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Outdoors blog

Archive for August 2011

Bulk of steelhead over Bonneville, heading upstream

STEELHEAD FISHING — With 262,300 steelhead reported over Bonneville Dam for this summer run, the counts are subsiding.

Now the fish are pouring upstream.  Even though the fishing has been good in Idaho's Clearwater River — four hours per fish caught — the bulk of the fish have yet to arrive. 

Even last weekend with temperatures over 100 degrees, the Dworshak Dam releases have kept the Clearwater River at 53 -56 degrees.

The big unknown is how much the fish will react when the Dworshak releases subside in the next few days or weeks.

Classic angling books featured in $1.8 million gift to WSU

FISHING HISTORY – English scholars have a new run of information to explore in the Palouse, thanks to a Spokane couple. Washington State University has netted an historic collection of classic angling literature valued at $1.8 million.

The unusually fine collection includes treasures such as a complete set of 19 first editions of Henry Abbot’s privately printed birch books, Oswald Crawfurd’s personal, annotated copy of “The Compleatest Angling Booke,” and a first edition (1653) of Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler.”

“The Compleat Angler” is, along with the Bible, “one of the most popular books ever published in English,” said Trevor James Bond, head of the WSU Libraries’ department of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections.

Joan and Vernon Gallup of Spokane donated the fine catch of more than 15,000 rare books related to angling, natural history and outdoor sports. Get a glimpse of the Gallups and the donated volumes in this short video.

Assembled over decades from American and British dealers, the collection is three times the size of well known angling collections at Princeton University and the University of New Hampshire, WSU officials say.

Standout volumes include 'The Fresh Water Fishes of Great Britain,' by Sarah Bowdich, who ground scales from fish and mixed them in her paints to vividly illustrate her book.

It’s the largest single gift of rare books in the MASC’s 120-year history, putting WSU at the forefront of such collections nationally and internationally, Bond said.

Read on for more details about the collection and a reception honoring the Gallups.

Poet pens ode to hunting season’s Opening Day

HUNTING — On the even of hunting seasons opening for species such as black bear, archery deer, doves and forest grouse, a hunter cooled his jets by writing a poem. He just sent it to me, so here it is to help the rest of you pass the time until shooting hours arrive tomorrow morning.

Read on:

Alaska brown bear finds nose jewelry in tackle box

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A brown bear cub that nosed around in an angler's tackle box stood out in the crowd for a few days along the Chilcoot River near Haines, Alaska.

State Fish and Game biologists caught up with the bear, tranquilized it and removed the treble hook of a Pixie lure from the little guy's nostril last week.

Read Anchorage Daily News story.

Airway Heights couple named state parks ‘Hosts of the Year’

STATE PARKS — An Airway Heights couple has been named the state park system's “Hosts of the Year” in the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission's 2010 Volunteer Recognition Awards for outstanding volunteer service.

John and Darlene Lundstrum stood out in during their second year as park hosts at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.

In addition to doing general host duties, they helped in the ground breaking of the new amphitheater, delivered sand to the day-use beach, repaired park mowers and developed an equipment usage board. They organized a volunteer cleanup at Camp Delaney Environmental Learning Center (ELC) and developed a safe way to move the heavy grills at the center. At Dry Falls Visitor Center, they developed and constructed garbage receptacle lids that are functional and keep birds and raccoons out. They primed and painted the ELC restroom exterior and helped with the Flood Fest event at Dry Falls, where Darlene Lundstrom dressed as “Eager Beaver” to hand out items to children and visitors.

Last year, volunteers performed 313,461 hours of work, equal to 150 full-time employees.

Washington lands $4.6 million in federal fisheries habitat grants

FISHERIES — The Inland Northwest netted millions for fish and wildlie habitat restoration from a total of $53 million grants recently awarded from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund primarily aimed at boosting endangered species.

States must contribute a minimum match of 25 percent of the estimated program costs of approved projects, or 10 percent when two or more states or territories implement a joint project.

In Washington, state partners will receive $4.6 million in grants benefiting dozens of species.

The Eastern Washington projects include:

  • Methow Watershed, $3.5 million, for Phase 8, in Okanogan County, Wash., to secure 2,700 acres and additional stream frontage protecting spawning and rearing habitat for listed salmonids, landscape corridors for listed carnivores and their mule deer prey, and habitat for at least 23 at-risk species covered by the Plum Creek Habitat Conservation Plan.
  • Northern Blue Mountains Bull Trout Recovery, $712,650,  (Asotin and Columbia counties) to conserve bull trout habitat through a combination of land acquisition and conservation easements on at least five key properties totaling 2,872 acres along the northern rim of the Umatilla National Forest in both the Touchet River and Asotin Creek watersheds. These efforts will also protect important winter range for populations of elk and deer in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington, thereby providing the primary food source for natural re-colonization by gray wolves.

Western Montana partners landed $4 million for funding a conservation easement on 9,300 acres of the Stimson Forestlands Conservation Project in Missoula County to benefit fish and wildlife.

See a complete list of the National 2011 grant awards under these programs.

Website helps hunters learn to distinguish black bears from griz

BIG GAME HUNTNG — Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through a new interactive program on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

The site includes information on how to identify black bears and grizzly bears, and gives hunters a chance to test their identification skills. 

  • Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.
  • Black bears are classified as a game species.

“This test was developed to help black bear hunters be sure of their targets,” said Dana Base, a WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist. “We encourage hunters to test their knowledge about the two species before going afield.”

Hunting season for black bear opens Sept. 1 in several areas of the state, including the northeast district, where hunters sometimes encounter grizzly bears.

That district spans Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties and includes game management units 101-121.

Up to 50 grizzlies are estimated to roam the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington, North Idaho and southeastern British Columbia.  Less than a dozen are believed to roam the North Cascades of northcentral Washington and southcentral British Columbia.

Wave of hunting seasons kick off in September

HUNTING — Fall is in the air, and hunters are gearing up for the woods.

Although black bear seasons already have opened in some areas of Washington, Sept. 1 it the big kick-off day for bears hunting in notheastern Washington along with mourning dove hunting and forest grouse seasons in much of Washington and Idaho.

Archery big-game seasons also are opening throughout the region. Idaho's wolf season opened Tuesday.

In Montana, the general season to hunt black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose begins Sept. 15. The general hunting season for antelope begins Oct. 8, followed by the general season for deer and elk on Oct. 22.

Dove hunters: non-toxic shot required a some state areas

HUNTING — Starting this season, hunters are required to use non-toxic shot in their ammunition while hunting any type of birds at 29 pheasant release sites in Eastern Washington.

Please note if you are a dove hunter who will be looking for birds near these designated areas when the mourning dove season opens Thursday.

The first state-land non-toxic shot requirements in Eastern Washington were enacted last year near Pasco, where hunters of pheasants, quail and partridge as well as mourning doves in three units of the Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife were no longer are allowed to use lead shot.

This year’s East Side restrictions at pheasant release sites are the latest in the state’s phase out of lead for hunting and fishing uses.

It was a federal rule that banned lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting nation-wide starting in 1986.

Banks Lake drawdown attracts shorebird watchers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The drawdown of Banks Lake for spillway construction that will last into next year is a pain for boaters (see post below), but it's considered an opportunity for birdwatchers. 

The drawdown is exposing muddy banks that are attracting shorebirds.

Although better viewing is expected as the heatwave deteriorates, here's a Banks Lake birding report from a recent outing by Doug Schonewald of Moses Lake:

There were a plethora of shorebirds at the marina at Coulee City, mostly Westerns, Least, and a few Bairds. There is so much lakeshore exposed that it is hard to decide where to look for shorebirds, especially since the water has not been drawn down to this level in nearly 20-years. It should only get better in the next few weeks.

Steamboat Rock had a few migrants. MacGillivrays, Wilson, Chipping Sparrows, the like. Nothing rare, but enough to keep up interest.

Banks Lake drawdown dewaters Steamboat launches

BOATING — Coulee Playland Resort still offers boat access to Banks Lake, but travelers planning to spend Labor Day weekend at Steamboat Rock State Park may not be able to launch their boat as water levels have dropped too low.

The lake is being drawn down to accommodate a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation repair of the headworks at Dry Falls Dam in Coulee City.
 
By Labor Day, the lake is expected to be down by 10 to 15 feet from traditional summer water levels, and traditional water levels may not return until March 2012.
 
The main launch area at Steamboat Rock is blocked by sand and is unusable. The Osborn Bay launch is usable by four-wheel drive vehicles only.
 
Lou Nevsimal of Coulee Playland Resort at Electric City said they have a shallow ramp that's working for boaters willing to back into the water to their vehicle bumpers.
 
The resort's deep-water ramp should be accessible by Friday, he said today. 
 
“The water's dropping six inches a day,” he said. “That means our deep ramp should be exposed by Wednesday and then we need a couple days for the approach to dry out enough to let people drive on it.”
 
Near Coulee City, some boaters are negotiating an extremely long backup to launch off an old gravel road bed.
“I don't recommended that for launching a boat of any substantial weight,” Nevsimal said. “I wouldn't launch my boat there.”

Washington wolf plan hearing attracts testimony from 75 citizens

ENDANGERED SPECIES — About 75 members of the public turned out for the special Fish and Wildlife Commission hearing on the proposed Washington wolf recovery plan in Ellensburg on Monday.

Click here to read the Associated Press report.  It has a few strange errors, such as referring the commission vice chair Gary Douvia as Gary Donna.  But the story presents a glimpse of the discussions the state is encountering.

Idaho ends chukar survey flights that gave hunters forecast of season

BIRD HUNTING — The last good barometer Snake River region hunters have had on the hatching success of upland birds has ended. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will no longer conduct aerial chukar surveys, the agency has announced.

The agency has conducted annual chukar surveys since the mid-1980s primarily to provide a ‘forecast’ for the upcoming season. The data was not biological data used to set seasons, officials said in a press release.

Washington ended it's aerial chukar surveys in the 90s, mostly for reasons of expense.

The flights were axed after the officials scrutinized the agency's use of aerial surveys following a fatal helicopter accident last year along the Clearwater River last year that killed two fisheries biologists and the pilot. Several aerila surveys have been eliminated after a review was conducted to assess risk and cost in relation to value of biological information collected

Since 1984, Fish and Game biologists conducted helicopter surveys in late August or early September along a portion of Brownlee and Lucky Peak reservoirs to monitor chukar population trends.  The surveys laster expanded to other portions of the Snake and Salmon rivers.

The surveys offered sportsmen useful general trends in the fall population.

Without the surveys, biologists will rely more on collecting wings from harvested birds to obtain an index to production and estimate harvest from annual hunter harvest surveys.

Neighbors gather to discuss forest health near High Drive bluffs

URBAN FORESTS — Residents interested in Spokane’s High Drive bluff — the trails and the neighborhoos —  are invited to participate in a discussion of forest health for the area on Wednesday (Aug. 31).

Last spring, community members identified fire risk abatement as a high priority for the Bluff. This workshop will focus on a plan for reducing fire risk on the Bluff and for neighboring homes.

The workshop will be held at the Rocket Market at 726 E 43rd Ave from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will include a description of the proposed forest health plan, plus a question and answer session.

Join in the discussion, enjoy a no-host beverage with neighbors, and learn how you can get involved in the project!

For planning purposes, please RSVP to Diana Roberts at WSU Spokane County Extension, phone (509) 477-2167 or E-mail robertsd@wsu.edu.
  

Video: Hikers enjoy company of Scotchman Peak goats

The Mountain Goats of Scotchman Peak from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — We teased you earlier, but now North Idaho videographer Bob Legasa has completed his short feature on the pleasures and personalities you might meet after making a hard 7-mile round-trip hike up Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Enjoy the video, and please notice a couple of things.

  • The hikers did not feed the mountain goats.
  • The hikers kept their dog under control.

Legasa posted the “mountain goat etiquette” tips for hikers at the end, courtesy of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Help stop vehicle vandalism along Centennial Trail, Spokane River

TRAILHEADS — Vandalism to cars parked at Centennial Trail parking lots and boating access sites continues to be a problem. 

Paddlers report a smash (a window) and grab incident at Mirabeau Park over the weekend, although they said nothing of value was taken.

Dealing with these opportunistic low-life theives is much like preventing damage by raccoons and other vermin: Don't leave and “food” out. 

In otherwords, it's not enough to make sure nothing “valuable” is left in your vehicle at a trailhead.

Make sure that nothing at all tempting is visible through the windows to entice a creep into a smash and grab incident.

Kalispell Tribe calls Pend Oreille pike ‘disaster’ to native fisheries

INVASIVE FISHERIES — The Kalispell Tribe's top Fish and Wildlife official called it like he sees it in a presentation on the invasion of northern pike into the Pend Oreille River. He was speaking this month to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Deane Osterman, the tribe’s executive director for Natural Resources, said that the introduction of northern pike to Box Canyon Reservoir has quickly become “a long-term disaster to our native fisheries.”

A story by the Columbia Basin Bulletin detail's Osterman's presentation and reasoning behind the Northeast Washington tribe's effort to turn back a wave of invasive northern pike that has devastated local fish populations. Joining the concern of state and federal biologist, Osterman warns that other areas of the Columbia River basin could suffer the same consequence — and salmon and steelhead runs could be impacted.

Referring to the Columbia's confluence with the Okanogan River, he said;

“That particular piece of water is ideal as well” for nonnative pike to flourish, Osterman said. If pike got a foothold there, they very well could tarnish salmon recovery investments made by the Bonneville Power Administration and channeled through the Council to the Colville Tribes. BPA funds the NPCC’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program as mitigation for impact of the federal Columbia-Snake river hydro system on fish and wildlife.

Hunters warned about stumbling into marijuana plots

HUNTING– Elk hunters heading to the Blue Mountains are being warned to stay off the grass.

Enforcement agents last week busted a 25,000-plant growing operation in the Eckler Unit of the Blues Mountains southeast of Dayton, according to the Tri-Cities Herald.

Hikers who use trails are not likely to see the hidden plots of the illegal product.  But hunters who often bushwhack to find game are more likely to stumble into plots, where trouble could occur.

The  Seattle Times last week published an in-depth story on illegal marijuana growing operations on tribal lands in the Northwest.

Another recent bust occurred in Clackamas County, Oregon, and just this week a bust on plants totaling $25 million occurred on private timberlands in Northeast Oregon, the second of the year in Wallowa County, according to Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

93-year-old woman crowned winner in Alaska fishing derby

SALMON FISHING — Lenore Groundwater, 93, who lives in a retirement home in Green Valley, Ariz., recently reeled in a 16.58-pound silver salmon — her son netted the fish, but all involved say Lenore hooked it and reeled it in — to win the one-day derby in Valdez, Alaska.

