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Outdoors blog

Archive for April 2011

Anglers reel in trout dinners on opening day

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FISHING — Despite a cold start, anglers warmed up to the idea of catching tons of trout on Saturday, the opening day of Washington's lowland trout fishing season.

Top producing lakes in Spokane County were Fishtrap (4.3 fish per angler) followed by Williams (despite wind and high water issues) and Badger lakes with 3.5 fish per angler.

The opening day crowd was down 40-50 percent, according the Chris Donley, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department district fisheries biologist.  Unseasonably cold spring weather may have had something to do with it, he said.

West Medical Lake offered good news and bad news. On the bright side, anglers were doing quite well at catching hefty rainbows in the 15-20 inch range.  However, they didn't seem to be catching many of the younger age class of fish.  Donley said he was disappointed with the 2.2 fish per angler average, but that could change with warmer water.

Top lakes in northeastern Washington were Starvation (3.8 fish per angler), Rocky (3.6 fish), and Cedar (3.6 fish). 

Waitts Lake also fished very well, according to Bill Baker, district fish biologist in Colville. 

Lake Ellen performed poorly, partly because of cold water and partly because of a re-infestation with green sunfish and largemouth bass. 

Diamond Lake kind of fizzled, likely due mainly to water temperature — low 40 degree range,” Baker said.

 Big Meadow Lake was mostly inaccessible due to snow and 95 percent ice coverage. “no one even attempted to fish it,” Baker said. 

“It was a long winter, and it’s still winter in many higher elevation areas within this district.” 

Hard winters bring out the best in wildlife

CRITTERS — While winter — and winter-like spring weather — is an inconvenience to many people, it's the ultimate test for wildlife.

Deer can deal with a tough winter. However, too many tough winters in a row and put a local deer population into a decline that may require years to reverse.

But the occasional brutal winter allows only the hardiest to survive and pass along those survivability genes, leading to a hardier species in the long run.

Humans need to be wary  of weilding a heavy hand on wintering wildlife. Nature didn't prescribe trains and trucks to slaughter game forced onto railways and roads by deep snow. 

On the other hand, nature might frown just as much on humans feeding and rescuing critters that are not passing the test of natural hardships.

Legislator’s hunting dog greets constituents

GOOD DOG — Visitors who have chosen Fridays to visit the Olympia office of state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, usually get a few “pointers” from a pro who has a good nose for what's going on.

Schoesler's front man is Ruger, a young vizsla pointer.

“I got him last fall and he was hunting with me at 7 months old,” Schoesler said. “I couldn't have asked for more out of dog three years older.  He was just great.

“But my wife told me when I got him that I'd have to take him to Olympia with me. I leave the farm and live in a camp trailer while the Legislature is in session. My landlady loe dogs, so it works out.

“But I bring Ruger into the office every Friday. He meets constituents and keeps us grounded.”

Silver Mountain piles on more snow for Saturday’s Leadman Triathlon

 OUTDOOR SPORTSSilver Mountain Resort  reports 16 inches of fresh snow overnight as crew prepare for Silver Saturday No. 3 — the third Saturday of skiing after the other resorts in the region closed — and the 7th annual Leadman Triathlon.

Lift tickets on Saturday cost $35 for adults; $25 for youth under 18. Children 6 and under ski free.

Show a season pass from another area mountain and save $5!

Season pass sale ends this Saturday.

Learn mountain biking skills from local riders

MOUNTAIN BIKING — Fat tire bike riders are gearing up for the annual Mountain Biking Skills Clinic — for novice and experienced riders —  organized by the Spokane Mountaineers.

The event is June 11 and 12 on a special skills course to be set up at Riverside State Park.

Riders who have taken this course are always amazed at how many little tricks there are to learn, and how beneficial a bit of focused practice can be to their overall riding skills, safety and enjoyment.

The registration fee is $40. Registration deadline is June 8, but class size is limited so register ASAP.

Check out details on the clinic.

View a recent photo gallery

2011 Mountain Bike Skills Clinic registration form

Contact: Teresa Watson (509) 238-6776 or  email

Five tips for opening day anglers

FISHING — Saturday is opening day of the Washington lowland lakes fishing season, which means trout for dinner this weekend!

Jeff Mayor of the Tacoma News-Tribune offered these five tips from his experiences with opening day:

  1. Pack your patience. If someone is struggling to get their boat into the water at the ramp, don’t wail on the horn. It will only make the other person more anxious. Dads, if you’re planning to take your kids with you for the first time, be patient with them.
  2. Pack your life jackets, plus extra clothes.  The water is still very cold.
  3. Be sure to have a curent fishing license.
  4. Be sure your gear is ready. There’s nothing worse than getting on the water, only to realize your fishing line is frayed, you’ve left the Power Bait in the garage or the boat plug is no where to be found.
  5. Have fun. Isn’t that the main reason we’re out there?

Montana fly fishers have bone to pick with ground hog

FLY FISHING — “Punxsutawney Phil is a fuzzy little liar, at least here in Montana: Early spring? Yeah right,” says Eric Adams of Montana Fly fishing Guides in Livingston.

“Anglers here are getting twitchy for some warmer weather. We've had an unusually cool spring and it seems our fishing is about a week or two behind schedule.”

In an update after my previous post, Eric has this forecast for the famous Mothers Day Caddis hatch on the Yellowstone:

“Instead of the third or fourth week of April I believe we’ll see it more like the first or second week of May. Either way once the water starts hitting 52 to 54 degrees they will be out in force.”

Check out his fishing report. However, we've had a number of anglers take advantage of our for yourself.


Fishing gear free for Idaho kids to borrow

YOUTH FISHING — A trailer full of fishing gear for kids to borrow and use at a nearby trout pond will debut this week at three locations on the Idaho Panhandle.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department's “Take Me Fishing” trailer is scheduled to be stationed at 28 events in May and June. The first gigs are:

  • Tuesday, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., at Post Falls Park,
  • Thursday, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., at Cocolalla Lake,
  • May 7, 1 p.m.-5 p.m., at Fernan Lake.

Fishing equipment and bait can be checked out for free during the times listed. Reservations are not needed and equipment is checked out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Participants will be granted a permit to fish without a license during the hours of the events, however all other rules apply, such as size limits and species limits.

Idaho children 13 years old and under can always fish for free.

See the complete statewide list of Take Me Fishing trailer dates for May and June.

Season hasn’t ended for Panhandle avalanche forecasters

 WINTER-LIKE SPRING TRAVEL — Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Avalanche Center woke to an inch of new snow at Sandpoint. He kicked into gear this morning to revise his “spring” avalanche advisory even though his reporting season ended two weeks ago.

“We thought winter was over but it’s kind of not,” he said.

In the high country, snow depths continue to increase rather than degrease, with more than 16 feet of snow recorded at some Snotel sites.

The Panhandle is 153 percent of average for snowpack, the Spokane drainage area is 147 percent and the Clearwater region is at about 142 pecent of an average snowpack this year.

Read on for Davis's observations for anyone venturing into the region's avalanche terrain this spring.

Weekly Inland Northwest hunting-fishing report

FISHING — Even if you're wrapped up by Bloomsday or some other diversion this weekend, at least check out  Alan Liere's weekly report  to see what you'll be missing in the great outdoor world of hunting and fishing.

Courts, Public TV focus on Columbia River salmon

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

FISHERIES — In addition to the spring chinook fishing seasons underway, Columbia and Snake river salmon are the focus of three other notable events:

  • On Sunday, national PBS Nature series will broadcast Salmon: Running the Gauntlet.
  • Better yet, on Wednesday, Salmon: Running the Gauntlet will be shown in Spokane during a special event featuring the film's maker, Steven Norton of Boise, 7 p.m., at the Caterina Winery, 905 N. Washington St. The event is free but RSVPs appreciated.  Contact Sam Mace, 747-2030 or
  • On May 9, U.S. District Judge James Redden of Portland, Ore., will hold oral arguments on a lawsuit over the iconic fish that dates back to 1994.

A column by Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman takes a timely look at salmon.

Idaho’s new Fish-Game director to meet sportsmen in Lewiston

HUNTIG-FISHING — Virgil Moore, newly appointed director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, is planning to attend a Sportsmen’s Breakfast meeting in Lewiston on Tuesday to discuss wildlife issues and answer questions. 

The meeting will be held at the Clearwater Regional office, 3316 16th St., beginning at 6:30 a.m.    

Moore is scheduled to meet with the department's Panhandle Region staff in Coeur d'Alene on May 6, but no public meeting is planned, his secretary confirmed.

The breakfast meeting in Lewiston should be meaty. Fish and Game staffers plan to report on the upcoming salmon season and recent changes in wolf management.   Sportsmen’s group representatives are also welcome to give reports of their group’s activities.

The informative breakfasts are open to anyone with fish and wildlife-related questions.  The breakfast will run until 8:30 a.m., with coffee and donuts provided. 

Lead tackle restricted at 13 lakes

FISHING — Starting Sunday, the use of lead fishing tackle will be restricted in northern Washington at 13 lakes frequented by nesting common loons.

After a year of discussion and public meetings, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to prohibit the use of lead weights and jigs that measure 1½ inches or less along the longest axis at 12 lakes.

The lakes in Eastern Washington include:

  • Ferry County: Ferry and Swan;
  • Okanogan County:  Bonaparte, Blue and Lost;
  • Pend Oreille County: Big Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum;
  • Stevens County:  Pierre Lake.

In addition, the commission banned the use of flies containing lead at Long Lake in Ferry County.

The restrictions are designed to protect loons from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers.

Information on loons and lead tackle has been compiled on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's website.

Bill would remove lead tackle, bullets from EPA rule

ENVIRONMENT — Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., is co-sponsoring a bill in Congress that would protect fishing and hunting gear from environmental lawsuits, according to a report in Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
Washington's 5th District Congresswoman is among 37 representatives cosponsoring “The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, HR 1558, introducd in mid-April.  Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is among one of four co-sponsors of a companion bill, S 838, in the upper chamber.

The bills would modify the Toxic Substances Control Act to exempt bullets, shot, weights, lures and hooks, among other items, from EPA regulation.

Late spring affects hunting for turkeys, bears

HUNTING — The unusually cold, wet weather and seemingly endless season of new snowfall just off the valley floors has affected bears, turkeys and the sportsmen who hunt the spring seasons.

Following are obervations posted this afternoon by Jim Hayden, a hunter and Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Turkey season:  Remember, the longer you put off going, the earlier you’ll need to get up in order to catch them coming off the roost.  Hunting has been pretty good this year so far even though birds have not spread out quite as much as most years.  The late spring means less vegetative development at higher elevations, and birds are a little more concentrated lower than usual.  That’s good for folks who hunt near winter flocks, but not so good for those who wait for birds to spread out more.

Bear season: Late grass development so far means that bears will probably stay a little lower later as well.  If you only have one weekend to hunt, I’d suggest waiting until at least the second week of May (the harvest usually peaks in mid-May anyhow). 

Idaho trophy season hunters have two days to apply

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Idaho's application period for 2011 moose, sheep and goat  hunting seasons ends in two days. 

To help make your choice, click here for last year's controlled hunt drawing odds. Change the year to 2010.

 The go to the online application site. (Click “I Agree” at the bottom to get to the next page.)

Prairie grouse releases continue in Eastern Washington

UPLAND BIRDS — Sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse have been released at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Washington's Lincoln County this spring, continuing years of efforts to restore the once plentiful prairie grouse.

Read on for details.

Kaufmann’s Streamborn fly shops shuttered

FLY FISHING —  Lance Kaufmann, owner of Kaufmann's Streamborn fly fishing shops in Tigard, Ore., and Seattle, plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for his 42-year-old fly fishing outfitter next week, according to the a report in The Oregonian.

The shuttering of the Northwest's iconic fly fishing outfitter was a surpise to employees going into the busy season, as well as customers who had booked trips and left gear for repair.

Brothers Lance and Randall Kaufmann started the business 42 years ago out of a family garage. Randall sold his interest in the company 5 1/2 years ago, according to his book publicist.

Kaufmann's already had closed its 28-year-old store in Bellevue.

From their parents' garage, the Kaufmann brothers launched a catalog business that put their flies — including the Kaufmann Stone, Timberline Emerger, Hot Butt Caddis and Stimulator — on the international fishing scene. Randall Kaufmann, by the way, is the originator of the Stimulator and a great global source of information for anglers and writers over the years.

Spokane river inflicts a bit of justice on boat docks

RIVERS — Both of the controversial boat docks in the Coyote Rocks development in the Spokane Valley have been damaged this spring by the Spokane River's spring runoff  waters.

A lot of people said the docks shouldn't be allowed to be built there.

Now the river is getting its say.

Latest poop on deer diets: They prefer native grasses

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The proof is in the poop for central Washington deer researchers studying the nutritional preferences of deer.

GPS units, compasses and tape measures in hand, a group of eight mostly volunteer scientists surveyed sagebrush and windblown wheat grass on the hills far above Wenatchee three days last week. They were looking for poop pellets that might reveal the mule deer’s preference for tasty fall and late winter browsing.

“Here’s a big old pile,” shouted veteran Chelan-Douglas Land Trust volunteer Diane McKenzie, as if she had found a stash of gold nuggets among the sagebrush and flowering balsamroot.

Read the Wenatchee World story.

Smith River gives Montana rafters a chilly reception

RIVER RUNNING — Rafters on Montana's Smith River might have been getting as much use out of their snowshoes as they have out of their fishing rods this week, as the photo above indicates.

People can't predict the weather when they draw permits during the February lottery for the popular stream.

The Smith River winds through a spectacular limestone canyon in the Lewis & Clark / Helena National Forests.  The typical four day, 59-mile float offers great fishing for cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout, plus mountain whitefish. 

Veteran officer offers field safety tips to turkey hunters

HUNTING — With spring turkey hunting seasons in full swing around the Inland Northwest, it's worth pausing a moment to hear out Larry Case, a Virginia conservation officer for three decades as well as an addicted turkey hunter, has see it all over the years, from inside a blind and behind a badge.
“No groaning or eye rolling, please: Hunter safety is serious business,” he says. 
“Let's start with the most basic rule in hunter safety; if all hunters observed this rule, all the time, we would have virtually no “hunter mistaken for game” incidents. If you ever had a Hunter Education course you should have this first one memorized…”
Read on for his eight timely tips on “Safety In the Turkey Woods.”

Latest storm pushes Crater Lake season snowfall over 600 inches

NATIONAL PARKS — A storm dumping 9 inches of snow on Oregon's western mountains Tuesday brought the total snowfall at Crater Lake National Park to  615 inches, with more expected before the end of the season.

The normal amount of snowfall through April 26 is 492 inches and this season's total is already well above the park’s average snowfall through May of 524 inches.

The last time the park measured more than 600 inches of snow was the winter of 1998-99, when the total was 674 inches.

The snowpack at park headquarters on Tuesday  was 144 inches deep — an even 12 feet — good news for Klamath Basin irrigators and wetlands this summer.

Snow still smothering Yellowstone Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Early visitors to Yellowstone National Park should bring their snowshoes.

Park Spokesman Al Nash said crews are encountering the deepest snow they've seen in 13 years on the park's roads, with the snow on Sylvan Pass 22 feet deep, with some drifts 30 feet deep.

Read more from the Billings Gazette.

Colville Tribe bans state wildlife enforcement on reservation

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — The Colville Tribe's ongoing snit with Washington Fish and Wildlife police has become more formal and more troubling in the past month.

The Tribe has been telling the state Fish and Wildlife Department officers for at least a year that they couldn't drive the roads on the Colville Indian Reserveration.  More recently the tribal council formally banned state Fish and Wildlife officers from enforcing hunting and fishing laws on the reservation.

The March 17 resolution says the ban is “due to their failure to honor the tribes lawfully issued nonmember fishing permits.”

The Fish and Wildlife director has told the tribe he's disappointed with the decision and that it will infringe on wildlife enforcement.

Today's Wenatchee World has a comprehensive story on the situation.

Montana cracks down on elk winter-range ‘shed’ hunters

WILDLIFE — Wolves rile elk hunters into a tizzy, but where's the outrage over the increasing harassment of elk on their winter range by shed antler hunters?

Wildlife agencies across the West are experiencing more and more people competing for the valuable prizes that fall of the heads of bulls during winter. 

