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Judge rules in favor of Idaho in rare plant case

A federal judge has determined that federal wildlife officials made a mistake when they listed a plant called slickspot peppergrass as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2009.

The ruling handed down August 8 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale delivers a legal victory to Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and ranchers and landowners along the Snake River Plain where the plant is found.

Otter sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 after federal biologists determined the plant deserved special protections. But Otter argued the decision to list the plant was not based on the best science and ignored the state’s own conservation efforts.

State officials and ranchers also worried that listing the plant could limit grazing and voluntary efforts to save other sensitive species like sage grouse.

The Associated Press

Sugar companies win procedural ruling against corn refiners

Producers of high fructose corn syrup will need to defend their use of the phrase “corn sugar” in court. A federal judge in California sided with sugar companies, including Idaho’s Amalgamated Sugar Co., and against a summary judgment request from the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) and five corn syrup producers over charges of false advertising.

Amalgamated Sugar is one of ten beet and cane sugar companies that are suing Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and other companies that make high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener sometimes used instead of sugar. The sugar companies’ lawsuit claims that the corn syrup makers, through the CRA, are misleading the public by branding high fructose corn syrup as natural or “corn sugar.”

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall rejected a request from the corn syrup companies to dismiss the case July 31.

An attorney for the sugar companies said the ruling clears the way for this lawsuit to proceed. A CRA spokesman said in a news release that the ruling has no bearing on the case’s legal merits.

Amalgamated Sugar did not return a request for comment.

High fructose corn syrup likely won’t be called “corn sugar any time soon. In May, the Food and Drug Administration rejected a request from the CRA to use the term “corn sugar” in place of high fructose corn syrup. However, the ruling didn’t include any dietary recommendations favoring one sweetener over another.

By Brad Iverson-Long

Report: CA Official in Lion Flap Could Be Replaced

A newspaper says the California Fish and Game Commission is expected to replace its president after he was criticized for killing a mountain lion in Idaho.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that commission members will vote on new officers on August 8, with Dan Richards, the current president, expected to be replaced.

He would remain on the commission but no longer serve as president.

Richards was criticized by animal welfare groups after a photo of him with the dead mountain lion surfaced.

Hunting mountain lions is banned in California, though it’s legal in Idaho and other states.

Richards has said he did nothing wrong and will remain on the five-member commission until his term expires.

The Associated Press

Ross to open in October

Ross Dress for Less targets an early October opening in Plantation Shopping Center, on the east side of Glenwood Street south of State Street, Garden City, said Lew Goldman, retail property broker with Colliers International in Boise. Interior and exterior work continues at the 25,000-square-foot Ross space.

Negotiations are under way with a clothing consignment shop that wants to open in Plantation because of the new Ross store, said Goldman, who represents the Seattle-based property owner. He would not identify the clothing shop, which would occupy about 2,000 square feet.

Elsewhere in Plantation Shopping Center, D&B Supply should have its façade redone by late this year or early next year, he said.

Goldman said vacancy is 15 percent at the renovated Plantation Shopping Center, which has 104,000 square feet not including the separately owned Big Lots space.

Brad Carlson

Tech firm Pacinian bought by Synaptics

Synaptics Inc. has acquired Pacinian, a Coeur d’Alene technology company that specialized in improving the touch aspect of touchscreen electronics. A spokeswoman said that Synaptics will add employees to the company’s northern Idaho office.

Pacinian, founded in 2007, holds three patents related to haptic feedback, which creates a tactile response people can feel when typing on an input device such as a touchscreen keyboard. The technology can also be used to make keyboards on laptops and other devices thinner while still feeling responsive.

Synaptics, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is a developer of other technology, including Touch Pad, which is used in many notebook computers. The company announced the Pacinian deal Aug. 2, along with the acquisition of Integrated Device Technology’s Video Display Operation.

“The innovative, growth driven cultures of Synaptics, Pacinian and VDO are a natural fit; together with market and customer synergies, the integration of the teams will accelerate the development of the next generation human interface experience,” Rick Bergman, president and CEO of Synaptics, said in a news release.

IBR Staff

North Face calls new Butt contemptible

The Butt is back.