She topped a field of 789 to win $1,000 plus a bunch of prizes, including the silver tiara annually awarded to the winner of the popular just-for-women derby, now in its seventh year.

Check out the video as Groundwater drew laughs, cheers and applause at the awards ceremony when she was crowned queen of the derby Saturday night at the Valdez Civic Center.

Asked if she was enjoying the attention, she replied, “Well, it’s probably not helping my high blood pressure.”

Asked which is more important when fishing, luck or skill, she answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Luck,” she said, bringing down the house, and then adding, “And that’s the same thing about living so old.”

Read on for more of a great fishing story from the AP.

Idaho salmon, steelhead harvest seasons opening - up to 6 kings a day!

FISHING — The steelhead harvest season and the fall chinook season open on Idaho rivers on Thursday.  The eye-catching news it that the limit on fin-clipped adult fall chinook is six a day!

Read on for the season details for chinook and steelhead from Idaho Fish and Game.

Spokane-area trail work projects fall into place

VOLUNTEERING OUTDOORS — Helpers are needed for two reconstruction projects on popular trails near Spokane this month.

The Washington Trails Association is coordinating the work as follows:

Mount Spokane, Sept. 1 and 15 – the last of several Thursday work parties on re-routes of trails popular with hikers and equestrians.

Iller Creek, Sept. 17, 18, 24, 25 and Oct. 15-16 – Rerouting 1,000 feet of trail around a nasty steep rutted section in the prized Conservation Futures area on the east side of Tower Mountain.

The work qualifies toward credit for free Discover Passes, said local WTA trail work crew leader Jane Baker.

Sign up for the work parties online.

Record number of rescues logged in Tetons

MOUNTAINEERING —  Major searches and rescues at Grand Teton National Park hit a single-year record last week.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that park officials aren’t sure yet why there were so many rescues this year.

The record was eclipsed Aug. 20 when climber Lauren McLean of Lake Oswego, Ore., became the 31st major rescue since the park’s fiscal year began Oct. 1. McLean fell 20 to 30 feet because her belay system failed.

The busy year started right away for the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers. Twelve major rescues were performed during the winter and early spring months.

Full-time ranger Chris Harder told the newspaper rangers normally perform three to four major rescues during the winter.

Michigan man killed in Yellowstone’s second 2011 griz fatality

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In July, Yellowstone Park reported the first human fatality in 25 years from a grizzly bear attack.

Now there are two in a single season.

Yellowstone National Park officials say a grizzly bear killed a 59-year-old Michigan man whose body was found by hikers last week, according to the Associated Press.

The victim was identified Monday as John Wallace of Chassell, Mich.

Wallace’s body was discovered along a trail about five miles from the nearest trailhead. Results of an autopsy released Monday concluded Wallace died as a result of traumatic injuries from a bear attack.

It is the second time a visitor to the park has been killed by a bear this year.

Investigators were not immediately sure whether the grizzly caused the man’s death or disturbed his body after he died.

“Bears are opportunistic when it comes to food sources,” Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said earlier. “It’s very clear that there was a bear around the victim’s body. What we don’t know is whether this was a bear attack, or whether the bear came upon this man’s body after he died.”

Authorities say the man likely died Wednesday or Thursday. His death comes after a female bear attacked and killed a 57-year-old California man on the popular Wapiti Lake Trail, several miles away from where the Michigan man was discovered Friday.

The female bear that killed the California man was not killed because officials said the sow was only defending its cubs and had not threatened humans before.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk has said that the hiker was found with a snack bar in his closed backpack, but that it appears the grizzly did not try to get at the food.

Washington’s Discover Pass inconvenience discussed

STATE LANDS — A bipartisan collection of 49 Washington state legislators is siding with state lands users who don't like the complexity of the new Discover Pass parking access requirements for state parks andother state lands.

Two weeks ago, 35 representatives and 14 senators signed and sent a letter asking Washington State Parks director Don Hoch, state wildlife director Phil Anderson and public lands commissioner Peter Goldmark to “refrain from enforcement of the current agency interpretation of non-transferability” until the issue could be readdressed in the 2012 legislative session.

That's silly, since they should know that the law the Washington Legislature passed this spring requires those state agencies to enforce the $30 annual pass.

But it sends a signal that some work needs to be done to improve the system, primarily the restriction prohibiting that pass from being valid for more than one vehicle.

Read on for a more detailed report from Scott Sandsbury of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Skeeters with West Nile virus found in eastern Idaho

OUTDOOR HAZARDS — Officials in eastern Idaho’s Gem County say mosquitoes collected this week tested positive for West Nile virus. 

This follows a report in mid-August that the virus was found in a Mosquito near Yakima.

Idaho's Gem County Mosquito Abatement District director Jason Kinley says a small number of mosquitoes are infected. The district is treating any standing water that is producing mosquitoes and spraying to control adult mosquitoes.

 West Nile virus is a mosquito and bird disease. Animals and people can be infected when bitten by a female mosquito infected with the virus. 

Kinley says because it’s so late in the season, it’s not likely the virus will spread throughout the district before cold weather kills the insects.

According to the Center for Disease Control:

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus show no symptoms, while about 10 percent develop West Nile fever. Less than 1 percent suffer an infected brain or spinal cord.

Montana grizzly bears relocated after killing chickens

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Montana wildlife officials trapped two grizzly bears responsible for killing more than 100 chickens at a residence south of Glacier National Park and relocated them about 20 miles away, near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialist Tim Manley told KCFW-TV that this year’s late snowpack is responsible for an increase in human/bear encounters. Manley says in a normal year, he captures and relocates about 15 bears. Through Thursday, that number stood at 11.

The bears relocated on Thursday killed the chickens at a residence near Lake Five.

Manley says with fall approaching, people need to be careful about what they leave outside. He also asks people to notify wildlife officials if bears are hanging around their property before they become a problem.

Okanogan-Wenatchee forests reschedule “webinar” on manement plan revisions

NATIONAL FORESTS — The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests have rescheduled the Aug.18 Forest Plan Revision webinar — cancelled by technical difficulty — for Thursday (Sept. 1) from noon to 1:30 p.m. The webinar for the Colville Forest plan revision has already been held.

Thursday's webinar is a toll-free online informational public meeting to provide opportunities for the public to learn about the Draft Proposed Actions for the Forest Plan Revision.

The webinar will include a 20-minute overview of the Draft Proposed Actions, plus time for clarifying questions and responses.

The purpose of the webinar is to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about Forest Service proposals for long-term management of the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. The Forest Service will also explain how you can submit written comments on the proposals, how your comments will be used, and about future opportunities for public involvement.

To participate, you must pre-register here.

Direct further questions to Debbie Kelly, Forest Plan Revision Public Affairs Lead, email r6_ewzplanrevision@fs.fed.us.
  

Steelhead fishing tips for staying ‘legal’

STEELHEAD FISHING — Catching a steelhead on the Snake or Clearwater rivers is a lot more fun when the experience isn't marred by getting a ticket.  Here are some reminders to keep your fishing a memorable experience:
  • Make sure you have a valid fishing license and steelhead permit.
  • Pinch barbs on hooks.
  • Record catch-and-keep on steelhead cards.
  • Immediately release steelhead that haven’t had their adipose fin clipped (hatchery steelhead are marked by having their fin clipped).
  • Know the difference between a steelhead and a salmon. If the fish you caught has black gum lines and a black tongue, it’s a fall chinook salmon. Check rules carefully about the potential for keeping salmon in limited seasons.

The region’s whackin’ and stackin’ griz this year

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The recent news about charges pending against a North Idaho Man for the May 8 killing of a grizzly bear in his yards wasn't an isolated case.

The region had a virtual grizzly killing spree in May as two grizzly bears also were shot and killed in western Montana, according to a story by The Missoulian.

An antler hunter shot a sow grizzly bear — orphaning two cubs — in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

In a separate incident, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Management Program said a 2-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed by a Ronan-area landowner as it went after his chickens.

Grizzly bears are a threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act. They are among the rarest species in the region.

The young grizzly shot near Ronan was the fourth bear lost from the Flathead Indian Reservation's grizzly population in 10 months due to grizzly-chicken encounters.

Bucks looking ragged as they shed velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Whitetail bucks are making that transition from growing velevet-covered antlers to hardened racks that will play into their stature for breeding.

Outdoor photographers Jaime and Lisa Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., keep track of such things. 

Check out their gallery.

Idaho wolf hunting season opens Tuesday; nonresident tags marked down

HUNTING — Idaho's second wolf season in history opens Tuesday, and it's a bargain for nonresidents.

Last month, the state Fish and Game Commission reduced the price of non-resident wolf tags to $31.75 to encourage more hunters to buy them.

Sales of resident and nonresident tags are down significantly from the first season, which was held two years ago.

There’s no quota on wolves this time around in most units controlled trapping will be allowed.

Idaho Fish and Game has all the details at its website here.

  

Prosecutor releases details of North Idaho grizzly killing case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas has sent a letter to media outlets with his account of the May 8 grizzly bear shooting that has resulted in federal charges against Jeremy Hill, 33, of Porthill, Idaho.

Douglas said neither he nor the Idaho Fish ad Game Department was involved in filing charges against Hill and makes the case that Hill never should have been charged.

Click continue reading below to see Douglas's letter, released this afternoon, and details on the case he said he's learned from interviews with IFG officers and the Hill family.

For background:

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story — at least until more details are revealed from the investigation.

Court rejects appeal to put Idaho, Montana wolf hunts on hold

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request by environmental groups to halt wolf hunts that are scheduled to begin next week in Idaho and Montana, the Associated Press reports.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other groups. The groups were seeking to cancel the hunts while the court considers a challenge to congressional action in April that stripped wolves of federal protections in Montana and Idaho, and in parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula reluctantly upheld a budget rider that was inserted by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. It marked the first time since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 that Congress forcibly removed protections from a plant or animal.

Read on for more details.

Crews trying to get handle on western wildfires

PUBLIC LANDS —  Fire crews dug in to gain control over some of the largest wildfires in the West Friday, taking advantage of a break in the weather before hot temperatures and gusty winds return over the weekend.

However, a Wednesday thunderstorm started 18 new fires in the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forests of Idaho.

Almost 3,000 firefighters are working dozens of blazes that flared up in recent days in forests and shrubland in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. Active fires in those states have scorched almost 175,000 acres. That’s about 270 square miles.

Read on for more details from the Associated Press and staff reports; click here for information on large fires around the nation.

Lucky sucker sets Idaho fishing record on SF Snake River

FISHING — A fly-fisher is taking a ribbing from his buddies, but he can stand tall in his waders for making the Idaho state fishing records with a 25-inch long Utah sucker weighing 7 pounds, 13.8 ounces. 

Rick Thompson, 47, of Idaho Falls caught the fish Saturday on the South Fork of the Snake River with a No. 18 Pheasant Tail nymph, according to a story by Rob Thornberry in the Idaho Falls Post Register.

He thought he was stalking the brown trout of his dreams.

Read on for the details from Thornberry's fish story.

Jet boat races to roar on Snake River this weekend

RIVER RUNNING — The jet boats are coming!

Boating enthusiasts are being advised that ON SHORE is going to be the safest place along the Snake River in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. this weekend.

Some of the fastest boats in the world will be traveling up and down the Snake River this weekend as jet boat races return to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

Participants are expected to reach speeds up to 130 mph as they race from Hells Gate State Park to Bear Bar in Hells Canyon.

Read on for details in a report from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Video hints at rewards of hiking up Scotchman Peak

Scotchman Peak Teaser from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — Bob Legasa, the North Idaho videographer best known for footage of hotdog skiers getting air and breaking pow, is working on a video of the critters he met on his recent hike to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Here's his teaser.  I'll let you know when the finished product is out.

Scotchman Friends print cards to educate hikers about mountain goats

HIKING — Mountain goats continue to make friendly appearances to reward hikers who make the steep 7-mile round trip to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness would like to see that great relationship continue, but they've learned for experts that even docile-looking mountain goats can become unpredictable and dangerous if humans spoil them.

Read and heed the etiquette so nicely summarized on the card. 

And enjoy mountain goats wherever you find them.

The Friends are handing out the goat cards at the Bonner County Fair!
  

Catch-and-keep chinook fishing starts Sept. 1 on Snake

SALMON FISHING —Anglers in Washington waters will be able to keep hatchery chinook salmon caught on the Snake River starting Thursday (Sept. 1) through Oct. 31, the Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

The Washington season coincides with the Idaho catch-and-keep season for fin-clipped chinook.

Washington's open area is upstream from the mouth of the Snake River, beginning at the south-bound lanes of the Highway 12 Bridge (near Pasco) to the Oregon State line (about 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Wildlife officials are expecting the largest return of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia and Snake rivers in years. The large return should allow fishing for adult chinook along the entire length of the Snake River, said Glen Mendel of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Dayton. 

“This is the first year that we've been able to open the entire Snake River,” said Mendel, who is the district fishery management biologist. The forecast is for 60,000 to 80,000 fish passing by Lower Granite Dam with up to 30,000 of those being jacks, or immature fish, he said.

Read on for more details.

Triploid trout fishery below Chief Joseph Dam to close early

FISHING — The special fishery for triploid rainbow trout below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River will close Aug. 26 at midnight, five days earlier than initially announced.

State fishery managers decided to close the fishery to minimize the risk to wild steelhead moving into the area, said Jeff Korth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fishery manager.

The special fishery, launched to remove triploid trout that escaped from a net-pen facility on Rufus Woods Reservoir in June, was originally scheduled to run through Aug. 31.

Triploid trout are “voracious” eaters and can pose a threat to juvenile steelhead, many of which listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, Korth said.

“Just as we’d hoped, anglers caught hundreds of runaway triploids over the past few weeks,” Korth said. “But now, with increasing numbers of steelhead passing Wells Dam, we decided it was time to close the fishery.”

During the triploid fishery, anglers were required to release any steelhead they intercepted, said Korth, noting that creel checkers found no steelhead in the catch.

“Anglers demonstrated they could distinguish a steelhead from a triploid trout and were diligent about releasing the few steelhead encountered during the fishery,” he said.

The triploid fishery has been open since Aug. 1 on a 17-mile stretch of the Columbia River between the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport.

Recent Selkirk region human-caused grizzly deaths recounted

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Further clarification from today's outdoors column on the case of a North Idaho facing federal charges for shooting a grizzly bear in his yard on May 8.

2007 was a notably bad year for Selkirk grizzlies.

  • One was killed by indiscriminant hunters northeast of Sullivan Lake near Pass Creek Pass. They were from Moses Lake and were later prosecuted in Spokane.
  • One grizzly that wandered far south was killed by a black bear hunter near Kelly Creek.
  • Another grizzly was killed that year near Priest River. That bear had become addicted to human food after a photographer essentially baited the animal for better pictures.

