Jessica Robinson

Inland Northwest Correspondent

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network team, Jessica was the news director of Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon, where she produced a newsmagazine on Northern California and Southern Oregon. In 2010, she spent a year in central Mexico and reported for an English-language newspaper in San Miguel de Allende. Jessica's investigative and feature stories have earned awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Idaho Press Club, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and Public Radio News Directors Inc. A Northwest native, Jessica grew up in an off-the-grid log cabin in the Columbia River Gorge.

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U.S. Census Bureau

New federal population figures released Thursday show the nation’s youngest county is in the Northwest, and not in an urban area. Madison County, Idaho is in the midst of eastern Idaho's potato country.

To give a comparison, the median age of the U.S. is almost 38 years old. The median age of Madison County is 23. That’s the lowest in the country and there’s one big reason: Madison County is home to Brigham Young University-Idaho.

One candidate for an eastern Washington congressional seat has hit on a way to appeal to Second Amendment advocates and increase the names on his campaign mailing list: He’s offering voters a chance to win a gun.

People who give Clint Didier their name and email address will be entered to win one of three firearms. The Republican candidate for Doc Hastings’ seat is offering up two handguns and a semi-automatic rifle. Didier calls it the Freedom Fighters Gun Giveaway.

Jessica Robinson

Adoptions are usually private affairs, sealed forever in court documents and known only to the families involved. But a recent decision by Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare exploded into the public sphere.

Courtesy of the Bergdahl family.

There has been no shortage of strong opinions about the release of the former prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl — except among Idaho's congressional delegation.

The two senators and two congressmen from Bergdahl's home state have largely avoided the national fray. 

AP Photo

A county commissioner in Blaine County, Idaho, has asked both members of the media and critics of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to give the soldier’s hometown some space. The commissioner says the town of Hailey is tired of being the target of people’s “misguided rage” over the former POW.

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Shoen says not only the Bergdahl family but some community members have received personal threats.

AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video

Idaho Congressman Raúl Labrador is calling on fellow politicians to avoid "escalating the rhetoric" around Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Labrador, a Republican, made the comments at a panel discussion hosted Tuesday in Washington, D.C. by the Heritage Foundation.

U.S. Rep. Labrador told the audience that without knowing more details, it’s too soon to criticize Bergdahl.

Courtesy of Buster Hickam

The parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl issued a statement through social media Monday, thanking supporters for standing by them for nearly five years as they waited for their son to be freed from Taliban captivity.

Meantime, Bergdahl's broad network of online supporters continues to back the POW amidst a raging debate about whether Bergdahl deserted.

Jessica Robinson

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho was unprepared for the public backlash that followed the brief jubilant response to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release from the Taliban on Saturday. 

First, there was criticism of the Obama administration exchanging five Taliban detainees for Bergdahl. Then, some soldiers from his former unit started speaking out against the freed POW.

Josh Korder, a former Army soldier who served with Bergdahl, told CNN earlier this week that he believes men lost their lives searching for him.

“I mean, at best, he's a deserter. At worst, he's a traitor,” Korder said.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

People in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's hometown in Idaho say they're “shocked” by how quickly the captive soldier's homecoming has turned into a national controversy.

Bergdahl was released Saturday after nearly five years in Taliban captivity. Since then, some fellow soldiers have accused him of being a deserter. The city of Hailey, Idaho is now asking people to withhold judgment.

Otto Kitsinger / AP Photo

After five years in captivity, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is finally free. The American POW is now receiving medical aid at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho was held captive by the Taliban — first in Afghanistan, and later, it's believed, in Pakistan. On Saturday, he was released peacefully in a swap for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Bergdahl's family and his hometown are now preparing for the next chapter.

Washington state Department of Health

Memorial Day weekend in the Northwest coincides with prime time for ticks. These arthropods can drink your blood for days without you knowing.

So we asked an expert for the definitive answer on how to remove the blood-sucking bugs.

Jessica Robinson

Over three days, the annual pilgrimage of 25,000 rollicking concertgoers to the Sasquatch Music Festival turns central Washington's picturesque Gorge Amphitheater along the Columbia River into the largest city in Grant County.