We set hunting seasons to end in December to ensure that our big-game herds can tend to the rigors of surviving the winter. Letting people harass elk during the vulnerable winter-to-early spring period is like allowing another killing season.

Public access to many wildlife areas is being restricted during winter and spring, from Washington to Wyoming. But competitive shed hunters are ignoring the law. 

These shed hunters are poachers, and should be regarded as such by sportsmen as well as the law.

Montana's  Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area is closed until May 15 to protect pregnant elk and exhausted bulls from being harassed by antler hunters, but this year a group went in early and collected what Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials estimate is roughly 60 percent of the shed antlers; charges against the individuals are pending.  Read the Missoulian's story.

Team breaks record for listing bird species in 24 hours

BIRDWATCHING — Texas apparently is the place to be for diversity of bird species. 

On Friday, a team of birders set a national record for identifying the highest number of bird species in a 24-hour period during a midnight to midnight birding blowout across eastern and southern Texas.

The six members of Team Sapsucker from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology identified 264 species by sight or sound, topping the previous record of 261. The feat also raised nearly $200,000 dollars for Cornell Lab bird conservation programs. Supporters pledged a set amount for every species the team found.

Big Day quest began with a yellow-crowned night-heron and barred owl spotted in the glow of park lights near San Antonio's famous Riverwalk—followed by a calling common pauraque, a tropical relative of the whip-poor-will.

For more information on the Big Day in Texas and the upcoming World Series of Birding, click here.   


University debating award for Three Cups of Tea author Mortenson

OUTDOORS/CLIMBING — The University of Georgia has not yet decided whether it will award the Delta Prize for Global Understanding to best-selling author Greg Mortenson after he was accused of financial mismanagement and literary fraud, according to the Associated Press.

Betty Jean Craige, director of the UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, said Mortenson was scheduled to receive the award during an April 8 banquet, but he canceled for health reasons.

Mortenson is under investigation by Montana’s attorney general over accusations he is financially benefiting from the charity he runs. And he was accused during an April 17 episode of CBS’ “60 Minutes” of lying about events in his book “Three Cups of Tea.”

Craige said the center has not been in touch with Mortenson since he canceled his April 8 appearance.

Polar bear trophies still in limbo

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 41 hunters who successfully — and legally — killed polar bears in early 2008, just before the U.S. declared the species endangered, are in court fighting to get their trophies imported from Canada.

The Idaho Statesman provides a good update in this story.

Voters rate Lookout Pass tops for families

SKIING — Visitors to rated Lookout Pass ski area on the Idaho-Montana border as their “Favorite Family-Friendly Resort” in the Pacific Northwest.

The data period for voting was January 2011 when a Nielsen audit showed 3.4 million unique browsers logged in to the world's most visited Web platform.

Read the details here. is published by Mountain News Corp.

Trail helpers needed May 7 at Riverside State Park

STATE PARKS —  Volunteers are needed May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for trail work a Riverside State Park organized by the Riverside State Park Foundation.

Note: The date has been changed since a previous post.

Tools, gloves, and snacks will be provided but volunteers should bring hats and water.

Poison ivy is an issue in the park so long pants and long sleeves are a good idea.

Contact: Greta Olson, 360-305-0520 or

Class teaches outfitting, stock packing skills

OUTFITTING — Legendary Western Montana wilderness outfitter Smoke Elser is teaching a two-day outfitting and packing course at Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier on May 14-15.

The two-day hands-on course is open to novice packers as well as experienced packers who want to learn new techniques or hone specific skills.     

  • Cost: $200 for the two-day course; includes lunch both days.

Class space is limited to 20 students. Contact Glacier Outdoor Center at 406-888-5454 or emal

Read on for details.

Lack of advertisers gives artist shot at Washington fishing rules cover

FISHING —  Northwest Sportsman Magazine editor Andy Walgamott has an interesting tidbit about the illustration on the cover of the new fishing rule pamphlet (see item below this post).

“With this year’s cover going unsold (previous issues’ have had ads for Pavati Marine and Alumaweld), the regs feature “Heartbreaker,” a painting of a leaping rainbow by Fred W. Thomas, a Shoreline artist whose Web site says he’s the guy who came up with the Eskimo on the tail of all those Alaska Airlines jets.”

Washington fishing regulations published, changes noted

FISHING — Washington's 2011-2012 Sportfishing Regulations pamphlet is showing up at license dealers around the state. It's also posted online.

The lowland fishing season opens Saturday at lakes such as West Medical and Fishtrap. But in a quirk of scheduling, the new rules take effect on Sunday ( May 1).

Perhaps the most notable change in Eastern Washington will be the new restrictions on lead fishing tackle  at 13 lakes across the northern tier of the state to help protect nesting common loons.

Check out the stories in our 2011 Fishing special section for more details.

Washington big-game regs out; permit deadline May 18

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Washington's 2011 big-game hunting regulations have been out for nearly two weeks, giving hunters time to scope out the options.

May 18 is the deadline to apply for special permits to hunt deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, turkey and cougar.  

There aren't many big changes this year, with the exception of the controversial new 4-point antler restriction for whitetail bucks in northeastern Washington units 117 and 121.

One big change that's NOT in the pamphlet affects hunters who put in for special permits, such as moose, in Mica Peak Unit 127.   Inland Empire Paper company has closed 3,600 acres on Mica Peak to access by motorized vehicles, as I revealed in this recent story.

You'll be able to buy an IEP access pass and go onto  the company's forest roads on foot, bike or horse.  But no motor vehicles will be allowed in for hunting or hauling out meat.

First tracks, now photos confirm wolverines in Wallowas

RARE SPECIES — Five days after discovering the first documented wolverine tracks in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon, researcher Audrey Magoun has downloaded photos of two wolverines from a bait station camera.

“They are clearly photos of two different individuals,” Magoun said.

The photos were taken on April 2 and 13 at a bait station in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and downloaded on Friday.

The set of tracks discovered on April 17 was the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County.

Read on for more details.

Kaufmann’s Streamborn fly shops shuttered

FLY FISHING — Once a Northwest fly fishing industry icon, Kaufmann’s Streamborn fly shops in Tigard, Ore., and Seattle, have unceremoniously closed, according to reports in The Oregonian and Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Lance Kaufmann started the business 42 years ago with his brother, Randall. Neither has been available for comment.  Randall sold his interest in the company 5 1/2 years ago, according to his book publicist.

Kaufmann's Facebook page is disabled. The latest post on the company's Twitter and blog pages is April 8.

It reads “It’s Time to Get out & Go Fishing!”

Kaufmann's already had closed its 28-year-old store in Bellevue.

Randall Kaufmann, by the way, is the originator of the Stimulator and a great global source of information for anglers and writers over the years.

Hiker hunger goes the way of the birds

OUTDOOR NUTRITION — Ah, it's lunch time here in the office.  On the trail, it's always snack time.

The new on-the-trail nutrition bars shown above look and taste somewhat like compressed blocks of birdseed, says The Gear Junkie in a whiff of understatement.

Ingredients such as sea salt, goji berries, macadamia nuts, raw honey, and, of course, many types of seeds – flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower – make for a grainy texture that is nutty and rough on the tongue.

Raw Crunch bars, the product of a small North Carolina company called Body Engineering Inc., are the latest in a pool of strange energy foods touted to contain “no artificial nothin.’” the bars are said to be uncooked, unprocessed, enzyme-rich, and made batch by batch each day in a kitchen by hand.

Vital stats: 150 calories per bar with 10 grams of fat and a bit of protein. Cost: about $2.50 apiece.

Alternative: Peanut butter.

There’s a morel to this mushroomer’s story

MUSHROOMING — The weather has been strange, but tasty morel mushrooms aren't deterred from popping up in the area forests.  Here's a report from local forager Bill Edelblute:

I picked 27 morels Saturday within 5 miles of Liberty Lake. 

Lochsa land exchange hits snags in Idaho

PUBLIC LANDS — The Clearwater National Forests' attempt to block up public lands in the upper Lochsa drainage has a lot of supporters, including elk hunters.

The hitch:  finding land to trade to the timber company that owns the private land in the checkerboard ownership.  Much of the scattered parcels, including some near Potlatch, are prized lowland hunting  and recreation areas.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to find land to exchange in Idaho for 40,000 acres on the Idaho side of Lolo Pass in the upper Lochsa now owned by Oregon-based Western Pacific Timber. Tim Blixseth, co-founder of the Yellowstone Club in Montana, has a stake in that company.

Here's a report on the situation from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.


Moscow kids fishing even set for Saturday

FISHING — The 20th annual Kiwanis Kid’s Fishing Day will be held at Moscow’s Hordemann Pond, 8 a.m. to noon, on Saturday to help families with kids discover the joys of fishing,  

Volunteers will be on hand to help young anglers, and Idaho Fish and Game's “Take Me Fishing” trailer will be stocked with rods and reels available for loanon a first-come, first-served basis. 

The free event is sponsored by the Moscow Kiwanis Club, Palouse Chapter of American Fisheries Society and Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  Prizes from Tri-State Distributors will be awarded, as well as free hot dogs, chips, soda, and cocoa.   

Hordemann Pond is located off Eisenhower Street between D and F streets.     

Youth under 14 years of age do not need an Idaho fishing license, but all other regulations apply. 

Meantime:  Saturday is opening day of the lowland lake fishing season in Washington.

Why we send our daughters to college

SHELLFISHING — After four years at Western Washington University, my daughter, Hillary, finally got out with a group of West Siders and learned how to dig clams.

These are outdoor life skills you can't learn at home in Spokane.

Next, she needs to find her way onto a boat to land a big salmon.  Ideally, the boat would have an extra seat available for her dad. 

Hikers plan scenic vacations around maintaining trails

TRAILS — The Salmo-Priest Wilderness is on the Washington Trails Association's list of 10 signature projects for trail construction and maintenance in 2011.

That means the little wilderness gem in northeastern Washington and a slice of North Idaho will be a destination for volunteers devoting some of their summer vacation to improving trails for all to enjoy.

If you're looking for a change of scenery, I highly recommend looking into the volunteer vacations set for the High Divide area near Mount Baker.  Bring two pairs of socks on this trip, because your first pair will get knocked off when you see the views.

Read on for details:

Steelhead making their last push through Snake

FISHING — Here's the Idaho Fish and Game Department chart showing spring steelhead movments over Lower Granite Dam. 

The show's about over for the run that started last year.  Pretty soon steelheaders' eyes will shift to Bonneville Dam to look for the first signs if this summer's run.

Season’s open, but where are the salmon?

FISHING — Fishing seasons for spring chinook salmon opened on much of the Snake River recently, but few fish are yet to show up crossing  the Snake River dams.

Here's the just-released official Idaho Fish and Game Department answer to the question: Where are the fish?

Lots of environmental conditions affect when the salmon arrive at Lower Granite Dam. Fish and Game opens the season in late April to make sure that in years when the run is early, anglers are able to fish for the salmon.

In 2001, a year with a large return, more than 38,000 Chinook salmon had been counted at Lower Granite Dam by this date. The run appears to be late this year. Only 25 salmon have been counted crossing Lower Granite Dam through April 24 this year. But the recent five-year average count for the same date is 497 salmon counted. Even if the run is not late, we typically don’t see many salmon at Lower Granite Dam by this date anyway.


At Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish reach coming up the Columbia from the ocean, only 4845 salmon have crossed.

But don’t despair, the numbers crossing Bonneville are improving daily. They doubled the best numbers so far Monday with more 1000 fish crossing!

Idaho special species hunting applications due

BIG GAME HUNTING — The deadline for 2011 moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunt controlled hunt applications is Saturday.

Apply at Fish and Game offices or license vendors, or apply online using a credit card. Telephone applications may be made at (800) 554-8685.

Methow Valley’s Bjornsens join U.S. Ski Team

NORDIC SKIING — Making the leap from a magnificent life sport to the realm of world class, Sadie Bjornsen, 21, of Washington's Methow Valley has been accepted by the B team of the U.S. Ski Team.

Her brother, Erik, 19, was accepted to the D Team, which means equal work and pressure but no financial support.

They received their invitations on Wednesday.  Read on for details.

Palisades City Park a treat for spring walkers

HIKING — On the rimrock bluff overlooking Spokane Falls Community College, spring walkers can enjoy a year-round feast of views over Spokane as well as a splash of wildflowers and blooming serviceberry that will be approaching a peak in about two weeks.

Since the Rimrock Drive was blocked off to motor vehicles, the area once plagued by garbage dumping and partying has become a haven for hikers.  Stay on the Rimrock Drive for easy walking or follow the dirt trails, some of which lead to a waterfall between the rimrock and Indian Canyon Golf Course.

Find out how to get a trails map and information on the area at the Palisades Neighborhood and Conservation Area website.

Conservationist posts thoughts on Washington cougar hunting bill

PREDATORSMitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest has concerns about hunting cougars.

Nevertheless, he was disappointed by the Washington Legislature's failure to pass a bill to extend a pilot program that has allowed the use of hounds for limited cougar hunting in Northeastern Washington.  The bill died on the vine last week despite bipartisan support.

On Friday, Friedman wrote his well thought-out reaction to the situation and where the state and people in northeastern Washington should go from here.

“Cougar hunting can’t not be controversial,” Friedman said. “On one hand, they are gorgeous cats that, as apex predators, play critical roles in the balance of ecosystems, assuring that conservationists and animal lovers have strong feelings about them. On the other hand, this silent and powerful stalker gives people who live or raise livestock around them strong feelings of a different sort.”

Idaho still has plenty of nonresident big-game tags, Montana sold out

BIG GAME HUNTING — The last of Montana's surplus nonresident elk and deer licenses have been sold. If yo still have a desire to hunt big-game in the Treasure State this season, put your name on the alternates list.

Idaho still has plenty of nonresident elk and deer tags available.  Check out the tag availability by zone.


Small spring forest fires boost wildlife

NATIONAL FORESTS — Expect to see scattered pillars of smoke emerging from selected areas of the region's national forests in the next six weeks. It's the “prescribed fire season,” as forest managers and wildlife managers team to mimic Mother Nature's way of rejuvenating wildlife habitat.

Forest officials must carefully monitor weather to assure the fires are set when smoke will disperse and forests are still damp in spring to prevent fires from burning too hot or going out of control.

Read on for a list of planned controlled burns in the Colville National Forest.

Sun shines on skiers at Silver Mountain slopes

SKIING — It was a great Silver Saturday at Silver Mountain, with tons of snow and enough sunshine to comfortably eat the BBQ outside.  Even a few bikini tops blooming in the sudden change to spring weather.

Human Planet TV series finale on Sunday

OUTDOORS ON TV — The last two episodes of fascinating six-film wildlfie series will show Sunday, 8 p.m.,  on the Discovery Channel.

Human Planet is the first BBC/Discovery Channel production to focus solely on human behavior and it's profound relationship with nature. The makers of Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet, investigate humanity’s ability to adapt and live in every corner of our diverse world. Each episode centers on a particular habitat. The filming techniques are cutting-edge.

Meantime, don't worry about missing some episodes on TV. The series is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

First wolverine confirmed in Wallowas

WILDLIFE– An Oregon state researcher has confirmed wolverine tracks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the first documentation of the species in Wallowa County.

According to the Columbia Basin Bulletin, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department researcher Audrey Magoun found the wolverine tracks in the snow on April 17 while hiking to a remote camera site set up to detect wolverines. She followed the tracks for about a mile until they left the river bottom and headed into the high country.

“From the size of the track, it is probably a male,” said Magoun who has dedicated her career to studying wolverine since she received her Ph.D. in 1978.

 “This is the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County,” said Vic Coggins, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district wildlife biologist. “We’ve always thought it was good habitat, and we’ve had reports but nothing we could verify until now.”

Read on for more details. 

Overnight storm lures powder hounds to 49 Degrees North

POST SEASON SKIING —  “Spring may be on the minds of many folks in the Spokane area, but the weather in the mountains of northeast Washington has been anything but spring-like,” according to Brad Northrup of 49 Degrees North.  He sent this message and the photo just minutes ago to make us drool.

“The management team at 49° North Mountain Resort awoke on Friday to well over a foot of bone dry powder on Chewelah Peak and crystal clear skies.  Having recently shut down operations for the season, senior staff members did what they do best:  go skiing.