Readers are pointing out that a Rose Lake elk rancher killed a grizzly that reportedly was harassing his animals two years ago. Apparently he was given permission to shoot a black bear threatening his elk, but it turned out to be a grizzly. I’ll need to check on the resolution of that case.

Biologists react to photo of two-mouth trout

FLY FISHING — I posted the explanation for this photo of a two-mouth cutthroat trout caught Saturday by fly fisher Jay Kirchner in my blog earlier in the week.

Here's the reaction from two North Idaho fisheries biologists, indicating the rarity of the catch — and release.

“Never heard of such a thing!”

Jim Fredericks, IFG Panhandle Region fishery manager

“That looks like damage due to hooking disfiguration. I've seen this before, but never to that degree.

“Very rarely, we've documented two headed fish in hatcheries, but those fish look considerably different than that cutthroat trout.”

Joe DuPont, IFG Clearwater Region fisheries manager, formerly the field biologist who conducted definitive studies of Coeur d'Alene River cutthroats.

“I have seen fish like this while doing electrofishing surveys, in several rivers. In most cases I believe the deformity is due to a severe hooking injury, but there are other possible explanations (pretty sure in most cases it's the result of an injury and not a genetic deformity). It's not really a second mouth, but the separation of the tissue that connects the jaw with the gular (tongue) structure. Remarkably, these fish are often healed up and in pretty good condition in many cases.”

Chip Corsi, IFG Panhandle Region manager and fisheries biologist. 

Idaho sets fall waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 107-day waterfowl season for 2011-2012 during its meeting Wednesday.

A youth hunt was set for Sept. 24-25.

Read on for other details of bag limits and other seasons that begin in October.

Discover Pass sales net (only) $2.9 million so far

STATE LANDS — During the first six weeks of sales, Washington’s new Discover Pass raised $2,914,434 to support state parks and other state recreation lands, the state Parks and Recreation Commission reported Wednesday.

That leaves much to be desired in making up for the $65 million loss in general fund support to state recreation lands.

Sales include $1,008,469 during July collected by state parks and another $1,905,965 made through the Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD) managed by Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) through a private business vendor.

Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director, said those sales are critical to the future of state parks, which must now rely on user fees and donations to cover costs. WDFW and the state Department of Natural Resources also receive a percentage of those fees to maintain public access to lands they manage.

“And we are optimistic that sales will continue to grow to help fund our state recreation lands,” he said.

Read on for more details and comments.

Oregon gets fishing bait makers to limit use of harmful chemical

FISHING — Should the manufacturers of artificial fishing baits and egg cures use a chemical that kills small fish?

Seems like a no-brainer, but Oregon is the first state in the region to deal with the issue

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement last week with fish bait manufacturers to limit, but not end, their use of sodium sulfite, a popular preservative that's been found to be lethal to small fish in high doses.
 
Upon final approval, all cures manufactured for sale in Oregon after Oct. 1 must have a reduced level of sodium sulfite. Products will be labeled “meets Oregon guidelines.”
 
Read on for the rest of the story by Bill Monroe of the Oregonian.

Scotchman Friends educating hikers about mountain goats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mountain goat watching has become an attraction luring hikers up the significantly steep 7-mile round trip to the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Unfortunately, some hikers are urinating on the mountain top and making food available to the goats. Goats are attracted to the salt in urine and can become aggressive in defending their “salt licks.” They also can become dangerous with their sharp horns if they become addicted to human food. 

Considering the number of hikers climbing up the peak nowadays, the cumulative effect of these actions could lead to a goat's demise.

NOTE:  An aggressive mountain goat gored and killed a hiker in Olympic National Park last fall. The goat as killed by rangers. The family has just filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against the park…. you can see how serious this gets.

The Friends of of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recognize the threat to their iconic goats, so they're posting signs — see pdf document with this post — and asking Scotchman visitors to act in the best interest of the goats.

“There is an increase in the number of goats, mostly younger, who are hanging around the top of Scotchman Peak,” said Phil Hough of the Friends group. “We're not sure if it's been a successfull couple years for goat reproduction, or if word has gotten out in the goat “social circles” that there are “yahoos” willing to do stupid things like feed them.

“We're trying to get the word out to leave them alone.  Just this week, our summer intern, Lauren Mitchell, finished a Goat Education Poster. We'll be displaying it at trail heads and events. 

Read on for some of the tips the poster offers for mountain goat encounters.
  


Documents:

Grizzly bear case good political stage for Idaho politicians

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An Idaho state senator from Sandpoint and now Gov. Butch Otter have stepped up to chastise the feds for prosecuting a Porthill-area man for illegally shooting a grizzly bear.

This is about as politically risky in Idaho as saying American citizens have the right to bear arms.

But the facts of the case have not been disclosed. There might be a few other details to consider.

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story.

Federal wildlife agents probably couldn’t win a popularity contest in hell, but the jury’s still out on whether they should be condemned for doing their job.

Monster chinook caught, released off Vancouver Island

SALMON FISHING — A salmon big enough to feed the Seattle Seahawks was caught and released off the Queen Charlotte Islands last weekend.

Chris Lewis broke the Queen Charlotte Lodge's 10-year-old record with a king that topped 84 pounds on Saturday.

Lewis was fishing with lodge guide Derek Poitras along the kelp beds just east of Klashwun Point when both rods went off in a matter of seconds, according to the lodge's website.

While Lewis played his fish, fishing partner Stephen Mason played and boated a hefty 31 pound king.

After a half-hour battle — the guides recognized quickly by the “shoulders” that the fish as extraordinary — the chinook was measured at 51.5-inches long, 35-inches in girth for a for a score of 84.12 pounds.

It was photographed, appreciated, and released.

Anglers set all-time record steelhead harvest on lower Columbia

FISHING — The estimated 9,800 hatchery summer steelhead kept on the lower Columbia River so far this month — through Aug. 22 — is an all time record not just for August but for any month since at least 1969, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just reported. 

The previous record of 8,549 steelhead was set last month. 

A good run along with river flows that are higher and cooler than normal appear to be favoring the anglers.

MEANTIME, about 30,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. They're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.  Anglers are enjoying good catches of steelhead in Idaho's Clearwater River.

And, as the graph above shows, the big numbers are yet to come.

Volunteers tackle weeds on South Hill bluff trails tonight

TRAILS — Hikers and bikers are attracted to the trails on the South Hill bluff below High Drive — and so are noxious weeds!

Consider joining the group of volunteers donating some time to help manage the weed problem with a little muscle power.

The group met last week and the project continues TONIGHT.

Meet at 6:30 pm at Polly Judd Park at 1732 West 14th Ave. At 8 pm we will adjourn to the Rocket Market (or somewhere you suggest) for a beverage and to socialize!

“This week we will cut spotted knapweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use,” said facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU County Extension. “We will create a demonstration area that will be sprayed with herbicide next spring to impede weed growth along the trail.”

Bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers, and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire.
 
Info: Diana Roberts, (509) 477-2167 or email robertsd@wsu.edu.

Washington wolf plan hearing Aug. 29 in Ellensburg

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Planning that started in 2007 for dealing with the movement of gray wolves into Washington is inching closer to a conclusion.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has scheduled a special meeting to will hold a special meeting to continue its review of the the state's Final Environmental Impact Statement/Recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and the public is invited to comment.

According to the agenda released yesterday, the wolf briefing by Fish and Wildlife Department staffers will begin at 9 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Quality Inn & Conference Center, 1700 Canyon Rd. in  Ellensburg on Monday, August 29, followed by a public input opportunity.

The public comment opportunity will come at the end of the afternoon portion of the meeting, which begins at 1 p.m.

The Commission plans to hold additional special meetings on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 in Olympia to continue discussing the FEIS/Plan and hear public comment.

Commission meeting agendas, background materials and additional information will be available for viewing on the Commission’s web page.

Click here to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website dedicated to the plan for dealing with wolves in Washington.

Trees to be cut off McDowell Lake levy

PUBLIC LANDS —  The dikes and levies along the Coeur d'Alene River near North Idaho College and along Lewiston aren't the only areas where trees are scheduled to be cut by order of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The trees and woody vegetation is scheduled to be cut along the dike at McDowell Lake starting this fall, said officials at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

The corps said the trees and brush must be cut to protect the integrity of the levies and reduce the possibility of major failures.

New elk bowhunting rules cost Montana millions of dollars

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 2011 archery elk permit drawing results are in, and for some it was a day of reward and excitement. For others there was disappointment in not drawing a permit for this year. For Montana it was an economic bloodletting.

The details are spelled out in an op-ed piece published in the Missoulian by Mac Minard, executive director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

“More than $16 million in economic activity has been lost due to residents and nonresidents who wanted to archery hunt in Montana but could not draw the permit. Limitations on permits are not based on conservation concerns, as all of the hunting districts involved are either at or over published population objectives for elk.

“In 2008, in a very controversial decision, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided to move from unlimited to limited archery elk permits for the Missouri Breaks. The rationale given included a number of factors, none of which had to do with abundance (or lack) of elk as populations are larger than desired. This action spurred a furious debate, but in the end it passed with no one really knowing what the impact would be.

“Then in 2010 the commission further reduced archery hunting opportunity in 22 additional hunting districts where elk were at or over the management objective. Taken together, 29 hunting districts, or 36 percent of the land mass of Montana, are now managed under a limited permit system. All of them enjoy an abundance of elk.

“Now, in 2011, we find that 1,854 resident hunters and 1,989 nonresidents, who had already obtained hunting licenses, put in for archery permits but were not drawn. These 3,843 hunters would have come to rural Montana to hunt and would have spent money on motels, restaurants, travel and incidentals that provides desperately needed economic activity and benefits families in communities that are struggling financially.”

Read on for more of Minard's commentary.

Going wild: A chat with biologists is never dull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I had a chance to soak in some of the conversation recently when a handful of wildlife biologists gathered around a picnic table for dinner at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

And I was all ears.

The “bat lady” told of how she was installing new equipment to monitor bat sounds at night and help determine what species are flying around parts of the refuge in the night.

Bird talk dominated the session. 

Did you know that mountain quail stand out among western birds because the female lays eggs in two nests? The male incubates one nest of eggs while the female incubates the other. If they're both successful, they bring their broods together.

Most of the woodpeckers, however, share the job of incubation. The female deposits the eggs in the nest and she and the male trade off shifts every eight hours or so.

Across the bird world, males are more likely to assume the job of incubating the eggs, as in penguins.

Fly fisher had two chances to catch two-face fish in CdA River

FLY FISHING — Jay Kirchner was fly fishing on the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River Saturday morning when he hooked a scrappy cutthroat trout.

It hit an Elk Hair Caddis on the surface,” he said. “There was nothing odd about the strike or the fight except that when I could see it during the fight it looked odd. It wasn't until I got it in the net that I saw the fish had two mouths,” he added, swearing he wasn't fishing up in the Selkirk Mountains at Two Mouth Lakes. 

“I laid it out on the shore for a quick picture, then set it loose again. The cutthroat happily swam off.

“Apparently the fish are so aggressive that some have decided to grow a second mouth to aid in their insect attacks!”

Although the photo is sharp, it's not clear whether the lower mouth is a deformity from the egg or whether it's the healed result of suffering hooking damage as a young fish.   Any ideas out there?

Kirchner is the public information officer for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in Coeur d'Alene.

Forest Service to sell maps, permits at North Idaho Fair

PUBLIC LANDS — Visitors to the North Idaho Fair, which opens Wednesday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, will enjoy one-stop shopping for national forest items such as maps and permits.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ booth, located in Building 1, will sell the following items from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday:

  • Visitor maps providing recreation information for the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe, and Kaniksu National Forests ($10 each)
  • Personal firewood permits, allowing individuals to gather firewood from National Forest System lands ($5/cord with a $20/4 cord minimum)
  • Interagency Senior Recreation Passes, providing lifetime entry to federal sites ($10)

In addition, copies of the Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) for all districts on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests will be available free of charge. These MVUMs display the National Forest System roads, trails and areas designated for public motor vehicle use. The maps also display the types of vehicles allowed on each route, and any seasonal restrictions that apply, but do not display the same recreation site information provided by the visitor maps.

Grebe gives angler a lesson in raising a family

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Thanks to local angler Tom Turnbull for sharing this rare moment as he put down his own rod for a moment to watch as a red-necked grebe taught her brood to catch their food.  In his words:

I was fishing on Hauser lake a couple of weeks ago when I saw a red-necked grebe teaching her chicks to fish. She had caught a small fish, and she put it in front of her chicks. When they failed to catch it, she would dive, retrieve the fish and present it to her chicks again. Finally, one of the chicks caught the fish in its beak. I was fascinated.

Last days for Condit Dam; White Salmon to flow free

FREE-FLOWING RIVERS — After a dozen years of planning, the White Salmon River, dammed 3.3 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River since 1913, is on its way to becoming a free-flowing river again.

Dam operators are letting the water pour out of Northwestern Lake, the 92-acre reservoir behind Condit Dam.

White-water rafters who put in at Husum and BZ Corners have been using a new takeout point upstream from the reservoir.

Workers will divert water around the dam. Fish in the pool, mainly trout and steelhead at this time of year, will be caught and released downstream. The dam will be removed in pieces.

Breaching is scheduled for mid- to late October, after all wild fall chinook entering the lower river have been captured, transported and released above the dam.

Read on for more information on this historic effort.

Video: Hawaii snorkeler chronicles grace of sea turtle

Untitled from Tom Delanoy on Vimeo.

OCEAN CREATURES — Many people have had the pleasure to swim with sea turtles, but since most of us have not, here's a feeling for what it's like.

Tom Delanoy, grandson of Medical Lake area resident Kenneth Delanoy, shot this video in Hawaii. It's fun to watch. 

Of the seven species of sea turtles, six are found in U.S. waters: Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Kemp's Ridley Turtles, Leatherback Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, and Olive Ridley Turtles. All Six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

It is illegal to touch sea turtles, as it can cause them to drown or subject them to disease.

Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Hawkbill and Leatherback are listed as endangered. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, a distinct population of Green Sea Turtles, is listed as “threatened.” This means that the species is likely to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. The Olive Ridley Turtles are listed as endangered in Mexico and threatened elsewhere. Loggerhead turtles are listed as threatened.

Multi-sport race to debut at Plante’s Ferry

EVENTS — A new multi-sport race in the Spokane Valley will put three-person teams to the test of paddling on the Spokane River, mountain biking on Beacon Hill and running on the Centennial Trail.

The Plante’s Ferry Adventure Race is set for Sept. 18, sponsored by the Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association.

PFAR is open to teams of three or individuals. Participants must be age 14 or older. Categories include Youth (14-18),

Friends, Family, Ladies and Corporate. Cost: $99 per team or $49 individual.

