When lightning ignited a wildfire near Idaho’s Sun Valley in 2007, environmental regulators used monitoring gear to gauge the health effects for those breathing in the Sawtooth Mountains’ smoky, mile-high air.
That equipment sits idle today after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality was hit by $4 million in spending cuts, a quarter of its budget, since the recession began. Water testing on selenium-laced streams in Idaho’s phosphate mining country also has been cut back, as have mercury monitoring and hazardous waste inspections.
The cuts to environmental programs in Idaho provide a snapshot of a national trend. Conservation programs and environmental regulations have been pared back significantly in many states that have grappled with budget deficits in recent years.