“There was at least a foot and a half of untracked powder on the upper mountain, and the snow quality was like that of February. We were all just grinning, and the consensus was that today was perhaps the best day of skiing any of us had experienced this year. 

“Although 49° North has ceased lift operations for the season, the mountain is open to snow mobile access on weekends, and is wide open for those willing to hike for turns. 

The resort finished the 2010-2011 season with a snowpack depth of 212”, and 373” of total snowfall, making the season one of the deepest on record. 

Discounted season passes for the 2011-2012 season are on sale through May 5, 2011.

Weather doesn’t put chill on spring mating season

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The snow that blanketed the region east of Liberty Lake this morning didn't do much to cool the heat of passion underway among game birds.

The mating season is in full swing for wild turkeys, quail and pheasants.

I caught this ringneck pheasant showing off impressive spring colors this morning near Post Falls as he drew attention from potential mates and defended his territory against intrusions from other males.

I hope your weekend goes as well.

Nutcrackers galore at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A startling report has been filed by a birdwatcher surveying species recently at the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge east of Colville.

Although Mike Munts of Arco, Idaho, observed nearly 50 species in two days at the refuge, one observation was remarkable.

For those who may not have been there , LPO is an amazing birding site. One of the few refuges that is predominantly forested it has some impressive birding for species many folks don’t encounter much. The scenery here in the southern Selkirk Mountains is not bad either.

One of the highlights was a flock of more than 200 Clark’s Nutcrackers at the refuge headquarters Sunday afternoon. I have seen hundreds possibly thousands of nutcrackers over the years but I have never seen a flock anywhere near this size before. At one point most of the flock took flight and the sky seemed to be filled with nutcrackers. Truly an impressive sight that I will remember for some time.

Glacier Park plows snowed under

NATIONAL PARKS — Winter has retained its grip on Glacier National Park this week, stalling efforts to clear Going to the Sun Road and turning back cyclists looking for vehicle free riding.

Storms dumped 8 inches of snow in West Glacier and 18 inches in both the higher and lower elevations on the east side.

Read on for more details, links and options.

Pikeminnow anglers fishing for dollars

FISHING — The 2011 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Season, which pays anglers a bounty of up to $8 a fish, will run May 1-Sept. 30 on the Columbia River from the mouth to the Tri-Cities and up the Snake to Lewiston.

Earn a bonus of $500 for catching a tagged fish.

A few anglers have earned more than $40,000 a season.

Boyer Park on the Snake River has been the tops among the 17 check stations for collecting pikeminnows from anglers in recent years.

Get details online or call (800) 858-9015.

Discover Pass approved by Washington Legislature

PUBLIC LANDS — Driven by the need to fund state parks, The Washington Legislature Thursday approved a new Discover Pass, which visitors will need to drive into state parks, state DNR lands and state wildlife areas.

The bill, SB 5622, goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

The $30 annual pass and a $10 day pass for those who don't buy it would raise $64 million, with $54 million going to state parks and the rest divided between two other agencies that manage state lands, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hunters, fishermen, boaters, campers and snowmobilers who already pay to use state lands through license fees or registrations, would not be required to have the pass, except for access to most state parks.

Also, parks would be required to have some days during the year designated for free access.

The bill passed the Senate Wednesday on a bipartisan vote, but in the final vote of approval, House Republicans voted against it.

Pontoon safety class offered by Spokane Fly Fishers

FISHING — Personal pontoon boats have launched anglers into a new realm of freedom and efficiency on lakes and stream. But after hearing reports of accidents and many close calls, the Spokane Fly Fishers has organized a Pontoon Boat Safety Class that involves a classroom session followed by field sessions on a lake and on moving water.

The evening classroom session is April 28 followed by the lake session on April 30.

The moving water session will be planned at that time, organizers say.

The class is open to a limited number of nonmembers. 

Contact: Don Tietz, (509) 292-8292.

10 ways people can boost migratory birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As spring migrants continune to arrive in our region, so has a list of helpful thoughts from the American Bird Conservancy.

Here's the ABC's top 10 things people can do to aid or protect declining birds in their homes and yards.

10. Join a bird conservation group such as ABC—learn more about birds and support important conservation work.

9. Support bird-friendly legislation—Example:  Congress is considering HR 1643, a proposed bill that provides for bird-friendly federal buildings.

8. Keep feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease and prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

7. Buy organic food and drink shade-grown coffee—increasing the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals.

6. Reduce your carbon footprint—use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances.

5. Donate old bird watching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to bird watching groups—they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.

4. Create backyard habitat—if you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract and sustain native birds.  

3. Eliminate pesticides from your yard—even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food.

2. Prevent birds hitting your windows by using a variety of treatments to the glass on your home. Collisions with glass constitute the biggest source of bird mortality, as many as one billion each year. See ABC’s new flyer.

1. Keep your cat indoors—this is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are not native to the U.S. and are responsible for hundreds of millions of bird deaths each year.  Some species have gone extinct because of cats! Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes.

Blowout blocks Salmon River, creates new rapid

RIVER RUNNING — The April 1 blowout of Black Creek is still blocking the main Salmon River with a logjam this week, and has also formed a big new rapid that’s raised the river level high enough to totally obliterate Salmon Falls, a major rapid a half-mile upriver.

This report comes from the Challis Messenger. A gallery of photos showing the new rapid and logjam are available here.

Salmon-Challis National Forest employees confirmed April 5 that a flood had carried rocks and other debris down Black Creek, forming a new rapid with a large drop and big holes, plus creating a logjam across the entire channel, making the Salmon River impassable about an eighth of a mile below the creek.

The Forest Service’s strategy is to wait and see if high water later this spring will dislodge the jam naturally, said North Fork District Ranger Russ Bacon.

Read on for more details from the Messenger's report, and quotes from a jet boater who checked out the new rapid and described it as “terrible.”

Columbia spring chinook still lagging

SALMON FISHING — Anglers in the Columbia Gorge reservoirs will get seven additional days to fish for a lagging spring chinook salmon run. Washington and Oregon officials on Wednesday added April 25-May 1 to the fishing season for the Columbia between Bonneville Dam and the state line upstream of McNary Dam.
Fishing for salmon was scheduled to close beginning Monday.
Even though fish counts over dams are minimal, Washington is opening Snake River chinook seasons in phases this week, with Idaho's seasons opening on Saturday.
All Thomas  of the Vancouver Columbian reports that only 1,803 spring chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam through Tuesday compared with the 10-year average of 48,532.
Only a few sportsmen have been fishing the mid-Columbia pools. State biologists estimate about 50 chinook a day will get caught in the pools during the extended season.
The Columbia has been colder, higher and dirtier than normal for April.
Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said those three environmental factors could be slowing passage at Bonneville Dam.
By May 1 the states should know if the spring salmon run is below forecast or late.

Streamflows are starting to drop, the river is clearing and the water is warming, so if the fish are they they ought to start moving soon.
Fishing in the lower Columbia is closed.

Snow, slides clog St. Joe River Road

RIVERS — Spring is dawning for river runners and anglers on Idaho's St. Joe River.  Here's a road and access report from Terry Miller, who scouted it out with his vehicle and kayak Monday.

The road is clear on Marble Creek to past the “class IV” rapid. Can make it in 2-wheel drive with a little clearence.

The main Joe road is closed by a mud slide at the cable crossing at the bottom of Skookum Canyon. 4x4 can get past the slide but the road starts to snow up at the next bend.

I drove up the Northfork road. The road is mostly washed out between the 1st and second tunnels. Drove around it in the work truck but was very sketchy. It would have been better in the Subaru. At mile 3 past the second tunnel snow is on the road. I think a 4x4 could go farther as there were tracks but did not go any farther.

Water was low but clear, blue/green that puts a smile on your face!

Washington Walleye tournament series starts in May

TOURNAMENT FISHING — The 2011 Washington State Walleye Circuit includes five tournaments with cash prizes coordinated by NorthWest Walleyes:

May 7-8: Rod Meseberg Spring Walleye Classic at Potholes Reservoir.

May 21-22: Bil Wallys/Vally Marine Spring Walleye Classic at BanksLake.

June 4-5: MosesLakeWalleye Classic.

June 25-26: Washington State Governor's Cup at LakeRoosevelt, based in Kettle Falls.

July 30-31: Washington State Walleye Championship at LakeRoosevelt, based in Kettle Falls.

Writer compares Mortenson with Sir Edmund Hillary

OUTDOORS — Joel Connelly of wrote this commentary today, contrasting Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's efforts to build schools in Central Asia  with the style of another famous climber — Sir Edmund Hillary.

Read my earlier post with links to Mortenson's response today to charges by 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer.

Fishing is foundation for ideal family tradition

FAMILIES OUTDOORS — If you're lucky enough to still have kids around the house, don't let another season go buy without building some sort of outdoor family tradition: Something they can count on year after year, whether it's in person or in their memories. Something based around fishing — streams, lakes, docks, boats, trips to the mountanis or out of state — is ideal.

Fishing guide Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service has this observation:

“As we get older, those happy memories are an important part of our satisfaction.  I had a father-son team out on the boat for the kid's birthday.  This was his third year in a row!  It reminded me of the great times that I had as a kid with my Dad, on opening day of trout season.”

Steamboat Rock gets jump on wildflowers

HIKING — While wildflowers are just getting brave enough to emerge, the Columbia Basin, as usual has a jump on the much of the region.

Here's a report from John Echelbarger, who hiked Sunday at Steamboat Rock State Park on Banks Lake.

“There was a nice variety of wildflowers and some that have not bloomed here yet.

“Buttercups, Grass Widows, Yellow Bells I have seen around spokane.

“Shooting Stars, Violets, and Blue Bells I saw for the first time this year. More sun over there. Perfect weather and quite a beautiful hike.”

Mortenson speaks on charges regarding Three Cups of Tea, charity

OUTDOORS Greg Mortenson, the climber, philanthropist and author of Three Cups of Tea, has finally come forward to comment on the charges made agaist him Sunday by 60 Minutes and fellow author and climber Jon Krakauer.  

Mortenson's interview to address the world-wide buzz about falsehoods in his books and questions about the money his fundraising has forwarded to schools for girls in Central Asia has just been released and is available at Outside Online.

The 60 Minutes report suggested that Mortenson exaggerates many of the claims in his books and uses money donated to his Central Asia Institute for promoting the sale of his books.

See Krakauer's detailed documentation of the charges here.

Click here for today's S-R story on the reaction of local universities that have hosted Mortensen recently, paid his $30,000 speaking fees and helped him raise money for the charity.

Joel Connelly of wrote this commentary today, bringing to mind the efforts of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Outside editorial director Alex Heard will be on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight talking about his interview with Mortenson.

Hikers with dogs learn pointed lesson on South Hill

HIKING — Two people I know own dogs who recently encountered the defense mechanism of a porcupine along the  South Hill bluff trails below High Drive.

Let's think about this: Vet visit to remove quills, $150.   Leash, $7.

Go figure.

Sandpoint Monday Hikers on the go for 20 years

HIKING — The  list of area hiking clubs that ran with my Sunday Outdoors feature on hiking clubs left out one with some history, said Rosalyn Clark of Sandpoint.

The Bonner County Monday Hikers have been heating their heels on roads and trails every Monday since 1991.

“We’re loosely organized, but we have eight  or sometimes 30 to 50 on an outing,” she said.

“Every Monday we decide where we’ll hike the next Monday, rain or shine. We’re mostly older people, but not all of us. You just need to have Mondays free.”


Meeting today deals with Lookout Pass ski area expansion

SKIING — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests has scheduled a meeting today to discuss the proposed Lookout Pass Ski Area expansion.
The meeting is set for 5 p.m. at the Forest Service office in Smelterville, Idaho.
The Forest Service and Lookout Pass Ski Area are taking additional public comment as officials as they begin processing the application to expand the area for the ski resort's special use permit.
Representatives from various backcountry user groups have been invited to give their insights, said John Latta of the Spokane Mountaineers. Of particular concern the backcountry skiers is a plan to expand lift assisted skiing to the Copper Lake basin.

‘Rush Week’ targets Panhandle’s newest aquatic invader

INVASIVE SPECIES – Sandpoint-area residents are organizing this week to pounce on an new unwanted aquatic invader to Lake Pend Oreille.

A public work party to stop the spread of flowering rush will begin Saturday, 1 p.m., at Sandpoint City Beach.

Like other aquatic invasive plants, flowering rush crowds out native vegetation and interferes with swimming and navigation. Yet, in some places, it's sold as a decorative plant.

According to the Bonner County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, the infestation is still at a manageable level, but the group is devoting the week to coordinating with school groups to tackle flowering rush infestations in Boyer slough, Denton Slough, Clark Fork Delta and Dover.

Read on for details.

Late spring heavenly for self-propelled travelers at Mount Spokane

WINTER TRAVEL — The lifts are closed for the season, but snowshoers and backcountry skiers are finding good reasons to hit the slopes at Mount Spokane.

State Park manager Steve Christensen took time yesterday to snowshoe to the mountain summit over a couple inches of new snow on a hard base.  

“It as perfect for snowshoeing — solid and fast,” he said.

Steve Reynolds of the Spokane Mountaineers skinned up his backcountry skis and found the conditions less than ideal but promising.

He said the upper 500 vertical feet of the mountain was as icy over the weekend as he'd experienced it in 35+ years and hundreds of trips.

However, the slopes are ripe for the first shot of sunshine that turns the boiler plate to corn.

Volunteers spiff up Sandpoint’s Sand Creek

STEWARDSHIP — About 40 volunteers chipped in Saturday to remove trash from the shoreline along Sand Creek in downtown Sandpoint during the annual Sand Creek Clean Up.

The helpers were organized by the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

The event removed a truck full of garbage in a little more than an hour, and prevented the trash from fouling Lake Pend Oreille and the beauty of the spring and summer seasons in downtown Sandpoint.

Tonight: Last of two public meetings on Pend Oreille River northern pike

FISHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department  will hold the second of two area public meetings tonight to discuss non-native northern pike in Pend Oreille River and other Eastern Washington waters, and take public input on options to control them and minimize their impacts on native fish.

A pair of Sunday Outdoors stories detailed the dilemma with the boom fishery and the plans for more gillnetting surveys, which start next week.

Tonight's meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley

Read on for more details about the meetings and surveys that are monitoring the boom of pike in the river.

Several species featured under Washington web cams

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While millions of people a day are tuning in on a web cam featuring a growing bald eagle family in Iowa, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's website allows viewers to click on any of 10 WildWatch Cams set up to view a variety of species.

Among them are bald eagles — that are just about ready to hatch — barn owls, burrowing owls, great blue herons,  osprey, bluebirds, big brown bats and even a seal cam.

Read on for status reports on the WildWatchCams from Chuck Gibilisco, WDFW’s Watchable Wildlife specialist, who points out that 95 percent of the funding for these wildlife observation cameras comes from partners outside the state agency.

Wild horse foal first in a century at Flathead Lake

WILDLIFE — The first wild horse born on Montana's Wildhorse Island in more than a century stands next to her mother last week in the photo above.

The unexpected birth pushes the population past the maximum called for in the management plan for the state park, but Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the foal will live out her life on the Flathead Lake island.

The horses often are visible to boaters on the lake.

Lewiston ranked among Top 10 sportsman’s towns; Spokane not listed

HUNTING/FISHNG — Bend, Ore., is tops and Lewiston, Idaho is sixth in Outdoor Life magazine's just-released list of the “Top 200 Towns for Sportsmen” for 2011.

Lewiston dropped from No. 1 in the rankings in 2009 and No. 4 last year despite great runs of steelhead and salmon.  What the…?  The town must be going to the dogs.

But Spokane is even worse off, ranking No. 184 in 2009 but dropping off the list this year.

The magazine bills the annual ranking as an exhaustive list of the best places to live for those who love the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing, plus a high quality of life and suitability for families. The magazine also gave greater consideration to towns that boast low unemployment rates, high household incomes and low cost of living.

Other Inland Northwest towns in the list and their rankings include: 32 Sandpoint, 38 Kalispell, 56 Moses Lake, 60 Orofino, 61 Dillon, 79 Coeur d'Alene, 82 Missoula, 85 Salmon, 99 Winthrop.

Washington's only entries in the list are: 103 Port Angeles and 150 Shelton.

Click here to see the complete list  and detals of the top 200 outdoor towns.