Register and get more online.

West Nile virus found in Yakima mosquito

OUTDOOR HAZARDS — The state Health Department says the West Nile virus was found in a mosquito collected Tuesday in Yakima County — the first sign of the disease this year in Washington.

No human cases have been identified this year, but there were two last year, and a 38 people in the state were sickened in 2009 by the virus, which is carried by birds and mosquitoes.

Most people bitten by a mosquito with the virus won't become ill, but some people with weak immune systems risk serious illness.

The department recommends wearing bug repellant and long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.

Learn about bear spray and more at “Be Bear Aware” exhibit

WILDLIFE — A “Be Bear Aware” educational trailer – and a chance to be trained on using bear spray – will be open Monday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Blue-green aglae warnings for Rufus Woods, Potholes

WATER SPORTS — Campers and boaters must be aware of toxic alage warnings for a portion of Potholes reservoir and Lake Rufus Woods.

The Washington Department of Health is warning people not to swim in Rufus Woods, but officials say the problems does not affect fish or fishing.

However, pets and livestock should be kept away from the water.

The Department of Ecology has a website devoted to algae issues

Read on for a details story from the Grand Coulee Star Online plus links to

No Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery this year

SALMON FISHING — The return of sockeye salmon to Lake Wenatchee is not strong enough to allow a recreational fishery in the lake this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced.

Although more than 185,000 sockeye have passed Bonneville Dam this year, only about 14,000 of them are expected to enter Lake Wenatchee, said Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager in Ephrata.

That is well short of the 23,000-fish goal for spawning escapement in the lake, Korth said.

“We know this is disappointing news for anglers, especially since the lake has opened for sockeye fishing for the past three years,” Korth said. “But the number of sockeye counted between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams is low, and very few are entering the Wenatchee River.”

While the overall run of sockeye to the Columbia River has been relatively high, most of these fish appear to be headed for the Okanogan River and on into Canada, Korth said.

“The four- and five-year old sockeye that make up the bulk of this year’s run to Lake Wenatchee were spawned in years with very low sockeye abundance,” Korth said. “So there’s good reason to believe returns will improve in the years ahead.”

Commission boosts cougar hunting opportunity in six counties

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today voted to increase cougar hunting opportunities in six counties.

Meeting via telephone, the commission amended cougar hunting regulations for a pilot project that authorizes cougar hunting with the aid of dogs. The project had expired and was not extended this year by the Legislature.

The commission increased cougar hunting opportunities without the aid of dogs in Klickitat, Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to continue to meet management objectives in those areas.

In addition, the commission modified the criteria for determining when cougars are removed to address public concerns about pet and livestock depredation and personal safety. The change allows for cougar removals when complaints confirmed by WDFW staff in a given game management unit exceed the five-year average.

WDFW game managers recommended the amendments to cougar hunting regulations as an interim measure until the 2012-14 hunting season package is developed.

Public discussion of the 2012-14 hunting seasons is scheduled to begin this month, including a Spokane meeting on Wednesday. 

Click here for more information about future commission meetings.

Expedition Idaho survivors headed for finish at Silver Mountain

ADVENTURE RACING — The end is in sight, at least figuratively for competitors in Expedition Idaho, the 6-day adventure race — 528 miles, 137,000 vertical feet – night and day through North Idaho.

“After an unbelievable week, where at times, we never thought we could pull everyone back together, the race has come together perfectly,” said organizer David Adlard of Athol. “And it looks like our grand scheme for the Blues and Brews finish (which many told me wouldn’t work/you’re crazy) is going to work perfectly, despite the forest fire near the Silver Mountain Resort which almost got to the gondola!”

Read on for Adlards just posted in-the-field report.

Lake Roosevelt water levels trending down

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1286 feet this morning. High pool is 1290.

For the next week, the level of Lake Roosevelt is anticipated to continuing dropping  gradually, the Bureau of Reclamation reports.

The predicted level of the lake by the end of next week should be about 1283.  The target elevation for the end of August is 1279 – 1280. Grand Coulee Dam is operating to meet power demand and target flows on the Columbia River at McNary.

For a daily forecast call 1-800-824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day

It’s official: Steelheaders set catch record on lower Columbia

FISHING —  Record and near record steelhead catches from the Lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery last month have just been reported by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

New record steelhead harvest for the month of July.  An estimated 8,549 steelhead were kept last month.  The old record was 8,200 steelhead taken home in 2009.     

Last month’s 15,897 total steelhead handled (kept and released) missed the record by just 37 fish (15,934 in 2009). 

MEANTIME, more than 23,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. And they're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.

Little controversy over wolf control in Idaho?

Quote of the week:

“There's a lot of people who support wolf recovery and wolves in Idaho, but I really believe that the pro-wolf part of Idaho has kind of shut up.”
 
Carter Niemeyer, who spent decades working as a wolf management specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, discussing Idahoans' attitude toward wolves.
- Missoula Independent





  

June a bust for Montana fly fishers; September could be sensational

FLY FISHING — High water and prolonged runoff fouled Montana fly fishing plans and forced cancelation of guided trips well into July this year.

But that's history. Many experts say that setback should translate into sensational fall fishing.

For an update, check out Swollen Rivers, but Great Fly Fishing In Montana, by Desmond Butler.

The operative quote: “Rebook for September, it's going to be epic.” October should be off the charts as well.
  

Project returns bluebirds to San Juan Islands

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A five-year project has succeeded in returning the Western bluebird to Washington’s San Juan Islands. The bird had historically inhabited the islands, but changing land use practices and a paucity of nesting sites meant the species had not nested there for over 40 years.

Biologists with the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project captured and translocated 45 breeding pairs of Western Bluebirds from an expanding population at Fort Lewis Military installation, Washington, and another four pairs from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The birds were kept in aviaries on San Juan Island prior to release to acclimate them to their new surroundings.

Read on for details about the project and the several cooperating groups from the American Bird Conservancy.

Redband trout net-rescued at Spokane Falls

FISHING — The Spokane River's struggling native redband trout are in the news for more reasons that one this week.

As stream flows hit their seasonal lows in the Spokane River, Avista Utilities begins a to-do list of work on their dams and on the bed of the river. Many of the jobs are part of their 50-year relicensing agreement compiled by several stakeholder groups, including Indian tribes and environmental groups. On Wednesday surveyors and environmental consultants planned and prepared for the construction of weirs to direct river flows in a more aesthetically pleasing way.

The project included netting trout stranded in the basalt pools of the dewatered falls and releasing them safely in the river.

The effort — and a glimpse at the size of redband trout living in the Spokane Falls area — are captured in a picture story by Spokesman-Review photographer Jesse Tinsley.

The other news story this week, detailed in my column today, is the legal challenge to the docks proposed on the river by the Coyote Rock development near Plantes Ferry Park.

Regulators let bad idea slip past rules and reason at Coyote Rock

SPOKANE RIVER — Every regulator with a clue seems to agree that plans to build up to 30 docks at the Coyote Rock development are a bad idea for the Spokane River.                

The river has emphasized the sentiment — see photo above — as spring runoff swept around the bend past Plantes Ferry Park, damaged pilings and nearly ripped out the first two docks to be approved.

However, nobody at the city, county or state level seems able to thwart a bad plan and its threats to struggling native redband trout and the area aesthetics.

My column today, “Coyote Rock docks cause howl,” spells out the issue and the importance of the unprecidented upcoming trial before the Washington state Pollution Control Board.

Some paddlers, rafters and anglers are planning to rally with their boats for a play day at Plantes Ferry Park Sunday at noon.

But the real action will start Monday when the Spokane Riverkeeper, Gonzaga Law, and the Center for Justice begin a formal challenge of the permit issued by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife under the state Hydraulic Code. This is the first appeal before the board of the Hydraulics Project Approval process.

Record-setting helicopter rescue saves Canadian climbers

MOUNTAINEERING — Two climbers were plucked from the summit of South Goodsir Tower in Yoho National Park on Sunday in the highest helicopter rescue on record for the Banf, Yoho or Kootenay national parks.

Parks Canada spokesman Omar McDadi said two climbers who used a SPOT satellite beacon to call for help from the top, were heli-slung down off the mountain's 3,600 meter summit: that's 11,810 feet.

“The elevation doesn’t reflect the difficulty of the rescue, it’s just that the higher you go the less performance you get out of a helicopter,” he said to the Calgary Herald.

Aggressive mountain goat reported in North Cascades

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Hikers in the Teanaway area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest are being warned to watch out for an aggressive mountain goat.

Spokeswoman Nancy Jones says the forest has received six or seven complaints since June, most recently last weekend. The goat is bold enough to nibble on backpacks and clothes.

NOTE TO NORTH IDAHO HIKERS:  Please, please don't feed the popular mountain goats that greet hikers at the top of the trail to Scotchman Peak. They are a treat to visit, but people who feet these creatures could be leading them down a path to their demise.

The North Cascades complaints have come from hikers on trails near Long's Pass and Eagle Pass.

The animal is apparently seeking salt. Hikers are encouraged to urinate at least 50 yards off trails and be ready to frighten a goat by yelling, waving clothing or throwing rocks.

In October, a mountain goat gored and killed a Port Angeles man in the Olympic National Park.

Hot-weather camping tip: Bag your cooler

CAMPING — Double the life of the ice in your cooler during long camping trips by wrapping it with your sleeping bag when not in use.

Better yet, I dedicate an old rectangular sleeping bag to the cooler and leave it on to insulate all day and night.

This past week, I had cold food on the fifth day of camping using that method with minimal ice. The sleeping bag's value was apparent every time I uwrapped the package for food and felt the outside of the cooler — it was always cold to the touch.

On the fifth day as we ended a backpack fishing trek down the St. Joe River last year — with temps soaring into the 90s, I surprised my sweat-soaked companion at the trailhead by pulling out a sleeping bag-wrapped cooler from the pickup and treating him to a very cold Corona.

He's a believer.

Most Washington fishing-hunting license fees increase Sept. 1

PAY TO PLAY – Washington’s first general hunting-fishing license fee increase in a decade kicks in Sept. 1.

Now’s the time to buy and save on most licenses – but you might want to hold off on buying some youth, senior or disabled licenses, which will decrease in cost. And the endorsement that allows angers to use two rods while fishing some waters will decrease substantially.

All of the new license fee prices are available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

But here’s a sampling of increases for resident fees (nonresident increases are much more substantial):

  • Deer, elk, bear and cougar tag package, currently $81.20, will increase to $93.50.
  • Small game license, $38, will increase to $38.50.
  • Freshwater fishing license, $24, will increase to $27.50.
  • Combination fishing license, $48.20, will increase to $52.25.

Decreasing:  Examples of fees that will go down starting Sept. 1 include:

  • Senior freshwater fishing license, $8, will decrease to $5.50.
  • Two-pole endorsement, $24.50, will decrease to $14.30. 

Idaho’s invasive species sticker not transferrable from boat to boat

BOATING — Idaho’s $7 invasive species sticker, which is required on all boats and inflatables longer than 10 feet, cannot be transferred from one vessel to another, Idaho Parks and Recreation officials say.

A story in the Sunday Outdoors section (Aug. 7) suggested otherwise, noting that some boaters were laminating the stickers for more practical attachment such as a cord or zip tie, especially in the case of their rafts.

“Vendors that offer convenient solutions to affixing them to inflatable rafts with rope rigging are doing just that – providing a convenient solution to affixing them to a designated vessel,” said Jennifer Blazek, department spokeswoman in Boise.

But she advised, “The rules are still the rules. The sticker is non-transferrable.” Here's the Idaho Code to prove it.

She acknowledged that nothing on the sticker says it can’t be transferred, but said it’s stated in the rules.

Beyond that, she said the fee is for a good cause dear to the hearts of all boaters.

“Contributions to the Idaho Invasive Species Fund are put to service protecting our coveted waters from invasive species that can devastate a recreational hotspot in a year or less,” she said. “It’s an important program that should be taken seriously.”

Video: Riverfront Park’s pike-catching teen featured in TV report

FISHING — It's cool that KHQ TV followed up on my Tuesday story about the Spokane teenager who surprised himself and a lot of onlookers as he hook,fought and landed a 42-inch-long northern pike in the Spokane River near the Loof Carrousel.

Joe Buster, who just turned 18, clearly is an ambassador for the sport of fishing.

A few other notes on why his story is special:

Peter Roundy at the General Store gives special attention to Joe in selecting the gear to feed his enthusiasm for the sport. Joe is a special ed student at a Spokane High School.  He's a class act.

Field & Stream announces Best of Best hunting gear

HUNTING — Field & Stream magazine has just announced the 27 winners among 150 products it's editors tested for their annual Best of the Best hunting gear roundup.

Here's a sneak peak at the list of top products ranging from bows to trail cams. 

FIELD & STREAM’S 2011 BEST OF THE BEST WINNERS:

  • Best New Rifle #1: Montana Rifle Co. American Standard Rifle (ASR)
  • Best New Rifle #2: WinchesterModel 70 Safari Express
  • Best New Big-Game Ammo: WinchesterPower Core 95/5
  • Best New Shotgun: Remington Versa Max
  • Best New Shotshell: WinchesterBlind Side
  • Best New Fixed-Blade Knife: Ontario Knife Company Blackbird SK-5
  • Best New Folding Knife: Benchmade 915 Triage
  • Best New UTV: 2011 Can-Am Commander 1000XT
  • Best New ATV: 2012 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i EPS
  • Best New Trail Cam: Primos Super Model Game Camera and Photo Viewer
  • Best New GPS: Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour
  • Best New Hunting Pack: Cabela’s Bow and Rifle Pack
  • Best New Boots: Magnum USA Sidewinder HPi in MultiCam
  • Best New Outerwear: ColumbiaSportswear Omni-Heat Electric Wader Widgeon Interchange
  • Best New Muzzleloader: Traditions Performance Firearms Pursuit Ultralight
  • Best New Muzzleloader Bullet: PowerBelt AeroLite
  • Best New Binocular: Swarovski CL Companion 8x30mm
  • Best New Spotting Scope: Zeiss Dialyt Field Spotter 18-45x65mm
  • Best New Rangefinder: Leica Rangemaster CRF 1600
  • Best New Scope: Minox ZA5 1.5-8x32mm with Versa-Plex Reticle
  • Best New Handgun: Browning 1911-22 A1
  • Best New Bow: Hoyt Carbon Element
  • Best New Crossbow: TenPoint Carbon Fusion CLS
  • Best New Treestand: X-1 Stand
  • Best New Safety Harness: Tree Spider Speed Harness, Live Wire Descent System
  • Best New Blind: L.L. Bean Stowaway Hunter’s Blind
  • Best New Decoy: Carry-Lite Bob'n Tail Tom Turkey

Record steelhead catch logged on Columbia

FISHING — Anglers on the lower Columbia records are setting records with the number of steelhead they're catching on the lower Columbia, according to a detailed report by Northwest Sportsman.