But not all of them stay there. Some end up at the tiny hospital in Quincy, Washington, with drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning and dehydration.

An effort to overturn one Idaho city's gay rights ordinance appears to have failed by a slim margin. The anti-discrimination law in Pocatello was upheld Tuesday night by a projected margin of 90 votes.

City councils in seven Idaho cities have barred employers, landlords and most businesses from discriminating on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But Pocatello's ordinance was the first in the state to be put to a popular vote.

Jessica Robinson

Voters in Pocatello, Idaho will decide the fate of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance Tuesday.

Pocatello is one of seven cities in Idaho that have passed laws aimed at protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people, but this is the first time one of these measures has been put to a popular vote.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A small herd of mountain caribou found in the Northwest will retain federal protection, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, but it will be as a threatened species rather than endangered.

These caribou are the last in the Lower 48 states. It's believed there are 20 to 30 of them left.

The number of farms in the Northwest is dropping, according to newly-released federal farm data.

But there's more to the story. The average size and value of Northwest farms are going up.

CDC

A disease-causing fungus thought to be confined to the deserts of the Southwest has been discovered in soil samples from eastern Washington. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now trying to figure out if the fungus may be living in other parts of the Northwest.

Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock / U.S. Air Force

The federal government is already predicting this fire season will push firefighting resources almost $500 million over budget.

The cost of fighting wildfires has been steadily rising over the last two decades. And now, a new study finds a prevention tactic for fireproofing homes isn’t helping to bring those costs down.

Jessica Robinson

If you want to know what the United States is going to be like in 30 years, you had better look to the generation that's under 34 right now.

Washington State University

Washington State University and the University of Idaho are among the schools under investigation over their handling of sexual assault cases.

Kraemer Family Library / Flickr

Two women in Washington have raised enough money to send 350 copies of a controversial book by Sherman Alexie to students in Meridian, Idaho. 

The move is in reaction to the Meridian School Board's decision to suspend use of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" after parents complained about profanity and sexual content in the novel.

Office of the Governor Flickr

The massive landslide in Oso, has shined a national spotlight on the damage this kind of natural disaster can cause.

But geologists say they don't have comprehensive data on landslides in most places. In fact, the most frequently cited statistic on landslides in the U.S. is out of date.

Mercy For Animals

 

A lawsuit led by the ACLU is challenging Idaho's brand new so-called “ag-gag” law aimed at stopping undercover animal rights activists from making videos of abuse at farms and slaughter houses.

And Idaho's law isn't the first to be challenged on free speech grounds.

Idaho university students are making a last-minute attempt to stop a measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Officials in Grant County, Wash., are asking the public to stay away from the shoreline behind the damaged Wanapum Dam.

Karl S. Johnson / Flickr

Towns around national parks lost an estimated $414 million during the partial government shutdown last October, according to a report released Monday by the National Park Service. But surrounding communities say the shutdown wasn't a complete loss.

Matthew Mead / AP Photo

Northwest potato growers say they've been snubbed in a federal nutrition program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday finalized changes to the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC. And it will cover all fruits and veggies — all but potatoes.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

The latest figures on who's signing up under the federal health care law tell a surprising story about one of the most conservative states in the country.

Even though Idaho politicians regularly condemn Obamacare, Idahoans are signing up at one of the highest per capita rates in the country, second only to Vermont.

U.S. Agricultural Research Service

A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House.

What critics call the "ag gag" bill is a reaction to a 2012 video that showed workers abusing cows at a farm near Twin Falls. Farmers say they need protection from what they call "vigilante" tactics.

AP Photo

 

The Idaho family of captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl is welcoming an effort to get their son home through a prisoner swap. 

Bergdahl has been a captive of the Taliban on the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly five years, and past attempts at negotiations have stalled out. 

The idea of a prisoner exchange for Bergdahl has been talked about for years, most recently as a way to open broader peace talks with the Taliban. But such an endeavor required a delicate balance with the Afghan government and talks never got off the ground.

Now, the Washington Post reports, U.S. negotiators are floating the idea of just a swap: Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban operatives at Guantanamo Bay.

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