Environmental Report

Publication of the Environmental Surveillance, Education and Research  Program

July 2003

New Publications

- 2000 Summary Site Environmental Report

- 2001 Summary Site Environmental Report

What's New on the ESER website

Results of the 2003 INEEL Midwinter Raptor Count

Results from ESER's drinking water and atmospheric moisture sampling are now available in searchable form. 

Desert Species of the Month

An Animal of the High Desert - Ord's Kangaroo Rat


Environmental Surveillance:
Focus on
Direct Radiation Monitoring

Environmental Dosimeters, commonly called thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLDs), are used to measure ionizing radiation exposures at offsite locations. The TLDs measure ionizing radiation exposures from all sources, including natural radioactivity, cosmic radiation, fallout from nuclear weapons testing, radioactivity from fossil fuel burning, and radioactive effluents from INEEL operations and other industrial processes.



Request a classroom visit 

- Threatened and Endangered Species - Pygmy Rabbits

- Basic GPS

- Plant and Animal Desert Adaptations

- Plants and Animals of the INEEL

- Basic Radiation and Environmental Surveillance

-Environmental Science Jobs

-Request Visit

Contact Us

Contact us:
ESER Program
S. M. Stoller Corp.
1780 First Street
Idaho Falls, ID  83401

2000-2001 Summary Environmental Reports


The ESER Program provides independent monitoring of off-INEEL environmental media for radiation and radioactive materials. Results of this monitoring are reported to DOE and the public annually.  This annual report, called the INEEL Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER) contains data collected by the ESER Surveillance Program and other DOE contractors, including the INEEL site environmental surveillance program (BBWI), INEEL effluent monitoring programs, the IMPROVE program and the USGS groundwater monitoring program.  The 168-page report also includes a section covering INEEL's compliance with major environmental statutes.  This report is written for technical audiences.
Two Shelley High School eleventh-grade English classes taught by Sue Holt were asked to summarize the 2000 and 2001 INEEL Annual Site Environmental Reports. The students were asked to condense each of the 168-page ASER reports into a 16-page document that the general public could understand. This required the students to do a lot of research about the INEEL, the INEEL monitoring programs and radioactivity. ESER scientists were available for questions, edits and a tour of the INEEL.

After the English students summarized the report, the text was given to Gordon Howard's Graphic Design class, also from Shelley High School. These students created the layout and formatted the report for printing.

The summary reports are completed and may be found on the ESER website at:
or ordered from the ESER office.  Contact Alana Jensen at or 525-9358.


Pygmy Rabbit Update

A reintroduced pygmy rabbit has given birth on the INEEL, Washington State University announced June 5.

This captive-reared rabbit is one of 20 rabbits bred at the Washington State University and released on the INEEL last fall. This experimental release is part of a project designed to help preserve Washington State’s last remaining population of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit. Results from the Idaho reintroductions are intended to help improve the success of reintroductions for the endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, scheduled to begin in the summer of 2004 in eastern Washington.

“Perhaps a ray of hope appears in pygmy rabbit restoration,” said Dr. Rod Sayler of Washington State University. “Despite the low annual survival rate, it's pretty amazing that a release of only 20 captive-bred animals resulted in successful breeding the following spring.”

Weighing less than a pound, the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) is the smallest North American rabbit species. Pygmy rabbits may be found in sagebrush areas of southern Idaho, Washington, eastern Oregon, northeastern California, Nevada, and Wyoming.

Pygmy rabbits are sagebrush obligates, meaning they require sagebrush habitat to survive. They are dependent upon sagebrush for food, which comprises 98% of their winter diet and a good portion of their spring and summer diet.

Pygmy rabbit numbers have drastically declined in the past decade. This decline is primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation through development and agricultural conversion. Pygmy rabbits have been listed by the Federal government as a species of concern and are a candidate for threatened and endangered species listing under the Endangered Species Act. In Idaho they are listed as a species of concern.

A subspecies of pygmy rabbit, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, is near extinction. The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is found only in eastern Washington. Probably less than 50 rabbits of this subspecies remain. Though genetically related to our native Idaho species, genetic studies by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggest that these rabbits have been isolated from Idaho and Oregon populations for as long as 7,000-10,000 years or more. Because of this, translocating rabbits from neighboring states isn't a good first option to boost Washington populations.

To preserve the Washington's last remaining population of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, rabbits were captured from eastern Washington and a captive breeding program was initiated to raise and eventually release Washington pygmy rabbits back into several protected areas in eastern Washington.

Before scientists launched the captive breeding effort in Washington, they captured and bred more common Idaho pygmy rabbits so they could study and perfect rearing techniques. Under the direction of Drs. Rod Sayler and Lisa Shipley at WSU, this test population of Idaho pygmy rabbits was reintroduced to the INEEL last fall.

Twenty rabbits were released on the INEEL wearing lightweight radio collars. Plastic burrow systems were provided to each of the rabbits to provide protection from digging coyotes, badgers and other predators, as well as shelter from the harsh INEEL environment.

Three of the released rabbits are still alive and are being successfully monitored at the release site.

“We've learned a lot from last year's release at the INEEL and will be modifying a few techniques and expanding data collection on reintroduced Idaho pygmy rabbits this summer,” said Sayler. “Our next step is to get some more endangered Washington pygmy rabbits produced now so we can get going on a successful reintroduction project in Washington.”

WSU graduate student Rob Westra and Stoller wildlife biologist Sue Vilord will continue to track the animals using the signals from the animals' radio collars, obtain precise GPS locations, and observe them and their habitat use directly. Additional releases of pygmy rabbits on the INEEL will be continued throughout this year. The outcome of this research should provide valuable information to assist in the successful reintroduction of Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits and elsewhere if needed.