It's not clear whether that's a good omen or a bad one for upstream anglers waiting for those fish to head up the Snake and arrive above Lower Granite Dam.  But I can tell you that anglers are catching steelhead in the Clearwater.  Game on.

Tonight: Volunteers meeting for weed detail on South Hill Bluff

TRAILS — Volunteers interested in helping manage noxious weeds on Spokane’s High Drive Bluff are invited to participate in a work party this evening, (Aug 17).
 
“We will cut rush skeletonweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use,” said group facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU Spokane County Extension.

Next Wednesday (Aug. 24), volunteers will focus on controlling knapweed. 

“Be sure to bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire.”
 
Meet: 6:30 p.m. at the trailhead south of Bernard St. and High Drive.

“At 8 p.m. we will adjourn to the Rocket Market for a beverage and to socialize,” Roberts said.
  
Info: Diana Roberts (509) 477-2167 or robertsd@wsu.edu.

  

Outdoor reader reports game changing around Lookout Pass

CAMPING — Rich Servatius sent in this report after 12 days of exploring the Route of the Hiawatha and Loop Creek areas along the Montana-Idaho border.

My extended family and friends have been going there for about 15 years for a week or so.  Each time we go the wildlife that we see changes.

The first year we saw 13 bears between us, the next year only one and haven’t seen any since.

We normally see about one moose per day; this year we saw one only.

We normally have deer hanging around our camp on Loop Creek; this year we mostly saw them in the old railroad tunnels, but did see some in the Loop Creek valley.

We saw lots of beaver the first five years; one this year.

We saw a few elk tracks this year and heard reports of 22 head near Dominion Peak a couple months ago, but we saw none.

Four years ago my sister saw a wolf near I-90 and close to St. Regis (our first sighting).  This year a pack of wolves were howling just a hundred yards from me to the south of the Gold Hill trail, coming from Moon Pass direction (West).  That was a little exciting and scary too.  No wonder that the couple of ATV riders were carrying pistols.  My only weapon was a rock.

As for huckleberries, they were ripe at lower elevations in places with lots of sun and I found one place higher up in an alpine meadow where the berries were 50 to a bush and juicy.  It will be another couple of weeks before they start showing up in quantity.

Wild flowers were showing their splendor.

Shefoot mountain was pretty, but someone had left a fire burning at the top and a little trash.

If you go to that area, expect lots of bicycle traffic and dust.

We helped a couple of ATV riders clear the Idaho / Montana state line road for a few miles for ATV use.  We didn’t have the equipment and gas and manpower to clear it for truck use.   About 100 trees were down between Roland Pass and the paved road from the St. Joe River to St. Regis pass.  Someone else had cleared the road before us, so these trees had probably blown down in the last few weeks.  If you take that route; bring a chainsaw, help, shovels, and cable.

Spots of snow 2 feet deep were melting slowly.  The snow on Shefoot Mtn. was melting fast…none on the road, which was clear.

Lots of flies and those *&%$#@ skeeters to bother people!

—Rich Servatius

It’s Wednesday: does that mean it’s Humpie Day?

SALMON FISHING — My enthusiastic post regarding the pink salmon flooding into Puget Sound apparently left Spokane angler Dan Hansen feeling a little blue about his vacation to visit West Side relatives.  He writes:

“My beard’s getting full, due to my pledge to stop shaving till I catch a salmon. Six days of fishing, and I can’t even catch a humpy (which hardly even count)!

“One day, standing elbow-to-elbow on a beach in West Seattle, everyone caught salmon and the pre-teen standing next to me caught his 4-fish limit. My brother's going to take me out in his boat next Tuesday, somewhere on Puget Sound; that may be my last chance.

“Trying to decide whether I want to pledge to stop showering for deer season.”

Oregon Conservation Fund a misnomer, groups say

PREDATOR CONTROL — Oregon's new fund to boost predator control is appallingly misnamed environmental groups say.

Even Governor John Kitzhaber complained of the name when he signed the measure into law, according to a Northwest Public Radio report.

Few people would balk at contributing at face value to the “Wildlife Conservation Fund.”

But Brooks Fahy of Eugene-based Predator Defense calles the name is a sham. It's “offensive, because it's just the opposite. It should be the 'Wildlife Destruction Act,” Fahy told correspondent Chris Lehman.

The newly created Wildlife Conservation Fund targets hunters. Starting in January, hunting license buyers can volunteer a donation when they apply for their license.

Most of the money will be funneled toward an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture predator control program, Lehman reports.

Among other things, the federal agents kill problem coyotes and bears, a program supported by many sportsmen, ranchers and timber companies.

Environmental groups urged Governor Kitzhaber to veto the measure. The governor signed the bill, but said he was concerned about quote “truth in labeling” when it comes to the name of the fund.

On the web:

Oregon House Bill 3636


Governor Kitzhaber's Statement

Environmentalist’s Letter to the Governor.

  

Hiker packs heat, stands tall against a charging … pika

HIKING — Since Congress overturned the Reagan-era restrictions on openly carrying firearms in national parks, we're seeing noticeably more heat on trails in and outside of parks nowadays.

Nevermind the research in Alaska showing that pepper spray is a much more certain defense in case of an attack by a grizzly.

But a hiker never knows what other critter might charge from the wilderness.

Here's a report from a recent hiking trip by outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., to go with his photo, above.  Trust me, this will leave you shaking your head.

“After a grueling hike of several hours off trail, we were set up (with our cameras) on the edge of this rockslide waiting for the pika’s to make their appearance. They seem to dislike the warm mid-day heat and become active just before dark. The entire hike in we walked through fresh grizzly digs that were made within the last one or two days.. we kept one eye watching for one to make an appearance.

“Instead, we heard approaching hikers. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. We never see other hikers. They were trudging along the rockslide walking by. They had no clue we were even in the universe. Then to make things worse, a pika lets out a chirp right in front of them (they were about 50 yards away from us).

“The first guy draws his pistol and takes aim on the pika. Before he could shoot, I hollered out “Dude, don’t shoot the pikas.”

“Surprised by our presence, the guy jumped a foot. Then he sheepishly said, 'But he was coming right at me.'

“I said, 'Yeah, killer pika,' and shook my head.

“He seemed embarrassed, put his pistol away and continued walking.”

Native Plant Society to hike at Freezeout Pass

NATURE — It's prime time to join the Idaho Native Plant Society to get in a good hike and marvel at the native plants in the high country near St. Maries.

Gerry Queener will lead a group field trip to Freezeout on Saturday (Aug. 20). '

Beargrass, orchids, penstemons, lupines, columbine, fleabane (daisies) and paintbrushes all are expected to be on display. Habitats will range from subalpine forest to alpine meadow at 6,500 feet elevation. The terrain is moderately challenging.  

Meet at the Moscow Eastside Marketplace (south end of parking lot near Hwy 8) at 8 a.m. to arrange carpooling. The group will return about 3:30 p.m.  A couple drivers with high clearance vehicles and good tires are needed – the last 5 miles is very rocky with steep drop-offs. 

Bring water, hat, sunscreen, lunch, and good hiking footwear.

Info: Pat Fuerst, epfuerst@frontier.com, (509) 339-5213.

Expedition Idaho teams near Hiawatha Trail

ADVENTURE RACING — I can't report where the coed teams are going in Expedition Idaho, the North Idaho adventure race that started Sunday — that's a secret that even the racer's don't know until they find their next clue on whether to hike, bike, climb, paddle or slog.

But I can tell you that a couple of lagging teams currently are near the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. Those teams are being directed to the “short course,” since they can't meet cutoff times for certain segments of the six-day, 500-mile route.

They may not complain.  It might give them a chance to catch a nap before the race ends this weekend at the the Blues and Brews event at Silver Mountain.

Today it’s even more peaceful at Gypsy Peak

HIKING — Today is the first day of the annual late-summer closure of several roads leading to prime recreation areas in the Sullivan Lake Ranger District of the Colville National Forest.

The closures were instituted in the 1980s to reduce human disturbance in prime grizzly bear habitat and berry areas when they are most attractive to bears, acccording to Mike Borysewicz, Forest Service wildlife biologist.

The gates were locked yesterday on two notable roads leading to trailheads:

  • Johns Creek Road 500 off the 2200 Road just east of Sullivan Lake Campgrounds. It provide's access to the Trail 540 trailhead for the shortest hike (2.5 miles one way) to Hall Mountain, which looms over Sullivan Lake.   Ironically, because of the late spring weather and snowpack, the road is closing before that area's huckleberry crop is ripe.
  • Bear Pasture Road 200 off the 2212 Road near northwest of Gypsy Meadows. It runs to the border of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness, offering the easiest foot access to Gypsy Peak (elev. 7,309 ft.), the highest mountain in Eastern Washington. The route is about 4 miles one way using the alpine-bound Trail 515 and off-trail scrambling.  But you'll have to wait until next year. 

I drove up both of these roads and hiked the trails last week to beat the closures. The areas area spectacular.

The huckleberries were green but the mosquitoes were at their peak.

I met Rick Moore, who was surveying dragonflies for the Forest Service. He said the mosquitoes were viscious at Watch Lake, but around the ridge, where violet-green swallows were swarming like bees — the mosquitoes were barely noticeable.  A coincidence?  Hmmm.

If you want to hear the buzz for yourself now that Road 200 is gated, you'll have to hike all of Crowell Ridge from the Sullivan Lake Lookout more than 8 miles one way to Gypsy Peak.

Pink salmon flooding into Puget Sound

SALMON FISHING — Puget Sound anglers are in the pink, hooking up with the building surge of six million pink salmon forecast to flood Puget Sound during the next two months.

The catch of pink salmon hit an all-time high last week at Sekiu in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department creel surveyors.

And now the fish are pushing into Puget Sound and close to cities.  Northwest Sportsman's online magazine reports plenty of pinks are available for today's opening in the Lower Puyallup area

“The overall expectations are for a pretty darn good fishery, and I’ve seen some reports there are already pinks in Area 11 (south central Puget Sound),” Steve Thiesfeld, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound salmon manager, told the Seattle Times.

While this summer’s forecast is 3 million fewer pinks than the 2009 record return — pinks only return in odd-numbered years — Thiesfeld says it will be an abundant run.

Another fisheries biologist fishing off Bush Point on the west side of Whidbey Island says the humpies (a term the male fish receive for a distinct hump that grows on their back at spawning time) were “rolling all over the place” this week.

The huge number means that in almost all marine areas of Puget Sound, except southern Puget Sound, anglers will be able to keep up to four pinks daily.

Shorebound anglers can also get into the action as pinks tend to congregate closely to beaches.

Construction forces Centennial Trail detour

TRAIL REROUTED: Upriver Drive from Freya to Frederick:

A sewer construction project will create an Upriver Drive detour for Centennial Trail users for almost a year, the Friends of the Centennial Trail report.

The trail will be closed from Freya to Frederick Avenue on Upriver Drive. There will be a detour in place and signage to guide users.

The Friends group has maps and details on its website.

Directions: Coming from downtown going east take Ralph to Carlisle to Havana to Fredrick and back out on Upriver Drive. It may be possible at times to let Trail users back onto the east section of Upriver Dr. at times during this project. If you have a street bike avoid signed detour onto gravel road sections. 

2011 continues to be a dream for fans of mountain snow

HIKING — It's mid-August and snowshoes are still de rigueur at Mount Baker hiking trails.

John Frankhsuser of Spokane snapped the photo above last week as he ventured toward from the Heather Meadows trailhead parking area. The snow around the plowed area of the parking lot was over his head.

Seems rare to for and East Sider to travel to Western Washington so he can get that “above the arctic circle” feeling. 

The Artist Point area normally is overrun with hikers stretching their legs and smelling the wildflowers this time of year.

Next East Side wolf meeting Aug. 29 in Ellensburg

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has scheduled three more special meetings to discuss the state's recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and take public comment.

A meeting in Ellensburg is set for Aug. 29 while the others are set for Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 in Olympia.

The plan is intended to guide state wolf management while wolves naturally disperse and re-establish a sustainable breeding population in the state.

The plan contains controversial recovery objectives that would allow the state to eventually remove wolves from protection lists, along with management strategies to address wolf/livestock and wolf/ungulate conflicts.

The recommended plan was developed after a scientific peer review and public review of the 2009 draft plan. The public comment process, which concluded last year, included 19 public meetings and drew nearly 65,000 responses.

In addition, a 17-member citizen Wolf Working Group, which advised WDFW on the plan, met with WDFW staff 10 times from 2007-2011.

Teen bags 42-inch pike in Riverfront Park

CITY FISHING — An 17-year-old boy fishing for trout and bass by the Loof Carrousel at Riverfront park surprised a crowd of onlookers and himself Saturday by hooking a 42-inch northern pike.

Passersby got in the water to help him get the lunker ashore after it made three surging runs over 30 minutes.

But then the bad part.  He had a 42-inch-long fish and14-inch-wide cooler. To get home he had to ride a city bus.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Expedition Idaho adventure race underway: 5 days, 400 miles to go

ADVENTURE RACING — Starting from Silver Mountain, the Expedition Idaho adventure race is off and  running/biking/paddling for 500 miles around a mostly uncharted course in North Idaho.

Two of the 13 registered teams are less than 50 minutes apart heading into segment three partway through the first 24 hours, according to this morning's report from race organizer David Adlard of Athol.

The first day found them traveling in the dark toward Lookout Pass and rapelling off cliffs at Stevens Lakes (map above).  The racers go day and night, resting for maybe two hours a day during the six-day event. They'll end at the Silver Mountain Brews and Blues fest.
 
“We are still looking for some volunteers later in the week for 'Survival Quest,' so please call to help!” Adlard said, noting that the racers go to some incredible remote terrain.

 Check out the Expedition Idaho website for live leaderboard, stories, videos, photos and more. 
  

Bears gone, Forest Service reopens Graham Creek area to camping

CAMPING — With bear problems under control, Graham Creek, a popular dispersed camping area near the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River has been reopen for public use, Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials announced this morning.

Graham Creek, 14 miles north from I-90 on Forest Highway 9, was closed in late July because campers were reporting frequent bear encounters.

“We enacted the area closure to discourage the bears from returning to Graham Creek,” said Kimberly Johnson, Coeur d'Alene River District deputy district ranger. “By removing campers from Graham Creek, the food and trash that was attracting the bears to the site was also removed,”  In addition, huckleberries and other food sources have recently become available drawing bears away from the lowlands and into the hillsides away from the site.”

