,” the report states. “And for metropolitan area industry clusters and firms, international engagement and competition brings its own benefits of heightened innovation and productivity growth.” The prospect of such gains is especially attractive in the Mountain zone, moreover, given the present moment of self-reflection in a region that appears faced with the partial breakdown of its traditional migration- and real estate-driven growth machine. With such sources of domestically-driven growth looking less reliable, export-based development holds out one possible new source of sustainable job-creation and broadly shared prosperity. The Brookings study says there are large overseas markets for US-produced products and services whose potential is not being realized, and that the transformation to a more export-oriented economy will be led by America’s metropolitan areas.

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The Press Release Polka

What sounds worse than making cold telephone calls trying to sell stinky used cowboy boots for $500 each? Some political candidates would say that at least it could be more amusing than “dialing for dollars,” a necessary evil known as fundraising. With four months until the midterm congressional election, campaigns are focused on money. But it’s also the season to take “name recognition” into the next campaign phase, “building a brand.” We’re starting to read news based on press releases designed to spur an opponent into a response. The press secretaries who write the releases which turn into published news have persuaded reporters that the subject is real news, and could spark a news cycle shootout between the candidates. Conversely, a press release is sometimes released because a reporter inquired about a candidate’s position.

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Recent Wolf News: Here’s What You Need to Know

The recent and controversial wolf-hunt announcements in Idaho, where officials plan to allow hunters to use electronic calls and traps, and the proposed doubling of the quota in Montana's hunt are getting plenty of play throughout the Rockies. But hunts in both states still await a decision by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Montana. He’ll be making a ruling this summer in the lawsuit brought by Defenders of Wildlife to restore wolves to endangered status in both states. In t he meantime, Montana will start selling wolf tags on Aug. 23 with a quota of 186 wolves. Dates for Idaho have not been set. With the number of wolves estimated at 835 in Idaho and 524 in Montana, wolf hunters and ranchers see greater opportunity to cull a threatening killer of livestock and Elk. Pro-wolf activists see those numbers as low and want wolves back on the Endangered Species Act. The gulf between zero and 800 is wide, and there have been years of hot words exchanged between opponents.

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Western Weekend Reading Roundup

Here's some good western weekend reading: Technology and Media In Sun Valley, media giants have gathered at the Allen & Co. retreat. Wired Magazine’s report about Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his thoughts on social media and search engines is a good read. Climate Change and Western Governors High Country News reports on what western governors are doing to support research and new policy to address climate change.

Late last month, the Western Governors’ Association, a nonpartisan organization that works with the governors of 19 western states and three U.S. territories, took a step to prepare for the impending hail with the publication of their new report, “Climate Adaptation Priorities for the Western States.”

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Bill to Cut Congressional Pay Includes Western Co-Sponsors

Congress last had a pay cut in April 1933, during the worst of the Great Depression. A bill to end that 77-year-long era, H.R. 4720, sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers was introduced in the House of Representatives in March. If the bill becomes law, salaries for all senators and representatives would be cut by 5 percent, which would save $4.7 million, and block automatic increases in congressional salaries for 2011. “The American people have had enough of Washington politicians refusing to live up to their responsibilities,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “If elected officials are going to say that this country is facing its most difficult economic times in generations, then they need to act like it.”

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Time To Nix Street Fireworks On The Fourth

A history of devastating fires in Montana, Idaho and other Rocky Mountain states should be enough to deter neighborhood firework parties, but it won't be. Western lands include tumbleweed desert, prairie grass, tinderbox forests with stands of dry pines, and brown foothills near big neighborhoods. Why, again, do we think it’s sensible to let loose with toys that shoot sparks, especially since some people will be hammered from the neighbor’s Fourth of July party? Despite the elementary-school logic, telling some people they can’t set off fire fountains on a street lined with pine trees is incendiary: “Ban fireworks? On the freakin’ Fourth of freakin’ July? This is America, you freak! Go recycle something, you freaking lame-ass dork!” Let’s review the facts. Yes, this is America, and today is the Fourth. Fireworks are fun and traditional and bring back all kinds of childhood memories and they’re pretty and every kid should have a neighborhood fireworks gathering and yes, indeed, blowing things up is a favorite pastime of the American male. And giving up neighborhood fireworks is sad. It's REALLY sad.

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State of the Rockies: Agriculture Just 1 Percent of Economy

The Rocky Mountain West is not an agriculture region anymore. The myth – perpetuated by generations of farmers, the media, and state legislatures dominated by agricultural representatives – is that growing food and ag commodities is the backbone of our economy. But an impressive and comprehensive study of the region reports that agriculture counts for just one percent of it, and the number of people who own or work on farms is just two percent of the population, down from 35 percent at its peak. Colorado College’s 2010 State of the Rockies report, now in its eight year of research and reporting on issues that define our lives in the mountain west, is focused on agriculture. The report “provides the statistical overview of the region's industry, but also delves deep into agricultural history, land and water use, demographics, production, finance, organization, and a ‘foodprint’ of Rockies' agriculture,” according to project leaders. States defined as part of the Rockies are Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Idaho.

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Fishing for the Fourth

Glorious weather. Early summer flora and fauna. Plenty of water in the streams, lakes and rivers. A traditional happy holiday common to all Americans. Could there be a more perfect time to cast your line? Fishing in Idaho on the Fourth of July In Idaho, the Fish & Game Commission has declared that salmon fishing starts now – the first time in decades that most of the best spots are open on the Fourth of July weeken. The Boise River is open. Also opening on the holiday weekend, albeit briefly, is the Stanley reach of the upper Salmon River. It is open July 3 through July 5 from the posted boundary about 20 yards upstream of Valley Creek in Stanley, upstream to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the weir at Sawtooth Hatchery. Each body of water in Idaho has specific catch limits and other details unique to the location. Locations also have specific sections which are open and closed. It’s important to study complete Salmon Fishing rules and regs before an expedition. Here's a cool interactive salmon map.

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