‘2-Fer’ Tiger Musky Tourney coming to Silver, Newman lakes

TOURNAMENT FISHING — The Cascade Musky Association has scheduled its third annual 2-Fer tiger musky tournament at Silver and Newman lakes for May 21-22.

The open tournament starts at Silver Lake and concludes the next day at Newman.

The $20 per angler entry fee includes both days.

The event is limited to 35 boats.

For times, registration and information, contact:

Wolf ruling highlights success, not failure

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Much has been written since Friday when President Obama signed the federal budget which included a rider that removed Northern Rockies gray wolves from most endangered species protections.
Our story on the rider had a helpful Q&A.   I followed with a blog post that spelled out more details.
Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman commented that Environmental groups over-reached on wolves .
Personally, I believe we should be celebrating the amazing recovery wolves have made since being reintroduced in 1995. It's remarkable, and worth a toast.
Here's what the federal government's wolf recovery point man said:
“The bottom line is science is being followed. The heavy lifting is over, and that's cool. My upbringing was to complete your job; when we started there were 10 wolves near Glacier. Now there's 1,700 in six states and they're being delisted. That’s pretty rewarding.”
Ed Bangs, who is retiring as wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June, about his 23 years working on wolf reintroduction.
- Helena Independent Record
Read on for a comment I requested for a Washington wildlife biologist, whose opinion I respect even though this biologist does not deal specifically with wolves.

Cancelled: NOLS Wilderness First Aid course at REI

The in-depth  Wilderness First Aid Class at REI, which I announced in a post this morning, has been cancelled. 

Keep an eye out for the next time it's offered in this area. 

The course is taught by instructors from the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Medicine Institute.

National Wildlife Refuges taking comment on future goals

PUBLIC LANDS — Friday is the deadline for public comment on a draft vision of the future for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

A wide range of comments already has been posted on the elaborate website sponsored by the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. (This is the best place to start.) 

For example, some see wilderness values in many refuges.

The Izaak Walton League, which works to increase the number of hunters and anglers in America, is encouraged that one of the recommendations in the vision would double youth participation in hunting and fishing on refuges by 2020. Others are not so keen about hunting on refuges.

People are posting bold ideas and others are voting on them.

A vision document – to be adopted in July at a conference in Madison, Wis. – will guide this premier system for wildlife protection into the next decade and beyond. 

Read on for more details and links.

Why are wildlflowers late? Look outside!

NATURE — I've been getting a lot of queries regarding where to go to see spring wild flowers.  I've been trying to explain that thing are a bit late this year, and the snow falling outside my downtown window today, April 18, sort of reinforces my postiion.

Meantime, the buttercups are still taking the spotlight…later int he spring than normal, while grasswidows were still prolific in the Dishman Hills on Saturday.

One reader called to say shooting stars were blooming in the Twin Lakes (and I'll bet the  Fishtrap) areas of Lincoln County sage country.

Remember, the Spokane area hasn't yet had a day that reached 60 degrees. On the average, we hit one of those days in March. The latest on record is April 20…we're closing in on it!

Columbia Basin warmwater fisheries highlighted

FISHING — Much is written about the excellent trout fishing in the Columbia Basin. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife publishes pages of fishing prospects and stocking schedules to help anglers stay on top of these destinations for rainbows.

However, the majority if the waters are filled with warmwater species, such as bass and perch, and the Columbia Basin's warmwater fisheries biologists aren't being left in the dust.

Some of these waters provide excellent spiny ray fishing. Size them up for yourself with this handy guide the warmwater biologists

Sign-up due for Spokane Kids Fishing Event

FISHING — Today is the deadline to register for the May 7 Spokane Kid’s Fishing Event for youths age 5-14.

The well-organized activity is staffed by dozens of volunteers from area fishing clubs, Fish and Wildlife Department employees and others.

The $10 per child fee includes a T-shirt, rod and reel, and help in catching and cleaning up to three trout.

Kids are assigned to 45-minute slots at the Fairchild AFB access site on Clear Lake.

Download registration forms or pick them up at the WDFW office at Spokane Valley's Mirabeau Point.

Cougar killed at Richland construction site

WILDLIFE — RIchland law enforcement officials on Friday killed a cougar after workers found the six-foot-long cat in the basement of a south Richland home that’s under construction.

Richland police said they were called at 9:15 a.m, according to the Tri-City Herald. An officer from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department also responded.

The home is in the framing stage and when workers arrived they discovered the cougar hiding in a basement nook, police said.

Because of the location, the number of people in the area, and other safety concerns, officers determined there was no other option but to shoot the cougar.

A similar incident occured earlier in the week in Wenatchee.

Trout aren’t tops on Missouri fly guides’ list this week

FLY FISHING — A friend just back from fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the Missouri near Craig, Mont., said all of his action was on nymphs. (Uh, remember we're talking about fishing.)

“One 20-inch fish, sporadic pods so lots of time without fish,” he said.

But he added this notable tidbit:
“The owner of Headhunters (Fly Shop in Craig) and one of his guides were fishing on their own, not trout but buggering for walleye  at the dam, getting big ones. They said they had to fish the patterns verly slowly and they could barely feel the hits.”

TLC needs to be a daily effort at Dishman Hills

TRAILS — Less than a week after 330 people volunteered to clean up the Dishman Hills Natural Area in Spokane Valley, the new garbage carnage already has begun.

Don't let litter critters take our favorite places down.

Fight back by devoting just a few minutes of every hike to the cause!

Take a small garbage bag with you on every hike, regardless of where you go. A little pick up here and there can make a big difference. A group can have a great positive impact in very little time, with very little effort.

As one friend put it, “Stewardship is forever.”

Warning: Moyie River has nasty surprise for rafters

RIVER RUNNING — Kayakers running the Moyie River in far northern Idaho today had a good time, but they warned that there's a sticking point for rafts and catarafts.  Here's the report just posted byTerry Miller of the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Ran the Moyie today @2'. If you are sitting in the eddy with the waterfall next to the dam there is a log that extends from the dam wall to within 6' of the canyon wall on left bank. You must enter the rapid next to the canyon wall. It is fairly clean but no way a cat or raft is going thru…

Human Planet TV series shows tonight: one more clip

OUTDOORS TV:   Here's one more clip from the Human Planet TV series that outdoors people will enjoy, especially ice fishermen.

Check out the series tonight, 8 p.m.,on Discovery Channel.

Sandpoint Earth Day Festival a hit with kids

ENVIRONMENT — Friday is Earth Day, and Sandpoint groups are making a point to get the whole family involved.

Sandpoint’s Earth Day Festival is set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center (corner of Pine and Euclid).

Family activities include a talk by Earth Day co-founder Doug Scott, information from more than 20 local conservation groups and vendors, displays and games for the kids, electric car demos, great local food.

And then there's the no-host beer and wine bar.

The event is sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

Info:  (208) 265-9565.

Human Planet TV series debuts: Preview 3

OUTDOORS ON TV — Here's the third of four film clips to check out on the new series debuting on the Discovery Channel.

Human Planet is the first BBC/Discovery Channel production to focus solely on human behavior and it's profound relationship with nature. The makers of Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet, investigate humanity’s ability to adapt and live in every corner of our diverse world. Each episode centers on a particular habitat. The filming techniques are cutting-edge.

The series started last Sunday and continues this Sunday and April 24 with two episodes each night starting at 8 p.m on the Discovery Channel.

I'll be posting clips from varous episodes through the weekend so you can check them out. 

Meantime, don't worry about missing some episodes on TV. The series is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on April 26.

Officials kill bear swept into Columbia Dam

WILDLIFE — A black bear that for some reason was swimming on the Columbia River near The Dalles Dam crawled out of the current onto a spillway get on Monday and suddenly had no safe exit in either direction.

Upstream, the current coming into the spillway gate is swift and dangerous.

Downstream, the bruin faced a 75 foot drop to concrete.

See more photos of the bear's predicament.

Dam employees eventually determined they had no choice to but to have Oregon Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers shoot the bear, since there was no safe way to rescue it.

U.S. Corps of Engineers and and ODFW biologists do not know how the bear found its way onto the gate. The Columbia River at The Dalles is running high and fast – about 296,000 cubic feet per second on April 12 – and the dam is spilling about 40 percent of the total river flow through the spillway bays to accommodate adult and juvenile salmon passage.

Human Planet TV series debuts: Preview 2

OUTDOORS ON TV — Here's the second of four film clips to check out on the new series debuting on the Discovery Channel.

Human Planet is the first BBC/Discovery Channel production to focus solely on human behavior and it's profound relationship with nature. The makers of Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet, investigate humanity’s ability to adapt and live in every corner of our diverse world. Each episode centers on a particular habitat. The filming techniques are cutting-edge.

The series started last Sunday and continues this Sunday and April 24 with two episodes each night starting at 8 p.m on the Discovery Channel.

I'll be posting clips from varous episodes through the weekend so you can check them out. 

Meantime, don't worry about missing some episodes on TV. The series is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on April 26.

State officials eager to regain wolf management control

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Montana officials wasted no time today praising the budget rider Congress approved to remove endangered species protections from gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Wolves will still be protected in many ways, but limited hunting seasons once again can be set by Idaho and Montana.

Defenders of Wildlife called wolves 'sacrificial lambs” included in the budget bill President Barack Obama almost surely will sign.

Many questions people have about the rider are answered in today's news story by staff reporter Becky Kramer.

Meantime, Montana wildlife officials are heaping praise on U.S. Sen. Jon Tester today as a Congressional measure he helped craft removed gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts Oregon, Washington and Utah.

“Finally,” said Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said when he learned that the brief 104-word measure passed into federal law along with the budget bill that will fund the federal government through September.

“Enough is enough – Montana must have the ability to manage wildlife, to do our job, to seek a balance among predator and prey,” said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. “We need the authority to respond to the challenges wolves present every day. This is a common sense measure that will ensure good management of wolves through Montana’s existing plan, which allows for healthy numbers of wolves and safeguards the interests of ranchers and sportsmen.”

Maurier said the state will begin to prepare a hunting season proposal for the FWP Commission to consider.  Idaho officials say they will, too.

Within 60 days of the enactment of a new federal law, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will reissue the wolf delisting rule first published in April 2009. Unlike delisting rules issued in the past, this Congressional action also excludes the rule from judicial review.

The reissued rule:

  • is effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
  • delists all wolves in Montana, Idaho—and in portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah
  • does not delist wolves in Wyoming.
  • authorizes Montana to manage wolves under the state's federally approved Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Congress removes Northern Rockies wolves from Endangered Species protection

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It's official. Gray wolves soon will be delisted as endangered species in the Northern Rockies, and states can begin wolf management programs.

Montana wildlife officials are heaping praise on U.S. Sen. Jon Tester today as a Congressional measure he helped craft removed gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Within 60 days of the enactment of a new federal law, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will reissue the wolf delisting rule first published in April 2009. Unlike delisting rules issued in the past, this Congressional action also excludes the rule from judicial review.

The reissued rule:

  • is effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
  • delists all wolves in Montana, Idaho—and in portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah
  • does not delist wolves in Wyoming.
  • authorizes Montana to manage wolves under the state's federally approved Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Public support lacking for thrill activities at Banff Naional Park

PARKS — Canadians have been telling Parks Canada they don’t want new thrill-seeking activities or special events in Banff, the country’s flagship national park – but Ottawa chose to ignore them.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook has the story on the disturbing inclination to turn a treasure like Banff National Park into an amusement center.

Parks Canada last year approved national policy that paves the way for adventure activities such as via ferrata, zip lines and hang-gliding in a bid to boost visitor numbers in parks across the country, including Banff.

But, according to an internal letter obtained through Canada's Access To Information, there was virtually no support for such thrill-seeking activities during Banff’s controversial management plan review.

24 Hours of Schweitzer skiers set records

SKI BENEFIT — Mother Nature was no match against the skill and determination of participants at the third-annual “24 Hours of Schweitzer” ski relay, which featured stellar performances, new records and even a marriage proposal.

Details just released indicate 120 skiers and snowboarders raised $90,000 for cystinosis research inspired by 4-year-old Hank Sturgis of Sandpoint. That's just one of the records set at the annual downhill marathon event.

Read on for details about some heroic performances on the snow.

Forest Service budget cuts force closure of Lake Wenatchee office

NATIONAL FORESTS — The Wenatchee River Ranger District will not open its Lake Wenatchee office to the public this year because of staffing and operational funding constraints, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest announced this morning.

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Acting District Ranger Maureen Hanson.   “The Lake Wenatchee District office has a long history in our community since its establishment in 1908.  But, the location of the administrative office is ‘off the beaten track’ and with current budget limitations it is not viable.”  

The Lake Wenatchee office will remain an administrative work station, but will not be open for visitor services.  The Leavenworth Ranger Station will be the closest Wenatcheen National Forest office.

Read on for more details.

Idaho holds wolf bill pending action in Congress

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has a hunch that Congress is about to remove wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the Endangered Species list. So he's holding off on signing a state bill that would allow him to declare a wolf disaster emergency.

If Congress follows through, Otter says Idaho would win state control of the predators - making signing the measure passed by the state Idaho House and Senate this month unnecessary, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Otter says the congressional delisting measure inserted into a complex federal budget measure by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson “gives control back to the state…where it should have been all along.”

Idaho's measure would let Otter enlist local law enforcement agents to reduce Idaho's wolf population, which at 800 animals makes up about half of the wolves in the region.

Fishing innovator Larry Dahlberg in Spokane Saturday

FISHING — Larry Dahlberg, a fishing innovator who's come up with equipment used by millions of anglers, will be available for a question and answer period Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Wholesale Sports in Spokane Valley.  

A Fishing Hall of Fame angler, Dahlberg is host of “The Hunt for Big Fish” on Versus Network. He is known internationally for his creation of the Dahlberg Diver, a unique fly design, and is responsible for other fishing innovations including the blank-thru off-set bait-casting handle design androd balancer.

He's also responsible for the popular jig and fly-tying material Flashabou.

Dahlberg says he's fished every ocean and most major rivers in the world.

Gobble, Gobble: One down, one to go

HUNTING — One could hear shots fired within minutes of after Washington's wild turkey hunting season opened this morning at 5:31 a.m.

One down, one to go for spring gobbler hunting on the East Side of the state.

It was beautiful out there.

Encore for Vanishing of the Bees film at Magic Lantern

NATURE – Back by popular demand, a 90-minute film, Vanishing of the Bees, will be shown again on Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main.

For a suggested donation of $5, visitors also will have pre-show access to booths featuring local beekeeping groups, information packet, seeds to plant for your backyard pollinators and organic honey treats.

About a third of the food we eat – including apples, broccoli, watermelon, cherries and other fruits and vegetables – need honeybees for pollination.

Info: Inland Northwest Land Trust, Brooke Nicholson,

Or call (509) 328-2939.

Human Planet series focuses on human relationship with nature

OUTDOORS ON TV — I won't waste many words telling you about a visual treat for your eyes. Check out the video above and carve out some TV time this weekend.

Human Planet is the first BBC/Discovery Channel production to focus solely on human behavior and it's profound relationship with nature. The makers of Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet, investigate humanity’s ability to adapt and live in every corner of our diverse world. Each episode centers on a particular habitat. The filming techniques are cutting-edge.

The series started last Sunday and continues this Sunday and April 24 with two episodes each night starting at 8 p.m on the Discovery Channel.

I'll be posting clips from varous episodes through the weekend so you can check them out. 

Meantime, don't worry about missing some episodes on TV. The series is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on April 26.

Roosevelt drawdown leaves boat launches dry

FISHING — Almost every lake in the region is flush with more water than some have seen in years.

But it's a different story at Lake Roosevelt, where fishing traffic was thin today.   The big drawdown at the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam — much more dramatic than last year — is making boat launching difficult at all but a few ramps.

The photo above shows the morning lake level at elevation 1,235 feet — far below the end of the Hansen Harbor boat ramp.

Even shore fishing is getting tricky as the water levels drop so low and fast the banks in some areas are as treacherous as quicksand.

The water level seems to be dropping a foot every time you blink.

But we caught a few trout.

See the Roosevelt current lake level chart.

Check here for the minimum boat launch elevations to determine which are out of water. 