Campers still need to be Bear Aware, she said. All food and trash should be kept inside bear proof containers or locked vehicles while camping on national forests.

“If people do not store their food and trash properly, do not follow Bear Aware protocol, and the bears return, Graham Creek may close again,” she said. “We want to protect both humans and bears.”

Badger Lake aquatic herbicide permit on hold

LAKES — Dana Strode reports the Pollution Control Hearings Board granted a stay on the herbicide permit issued to control native aquatic plants in front of several properties on the Spokane County lake and popular trout fishery.

Strode is one of seveveral property owners who oppose the permit sought by Bruce Schwan and several other property owners who say the growth of plants has increased, making it difficult to use their boat docks.

I reported details of the controversy in this story published last month. 

The permit was issued to a licensed applicator.

Photo shows Imnaha wolf pack has at least one pup

ENDANGERED SPECIES — While lots of eyes and camera lenses are out there trying to get a handle on the growth of northwest wolf packs, a remote camera in Oregon came up with at least one solid find: The Imnaha wolf pack in northeast Oregon was parading past the camera with at least one of this year's pups in tow.

A black-colored pups was photographed July 16 by an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife camera.  It's traveling with the Imnaha pack’s alpha female (its mother). So far, photographs and visual observations have turned up only one pup for the Imnaha pack this year, but more pups may be found.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife has made other photos of the pack available here.

At least three members of the Imnaha pack dispersed from the pack in the past few months, biologists say, including one collared female that moved into Washington last winter when she was 1.5 years old.

“Wolf packs are dynamic and rarely stay the same size over time,” noted Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. “A pack can be healthy despite these natural fluctuations in numbers, as long as a breeding pair of wolves, the alpha male and female, is maintained.” 

Late spring, cool water good news for Snake sockeyes

FISHING — While the decades-out weather forecast poses big challenges to cold-water fisheries, this year's high cool water spells good news for endangered Snake River sockeye salmon making their amazing 900-mile return from the Pacific to the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

The fish started showing Aug. 1 at the Stanley Basin’s Sawtooth Hatchery near Redfish Lake Creek, the first of what's expected to be a relatively big run.

Through Wednesday a total of 1,480 sockeye had been counted passing the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam, which is just downstream from Lewiston — about 400 river miles downstream from Sawtooth Hatchery. That count is second only to last year’s tally of 2,201 on a record dating back to 1975.

With flows that are somewhat higher and cooler than average this year, biologists feel a relatively high number of fish will make that final four-week swim up the last 400-mile leg of the journey.

Climate change could slash 50 percent of native cutthroat trout habitat

FISHING — Native cutthroat trout are likely to feel the heat from climate change.

A new study shows a changing climate could reduce suitable trout habitat in the western U.S. by about 50 percent over the next 70 years, with some trout species experiencing greater declines than others.

The results were reported by a team of 11 scientists from Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Colorado State University, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group.

The study, published today in the peer-reviewed science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, predicts native cutthroat throughout the West could decline by as much as 58 percent, while introduced brook trout could decline by as much as 77 percent.   Rainbow and brown trout populations, according to the study, would also decline by an estimated 35 percent and 48 percent respectively. (Read the study report.)

The study notes that the decline of cutthroat trout is “of particular significance,” because cutthroats are the only trout native to much of the West and a keystone species in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem.

Read on for reaction from Trout Unlimited, and some reason for hope.

Kettle River Gorge photos have kayaker in stitches

PADDLING — As Bob Whittaker of Republic ran his kayak down the Kettler River Gorge between Orient and Barstow, last weekend, Andy McConnell shot a series of photos. 

Then McConnell “stitched” them together with a photo software program to create this fascinating panorama that lets you look up and down the river in one shot.

The finished product shows Whittaker three times — at the top, middle and bottom of the falls —  as he made a single pass.

Incidentally:

  • The Kettle's flows have dropped down to the boney flows of summer.
  • The river private-property-rights tyrant, Mr. Honeycutt, is still hassling paddlers as the put-in their boats in some areas, regardless of whether or not they're on the public right of way.

Cast your opinion on Pend Oreille River Water Trail plan

BOATING — Officials pondering the Pend Oreille River Water Trail Concept Plan are seeking comments through the month in an online survey.

The plan would help develop and promote water access, activities and tourism on a 70-mile stretch of the river from the Newport area downstream to Boundary Dam.

The PORTA website  includes a summary of the plan along with an interesting map and description of the Water Trail. 

Public comments and suggestions about the project can be directed to Mike Lithgow, Pend Oreille County Community Development Department or Susan Harris, Executive Director, Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance (PORTA) until Sept. 1.

The Water Trail has been a three-year project. 

Agencies and organizations participating in the Water Trail development currently include the USFS, BLM, National Park Service, Towns of Newport, Cusick, Metaline and Metaline Falls, Ione, WDFW, DNR, PUD, Pend Oreille County Community Development Department, WSU Extension Office, Map Metrics, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Kalispel Natural Resources Department, SCL Boundary Dam Project, and Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance.

Bikers, families to rule Albi-Audubon streets on Sunday

OUTDOOR NEIGHBORHOODS — The streets will be wide open for bikes, walkers, in-line skaters an family activities on Sunday.  Check it out.

Prime time to get away from it all at a lake

Life is good this week at Sullivan Lake — or at any lake for that matter.  Enjoy.

Mountain bikers: plan now for Tour de Rock

MOUNTAIN BIKING — Eager riders are using this summer to tone up for the Tour de Rock Mountain Bike Ride & second annual Rough Ride 4000' at Chewelah and 49 Degrees North Ski Area.

The Oct. 1 event — which benefits the Ski Patrol — includes two events:

The “Rough Ride” starts at 10 a.m. in Chewelah and runs 10.2 miles on pavement up  to the ski area. From there, riders ride the ski area trails to the summit, gaining a total of 4,000 feet of elevation on a variety of surfaces.

The citizen's mountan bike tour starts 11 a.m. at the ski resort and climbs up through the Sunrise Basin, traverses across the face of the mountain and concludes with an enjoyable downhill run back to the lodge.

Both rides conclude with a barbecue and live music.

Sign up early for $20 entry fee, $30 with a t-shirt.

Info: Call or email Doug (509) 937-4922, doug@shirewood.com.

One more reason to catch your own salmon

FISHERIES —  Wild-caught Pacific salmon is more myth than reality on some Puget Sound restaurant menus, a study at the University of Washington Tacoma has found.

About 38 percent of samples from Tacoma-area restaurants showed a menu was promoting farm-raised Atlantic salmon as wild-caught Pacific salmon, or calling a coho a king, the Associated Press reports. 

Grocery stores and fish markets got better scores, with only about 7 percent of store samples mislabeled.

“I’m shocked at the number of substitutions that we encountered,” said Erica Cline, an assistant professor in the university’s environmental program who was one of two biology instructors leading the study.

Cline said, but she hopes her study and others like it could lead to stronger enforcement of federal laws that prohibit false labeling of fish and other animals.

Idaho pitches plan to restore native vegetation at Farragut State Park

STATE PARKS – A more natural view toward Lake Pend Oreille could be in the works to greet visitors to the popular Jokulhlaup lookout in Farragut State Park.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department is planning to restore the view shed and the adjacent ponderosa pine habitat on property the agency manages at Farragut State Park and Wildlife Management Area.

An open house to discuss the project and take public comments is set for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m on Aug. 17 at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

The project includes removing trees and brush from 5 acres to restore the view shed at Jokulhlaup lookout near Blackwell point. Shade tolerant trees and dense brush would be removed from approximately 8 acres of Ponderosa Pine forests.

Wildfires would have done this job naturally in the years before the region was developed.

Read on for details.

Check out this man’s bike tour of 14 national parks

BICYCLE TOURING — OK, so it was done first in cars during a 1920 showcase event.

But one cyclist/writer says there's bicycling merit to the Playground Tour, a 4,500 mile, four-month bike ride through the Western United States.

Rick Olson, editor-at-large of adventure journal Wend Magazine, spent June – October of 2010 peddling a bicycle (nicknamed “Buck”) across miles of western landscapes, recreating on two-wheels a historic auto tour of 12 National Parks that took place in 1920 to celebrate the creation of the Park-to-Park Highway.

“I was inspired when I saw Paving the Way, a documentary about the creation of this amazing bit of the US highway system,” says Olson. “I wanted to bring attention to this great achievement and at the same time highlight the need for more bike friendly routes around the US.”

While en route, the Playground Tour raised money for the United States Bike Route System, supported by the Adventure Cycling Association. The goal of this effort is to create the world’s largest bicycle route system.

Weekend clinics set to hook women fly fishers

FLY FISHING — Wade aside men – more women are likely to be hip deep in your favorite fly-fishing river soon.

A Lewiston-Idaho based set of fly fishing clinics is geared specifically for women ages 12 and older. The clinics will introduce beginner anglers to casting techniques, equipment use, clothing, fly selection, how to read water and, most importantly, how to catch fish.

Evening sessions are set for two clinics on Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 in Lewiston. Each will be followed by the weekend overnight clinic and campout.

To make the offer even more attractive, two days of personalized fishing instruction on a scenic Idaho river planned September 10 and 11.

Cost: $50 for adults and $20 for girls 12-17 years old; includes a Saturday sack snack, evening dinner and Sunday breakfast with coffee both mornings.

Fly rods and reels will be provided to those who do not own equipment, but participants must bring all other fishing gear, waders, camping equipment, food and beverage.

Girls 12-17 must be accompanied by a participating guardian or parent. Participants ages 14 or older must purchase an Idaho Fishing license before the weekend outing.

Contact Peg Kingery, (208) 669-1858 or email pkingery@vandals.uidaho.edu

Get registration forms here. Space limited.

Sponsored by Kelly Creek Flycasters, Temple Fork Outfitters and Idaho Fish and Game.

Forest crews hacking through Blue Mountains blowdowns

TRAILS – A November storm left a nasty surprise for Forest Service trail crews heading out in the Blue Mountains this summer.

“There’s more timber down this year than I’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve been on trails,” said Rich Martin, trails coordinator for the Pomeroy District. “We were averaging 50 downed trees per mile.

“On the trail from Teepee Trailhead to Oregon Butte, we had to get a fire crew in to help us out or we’d have never got the three miles cleared out to get the lookout (staffer) in there.

“One poor contractor bid the job on the Wenaha River trail last year and came in and couldn’t believe the mess the winter left him. But he had some strong boys with him and they just pulled out of there this week.

“The Wenaha River trail is cleared out and there’s been a lot of other reconstruction work, but you couldn't ride a horse across the river until late July this year because of all the water coming down — and it just kep coming.”

Read on for other projects underway, some of which will be especially good news to hunters:

Hike down Amazon more than a walk in the woods

ADVENTURING — You think mosquitoes are bad in the the Idaho Selkirks?

How about venomous stingrays, killer bees, rabid vampire bats, electrifying thunderstorms, previously uncontacted tribes and a bazillion welt-inducing insects?

A Discovery News report tipped me off to Ed Stafford, a 35 year old British explorer who devoted more than two years to walking the length of the Amazon River, from source to sea. 

He finished the journey last August and published a book in June. In a video, he recalls the misery as he wrote in his journal along the way.

A trailer of a show that's yet to become available in the United States suggests it’s full of juicy entertainment.

Meanwhile, Stafford’s adventures — he hasn't retired — can be followed on his website.

Chinook fishing to close in Idaho on Wednesday

SALMON FISHING — Spring and summer chinook salmon seasons across Idaho will close at the end of fishing hours Wednesday.

The closure affects the main stem of the Clearwater River, the Middle Fork Clearwater River, the South Fork Clearwater River, the Lochsa River, the Snake River downstream from Hells Canyon Dam, the Little Salmon River and the upper Salmon River.

“This has been one of the longest Chinook seasons we’ve had in recent years,” said Pete Hassemer, Idaho Fish and Game’s salmon and steelhead manager. “By this time of year, most of the Chinook have passed through the areas open to fishing on their way to hatcheries and spawning grounds, and the success rate is slowing down.”

Washington waterfowl seasons set

WATERFOWLING — Duck and goose hunting in Washington this fall will be roughly the same as last year under the season adopted last week by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved.

Statewide duck hunting season will be open Oct. 15-19 and from Oct. 22-Jan. 29.

A special youth hunting weekend is scheduled Sept. 24-25.

Special limits for hen mallard, pintail, redhead, scaup, canvasback, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same.

Goose hunting seasons vary by management areas across the state, but most open Oct. 15 and run through January 2012.

Details on the waterfowl hunting seasons will be available later this week on WDFW’s website.

Duck production surveys indicate a great crop of waterfowl in the western U.S.

Idaho seeks comments on waterfowl seasons

HUNTING — Waterfowl hunters are being asked to responded to a survey on Idaho hunting season options by the end of the week.

“We’ve had some requests for more late season duck hunting, and we’re asking hunters statewide to weigh in on which way they’d like to go,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene, noting that the Coeur d'Alene area is in Area 2 for both ducks and geese.

Duck production surveys indicate a great crop of waterfowl in the western U.S., so it's worth chiming in on seasons.

Taket he quick survey here

Read on for details on the proposals currently under consideration.

Don’t let the rude people take over national forest debates

PUBLIC LANDS — Perhaps the Internet will usher civility into the meetings the Colville National Forest is conducting to inform the public about proposed revisions to its management plans.

The meeting at Colville two weeks ago was, as one man put it, “a freak show” of conspiracy theorists who essentially commandeered the evening with rudeness. They twisted the meeting to profess outdated private property rights takeover hysteria and misinformation about the Yellowstone-to-Yukon wildlife corridor concept – which is just that:  a concept.

The Forest Service staffers conducting the meetings can’t even respond to such tripe.  The meeting bullies might as well go blow their mouth's at the next PTA meeting, where their issues would be similarly irrelevant.

The Colville Forest meetings are about explaining the forest plan, from grazing and timber management to wilderness proposals. Nothing more.

The problem with rude people is that they give the impression they represent a larger portion of people than they actually do.

They do this by repulsing and repelling decent people who just want to be informed and make constructive criticism.  Many people simply walked out of the Colville meeting, I’m told. 

Let's hope the Forest Service and elected officials recognize this and pay more attention to the thoughtful comment that will be trickling in. 

The Newport and Spokane meetings were more balanced, but a sprinkling of rudeness apparently is following the Forest Service meeting schedule.

However, today Colville officials will be conduction another informational meeting – on the Web, starting at noon.  Check it out here.

Can the nut cases disrupt a civil process over the Internet?

We’ll see.

Bonners Ferry man charged with killing grizzly

POACHING — Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, has been charged for killing a grizzly bear, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today.

The information filed today in United States District Court alleges that on May 8, 2011, Hill shot and killed a grizzly bear that was on his property in Bonner’s Ferry. The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1975, and protected by federal law.