The owners of the South Butt parody clothing brand agreed never to show their butt again — or, at least, brands that could be confused with The North Face — when they settled a 2010 lawsuit.

But the appearance of a new brand, “The Butt Face,” violates that agreement, according to a motion for contempt filed in federal court by The North Face Apparel Corp. lawyers Aug. 3.

Within two days of the entry of a consent injunction over South Butt in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, South Butt General Manager James A. Winkelmann Sr. formed a new company, Why Climb Mountains, and started selling a Butt Face clothing line (tagline: “Never stop smiling!”), according to a court filing signed by Michael Kahn, an attorney representing North Face. James Winkelmann Jr., a South Butt member, also is named in the filing, a memo that accompanies the motion.

The motion for contempt asks for unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees, and North Face wants them quickly.

“The Winkelmanns used the original lawsuit as a lucrative marketing device to promote sales of their infringing products through a media blitz,” Kahn, of The Brickhouse Law Group, says in the motion. “We assume they will attempt to same here. Thus the sooner this matter is heard and resolved, the better.”

Albert Watkins, an attorney representing South Butt, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A hearing was set for Aug. 14.

Dolan Media Newswires

California firm buys two more Idaho nursing homes

The Ensign Group Inc. announced it purchased two Idaho skilled nursing facilities on Aug. 1. The Mission Viejo, Calif. company acquired the Owyhee Health & Rehabilitation Centre, a 49-bed facility in Homedale, and the Discovery Care Centre in Salmon, which has 45 beds and 24 assisted living units. Ensign also runs health care facilities in Emmett, Meridian, Burley and Pocatello. The company owns and leases more than 100 facilities in 10 western states, with sizable holdings in California and Texas.

“The combination of the two facilities with Ensign’s existing operations in Idaho further enhances our ability to continue to provide high quality healthcare services to the markets we serve and strengthens our existing operating synergies,” Christopher Christensen, Ensign’s president and CEO said in a news release.

Terms of the purchase weren’t disclosed. According to filings with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, the Homedale and Salmon facilities had been run by Western Health Care Corp., based in Boise.

Brad Iverson-Long

Idaho oil, gas leases generate just over $4,450

Idaho is getting just over $4,450 from one company for oil and natural gas leases on 1,900 acres in Payette and Gem counties.

The Idaho Department of Lands said August 6 there was a single bidder, Snake River Oil and Gas.

The company, which was the major player behind oil and gas legislation during the 2012 Idaho Legislature, bid the minimum amount for the 44 leases it secured at an auction August 3.

Most of the money is going to the state general fund, with under $1,000 going to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for leases on land it manages.

The tracts range in size from less than a third of an acre to 153 acres.

Snake River Oil and Gas already has several leases on private land in western Idaho.

The Associated Press

Alt power, Idaho utilities scuffle at PUC hearing

The tense relationship between Idaho’s renewable energy developers and its regulated utilities was on display at the first of three days of hearings where state regulators consider new rules governing small, independent power projects.

For instance, Public Utilities Commission members August 7 had to referee an exchange where the developers’ attorney, Peter Richardson, blasted Rocky Mountain Power for suggesting that alternative projects were committing fraud.

Against this backdrop, the PUC hopes to settle differences between the two sides over the price utilities must pay renewables developers for their electricity.

Richardson contends the hearings’ outcome could end Idaho alternative energy development, if commissioners side with utilities.

Meanwhile, Idaho Power Co. senior counsel Donovan Walker underscored his company’s complaint that existing rules have forced ratepayers to pay more for electricity than they should.

The Associated Press

Tennessee man wins Idaho’s bighorn sheep lottery

A northern Tennessee man won the right to shoot a bighorn sheep in Idaho after seven years of trying to get a tag.

Idaho wildlife officials say 56-year-old Rob Durrett, of Clarksville, Tenn., won a lottery drawing that raised $69,000 for the Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Health Laboratory and its bighorn sheep disease research. A bighorn tag is awarded annually through the raffle.

Durrett says his trip to Idaho this fall will be his first time hunting in the state.

He’ll be able to shoot one of the iconic big game animals in any unit open to sheep hunting, and that includes the coveted Unit 11 along the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. That region is only fair game for lottery winners once every two years.

The Associated Press

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