Timely advice before wild turkey spring season opens Friday

HUNTING — Here are a few hunting basics to ponder before the spring wild turkey gobbler season opens Friday in Idaho and Washington.

The tips are from Mossy Oak pro staff member Mike Cockerham, who offers advice on scouting,
advance work and the preparation it takes to bag a spring gobbler:

Yes, this doesn't give you much chance to apply all the information before the season opens tomorrow, but many hunters believe the best time to lure in big gobblers isn't opening day, when they're firmly attached to hens, but rather later in the season when they're lonesome and looking again for love.

Read on for the Q & A.

Distracted on the eve of turkey hunting season

HUNTING — A landowner just emailed me photos of three toms strutting Wednesday morning.

The were about 10 feet where I plan to be sitting with my 12 gauge over my knees when Washington's wild turkey hunting season opens Friday at 5:31 a.m.

And now I'm starting to wonder if I have everything together.  License? Yep. Ammo, camo and calls? Yep. Bottle of wine for the landowner? Yep.

My shotgun is camouflaged, but if yours isn't, check out the photo above of a gun covered with Mossy Oak Graphics®  new  vinyl camouflage graphics.  Installation is easier than ever with the industry's first pre-cut shotgun camouflage kit.

Mossy Oak says the 3M™ premium cast vinyl eliminates shrinking, bubbling and peeling associated with conventional brands. You can even buy a kit to cover your pickup.

The company says the material has an industry leading seven-year durability rating.

These are the things I'm thinking about today. To heck with work.

WSU study tests new vaccine for bighorn sheep

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Reseachers may finally be on track of a tool to deal with the diseases wreaking havoc with bighorn sheep herds in the West.

 A Washington State University wildlife disease researcher has produced an experimental vaccine that appears to have protected four bighorn sheep against deadly pneumonia.

Subramaniam Srikumaran, the WSU professor in Pullman, says his findings are a promising but concedes years of work remain to help safeguard wild bighorn herds from periodic die-offs that have plagued the species in Idaho.

Read on for more details from an Associated Press report:

Eagle cam: Eaglets are beefing up

Webcam chat at Ustream

WILDLIFE — Less than two weeks old, three eaglets are starting to get big enough in their nest that the parents have a hard time settling down for a restful night.

Stay tuned along with about 4 million viewers EACH DAY watching as a bald eagle family flourishes in a northeast Iowa nest under the watchful eye of a web cam that's capturing the activity live at the Decorah Fish Hatchery.

Some drama darkened the nest last night. 

Viewers watching the web cam at midnight reported that an owl came close enough to rile the eagle parents, who did a good job of letting the owl know the nest was off limits.

One eagle cam fan captured about 5 minutes of the action and posted it on YouTube. The eagles are quite vocal, although there's a buzz in the audio.

The YouTube poster says you can fast-forward to about the 4:27 and 4:52 marks to hear the owl calling back

If you want a review, here are some highlight clips of the major developments:

First hatch 4/2/11.
24-hour collage
of first egg pip and hatch

Second hatch 4/3/11.
First glimpse
of second hatchling

Third hatch 4/6/11.
of the third hatch

Click here for a  tutorial on telling the difference between the male and female bald eagle adults, which share the duties of raising the young.

Snake River spring chinook fishing seasons start April 20

SALMON FISHING — Three sections of the Snake River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam, according to an announcement just released by the Washington  Department of Fish and Wildlife

Idaho's spring chinook season opens April 23.

Two other Washington sections of the Snake River – one near Little Goose Dam, the other near Clarkston – will open April 25.

Read on for more details and catch limits.

Washington coastal salmon fishing seasons set

SALTWATER FISHING — Coastal salmon fishing season have just been negotiated and released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty Indian co-managers at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s  meeting in San Mateo, Calif.

Read on for details of the fishing package, which defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Washington’s ocean and coastal areas and the Columbia River.

Public invited to Trail of Coeur d’Alenes meeting

TRAILS — The commission that governs the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes — which stretches 72 miles from Mullan to Plummer —is having a meeting Thursday, and the public is invited. 

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. at the Heyburn State Park Visitor Center in Plummer.

An agreement between the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe establishes a partnership for the ownership, management and operation of the trail. Part of that called for a six-member commission to oversee trail management, a joint news release said.

Meetings are held twice per year.

Info: call the tribe at (208) 686-1800 or the Department of Parks and Recreation at (208) 769-1511.

Budget deal blocks Obama wilderness policy

WILDERNESS — A fledgling plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection was one of the casualties of Friday's last-minute budget deal reached by Congressional leaders to keep the government afloat.

Republican lawmakers had complained that the Obama administration's wilderness plan would circumvent Congress’s authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling, according to an Associated Press report.

An agreement reached Friday night to avoid a government shutdown includes language that prohibits the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the plan in December, reversing a Bush-era policy that opened millions of acres of Western lands to commercial development. The so-called “wild lands” policy would restore eligibility for wilderness protection to millions of acres of public lands.

Read on for more from the AP report.

Salmon River logjam prevents training for rafting guides

RIVERS — River running outfitters training workers for the approaching season on the popular Salmon River in central Idaho have asked the state for permission to practice on other rivers due to a massive logjam, according to an Associated Press report this morning.

Grant Simonds of the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association tells the Idaho Business Review that outfitters made the request so they can get ready for the season that starts at the end of May.

Officials say a blowout near the Black Creek drainage formed a logjam that created a new rapid.

About 9,000 visitors and workers float the river every summer.

U.S. Forest Service officials predict spring high water will remove the logjam.

The Forest Service used explosives to remove a logjam from the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in 2006.

Wyoming keeping a not-so-open mind about grizzlies

“We're not interested in grizzly bears occupying new habitat except in areas where they already are. Socially acceptable habitat would be areas where grizzlies already occupy. We're not interested in expansion. We're maxed out on grizzly bears already.””
Brian Nesvik of the Wyoming Game and Fish, a member of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, discussing future expansion of the region's grizzly bear population.
- Billing Gazette


Why won’t this Initiative fly at Washington Legislature?

OLYMPIA — Even these tough times, we should be able to get bipartisan support in Olympia for this well-thought out proposal.

Wolf delisting appears likely as measure joins federal budget bill

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A measure taking gray wolves off federal Endangered Species Act protection made it into the must-pass U.S. Senate budget bill, as explained in a Missoulian story.

Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, both Democrats, placed a rider in the 2011 Appropriations Bill reauthorizing a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule delisting the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson placed identical language in the House version of the budget bill, giving the measure bipartisan momentum. The full budget bill should be voted on late Thursday or Friday.

The move would give Montana and Idaho wildlife agencies management authority over the predator, which would allow the return of public wolf hunting. And it would block any further court action on the FWS rule.

Forest land swap brewing on Idaho Panhandle

CONSERVATION — The U.S. Forest Service is working on a land exchange with Stimson Lumber Co. to protect wildlife habitat near Hope, Idaho.

The deal is expected to close this summer. The Idaho Panhandle National Forests will trade 995 acres for 922 acres of Stimson land.

Stimson’s land includes low elevation elk habitat, including winter range, travel corridors and calving grounds; grizzly bear habitat; and west slope cutthroat trout habitat. The Forest Service would trade land north of Bayview in the Three Sisters Peaks area and another parcel two miles west of Hoodoo Lake. The federal land doesn’t have public access and has lower quality wildlife habitat.

Forest Service spokesman Jason Kirchner said the trade is based on swapping parcels of equal values, which results in slightly more federal land exchanged. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked on the deal.

This is the second good-news land deal for wildlife announced by private timber companies in the Panhandle in recent months.  My December story reported another major non-development deal near McArthur Lake involving Forest Capital Partners.

Enforcers watching whale tourist boats for violations

MARINE MAMMALS — In May,  Department of Fish and Wildlife Officers will be back on the water enforcing the laws that protect Puget Sound Orcas.

“There’s an incentive to get close to those whales and give your client that photo of a lifetime,” said the department’s Deputy Chief, Mike Cenci said in a story moved by the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of pressure there.”

On an undercover trip aboard the “Serengeti” out of Victoria, officers recorded the captain giving his philosophy on following the law.

“I’ve had several close passes and it’s not good when enforcement is around but it’s kind of like you speed when the cops aren’t around right?” the captain said.

According to Fish and Wildlife officials, officers were on the water patrolling vessels near the Orcas 15 days out of the entire five-month season.

On the limited patrols last summer officers issued five citations, three of which were issued to commercial whale watch boats.

Read on for details from the AP report.

Snow conditions great, resorts closed: time to skin up

SKIING — I just received the last Ski NW Rockies snow report, confirming that the region's ski resorts have closed regular operations, although Silver Mountain is still catering to skiers on Saturdays through the month.

To backcountry skiers, this is prime time — even at the resort areas.   There's still powder at high elevations and the corn snow season is late and just getting underway.

Just put climbing skins on the skis and the mountain is yours.

The shots here are from friends who made tracks in the Stevens Peak area last weekend. 

No shortage of snow up there!

Marmot counters needed at Olympic National Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you're game for an Olympic National Park hike of five to 20 miles and eager to go count housecat-sized rodents, park officials may want you for its “citizen science” marmot monitoring program.

For the second year, the park is looking for volunteers to visit designated survey areas to tally Olympic marmot numbers and distribution to boost marmot research.

Last year, more than 80 volunteers participated, coming from as far away as Los Angeles.

Park spokesman Dave Reynolds says applicants must be capable of hiking and camping in remote areas, navigating off-trail and working on steep slopes. Volunteers will get one day of training.

The application deadline is May 1 but applications may close earlier if the park gets enough eligible volunteers.

Deadliest Catch crew coming to Spokane

COMMERCIAL FISHING — Take a break after trying to catch rainbows and Sprague Lake this summer and spend “A night with Captian Sig and the Hillstrand Brother,” — a live traveling show from the Deadliest Catch TV series — July 24, at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane.

The commercia crabbers are out of Alaska's Bearing Sea, away from the Discovery Channel and on the road across the U.S.
Tickets go on sale Friday.
It's a live interactive event in which the crew tells stories, answers questions, gives insight behined the scenes filmed in the series and shows video not shown on TV.
Read on for details.

Lawmakers unite against spree poachers

POACHING — While Washington legislators continue to butt heads on many issues in Olympia, they joined in refreshing unanimity last week to drop the hammer on people who go wild slaughtering big game.

Both the House and Senate voted unanimously for HB 1340, which expands the definition of unlawful hunting in the first degree — a class C felony.

Under current law, offenders must have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.

Once Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill — everyone expects her to join the unanimous vote — someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged on the spot in the first degree.

“I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately,” WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci told Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Cenci used a KIRO 7 TV report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.

Drawdown makes Roosevelt shore fishing difficult

FISHING — The big drawdown at Lake Roosevelt — much more dramatic than last year — is making boat launching difficult at all but a few ramps.

Even shore fishing is getting tricky as wthe water levels drop so low and fast that anglers are reporting the banks in some areas are as “treacherous as quicksand.”

The water level seems to be dropping a foot every time you blink.

The Roosevelt current lake level chart.  As of this morning,  the level is 1,237.5 feet.

Check here for the minimum boat launch elevations to determine which are out of water. 

Bears emerging from long winter – and they’re hungry

 WILDLIFE — Black and grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation, and wildlife managers are trying to get word out to people who live in bear country – that’s virtually anywhere north and east of Spokane – to clean up their act and avoid creating a problem bear out of a normal hungry  bear.

Generally the males of both species grizzly and black bear species come out first and get their bowels activated by eating grass.. Females with cubs den separately from the males and generally emerge after the males have had a chance to start replenishing fat reserves by feeding on winter-killed deer and elk.

But basically, they’ll eat everything.  So it’s important to clean up bird feeders and secure garbage and keep pet food inside.

Click here to learn more about living safely in bear country.

International Wildlife Film Fest coming to Sandpoint

WILDLIFE – Grizzlies and snow leopards highlight the films in the International Wildlife Film Festival coming to Sandpoint’s Panada Theater Friday night – a fundraiser for the Sandpoint High School Venture Club.

Starting at 7 p.m., the line up of award-winning films includes:

  • “South Pacific: Fragile Paradise,”
  • “Expedition Grizzly,”
  • “GOOD RIDDANCE! Termites: Attack of the Killer Environment,”
  • “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth.”

Read on for details:

Spring bear hunters must be careful observers

HUNTING — When Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opens Friday, hunters must be especially careful to identify the species of bear they are looking at before they pull the trigger. 

Species identification important: It's legal to take a black bear but illegal to kill a grizzly.

In Idaho, it is legal to take a female black bear as long as no cubs are present, so it's critcal for the welfare of several bears at once that hunters take the time to watch for cubs.

Bloomsday jump-starts backpacking season

FITNESS — Even if you're not a runner, Spokane's annual Bloomsday run is a great motivation to improve the fitness needed for outdoor pursuits, whether its hiking, hunting, fishing, geocaching — whatever.

Join the thousands of people for the he 7.5-mile run/walk on May 1. You'll be telling the world that Spokane is a special place as you  jumpstart your summer outdoor season.

April 17 is the last day for registering online before the $15 entry fee goes up.

Enjoy free access to national parks

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees for eight consecutive days, April 16-24, as an incentive for families to enjoy the outdoors and national heritage.

The parks will be waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2011, including National Park Week (April 16-24), the first day of summer (June 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24) and the weekend of Veterans Day (Nov. 11-13).

Fee-free days have been offered the past two years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Long-distance hikers talk on wildflower and wild lands

BACKPACKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, a pair of long-distance hikers from North Idaho, will tap 3,100 miles of footwork to present a free program, “Wildflowers, Wild Lands and Wild Times Along the Continental Divide,”  Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Sandpoint Community Hall.

The program is cosponsored by Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society, Sandpoint Parks and Recreation and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

In July 2008, intrepid hikers Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, aka Nowhere Man and Walking Carrot, embarked on an epic journey to hike the 3,100 miles length of the Continental Divide Trail.  Over the following three summers they completed this rugged route as it traces its course along the spine of the continent.  In doing so, they also completed the third and final leg of the coveted “triple crown” of hiking, which also includes the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hiking the Continental Divide, with an eye to native plants and wild lands, they snapped more than 14,000 photos and compiled countless tales from the trail.

Timely wolverine program Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — It's a fascinating coincidence that one of the top wolverine researchers in the region and North America will be speaking about the rare species in North Idaho this this week, as explained in my Sunday Outdoors story.

Also this week, Peak Adventures, a Silver Valley based snowcat skiing operation is supposed to be getting a final ruling from the BLM on whether wolverine sightings in the St. Joe Mountains will force cancelation of the permit they've had for 17 years. That was explained in accompanying Sunday story.

Jeff Copeland, a wildlife biologist featured on Discovery, Animal Planet, and PBS Nature television shows, will present a program on wolverine research and conservation in the Western United States on Tuesday 7 p.m., in Coeur d’Alene, sponsored by the Audubon Society.

The free program will be at the Lutheran Church of the Master Auditorium, 4800 Ramsey Rd.

Meantime, click the video above to see Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom, a cool PBS Nature series documentary on the largest member of the weasel family.


Washington’s newly enacted hunting rules detailed

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has just released a summary of the new hunting rules for deer, elk and other game animals approved Friday and Saturday in Olympia.

The hot issue in the meeting was the adoption of the controversial 4-point antler restriction for whitetail bucks in Stevens County hunting units 117 and 121.  See some history on this proposal and my points on why it was a poor decision in a previous post.

Read on for changes to elk hunting and other actions at the meeting via the press release from the Fish and Wildlife Department.

Cougar killed in Wenatchee neighborhood

WILDLIFE — Dogs are breathing easier in Wenatchee this afternoon.

After police evacuated homeowners from a Wenatchee neighborhood this morning, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials killed a cougar found underneath a house deck.

Rich Beausoleil, the ageny's cougar specialist, said the location of the cougar and the number of people in the area, including children waiting for a school bus, made it too risky to attempt to tranquilize the animal and remove it alive.

Beausoleil estimated the 30-pound female cougar to be six and a half months old and in poor shape, at half normal weight. He speculated that it may have been orphaned.

Click here for more info on cougars in Washington.  Read on for details on this case:

Sportsmen not ignoring conservation issues in Washington, D.C.

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION — They don't make the evening news headlines, but sportsmen's groups working the halls of Congress are vital to wildlife conservation as the first hearings begin for the 2012 Farm Bill.