The charge of killing a threatened species is punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to one year of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Four-wheelers leave their mark on Antoine Peak

PUBLIC LANDS – They’re vandals on wheels, stealing the common from the wildlife and the public.

Off-road vehicle drivers have the capacity to do serious long-term and even permanent damage in minutes with the thoughtless use of their machines.

The land carnage by four-wheel drive and ATV enthusiasts is not uncommon on public lands.

I was reminded of this last night while hiking around Antoine Peak, the mountain that forms the backdrop for East Valley High School. More than 1,100 acres of the mountain have been secured over the last few years through the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.

It’s a spectacular wildlife refuge. I saw turkey vultures, hawks and ravens soaring over Antoine’s 3,373-foot summit and wild turkeys and quail on the ground – all within minutes. I saw deer, elk and moose tracks while looking over the Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.

But I also saw the rampant recent damage by off-road vehicles, which are prohibited in the Antoine Conservation area. These are probably the same people who disregarded the no trespassing signs on the land when it was still privately owned.

Buying one of these vehicles does not come with a license to destroy public land and wildlife habitat. The law should require visible license plates so the public has a way of reporting the vandals when we spot them in action.

There destructiveness is undefendable. It's selfishness on wheels.

Chelan macks produce; Upper Columbia salmon spotty

SALMON FISHING — The latest observations on upper Columbia salmon fishing from Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service include a digression to point out that mackinaw fishing continues to be great at Lake Chelan, as one can see above in the form of a 21 pounder in the hands of Jolene Rhoads of Spangle.

Meantime, “Salmon fishing on the Upper Columbia has been spotty at best,” Jones said.

“Everything we have heard indicates that the lack of a thermal barrier at the mouth of the Okanogan River has made for very slow salmon fishing. Below Wells Dam, it has been a bit better, but the inconsistent releases from the dam have played hobb with our fishing.”

West Side timber company starts new fee access for hunters

FORESTS — Hunting access is taking a new twist this season in Southwest Washington as Rayonier starts selling permits for entry to some of its lands most coveted by sportsmen.

The timber company’s new hunting permit program for 46,000 acres near Grays River in Pacific County follows fee-access programs initiated several years ago by Potlatch in Idaho and Inland Empire Paper Co. in Eastern Washington and Idaho.

However, Rayonier’s program is more restrictive and expensive, according to a Longview Daily News story.

Rayonier is selling 175 permits to enter its 31,000-acre Fossil Creek area Aug. 15-Dec. 31 for a flat $225.

Though private timber companies like Rayonier have restricted access to their lands in recent years, they haven’t charged hunters they do let in.

“Hunting is going to become a rich man’s sport,” said Vern Eaton of Longview, who has been active in hunting access groups. “I hate to see it come,” he said.

Read on for more details from the story by outdoor writer Tom Paulu.

Rain, floods spurred ducks to reproduce

HUNTING– With the duck factories of North America producing a record high number of waterfowl, Montana and Idaho waterfowl hunters have something to look forward to this fall.

This year, 10 primary duck species on the traditional spring survey areas totaled about 45.6 million—a record high for the survey that dates back to 1955, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recent surveys.

That’s an 11 percent increase over 2010 and 35 percent above the 50 year long-term average.

“This year all parts of the 'duck factory' kicked in,” said Jim Hansen, the Central Flyway coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  “Just about all of the north central U.S. and Prairie Canada have been wet, but certainly it came with flooding that has been terrible.”

Mallards, the most sought-after species in Montana, were up 9 percent from last year at 9.2 million—22 percent above the long-term average.

Pintails, which have been in decline, showed a 26 percent increase and were 10 percent above the long-term average.

Redheads reached a record high, 106 percent above the long-term average.

Deer has that velvety feeling

She's well aquainted with the touch of a velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.”

- John Lennon

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — This photo was made last night by Lincoln, Mont., photographer Jaime Johnson, who makes more great outdoor photos in a week than most wannabe outdoor photogs make in a year.

Check out his website.

Colville Forest addresses forest plan in ‘webinar’

NATIONAL FORESTS — The Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests are planning two toll-free online informational webinars in addition to recent meetings for the public to learn about their Draft Proposed Actions for the Forest Plan Revision.

The proposals cover a wide range of forest issues, ranging from grazing to wilderness.

The sessions will be conducted 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. as follows:

  • Colville National Forest, Tuesday, (Aug. 9).
  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National ForestsThursday, (Aug. 18).

The webinars will include a 20-minute overview of the proposals, plus time for clarifying questions and responses.

Click here to register for Aug. 9.

Click here
to register for Aug. 18.


Questions about the webinars? (509) 826-3275, or email r6_ewzplanrevision@fs.fed.us.

Montana wolf tags on sale Monday

HUNTING — Montana's wolf-hunting licenses will go on sale Monday, Aug. 8.

Licenses will be valid within 14 specifically defined wolf management units. Hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private lands, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say.

Idaho's tags already are on sale, but interest is far lower than the first season two years ago.

Read on for Montana details.

Grizzly attacks solo hiker in Glacier Park

HIKING –A grizzly bear attacked a hiker around noon today on the trail from Many Glacier to Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park. The hiker was able to walk to assistance after the being bitten multiple times.

The 50-year male hiker from St. Paul, Minnesota was hiking alone when he rounded a bend in the trail and encountered a sow grizzly with one sub-adult, park officials say. The hiker was carrying bear spray, but was unable to deploy it before the bear attacked.

The hiker sustained bites to his left thigh and left forearm, before the bear grabbed his foot, shook him, released him and left the area, the park report says.

The man hiked back toward Many Glacier encountering a naturalist ranger leading a hike. The ranger notified dispatch while the man continued to the Many Glacier Ranger Station where he was treated for his injuries and then transported to the Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning by the Babb Ambulance.

Initial reports indicated the hiker was making noise as he hiked.

The trail from Piegan Pass to Feather Plum Falls is closed at this time, and rangers are investigating the incident.

Glacier National Park is grizzly and black bear country. Park officials advice hikers to carry bear spray, know how to use it, and have it on a pack strap ready for immediate use.

Hikers are also encouraged to hike in groups and make noise when hiking.  
  

Sunday: Watch for wildlife ideas at Yard & Garden Tour

WILDLIFE — The Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane are presenting their 26th annual Yard & Garden Tour on Sunday, Aug. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This tour has a wide variety of ideas for landscaping, and one always comes away with tips on gardening for wildlife,such as hummingbirds and butterflies.


Tickets are $10 each (children under 12 are free).

Tickets are available the day of the tour, at each of the six locations:

  • 5217 N Madison
  • 824 W Queen
  • 4029 N Cedar
  • 3903 N Whitehouse
  • 3225 W 7th Avenue
  • 1026 S Carousel Ln
      

Video: octopus has many personalities on ocean floor

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This short video shows how a mimic octopus takes on various disguises in its quest for survival deep in the ocean.  

Very cool. I especially enjo the act of perambulating along the ocean floor as if the sea creature is running on legs.

Colville names 10-year Forest Service employee Republic ranger

NATIONAL FORESTS — Robert Sanchez, a 10-year career Forest Service employee and University of Idaho alumnus, has been  named District Ranger of the Republic Ranger District, based out of Republic, Wash.

Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West announced the appointment last week.

Sanchez will be coming to Republic in September from the Mendocino National Forest, based in Willows, Calif., where he is the forest hydrologist.

Read on for details on Sanchez's career

Colville names 25-year Forest Service employee Newport-Sullivan Lake ranger

NATIONAL FORESTS — Gayne (pronounced guy-na) Sears, a 25-year career Forest Service employee and former animal packer and wilderness ranger, has been named district ranger of the Newport and Sullivan Ranger Districts, based out of Newport.

Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West made the announcement last week.

Sears will be coming to Washington in September from Utah, where she is enrolled in the Masters of Natural Resources graduate degree program at Utah State University.

Read on for details on Sears' career.

Northwest Power Planning Council to hear about Pend Oreille pike

FISHERIES — Northern pike will be on the program when the Northwest Power and Conservation Council holds its Aug.  9-10 meeting at the Kalispel Tribe’s Northern Quest Resort in Airway Heights.

On the meeting agenda is the Kalispel Tribe's report on the problem of invasive northern pike in the Pend Oreille River. The report starts at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Among other items, at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dr. Pete McGrail of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will report on progress with an experiment to inject carbon dioxide into basalt formations deep underground as a means of reducing emissions into the atmosphere.  The experiment site is at Wallula near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.

             

Free drought-resistant landscaping classes offered

CONSERVATION — A free gardening class on Drought Resistant Grasses, Lawn Alternatives and Installing a Drip Irrigation System will be offered from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on six different dates this month at six Little Spokane Watershed Fire Stations:

The class, being repeated due to popular demand, will be presented by Water Smart Outreach Coordinator, Dixie Chichester, from WSU Pend Oreille County Extension on the following schedule:

  • Aug 9, Diamond Lake Fire Station # 31, 325272 Highway 2 (West of Newport);
  • Aug 15,  Sacheen Lake Fire Station #32, 6131 Highway 211, (NW of Newport);
  • Aug 16,  Mead Fire Station #44,17207 N Newport Highway (Across from Cat Tails);
  • Aug 18,  Riverside Fire Station #46, 3818 E. Deer Park – Milan Road;
  • Aug 23,  Deer Park Fire Station #41, 315 East A Street;
  • Aug 25, Colbert Fire Station # 49, 302 W Monroe. 

Every class is free, thanks to sponsorship by the Little Spokane Water Smart Alliance (LSWSA), but pre-registration will reserve handouts and allow notification if class is canceled. 

Call (509) 447-2401 or email carlapogson@wsu.edu .

The LSWSA also currently offers $100 rebates to homeowners in the Little Spokane River Watershed who purchase qualifying Energy Star clothes washers and Water Sense efficient toilets. 

For further information about the rebates visit www.littlespokanewatersmart .org or call (509) 447-6454 (Pend Oreille County) or (509) 477-3604 (Spokane and Stevens Counties).

Work blocks access to Elsie Lake in CdA District

CAMPING — Construction is blocking the best access to Elsie Lake Campground, a popular high lake in the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District.

Forest Roads 264 and 2354 were closed last week. Work will continue to November.

Option: Polaris Peak Road 330 is open, but recommended only for high clearance vehicles.

Schweitzer’s Huckleberry Festival ripe for Sunday

OUTDOOR EVENTS — Time's ripe for Schweitzer’s 5th annual Huckleberry Festival.  With berries ready to pick at the 3,2000 foot level, the picking will gradually rise in elevation as the festivities kick off on Sunday (Aug. 7

From 8 a.m. -4 p.m. the resort above Sandpoint plans to tint tongues purple, starting with a huckleberry pancake breakfast, before shuttling visitors up to begin hiking and putting purple stains on their fingers while combing the alpine slopes for berries.

Read on for more details.

Countdown to North Idaho adventure race; volunteers needed

ADVENTURE RACING — Only 10 days remain before the start of Expedition Idaho, the 400-mile uncharted adventure race teams from all over the world will be trying to cover in six days.

The photo above shows a course official sampling portion of “the trail.”

North Idaho organizer David Adlard said more volunteers are needed to help in remote locations on the course that will be covered by food, raft, kayak, mountain bike and through roped rappels.  Call 208-664-0135 or email funnflip@msn.com

Meantime, read on for interesting details from Adlard and experts who've been helping him set up waypoints for the cross-country route.  You'll be amazed.

Chinook limit boosts to two at Ilwaco, Westport

SALMON FISHING — Beginning Sunday (Aug. 7), anglers fishing in ocean waters off of Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport (Marine Area 2) can keep up to two chinook salmon as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

With that change, anglers will be allowed to keep two chinook per day in all four ocean areas. Anglers fishing La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) have been allowed to keep two chinook salmon as part of their two-salmon daily limit since Aug. 1.

Coho fishing was good the past few days with anglers averaging a fish a day.  Being able to keep two chinook increases the incentive to book a charter.  

Read on for more details.

Sportsman Channel features Washington’s No. 1 bighorn hunt

 

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 2010 scouting effort and hunt to bag Washington's No. 1 California bighorn sheep will be featured on the Sportsman Channel's SOLO Hunters program on Aug. 7.

The episode follows Arron Roth and his wife, Angie, as they log 23 scouting trips in Eastern Washington and finally harvest a Chelan County ram that scored 190 6/8 Boone and Crockett points.

SOLO Hunters hunt for the challenge of a hard fought DIY (do it yourself) hunt despite the elements or terrain. The show features  no-frills hunts in which the sportsmen rely on their feet and hunt off their backs or on land that they have researched, scouted and mastered for their rare opportunity to take a trophy.

Nature-themed programs at Dworshak Visitor Center

OUTDOORS PROGRAMS —  Free nature-themed movie presentations are being presented this month, starting Friday at the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center near Orofino, Idaho.

Read on for the list of Friday and Sunday programs, ranging from bugs to grizzlies.

Apply for Okanogan County limited-entry deer hunt

DEER HUNTING — Hunters have until Aug. 17 at midnight to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000- acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County.

Applications for the “limited-entry” deer hunt can be submitted on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s special web page or by contacting the agency's northcentral region office, (509) 754-4624.

Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing. Winners of the drawing will receive access permits to the Charles and Mary Eder Unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area near Oroville.

Read on for season details.

Chip in to help water plants at Barker Bridge river access

RIVERS — Paddlers are being asked to devote a few minutes to help thirsty plants when they visit the improved Barker Road bridge access to the north side of the Spokane River.

The new landscaping at the access to help prevent erosion and improve the aesthetics of the site has no watering system.

The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, which worked with the City of Spokane Valley to fund the project, has left five-gallon buckets tucked under the bridge beams.

“This can be a fun family event, or just a spontaneous, random act of kindness if you are driving through the Valley,” the club says in its summer newsletter.

The bridge includes a pedestrian walkway and a parking lane, so you visitors can park vehicles on the bridge, or they can use the Centennial Trail parking lot on the south side.

“The little plants will love you and you will feel sooooo good afterwards,” the club says.

PDO Water Trail to be unveiled at open house

BOATING — Three years in the making, a Pend Oreille River Water Trail plan covering 70 miles of the river in northeastern Washington will be served up — along with snacks and beverages — at an open house meeting Thursday (Aug. 4), 5 p.m.-7 p.m., at the Camas Center, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd., northeast of Usk, Wash. (See map.)

This the plan focuses on the Pend Oreille County stretch of the river, including Z Canyon and Peewee Falls. The entire river is 130 miles long originating from Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle flowing northwesterly — unusual for a major U.S. River — until it joins the Columbia River in southeastern British Columbia.  

Maps of the Water Trail will be on display and smaller maps will be shared.

