Friday, January 27, 2017

Self-Driving Cars: a Boon for People with Disabilities in Rural Areas?

By Eric Tegethoff, Northern Rockies News Service

BOISE, Idaho - Idaho and the rest of the country are preparing for self-driving cars to hit the roadways, and new research says the technology could help people with disabilities.

The report explored the ways autonomous cars could improve the lives of people with disabilities, including through employment opportunities and health care. Nearly 6 million such people have difficulties finding transportation, and Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said this population needs to be part of the discussion.

"What we're trying to say to these companies is, like, 'Hey, the technology is there, and you're going to continue to refine it and develop it, and make it better,' " he said. " 'As you do that, consider people with disabilities - because they can really not only benefit, but society can benefit.' They are the largest, untapped resource that we have in our country."

Ruderman said as many as 70 percent of people with disabilities in the United States are unemployed. Self-driving cars aren't yet a reality for consumers, although many car manufacturers and technology companies are investing in them.

A bill was introduced in the Idaho Senate in 2015 for regulating autonomous vehicles, but it failed.

The study said autonomous cars could not only improve opportunities for accessibility to work but save on health-care costs, too. It found more than 11 million medical appointments are missed every year for lack of adequate transportation, which amounts to about $19 billion in wasted health-care costs.

Kristina Kopic, who contributed to the study, said people who live in rural areas could benefit most.

"We think that, especially in rural areas that don't already have access to public transportation," she said, "self-driving technologies would be a boon, because you would really be allowing people curb-to-curb transportation."

Kopic said even paratransit, a product of the American Disabilities Act, can be exclusionary because it doesn't allow families to travel together when some don't have a disability, so, self-driving cars could become an inclusive form of transportation.

The study, commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America's Future Energy, is online at

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Idaho marchers join hundreds in 'Sister Rallies' on Saturday

By Eric Tegethoff, Northern Rockies News Service

BOISE, Idaho -- Marches are planned across Idaho and the nation on Saturday, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. Women are rallying in solidarity, saying they feel the need to stand up for marginalized communities that some feel were maligned by the president-elect during his campaign. 

The Women's March on Idaho in Boise is expected to draw the largest crowd in the state on Saturday, despite forecasted winter weather. The event was organized by two local high school students, Nora Harren and Colette Raptosh. Harren said being too young to vote was part of what compelled them to organize the rally.

"I think that because we were unable to vote in this past election, before it, we felt that we didn't really have the say or the influence we wanted to have when it came to our local, state and national politics," Harren said.

The march will begin at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol in Boise. Nearly 3,500 people are planning to march, according to a Facebook page created for the event. The Women's March on Washington website estimates more than 200,000 will join that event in the nation's capital. 

Sister marches are planned in other Gem State cities as well, including Idaho Falls, Ketchum and Pocatello.

The march in Boise stems from an earlier event Harren and Raptosh also organized, called "People for Unity," held the day after the election. About 500 showed up and the young women decided to keep the momentum going. Now, Raptosh said she hopes it will continue beyond Saturday's march.

"I really hope that when people leave the march, they feel empowered, and like they can make a difference," Raptosh said. "I want them to leave hoping to do something more."

Speakers at the Boise march include state Rep. Melissa Wintrow, LGBTQ activist Dianne Piggott, and Idaho's first Syrian refugee, Asmaa Albukaie. The march will end at Boise City Hall, where the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and other groups will have booths set up.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hunting season 2017, let the adventures begin

By Roger Phillips, Public Information Specialist

Welcome to 2017, I hope you had a great hunting season last year, and it’s understandable if you think the season is winding down. Many people think hunting seasons start in late summer, run through fall and end during winter, but there are many hunting opportunities in Idaho throughout the year. 

Since we just started the new year, you can consider this the beginning of a new hunting season, too. Get your 2017 hunting license, if you haven’t already, and keep going into the field to pursue game and have the wonderful experiences that go along with it. 

There’s a lot of options in January, and beyond. Some upland bird seasons last through January. Duck and Canada goose seasons close at different times during January depending on which part of the state you’re in, and other waterfowl hunting opportunities run later.

White-fronted goose season goes until Feb. 19 in Area 2, which includes Southwest Idaho and portions of the Magic Valley (see the migratory game bird rules for details). 

Light goose seasons (blue, snow and Ross’s) extend into March depending on the area, so again, please check the rules booklet so you can see the exact boundaries. 

Light geese are overpopulated in some areas, and biologists are concerned that their high abundance can damage Arctic habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That means there are special rules in place to reduce these high populations, including the use of electronic calls and allowing unplugged shotguns. There are restrictions on where those rules apply, so again, check the rules booklet. 

Snow geese and white-fronts are interesting and exciting birds to hunt. If you’ve ever listened to a flock of snow geese overhead, or seen a swirling mass of white-fronted geese (aka speckle bellies) landing in a field, you know what I am talking about.

It’s a sight to see, hear and experience. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check them out, even if you’re not hunting them.

One reason for the late seasons for these birds is they are often migrating back from the south, and following the receding snow line north, which makes southern Idaho a natural, but brief, stop over. 

When you’re done hunting waterfowl, you will barely have time to stow your decoys and clean your shotgun before spring turkey season opens on April 15. It’s a great time to be in the woods as they are coming alive with the sound of gobbling toms. 

Some hunters compare the excitement of calling a tom turkey to calling a bull elk, but with a much easier pack out if you’re successful at bringing a gobbler within shotgun range and closing the deal. 

Turkey hunting is also a great way to introduce novices to hunting because they often see and hear the birds up close, and there’s usually not the long, arduous hiking that’s involved with big game hunting. 

If you’re not a bird hunter, but still want to keep hunting, some hunters extend their season by taking on the challenge of predator hunting. Mountain lion and wolf hunting are open and continue through March in most parts of the state and beyond March in some areas.

You can find details in the big game rules booklet. Mountain lions are typically hunted with hounds, which is not an option for the average hunter, but there are outfitters available to guide you on one of these exciting hunts.

Predator hunting is also done by calling in the animals, and they all have a reputation for being wary and wily, so expect to put in some effort doing it, but you will have a trophy if you succeed.

The pelts are prime during winter, so you can have one turned into a rug, or a full-body mount. 

The end of mountain lion and most wolf seasons at the end of March dovetails with the start of spring black bear hunting in April, so you can continue pursuing big game. 

Like mountain lions, black bears are often hunted with hounds in units where it’s allowed, but hunters are also successful at baiting them, or by spotting and stalking them similar to deer and elk hunting. Spring bear hunting runs through June in many units. 

That brings us to July, and if you’re still itching to keep hunting, there are some limited opportunities for wolf hunting, but for most hunters, it’s time to start thinking about deer, elk and other seasons that start in August, September and October. 

So don’t feel like your 2017 hunting seasons should be limited to few months. If you’re willing to use your creativity and try some different quarry, and you can keep hunting nearly year round in Idaho.