Getting a few positive votes on these measures can do more for putting food on the table for wildlife than 500 sportsmen's fundraising banquets.

Read on for the latest from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a bipartisan group that has its act together.

Dogs prohibited on Little Spokane River trails

HIKING — A reader who frequently hikes out of the Painted Rocks trailhead along the Little Spokane River just emailed and said he was surprised last week to see two new signs indicating that dogs are not allowed on the trails.

“This absolutely shocked me,” he said. “I’m not a dog owner, but it seems that barring dogs from state recreational areas is going a bit too far. Yes, they probably do crap along the way, but so do the abundance of coyotes in the area.
On the otherhand, he added, “I’m sure that they may harass some wild animals too if given the chance. So could easily see (Riverside State Park)  not wanting dogs in nesting areas.
Then he asks: “Is this something completely new?
My response:
The rule prohibiting dogs dates back to the original designation of the Little Spokane River as a natural area. The rule was mentioned in my original late 1980s version of the guidebook, “100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.” 
I have a friend who took her Lab into the area against the rules 10 years ago and paid dearly for it:  rattlesnake bite. Dog survived.
I think the original rule had a lot to do with the now defunct heron rookery.  I love dogs, but it's reasonable for some areas to be dog-free.

Rafters hitting big water on Spokane River

RIVER RUNNING —  The Spokane River is running big, but waves didn't stop Peak 7 Adventures from taking a group down this weekend for their first whitewater fun trip of the season. 

Here's a scouting report just posted on the Whitewater Northwest forum:

Bowl & Pitcher is straight through shot, rapids pretty much washed out. 

Devil'sToenail is open on river right; looks like keeper reversal behind pour over rock just left of the right chute.  Middle run looks doable left of the big center rock. Tongue over the pourover, looks like a chute to left of tongue, maybe a chute hugging left side of rock also but the rock prevented seeing the whole flow.  Couldn't tell if this pourover hole/reversal at downstream foot of pourover tongue rock was a keeper but it looked like at this flow (23,000cfs) it was pushing through.  Surf's up, ripping right along.  If carnage at Toenail, swim will be ~600 yards downstream to usable eddy river left & may need help getting into it. 

Didn't see any wood at left side of Toenail rapid as per earlier reports.  May be under water, but appears to have gotten flushed through.
Meenach Bridge put-in gate is unlocked; unfettered easy launch.
Plese Flats takeout carry is about 6-7 feet to the road from water!
If you want to watch, Peak 7 is running the river again Tuesday, 4 p.m. starting from Meenach Bridge.

Wolf compromise attempt blocked by judge

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A federal judge over the weekend blocked a proposal to lift endangered species protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho that had been hammered out by U.S. wildlife officials and conservation groups.

The plan could have led to public hunting of some 1,300 wolves in the two states.

Meanwhile in Congress, the Monana and Idaho delegations are pressing ahead with legislative attempts to get wolves off the endangered list.

Read on for details from the Associated Press.

Spring chinook seasons brewing on Snake River

FISHING —  Although a decision isn’t likely until the end of this week, a spring chinook salmon season is likely to open in phases on the Washington portion of the Snake River starting around April 20, state officials say.

When approved by federal fisheries officials, the season will be posted on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department website.

Idaho’s spring chinook season opens April 23.

Troll for local info Wednesday at fly fishing event

FISHING – The public is invited to hear the latest fishing reports from Washington and Idaho waters and rub elbows with local fly tiers at the annual Spokane Fly Fishers Extravaganza, Wednesday, 6 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.

The event is free.

And when you see the lineup of group fishing trips, classes and projects the club has scheduled this year, you might be inclined to join in.

Info: Dan Ferguson, 325-8885, e-mail

Class act: Spokane Auduboners offer birding clinics

 WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane Audubon members are offering several choice opportunities to learn more about birds and bird identification.

  • Birds of Eastern Washington, April 21 & 23, taught by SAS member Fran Haywood. Sign up through Community Colleges of Spokane.
  • Bird Identification workshops for novices, May 9, 11, 13, led by Gary Blevins and Kim Thorburn. To be held 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at West Valley Outdoor Learning Center, 8706 E. Upriver Dr. $20 donation to Spokane Audubon requested. Pre-register: Gary Blevins, 533-3661 or by April 26.

  • Bird identification field trip, May 14,  to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, led by Gary Blevins and Kim Thorburn. Geared to the bird ID workshop participants (above) but open to others. Meet at 7 a.m. at Turnbull NWR, near Cheney, in the parking lot by the Education Building at the refuge headquarters. Groups will be out until about  2 p.m. A small refuge entrance fee is required. Pre-register: Gary Blevins, 533-3661 or by May 5.

Eagle cam: Mothers may have tough time watching Mother Nature at work

WILDLIFE — Excitement has turned to concern as we watch the drama in the eagle nest. On Sunday, it ws clear the web cam operator was zooming in frequently to let viewers see what might be unfolding.

It was exciting to see the third eaglet hatch Wednesday afternoon, but now it's unclear whether the latecomer — born nearly five days after the first eagle — will survive.

Stay tuned along with millions of viewers — more than 30 million views as of this weekend — watching as a bald eagle family emerges in a northeast Iowa nest under the watchful eye of a web cam that's capturing the activity live at the Decorah Fish Hatchery.

From the smorgsbord of food items… fish, bunnies, ducks … the adult eagles tend to feed the most food to the most aggressive chicks — a bit of survival of the fittest at work.  

The oldest eaglet often crawls over the top of the weaker eaglet to get its fill, and has been observed picking on the little one. On Sunday the youngest chick was hanging in there. I watched a feeding at 11:15 a.m. and it looked like the littlest chick was getting its fill! 

The family will do fine with just two eaglets, but the chat indicates that viewers are hopeful and anxious.

If you want a review, here are some highlight clips of the major developments:

First hatch 4/2/11.
24-hour collage
of first egg pip and hatch

Second hatch 4/3/11.
First glimpse
of second hatchling

Third hatch 4/6/11.
of the third hatch

Click here for a  tutorial on telling the difference between the male and female bald eagle adults, which share the duties of raising the young.

Washington Wildlife Panel approves 4-point whitetail antler restriction

HUNTING — A controversial antler point restriction for whitetail deer, proposed by a Stevens County sportsmen's group, was approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday during its meeting in Olympia.

Starting this fall, only whitetail bucks with four or more antler points on one side will be legal for hunters to target in Game Management Units 117 and 121.

The split vote by the commissioners disregarded the input by game managers and wildlife biologists who advised against it.  I summarized some of the biologists' points in a column in August when the state was forced to hold hearings on this issue — just a year before the regularly scheduled rulemaking hearings would be held across the state.

The commission's 5-2 vote — hear an audio recording of the pre-vote debate — also disregarded the concerns of Fish and Wildlife police over the potential for illegal kills.

It disregarded the commission's own frequent requests to the agency managers to simplify rules.

It disregarded the public meetings held around the state in which the majority of sportsmen at every meeting had concerns about the proposal.

It disregarded the concensus off the commission itself that this could not be considered an experiement that would lead to biologically significant information.

It disregarded the high pecentage of sportsmen and agency managers who expressed concern that it will be a setback for youth hunting and the family nature of hunting in the two most popular whitetail units in the state.

This vote was an embarrassment to wildlife management in this state.

Deep snow leaves clean view of Quartz Mountain lookout

STATE PARKS — A good clean photo of the Quartz Mountain lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is difficult to achieve without getting the darned outhouse in the picture, said Cris Currie, head of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

But this year's deep snowpack spelled RELIEF.

“The outhouse is completely covered by snow!” he said, flushed with enthusiasm after skiing to the the peak's summit this week and getting the purest shot of the lookout he's ever seen.

Spokane can take pride in its outdoor volunteer spirit

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CONSERVATION — Workers from kids to senior citizens gave up the first beautiful Saturday of a soggy spring to pull weeds, build trail, obliterate unauthorized routes, groom a native plant garden and pick up trash during the community work project at the Dishman Hills Natural Area today.

More than 330 people volunteered to help.

The event was sponsored by REI and several outdoor groups, who served a pizza lunch to the throng after the work. 

Then I noticed quite a few people slipping off into the hills to enjoy the work nature had done.  The trails were quiet, that is until you came near a pond. Then the racket of chorus frogs — some call them tree frogs — would almost shake the trees.

Grass widows and buttercups were blooming. The buds of serviceberries are ready to pop open in brilliant white blooms — just give them a couple warm weeks.  And arrowleaf balsamroots are showing their heads and ready to shoot up from the ground.

Glacier Park featured on new U.S. quarter

PUBLIC LANDS – Glacier National Park is next of five parks to be featured on one of the U.S. Mint’s new “America the Beautiful” quarters.  

The quarter features a mountain goat with Reynolds Mountain in the background. It’s a view familiar to visitors who drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The unveiling is set for Wednesday at Columbia Falls High School gymnasium.

People will be able to buy $10 rolls of the new quarters.

Fishing GPS electronics seminar tonight in Colville

FISHING — Attention Colville-area anglers: A free Walleye Fishing Seminar focusing on using GPS electronics will be given by Montana angler and Lowrance rep Dale Gilbert tonight at the Big R store in Colville, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Check him out at

Idaho lawmakers make Westerners look like wimps, editor says

WILD COMMENTARY — The Idaho Legislature passed “wolf emergency”  bill on to Gov. Butch Otter this week, embarrassing a few folks within the state, including  the editors of the Idaho Mountain Express.

“Westerners are proud of the persistence and bravery of their ancestors. But Westerners today—especially in Idaho—have become weak, whiny and terrified of the Big Bad Wolf.

“With lightning speed this week, the Legislature rammed through a bill that calls on the governor to essentially declare open season on wolves.

The debate on the bill was laughable.”

Read on for the rest of the editorial published this week.

Flathead’s Spring Mack Days paying $150K to anglers

FISHING — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have pooled up to $150,000 in cash prizes for this year's Flathead Lake Spring Mack Days fishing tournament in an effort to entice more anglers and reduce the lake trout population.

The competition runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March 11 through May 22.

Preregister online.

Info: (406) 883-2888 ex. 7289.

House oks bill making closed-area skiing a crime in Washington

SKIING — It has a ways to go to become law, but the Washington House this week approved a bill making it a misdemeanor to ski in clearly marked closed hazard areas at ski resorts.

Supporters argued that a criminal trespassing charge and a potential $1,000 fine would help deter behavior that causes avalanches and endanger the lives of ski patrol and search-and-rescue workers, according to the Associated Press.

But opponents say criminalizing recreational behavior is overreaching, and could result in young people unwittingly receiving blots on their permanent records.

Opponents favored a $500 fine and more harshly worded signs.

The bill applies to runs that are in-bounds at ski areas but have been intentionally marked and closed off for safety reasons.

The measure returns to the Senate for approval of amendments.

Washington coyote hunting featured on Sportsman’s Channel

HUNTING TV — This week’s episode of the Sportsman Channel’s new predator hunting series called “Dead Dog Walkin”’ will put Washington’s coyotes directly in the crosshairs, according to Scott Sandsbury of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The show follows show host Chad Belding and his team, brother Clay Belding and colleagues Alex Faust and Alex Langbell, as they go after predator animals that have been preying on domestic animals and livestock.

This week’s episode might be of interest to people in this part of the world for two reasons, Sandsbury says:

1) The show’s focus will be on coyotes in Washington state.

2) Langbell, the newest member of the “Dead Dog Walkin”’ team, hails from the Pasco area.

The Sportsman Channel can be found on DirecTV channel 605, Dish Network channel 285 or 395, depending where you are, and on Channel channel 417.

According to the Sportsman Channel, the episode with Langbell in dead-dogged pursuit of Washington’s coyotes will air (Eastern Standard Time) today at 3:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 6:30 a.m.

But you have to check it out with your TV providers. Dates, times and channels can vary.

Ski Bluewood new owners not singing the blues

SKIING — The new owners of Ski Bluewood aren’t complaining about the lingering winter weather as they prepare for the final weekend of their first season.

“We’ve had great snow all through March, and April has been fantastic,” said Travis Stephenson, who operates the Dayton ski area for an ownership group headed by his Pasco-based family. “But then we typically have a great spring, which is a little-known secret in the area,” the told the Tri-City Herald.

Bluewood reported 2 inches of new snow Thursday morning.

Wednesday morning, Stephenson arrived to 14 fresh inches. In the past week, more than 26 inches fell. That made for 90 inches at the base, which will be more than enough for the 25th annual Bluewood Bash on Sunday.

Read on for details.

Logjam blocking the Salmon River

RIVER RUNNING — Federal forest officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to a massive logjam that has formed on section of the Main Salmon River, according to a story just posted by the Associated Press.

U.S. Forest Service officials say a blowout at the Black Creek drainage created a logjam about a half-mile below Salmon Falls. The logjam has created a new rapid formation along the river so popular among rafters and recreationists.

The Post Register reports there is nobody currently floating the Salmon River. Forest managers are waiting to see if spring run-off and higher, stronger river levels will be enough to break up the log jam.

The Forest Service used explosives to clear a large logjam that blocked the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in 2006, trapping nearly 350 boaters upstream who launched before the blockage was discovered.

Read on for more details in a Lewiston Tribune story.

Idaho opens more mandatory boat inspection stations

BOATING — Mandatory watercraft inspection stations targeting invasive species have opened at three sites in the Idaho Panhandle, with two more to open in May.

And don't forget Idaho's invasive species sticker requirement for most vessles.  The sticker comes with Idaho boat registrations, but a separate sticker must be purchased if your boat is registered out of state or if you have an unregistered non-motorized craft.  All non-motorized boats over 10 feet long, including inflatables, are required to have a sticker.

Idaho's boat inspection sites will check vessels for standing water and signs of quagga and zebra mussels. Inspectors will ask boaters where their craft has been in the previous 30 days. All boats should be clean, drained and dry when they arrive in Idaho.

Inspection stations the state Agriculture Department has opened so far are:

  • Cedars, on westbound Interstate 90 at Fourth of July Pass.
  • Huetter Rest Stop, on westbound I-90 between Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, operating Friday, Saturday and Sunday until May 15 when it will begin opening daily.
  • Garwood, moved this year to Highway 53 (Trent) near the state line, open on same schedule as Huetter station.

These stations will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. through Sept. 9.

Stations at Old Town on Highway 2 east of Newport and Samuels on Highway 95 north of Sandpoint, are set to open on May 15.

The inspections are an effort to keep invasive mussels out of Idaho’s waters.

Zebra and quagga mussels are prolific breeders, attaching themselves to hard surfaces where they clog intake pipes and foul freshwater ecosystems. The mussels have infested the Great Lakes. In recent years, they’ve been found in parts of Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona and Colorado.

Avalanche Center posts tips on surviving ample spring snow load

WINTER SPORTS — Even though the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's official reporting season ended last week, hydrologic technichian Kevin Davis was compelled to post more advice this morning after scouting the region's winter-like snowpack this week.

Check out his full Spring Advisory, which includes tips on how to maximixe your sliding quality  — and safety — when that spring sunshine is beating down.

“We're doing much better than last year for snowpack so your winter adventures could last well into June, depending on how the snow comes off,” Davis said in his opening remarks to the advisory.  

“Silver Mountain was reporting large avalanches with their explosive control last Sunday and we have received quite a bit of snow in the last week.  I heard lots of bombs going off at Schweitzer Monday - Wednesday.”

Time running out on early discount for Lake Roosevelt boat launch permits

NATIONAL PARKS — Boaters and anglers can save money buy buying their season boat launch permit for Lake Roosevelt before the end of April.

A launch permit is required at all designated National Park Service-managed ramps regardless of the type of vessel. 

Without a season permit, boaters pay on site a $6 fee for a permit valid for seven days.

2011 season launch permits cost $30 if purchased by April 30. After that, the  cost increases to $40.

Federal Golden Age, Golden Access and Interagency Senior or Access Pass cardholders, fees get 50 percent off.

Read on for details on where to purchase the boat launch permits.

Fishing seminar series winding down at Mark’s Marine

FISHING — The Mark's Marine spring seminar series is winding down with free programs tonight and next Thursday in Hayden.

  • Tonight, Fishing Northwest waters, by Alan Roberts.
  • April 14, Pike Fishing in Local Waters, by Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers tackle shop.

The programs start at 6:30 p.m. at Mark's Marine, 14355 N. Government Way.


At Post Falls Cabela's, the staff has scheduled informal in-house pike fishing seminars Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.

Forest Service releases photos of fraternity’s OHV meadow damage

PUBLIC LANDS — Officials from the Clearwater National Forest  released a photo this morning showing the damage University of Idaho fraternity members caused to public land last year. The fraternity recently paid the U.S. Forest Service $4,382 in a court case over damages they caused by building an illegal road into a meadow.

The photo leaves little doubt that forest officals weren't overreacting.

On May 5, 2010, several members of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity were charged with creating a road into Vassar Meadows on the Palouse Ranger District.

“Suspects admitted they knew it was wrong to drive in the meadow, but once the rough road was created, others arriving followed suit creating more damage,” said Laura Smith, forest spokeswoman.  “At least one vehicle was stuck creating deep ruts in the meadow.”

The U.S. District Court in Moscow and a federal prosecutor agreed to have the fraternity to pay full restitution for the resource damage.

Smith said the Forest Service will use the money to restore the meadow and block further access to the area.

“We are vigorously going after violators who are going off roads and we want them to know that if they're caught there's a legal issue to deal with as well as restitution for the damage,” said Stephen Bryant, Forest Service enforcement investigator.

The damage caused by illegal off-road riding isn't just ugly, he said. “It spreads noxious weeds, creates roads others will follow, damages plant communities and takes away the beauty of North Idaho meadows.”

Photo indicates transition, moody day on Bead Lake

HIKING — Spring is still awakening in the Inland Northwest, as indicated by this photo from Bead Lake Trail No. 127 on the Colville National Forest north of Newport, Wash.

Ice was still plugging ends of the lake on Sunday and the skies alternated from sunny and encouraging to dark setbacks to winter.

A hole in the ice indicated where a moose had broken through and drown.

Fur on the trail and remnants of a carcass covered in dirt, grass and sticks indicated the site of a deer meeting its match with a cougar.

Hikers still finding snow on trails above 3,000 feet elevation

HIKING — Keep your gaiters on, hikers, if you're antsy to get on timbered trails above 3,000 feet in elevation, especially if they're on shaded north slopes.

The Inland Northwest Hikers Meetup group found snow on about 30 percent of the 5-plus miles of Bead Lake trail they explored Sunday.  In between were long stretches of trail that was clear and smooth cruising in this portion of the Colville National Forest northeast of Newport.

Ice still plugged the ends of the lake and the trailheads were snowed in. 

But all the hikers, including the one that slipped on a snow-covered bridge and took a soaking in the snow-melt creek, said they had a marvelous time getting out for the early season.

Anglers post warnings about Spokane River fishing closure

FISHING — High water has been doing the job of enforcing the March 15 fishing closure to protect spawning trout in much of the Spokane River.

But Spokane Fly Fishers members and Trout Unlimited have gone the extra step by posting signs to help protect the trout at a vulnerable time as well as helping anglers avoid a ticket.

The lower Spokane River is closed from the upstream boundary of Plese Flats to Monroe Street Dam from March 15-June 1.

The upper river from Upriver Dam to the state line is closed until the first Saturday in June (June 4).

SFF member Dean Knudsen has let the effort this year to print and post 30 signs on kiosks and existing signposts along the river.

In addition, members of two fly fishing clubs are helping the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife patrol the river for poaching activity.

Spring Salmon Derby starts Saturday at Lake CdA

FISHING — The J.H. “Red” Covey Memorial Spring Salmon Derby is set for Saturday and Sunday — that's a week earlier than last year — on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Info: Fins and Feathers tackle shop in Coeur d'Alene (208) 667-9304.

Learn how to fly fish at local lakes

FLY FISHING — Just as the waters are warming and the bite is coming on, a local fly shop is offering a clinic on fishing local lakes.

Local Lake Tactics Clinic

What:  Learn how to catch trout in our local lakes. We will cover the gear, techniques, flies, and where to go!
When:  Tuesday,  6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Cost:  $20. Must prepay to register.
Instructors:  Sean Visintainer and Jon Allan
Where:  Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E Indiana
Contact:  924-9998

Sportsmen to bestow honors, $1,000 on Friday

HUNTING-FISHING — Several northwest conservation and outdoor-sports groups representing different interests have teamed to sponsor the Dr. Dick Rivers Sportsman-Conservationist Award to honor an individual who's followed the Spokane physician's lead across traditional boundaries for the good of fish and wildlife.

The first of the biannual awards, which includes a cash prize of $1,000, will be presented  at the Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Spring Dinner at Hill’s Restaurant in Spokane, WA.

For information about Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and and reservations for the dinner, contact Jeff Holmes, or (509) 868-3337.

The award was created to honor a northwest sportsman who defies stereotypes and political isolationism to work actively on areas of common ground to protect public lands, fish and wildlife, and clean air and water, Holmes said.

The award was conceived by Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and co-sponsored by Spokane Audubon, Conservation Northwest, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited and the Spokane Mountaineers.

Read on for the press release issued Tuesday, with details about the groups, the award and the man who inspired it, Dr. Dick Rivers.

New gauge on Madison River will help anglers

FISHING — A new U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station on the heavily-fished Madison River at the Varney Bridge south of Ennis, Mont., will be a great help for anglers.

The first monitoring device on that section of river in 40 years will provide hourly information on the stream's flow and water temperature.

The gauge is listed on the Montana USGS website as Madison River at Cameron, MT.

Joe Dilschneider of Montana Trout Stalkers in Ennis says the gauge set up last month will help anglers and guides coming from Bozeman see conditions of the river before making the trip.

The gauge will operate between March and October, and deactivated during winter because of heavy ice.

Antoine Peak land deal back in running for state funding

PUBLIC LANDS — A prized Spokane Valley wild area north of I-90 and near Forker Road is back in the running for state funding assistance in the last of three purchase phases started under the Spokane County Conservation Futures program.

The House of Representatives announced Tuesday at its hearing for the state capital construction budget that the Spokane County area is pegged to receive over $2.1 million in funding for Antione Peak and Betz Park Baseball/Softball Fields.  

The projects are a part of a proposed $50 million appropriation to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), which funds high priority wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation projects across the state.

Spokane County Parks would use the $1.63 million Antione Peakgrant to protect elk and mule deer habitat and create hiking and mountain biking trails immediately outside the city.  

Cheney Parks will use the $500,000 Betz Park Baseball/Softball Fieldsgrant to create two ball fields for the community to use.

Projects funded by the WWRP — a highly respected grant program with bipartisan support that had been slated for near elimination in Gov. Gregoire's proposed budget — are determined using scientifically based, objective criteria.  However, these grants could be put at risk if the Senate cuts funding for the program or alters the selection criteria for which projects receive funding.

“We are thrilled to see that the House of Representatives understands the critical role that preservation projects like [this one] play in local communities across the state,” said Joanna Grist, WWRP executive director.

Third eagle hatches in nest live on web cam at 4:46 p.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The third eaglet has just hatched.  It's unclear whether the latecomer — born nearly five days after the first eagle — will survive.

Stay tuned along with millions of viewers watching as a bald eagle family emerges in a northeast Iowa nest under the watchful eye of a web cam that's capturing the activity live at the Decorah Fish Hatchery.

I was viewing this site with my colleagues minutes ago as the adult felt a little tickle, stood up, and we watched as the third and last eaglet began wiggling out of its egg at 4:46 p.m.  Its two siblings were watching.

I believe I got to see the first wobbling little white fluff ball get its first meal on April 2 after the other adult delivered a rabbit.  The parent went right for the nutritious entrails.  Since  then, a second eaglet has hatched and the adults have delivered several birds, apparently ducks, to the nest dinner table.

I've seen the adults share the duties of hunting and sitting on the nest.  One delivered a duck a few days ago.  A few hours later I check in and saw that the sitting eagle had cleanly plucked the breast, standing up to feed the hungry eaglettes every 40 minutes or so.

One of the adults has just landed and added a fish to the nest smorgasbord at 4:55 p.m. There's at least three fish, two birds and a bunny in the heap. Yum.

This show will only get better as the eagle family grows.

The website has cool features, including short clips of major events in the nest.  For instance:

First hatch 4/2/11.
24-hour collage
of first egg pip and hatch

Second hatch 4/3/11.
First glimpse
of second hatchling

Third hatch 4/6/11.
of the third hatch

The overall website to check out is .

Tune in, leave the computer on as you do your business around the house, and enjoy. The adult eagles will be raising their young under the camera for weeks.

Paddlers, rafters cancel 2011 Spokane River Kickoff

RIVER RUNNING — The annual Spokane River Kickoff event for paddlers and rafters set for April 16 on the Spokane River has been canceled for lack of sponsorship and liability coverage, organizers say.

Many of the participants say they’ll just have an informal gathering to play in the river at Dead Dog Hole at Stateline.

Read on for the announcement and detals by organizers.

Fish at local lakes keying on chironomids despite cold weather

FLY FISHING — The late March report from a Spokane Fly Fishers' outing to Coffee Pot Lake was enough to make you order hot coffee and put on a down jacket.

“If I hadn’t been the host of the outing I wouldn’t have gone,” said Judy Kaufman, one of the club's most energetic members. “I’m glad I was the hostess.

“Yes, the snow stopped, the skies cleared, the sun shone and the wind blew (a little). It was the typical beginning of a Coffee Pot Outing. Seven members showed up. We all caught fish. The fish - rainbows - were good size, anywhere from 17 to 20 inches. Largemouth bass were also caught.

“The water was cold, in some places only 38 degrees. The fish definitely preferred the warmer water. Black, brown, green Woolly Buggers in various sizes took fish. There was no interest in chironomids. I'm sure this will change as the water warms.”

Her  prediction was correct.  Reports from anglers at various waters indicate that chironomid patterns fished under an indicator are hooking good numbers of big trout at the region's selective fisheries, including Medical Lake.

Tuesday, in a pre-season survey at yet-to-open West Medical Lake, state fisheries biologist Chris Donley examined the stomach contents of a 20 inch rainbow he pulled out of the lake. It was full of green chironomids.

Surveys find healthy trout crop at West Medical, Fishtrap lakes

FISHING — The season isn't open yet, but the fishing has been good this week for Chris Donley, Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department Spokane district fisheries biologist.

On Tuesday he pulled survey gillnets that had been soaking overnight in West Medical and Fishtrap Lakes and found an exceptionally healthy crop of fat, rainbow trout.

“The fry plants from last year are enormous,” he said, pointing a cold,wet finger on a blustery day to one of the specimens coming into the boat at West Medical. “They're almost too big. Makes me wonder if cormorants or something thinned out the fry plant. I can't say for sure.

“But one thing I CAN say is that anglers are going to be very happy on opening day.”

Although many of the mixed species lakes and selective fishery waters already are open, Fishtrap, West Medical, Williams, Badger and other lowland trout fisheries won't open until April 30 — the latest possible opening date under the “last Saturday in April” rule.

Video strikes at threat wind power poses to birds

WILDLIFE — A 30-second video of an eagle being clipped by the blade of a wind turbine helps illustrate the reason for the American Bird Conservancy's bird-smart wind campaign to address the impact of wind farms on bird populations.

By 2030, there will be more than 100,000 wind turbines in the U.S., and these are expected to kill at least one million birds each year—probably significantly more.

Wind farms are also expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial bird habitat, and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat, some of it critical to threatened species, the conservancy says.

Bird-smart wind power employs careful siting, operational and construction mitigation, and monitoring, as well as compensation to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss from wind energy development. The conservancy maintains that these issues should be included in mandatory federal wind standards.

Idaho Fish and Game seeks comment on fishing rule proposals

FISHING — Idaho anglers have until April 18 to comment in the first round of discussions on fishing rule changes proposed for 2012.

Fish and Game is considering changing the rule that requires anglers transporting hatchery-produced salmon or steelhead to keep the carcass whole, with the head and tail attached. The change would allow anglers to filet a hatchery produced steelhead or salmon, already recorded on the salmon/steelhead permit, as long as one of the filets has the skin attached where the adipose fin is located to verify its origin.

Other items Fish and Game will be reviewing include:

  • The definition of a “fishing contest.”
  • Allowing the use of a gaff hook for landing nongame fish species taken with archery equipment.
  • Allowing the use of archery equipment and spear guns to harvest game fish with unlimited bag limits.

Comments may be provided by calling regional fish managers at local regional offices or by e-mailing

Rules changed through this process must be approved by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and the state Legislature.

Fees waived for National Park Week

PUBLIC LANDS —Planning your outdoor adventures in advance? Here's a money saving opportunity.

National parks will be waiving entrance fees for National Park Week April 16-24.

Fee-free days have been offered the past two years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Founding fathers had pecking order for national symbol

WILDLIFE“He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched in some dead tree where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for his young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes the fish. With all this injustice, he is never in good case.”

—Benjamin Franklin in 1782, explaining why he wished “the (bald) eagle had not been chosen as the representative of this country.” Franklin had proposed the wild turkey for the national symbol.

Funeral services set for Jim Scroggie of Fishtrap Lake Resort

FISHING — Jim Scroggie, 86, who operated Fishtrap Lake Resort from 1952 to 2001, passed away on March 28.

“I can't think of anyone who did more for fishermen and trout fishing in this area than Jim,” said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist.

Although he and his late wife, Edith, made their living behind the counter at the resort during the fishing seasons, Scroggie worked year-round doing anything needed to improve the fishing, Donley said. 

“He'd build fish screens and, before the state had all sorts of rules, he'd be out their helping rotenone the lake or anything else that needed to be done,” Donley said.

Services for Jim Scroggie are set for Wednesday, 1 p.m., at the Cheney Funeral Chapel, 1632 W. 1st St. in Cheney.

Here's an excerpt from my outdoors column in May 2001:

Strange sight: You had to see it to believe it, but several anglers have confirmed that Jim Scroggie was in a boat fishing on Fishtrap Lake last weekend. Jim and his wife, Edith, have observed opening day from behind the counter at Fishtrap Lake Resort since right after the Ice Age Floods. I'm not sure anyone in the Inland Northwest has seen more fish and happy anglers leaving their property.

The Scroggies have retired, and the resort is being operated by Ron and Nora Dixon of Lamont.

Hunters discuss conservation efforts on Colville Forest

PUBLIC LANDS — Derrick Knowles of Spokane and Joe Mirasoe of Elk, both members of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, will be making a presentation tonight — From Controversy to Common Ground: The Colville National Forest Story” —  at the general meeting of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, 7 p.m., at 6116 N. Market. 

Oregon House votes to ban feeding dangerous wildlife

WILDLIFE — The Oregon House has voted to give authorities the power to prohibit people from feeding bears, wolves and cougars, the Associated Press reports.

The House’s 51-9 vote on Monday sends the measure to the Senate. The bill would allow police to issue a warning requiring people to stop feeding bears, wolves and cougars, but it doesn’t specify a penalty if they don’t comply.

Democratic Rep. Jean Cowan of Newport says the measure is needed to prevent wildlife from becoming comfortable with humans and dependent on them for food. She says the bill is a response to an incident in Lincoln County, where a woman refused to stop feeding bears and the bears damaged her neighbors’ property while looking for food when she went on vacation.

More spring bird festivals coming up

BIRDWATCHING — The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is history for a year, but wild friends of another feather are giving birder more reasons to travel across the state:

Olympic Birdfest, April 8-10, Sequim, WA

A bird watching vacation for beginners to experts, from leisurely strolls to active hikes. Bird for a few hours, or all day, from the dawn chorus to the evening owl prowl. Enjoy guided birding trips, boat tours, silent auction, gala banquet, and more.

Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, April 29-May 1

This year’s Shorebird Festival will feature hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and other migrating birds as they gather at the Grays Harbor estuary and area to feed and rest on their northern migration.

Keynote speaker: Bart Rulon an author, wildlife artist, photographer, and illustrator whose paintings and photography of birds, wildlife and landscapes have been exhibited internationally.

Hikers should expect to find water on trails

HIKING — It's wet out there.

Hikers in Deep Creek Canyon off the Spokane River near Nine Mile found plenty of water going down the stream, which usually dries up well before summer.

You don't have to go much higher in elevation to find trails covered in snow. Hikers at Bead Lake Trail just north of Newport found about a quarter to a third of the 5.5-mile route covered in snow or ice on Sunday.  The elevations ranged from 2,800-3,000 feet.

Join the group to spruce up Dishman Hills

NATURAL AREAS — Volunteers are signing up for the Dishman Hills Service Project to plant trees, pull weeds, and spruce up the city's much-loved natural area on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Several hundred helpers — individuals and groups — are expected to spread out into the natural area after meeting first  at Camp Caro, 625 S. Sargent Rd., Spokane Valley (just south of Appleway Blvd.)

Please register here. The first 100 to register will get a free event t-shirt!

REI is sponsoring the event. Groups chipping in include The Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, Spokane Mountaineers, The Lands Council, Spokane County Parks and Recreation, Inland Northwest Land Trust, Gonzaga University, the Inland Northwest Backcountry Horsemen and Sierra Club Inner City Outings.

 Bring work gloves and water bottles, and come prepared for dirty work and the weather!

Coffee, water and light snacks will be provided, and the event will conclude with a pizza party and live bluegrass music!

Registration is recommended, but everyone is welcome on the day of the event.

Washington dates keep anglers on their toes

FISHING — There's no single opening day for fishing in Washington.

Fishing seasons open throughout the year, including major waters that open on March 1, April 1 and, of course, the popular lowland trout season that opens the “last Saturday in April.”
Just to keep anglers thinking, the new 2011-2012 fishing licenses were required as of April 1.
But any rule changes detailed in the 2011-2012 fishing regulations pamphlet, which will show up later this month at fishing license dealers, don’t take effect until May 1.
Read on for even more dates anglers must consider before wetting a line in Washington.

Late opening predicted for North Cascades Highway

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Don't get in a hurry to cross the North Cascades on State Route 20.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says avalanche danger on the North Cascades Highway has delayed the annual spring opening of the road.

Work crews plan to start clearing Highway 20 on April 11. The work is expected to take six weeks.

A transportation spokesman says it may be the latest spring opening in 20 years.

State Route 20, known as the North Cascades Highway, is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington. The stretch between Diablo and Mazama has been closed since Dec. 1.

Idaho youths get next shot at turkeys

HUNTING — Washington's youth wild turkey hunting season is history, and the general spring gobbler seasons don't open until April 15.

But Idaho youths under the age of 16 get their special turn at the toms starting Friday and running through April 14.

All youth hunters must have a valid hunting license and follow season rules, which can be found online on the Idaho Fish and Game website.

Turkey hunting requires special attention to safety in the field. Check out these tips.

Hikers should never expect to come back dry

HIKING — It was almost amusing this morning to compare notes of my Sunday hiking trip with the experience of my friend, Dan Hansen, and his experience floating the formidable whitewater on Hangman Creek.

Hansen noted that despite some strong eddies and good rapids that forced his group to bail water out of their boats fairly regularly, “no one swam.”

On the other hand, one of the hikers in my group along Bead Lake took a dive and full-body emersion when he lost his footing on a snow-covered footbridge over a small stream flowing big with snowmelt.

Lesson learned:  Even hikers need a change of clothes. It's even better to make sure you're not the LARGEST person in a hiking group OR THE ONLY GUY — you'll find you have more clothing options in case of emergency.

Backyard bird count yielded data for science

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Science got a boost this winter when about 60,000 bird watchers took part in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day held  Feb. 18-21.

When tens of thousands of people watch birds and report what they see online, they create a snapshot showing the whereabouts of many hundreds of bird species across the United States and Canada. That's why this annual gold mine of information about birds has become a joint project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

This year, participants identified 596 species and filed 11.4 million individual bird observations — collectively indicating, for instance, a spike in evening grosbeak numbers. The reports provide useful information to scientists tracking changes in the numbers and movements of birds from year to year, just as winter is about to melt into spring.

Two new species never reported to the count before included a brown shrike in McKinleyville, California, and a common chaffinch recorded in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador—both species well out of their normal ranges.

In Alaska, a GBBC participant observed a brambling visiting her feeder—the only one reported for all of North America.

Read on for more details.

Consider additions to basic Washington fishing license

FISHING — Washington anglers are required to have the new 2011-2012 fishing licenses as of April 1, but that might not be all you need — or want.

Possible additions to the basic license include:

  • Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Stamp if you plan to fish for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River and its tributaries. Cost: $8.75.
  • Two-pole permit , allows anglers to use two poles at one time on certain waters in order to achieve a single daily limit of fish.  It costs $24.50.   A bill in the legislature would lower that fee considerably,but it has not yet passed, and even if does, it wouldn't go into effect until July 1.

Hangman Creek flows ideal for weekend paddlers

RIVER RUNNING — Seven canoeists wearing dry suits had a wet and wonderful trip Sunday on Hangman Creek.

We all agreed that a flow of 1,200 cfs was about as good as this trip would get,” reported Dan Hansen. “I’m really glad I didn’t try running it that day it was flowing at 3,400.”

“Chris Haralam and I did some more scouting Saturday and felt humbled by a big series of waves about 1.5 miles below the (Qualchan) historic marker. So we moved Sunday’s put-in to the Keevy Road bridge, which is the tail end of those rapids. Still, there was plenty of whitewater.

“It took us almost two hours to go the first two miles because we were doing so much scouting of routes. After that, it was smooth sailing, with quick water and rapids that quickened the pulse without being a real threat. And the canyon is beautiful.

“No one swam, but we all had to make frequent bailers.”

Develope a checklist for local butterfly sightings

NATURE — Butterfly enthusiasts have developed a cool Butterflies and Moths of North America website that produces checklists of butterfly species documented for general or specific areas.

For example, by filling in the blanks on the site, one can see the 91 butterfly species that have been found in Spokane County over the years, as well as the list of 158 species documented in Washington.

In case you didn't see my Sunday feature on local butterfly groups, don't miss the “Wings of Beauty” program on butterflies April 14, 7 p.m., at the Spokane County Extension, 222 N. Havana St.

It's free, but sign up in advance by calling 477-2048 or email

Other good sites to explore include:

Managing Salmon in Idaho’s Salmon River is complicated

FISHERIES — While most Idaho big-fish anglers are still focused on steelheading, some are turning their attention to chinook salmon.
Idaho Fish and Game regularly fields questions on why seasons aren't set sooner or why certain stretches of the state's rivers aren't opened to chinook fishing.
Read on as Jim Lukens, Idaho Fish and Game's Salmon region supervison, explains.

Spring delayed in Washington high country; access delayed, too

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Winter still has a grip on the region's high country.  Thick snowpacks are still waiting for spring-like conditions, as I mentioned in Friday's post on the region's avalanche advisory.

Access to the mountains for the start of the summer camping and hiking season is the other factor recreationists must consider.    Read on for exerpts from a Cascades Mountains-Mt. St. Helens report by Tom Paulu at the Longview Daily News.

Biologist details last days of senior trumpeter swan at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE – Today’s “Swan song” Outdoors feature in the Sunday Sports section tells the inspiring story of a senior swan at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

I dubbed him “Solo” when I wrote the 2002 column about the widower swan that kept returning to Turnbull without a mate.

But his perseverance paid off in 2009 when he finally bonded with a mate and sired the first hatch of cygnets on the refuge in 22 years. They repeated in 2010 with another brood.

Now it appears certain that Solo is gone. I’ve held off on the story since late January, working with refuge biologist Mike Rule to make certain that Solo didn’t show up as he has for about four decades.

A male trumpeter swan was found dead from lead poisoning nearby on Badger Lake in January. Rule does not think it was Solo, but he’s not sure. Unfortunately, the swan was not aged in the WSU necropsy.

Following is a long series of excerpts from my email correspondence with Rule, detailing the reasoning behind his belief that while Solo is gone, the legacy of his mate and offspring are alive and giving hope for a trumpeter swan future at Turnbull.

Nature TV show captures stunning eagle nesting video

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weather might be lousy, but life is carrying on for wildlife outside and live web cameras are piping the spectacle into the homes of millions of people.

Millions of nature lovers from around the world are watching eaglets in northeast Iowa hatching under the watchful eye and warm bottom of a parent while a web cam captures the activity live the Decorah Fish Hatchery. The first beak could be seen poking out from inside the egg on Friday evening.

Tune in and catch the action, which should pick up today.

These eagles have been attracting about four million page visits a day for the past month to in anticipation of the hatching.

The website has many video clips of the eagle pair preparing their nest, feasting on prey and laying the eggs.

But you can save time and concentrate your interest by viewing the attached professionally produced film feature about an eagle family from the Nature TV program.  If the flash player above doesn't work for you, go to the Nature website.

Landslide closes Icicle Creek Road near Alpine Lakes Wilderness

NATIONAL FORESTS — Relentless precipitation and soggy ground is causing rocks and soil to give way on steep slopes throughout the region.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests on Friday called for an emergency closure of the Icicle Road near Leavenworth after a landslide swept trees, mud and boulders the size of cars onto the popular forest access.

Icicle Creek Road, or Forest Service Road 76, winds south and west of Leavenworth and its terminus is at the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area boundary on the national forest’s Wenatchee River Ranger District.
The landslide occurred above the Eight Mile Campground and swept tons of debris from the Lion Creek drainage down slope onto Icicle Creek Road.

Ben Burr trail temporarily closed after rock slide

CITY PARKS — A small rock slide has caused Spokane City Parks officials to temporarily close the rail trail  between the new Ben Burr Trailhead at West Liberty Park and the Liberty Aquatic Center entrance off Pittsburg Street.

The rock slide occurred earlier this week near the western end of the Ben Burr trail.  Park staff cleared the trail, but the city Risk Management Department advised that a portion of the trail should be temporarily closed, said parks spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed.

Barricades and caution tape have been set up at each end the closure and near the slide itself. 

Red Mountain skiing ends this weekend, other resorts continue

SKIING — Even though Red Mountain Ski Area received more than 200 cm of snow in March, the resort near Rossland, British Columbia, is closing for the season on Sunday with more new snow in the forecast.

Most resorts are staying open for at least another week.

Posted last day of operations in this region:

49 Degrees North — April 10.

Mt. Spokane — April 10.

Silver Mountain — Splash Down rail jam is April 9. Mountain operations end the 10th, but the resort plans to open on Saturdays through April depending on snow.

Lookout Pass — Slush Cup ends official season on April 10.

Schweitzer — April 10.

Meanwhile in Montana near Missoula:

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the corn-snow stage yet,” said Montana Snowbowl owner Brad Morris, referring to a late-season type of snow that looks like corn kernels. “The temperatures are dropping below freezing every night. We’ve gotten some spring days, but it’s still winter here.”

Snowbowl closed last year with 66 inches of snow at the summit. This year, the summit has about 120 inches, Morris said.

He said the area was staying open until April 17 and was within a few thousand of hitting its record for skier visits

Creepy warning for the outdoor weekender

GETTING OUT — Several Facebook friends have confirmed what I've already experienced:

Tick season has begun.

I don't mind looking like  a dork when I hike, so I don't hesitate to tuck my pant legs into my socks this time of year, especially when hiking the scabland country such as near Fishtrap Lake or Palouse Falls.

Treach the cuffs and collor of your shirt, as well as your hat, with Permethrin, and you're in pretty good shape.

Do a tick check when you get home.  The little buggers don't attach for hours after climbing aboard.

Snake River Dams to begin spilling for salmon, steelhead

FISHERIES — Snake River dams will begin spilling water to help young salmon and steelhead migrate downstream to the ocean. The spills start Sunday at Snake River dams and Monday at four lower Columbia River dams.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the details of its 2011 Spring Fish Operations Plan this week.

“We'll be spilling 24 hours a day, seven days a week at all eight mainstem dams during the out-migration season,” said Rock Peters, the Corps' fish program manager.

The 2011 spring plan, which closely resembles last year's plan, continues operations for fish passage at the Corps' Columbia and lower Snake River dams. It includes spill and flow, adjustments to river operations and transporting juvenile fish beginning in late April or early May.

Some fish are transported to help mitigate the problem of fish mortality as the young steelhead and salmon negotiate the unnatural conditions created by the dams: slack-water reservoirs, dam turbines and ambushing predators.

In 2010, the Corps transported about 35 percent of the spring migrating fish to below Bonneville Dam. 

24 Hours of Schweitzer skiing fundraiser April 1-2

SKIING — The third annual “24 Hours of Schweitzer”  has begun at Schweitzer Mountain Resort to challenge skiers and raise money for a good cause.

The event has been moved further into spring for more daylight hours to rack up the vertical for bragging rights and cystinosis research.

The event will wrap up tomorrow for the weary skiers as well as for other supporters with a banquet and auction.

Read on for details.

March steelhead report for Hanford Reach

FISHING — See what you missed:  Here's the March steelhead fishing report for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia just released by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth.

Read on.

Oregon state park yurts going to the dogs

CAMPING — For the first time, Oregon is making popular yurts and cabins at state parks campgrounds available to visitors with dogs.

The new feature begins next year, but the the state began taking reservations for pet-friendly yurts and cabins starting today.

Read more from this story by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail Tribune. 

Lawmakers plan to forge ahead on lifting wolf protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Although some conservation groups have agreed to settle ongoing litigation over wolf management in the Northern Rockies to keep Congress from acting on legislation to change the Endangered Species Act, Sen. Tester, D-Mont., said he'll press ahead on legislation if congressional action is a faster route to resolution, and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said he remains committed to a bill that would exempt wolves from ESA protection, according to a story by the Idaho Statesman.

Shed antler hunters taking a toll on winter-weary game

WINTERING WILDLIFE — The growth and competition involved with the hobby of shed-antler gathering continues to pose concerns for wildlife managers throughout the West.

Here's a distrubing KATU TV report from Washington's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, a major wintering area for the Yakima elk herd.

The start of spring means a whole new danger for elk. At a time when many animals struggle to re-adjust to life after winter, people's fixation on elk antlers could prove disastrous.

“They can't recover from the stress we put them under and they're more susceptible to disease, to bad weather, and to predators,” said Captain Richard Mann, Fish and Wildlife Police.

This is the time of year when many elk lose their antlers. A pair can easily top $100 on the black market, and it's routine for folks to roam into restricted areas looking for antlers. Often times elk are nearby. As powerful as elk look, they are actually quite fragile.

“When you run them or stress them, they can get so stressed that it actually kills them,” Mann said.

Wildlife officials have found several dead elk this month alone. To combat the problem, a dozen security cameras were recently set up around the Oak Creek feeding station.

Wildlife officials in Washington want to remind everyone that trespassing onto protected land could land you a $200 fine. They say the penalties are stiff because the results are often tragic.

Snowpack thick as last avalanche advisory issued for season

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued its final avlanche advisory of the season this morning even though deep snow still shrouds the region's mountains — and the delayed corn-snow, wet-snow cycle has not yet begun.

Generally, avalanche danger is LOW in the Selkirk Mountains with MODERATE danger found on windloaded aspects steeper than 35 degrees above 5,000 feet. 

The St. Regis Basin region poses more concern and generally MODERATE danger because of rain on the slopes this week.

Be especially wary of wind-loaded and wind-hardened slopes, the advisors say.

Says Eric Morgan, avalanche technician:

The conditions will be dynamic as we will be at or near the freezing mark in the upper elevations. This will likely be the last report of the year so I would like to emphasize the importance of the persistent Martin Luther King Weekend crust that exists deep in the snow pack and to urge you all to watch for if and when the spring temps rise at how much they rise and how much stress is being put on that deep persistent ice crust.

Annual ‘buttercup hike’ Saturday at Dishman Hills

HIKING —  The annual Buttercup Hike, a decade's-old favorite, is set for Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. from Camp Caro. (Head south from Appleway on Sargent Road to the parking area).

Dishman Hills Natural Area Association leader Michael Hamilton plans to give a natural history lesson along the way on this short, strolling walk.

It's a go regardless of weather.

Spring grizzly bear hunt cancelled in Alberta

HUNTINGThe lack of a sustainable population of grizzly bears in Alberta once again prompted the province to cancel a spring grizzly bear hunt, according to todays story in the Calgary Herald.

For the fifth consecutive year, the province's traditional spring grizzly bear hunt is off. Conservation groups are please with the decision, but split on how the province should ensure survival of the species.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers (@SRoutside) Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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