Kayaks will be displayed by Bear Naked Adventures of Newport, Wash..

Other exhibitors include U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, PORTA, WSU Extension, Map Metrics, National Park Service, Kalispel Tribe and Pend Oreille PUD — all partners of interest to future Water Trail users.

The concept plan for the Pend Oreille River Water Trail will be available.

Take a survey during the August public comment period.

Info: Susan Harris of PORTA (509) 447-5286, email susan@porta-us.com.

McMorris Rodgers responds to judge’s rejection of plan for Columbia Basin dams, salmon

CONSERVATIONThis is a previous post updated with a response from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers:
 
U.S. District Court Judge James Redden has once again rejected the federal government's plan to operate hydropower dams in the Columbia River basin without jeopardizing salmon, according to today's report from the Oregonian.
 
Redden's ruling, handed down today, says the government has failed “to identify specific mitigation plans to be implemented beyond 2013” to protect salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.
 
The decision sends the exhaustive plan back to federal agencies for a redo for the third time, with a focus on habitat improvement after 2013. 
 
“Thank you Judge Redden,” said Spokane's Sam Mace of Save Our Wild Salmon in a Facebook post. “Oh, yes, and thank you Endangered Species Act, which the federal agencies have blatantly and egregiously ignored in this whole court process. ESA protects salmon and tourism jobs.”
 
 
UPDATE:
 
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers issued this response on Wednesday:

“I am extremely disappointed with Judge Redden’s ruling which threatens to preempt years of hard work by our stakeholders in order to serve a narrow special interest. The BiOp represents a longstanding consensus by experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, public utilities, municipalities, and tribes. Contrary to the Judge’s opinion, we’ve seen record fish runs in many parts of the Snake River as a result of the measures put in place at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact of the matter is, dam removal should not be an option.”

Aggressive Yellowstone bear killed after charging hiker

BACKPACKING — Rangers have taken the rare step of capturing and killing a grizzly bear deemed a threat to human safety in Yellowstone National Park after the bruin menaced a hiker without any apparent provocation.

Bear managers told Reuters the 4-year-old male grizzly was euthanized on Monday, two days after the 258-pound animal charged at but did not injure a man sitting along a hiking trail near Yellowstone Lake.

Read on for more details from the Reuters report.

Whiteness greets hikers slogging deep into Eagle Cap Wilderness

BACKPACKING — The photo above shows Jeff Lambert of the Spokane Mountaineers in the last weekend of July along with Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap Peak from Carper Pass — all popular backpacking destinations in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

The shot is worth a thousand words and a lot of slogging.

The high backcountry in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon requires hikers to be equipped for snow, including self-arrest tools.

Some late-opening forest roads choked with blowdowns, landslides

NATIONAL FORESTS — Crews from the Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests are just getting into the backroads where this year's whopping snowpack prevented access until late July.

What they're finding isn't always pretty, as you can see from the photo above on Road 500 west of Castle Butte. 

The scene is as bad or rose on a stretch of the Toboggan Ridge Road that gives access to the upper Cayuse Creek area and hikes into the Great Burn proposed wilderness area.

Read on for details and updates just sent out by the Forest Service.  And call ahead to check forest road and trail conditions if you plan ambitious backcountry outings this weekend.

Montana big-game hunting updates and timely reminders

HUNTING — Here are a few timely Montana hunting tips and updates to help nonresident sportsmen with an eye on hunting in Montana.  Thanks to Jim Mitchell of Montana Hunting & Fishing Adventures in Hamilton for the heads up on some of this. 

The new Preference point may be purchased by any one. If you are a non-resident and plan to hunt Montana in the future you should buy a point. Cost is $50. You must download an application and submit it by mail. The deadline is Sept 30. Act now and get in on the ground floor of this new program authorized by the 2011 Montana Legislature. This will give you a big advantage when you decide to hunt Montana. (Click continue reading below for more details.)

Mountain lion hunting permit applications must be submitted by Aug. 31.

Under a new “opt out” program, a hunter who already HOLDS a license and is UNSUCCESSFUL on a special draw for a deer OR elk PERMIT can “opt out” of the elk license portion. The hunter will get a refund for the unused elk portion and retain the deer portion. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will resell the unused elk portion to non-residents. This increases availability of licenses for non-residents and generates more revenue for FWP.

Surplus big-game licenses go on sale over the Internet on Aug. 8 and they're likely to go fast in some regions.  Region 4 deer, elk and antelope licenses are in short supply after a devastating winter. Surplus licenses will go on sale 5:30 a.m. on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks web site

Woman breaks Appalachian Trail speed-hiking record

HIKING — Striding along at a rate of nearly two marathons A DAY, Jennifer Pharr Davis has set an unofficial record for the fastest assisted hike of the entire Appalachian Trail from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia.

She saw 36 bears, moose, porcupines and every sunrise and sunset during an epic 2,180 mile journey that lasted 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. Friends and spouse supported her effort so she could trek equipped with a daypack or less.

She went through five pairs of hybrid hiking and running shoes while averaging about 47 miles a day, or nearly two marathons, breaking the previous record set by a man six years ago by just over 24 hours.

And she suffered nearly a week of dysentery in the early portion of her trek, giving a new twist to “the trots.”

‘Fastest is so relative,’ Davis told the Associated Press on Tuesday after estimating she had slept about 30 of the past 48 hours. ‘My average was 3 mph. So what are you not going to see at 3 mph?’

She emerged from the woods on Sunday and walked to the granite slab on Springer at the trail's southern end. Her parents and dozens of other family members and friends were cheering her on.

‘There were a lot of tears,’ Davis said. ‘Everyone was like: “Are those happy tears?” I just said they're everything tears. I'm so happy. In a way, I'm sad it's over.

Of course, this isn't Jennifer's first hiking experience.  Here's one of my previous posts on Davis' adventures with links for background.

Snow doesn’t chill goal to hike all of Glacier’s trails in one season

HIKING — You think the late spring that continuted into summer screwed up some of your plans? 

How abou Jake Bramante, the  young Missoulian who dedicated this season to becoming the first person to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in a single season?

It's August and snow still clogs many high-country trails.

A story is coming in Sunday outdoors, but check out's Jake's video introduction to his quest (above), and follow his blogs and tweets online.

Washington Wildlife Commission to hear wolf plan briefing

ENDANGERED SPECIES –Washington’s gray wolf conservation and management plan will take another step toward adoption Thursday when the nearly completed document – years in the making – is presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

State wildlife officials will start their presentation to the commission at 10 a.m. in the Natural Resources Building in Olympia.

The presentation will include a summary of comments received from public and scientific peer reviews and the 17-member Wolf Working Group.

Public comment will be allowed after the briefing, which is expected to carry on to late afternoon.

Here's the agenda is for this special meeting.

Public meetings across the state are possible, but have not been announced.

The commission may consider approval of a final plan later this year.

Following are links to documents from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's Wolf Management Website:

 

Wolf Working Group Review Draft: Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington- This draft was discusssed by the Wolf Working Group at its June 8-9, 2011, meeting.

Other recent updates


For more information, see: Wolf Plan Development Process and Archive

National Geographic bear photographer tells bear stories

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — National Geographic photographer Michael Melford — who's made some famous photos of Alaska brown bears fishing for salmon — gives a slide show during a lecture featuring funny and amazing stories about his work.

Idaho chinook season to close Aug. 10

SALMON FISHING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will close the Chinook salmon season across Idaho on the evening of Wednesday Aug. 10 at the end of fishing hours.

The closure affects waters of the Mainstem Clearwater River, the Middle Fork Clearwater River, the South Fork Clearwater River, the Lochsa River, the Snake River downstream from Hells Canyon Dam, the Little Salmon River and the Upper Salmon River.

“This has been one of the longest Chinook seasons we’ve had in recent years,” said Pete Hassemer, Idaho Fish and Game’s salmon and steelhead manager. “By this time of year, most of the Chinook have passed through the areas open to fishing on their way to hatcheries and spawning grounds and the success rate is slowing down.”

“At one point we had Chinook salmon fisheries open in the Clearwater drainage, parts of the Snake River, lower and upper Salmon Rivers, the South Fork Salmon River and Little Salmon River, all at the same time.”

Some tribal fisheries will remain open and those fisheries are managed by the tribes.

Plan a high camp for August natural light show

SKYWATCHING The Landers family has a long history of planning camps in high, dark places for the annual Perseid meteor showers. The summer light show peaks around Aug. 12-13, but the best viewing tends to be right now.

The full moon will come on Aug. 13, a peak morning for the Perseids, but the Perseids rise gradually to a peak throughout August. EarthSky recommends watching in the first 10 days of August to have moonless skies from midnight to dawn, the best time of night for watching meteors. You’ll have an entirely moon-free sky after midnight during August’s first week, as the meteors are beginning to build. You’ll have a window of darkness for a few hours before dawn on August 8, 9 and 10.

Our most memorable outings were at Forest Service fire lookouts rentals, where we'd put our sleeping mats out on the catwalks and go to sleep watching “shooting stars” streak across the sky — sometimes seemingly at our level.

But any mountain top campsite will do. If you're car camping, consider bringing a reclining lawn chair and pillow to park your sleeping bag on.

Idaho sets fall chinook fishing seasons

SALMON FISHING — Although Idaho steelheaders are likely to feel the pull of a few chinook salmon this month, the season won't open open until Sept. 1 on the Snake River from the Washington-Idaho border upstream to Hells Canyon Dam and in the Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the Memorial Bridge.

Read on for the fall chinook season details set by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week.

Record Idaho trout was hybrid

FISHING — A product of cross-breeding turned out to be a big deal for a Pocatello angler.

The record-breaking trout Mark Adams caught on July 25 in American Falls Reservoir turns out to be a rainbow-cutthroat hybrid, Idaho Fish and Game Department officials just announced.

Agency biologists completed genetic and age analysis on the fish concluding it's the product of a female cutthroat trout mating with a male rainbow.

The 6-year-old fish weighed 34.75 pounds, and measured 41 1/8 inches long with a girth of 27 1/8 inches. It was caught on a 10-pound test line with a jig.

Nisbet, friends lead trek up Scotchman Peak

HIKING — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will continue their summer group hiking series this weekend by inviting the public to sign up and join naturalist, author and teacher Jack Nisbet on a rugged 7-mile round trip trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Nisbet will give a short talk Saturday morning at the trailhead northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on “thinking like a naturalist” and then lead a hike up Scotchman Peak with opportunities to practice the described skills.

Expect awesome views from the top, but you'll earn them. The group rates this all-day hike as strenuous. Pre-regster and plan on bringing lunch, snacks and plenty of water.

Contact: Lauren Mitchell    trails@scotchmanpeaks.org   

Tonight: Biologist to explain value of bats

WILDLIFE —  Learn the global importance of bats and the differences of the 15 species found in Washington during a free presentation by Washingotn Fish and Wildlfie Department wildlife biologist Ella Rowan, Tuesday (Aug. 2), 7 p.m., at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council auditorium, 6116 N. Market St.

Unusual adaptations such as echolocation, flight, torpor, hibernation and delayed pregnancy are a few strategies that have allowed bats to master their niches across the world and especially in the more temperate regions. 

Each of the species found in the Inland Northwest has distinctions, including the their preference for habitat and diet as well as in their appearance and behaviors. 

These creatures are important to humans in ways most of us don't know.  Check out this program.

Recreation top use on Idaho BLM land, study finds

PUBLIC LANDS – A new study shows recreation and the industry that supports outdoors activities is outpacing traditional uses such as grazing and mining on land managed by the Bureau of Land management in Idaho.

The results are from a study on the U.S. Department of Interior’s economic effects in Idaho. The state has ample public land, including nearly 12 million acres managed by BLM.

The report finds that recreation accounts for six times more jobs than grazing and timber industries, and three times more than energy and minerals.

BLM Deputy State Director Jeff Foss says ranchers still drive many rural economies. But he says from a statewide perspective recreation is tops.

The Idaho Statesman reports the BLM spends about $81 million annually to manage grazing and timber land, compared to $68 million on recreation management.

Whitetails buck shows high potential

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — This whitetail buck should inspire some anticipation for September.

The photo was made last week by Lincoln, Mont., photographer Jaime Johnson, who makes more great outdoor photos in a week than most wannabe outdoor photogs make in a year.

“This is one of the highest whitetails I have even seen around this area – very nice,” he said.

Check out his website.

Angling for runaway triploid trout opens below Chief Joseph Dam

FISHING —  Triploid trout that escaped a comercial net pens upstream in Lake Rufus Woods are creating a new fishery and a rare opportunity to harvest huge rainbows starting today (Monday) on a 17-mile stretch of the Columbia River between Bridgeport and Brewster, Wash.

From Aug. 1-31, anglers will be allowed to catch and keep triploid rainbow trout in the mainstem Columbia River from the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport, under a new regulation issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The target of the fishery is a large number of triploid trout that escaped from a net-pen facility on Rufus Woods Reservoir in June and have passed downstream into the Wells pool area below Chief Joseph Dam, said Jeff Korth, the agency's fisheries manager in Ephrata.

Anglers must know the difference between triploid rainbows and steelhead, which must be released. The long, slender fish with the properly proportioned head pictured above is a steelhead. The triploid rainbows (left) have large, rotund bodies with proportionally small heads.

Pacific Seafoods, which owns the net-pen facility, estimates that 117,500 triploids escaped in June through a breach in a net-pen. Many of those fish run 4 to 5 pounds apiece, Korth said.

“Anglers have been catching those fish in Rufus Woods Reservoir for the past couple of months, which is great,” he said. “But we do have some concerns about the growing number of triploids turning up below Chief Joseph Dam, because they could interfere with juvenile steelhead downstream.”

Read on for more details.

Idaho wolf seasons set, but drama builds in federal courtroom

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Idaho set its fall gray wolf hunting and trapping seasons last week just two days after a federal judge heard arguments in a lawsuit that once again could undo the planning Idaho and Montana have done to begin taking control over burgeoning wolf numbers that are having a big impact on big-game herds.

 As reporter Rob Chaney put in in a Missoulian story, “The battle over Rocky Mountain gray wolves has become a constitutional clash between the U.S. Congress and the nation's judicial system.”

The judge promised to make a decision quickly.

Glacier Park warning high country hikers to have self-arrest equipment

HIKING – Glacier National Park rangers are warning hikers to think like mountaineers in their preparation for trekking high-elevation trails — much as I suggested from my recent experience in this morning's post.

As they opened the popular Highline Trail at Logan Pass to foot travel they offered timely advice to hikers who might venture on the still-snow-patched trail.  Read on…

Hikers still getting chilly reception at Montana’s Jewel Basin

HIKING — From a distance down at Flathead and Echo lakes, the routes looked clear this week.  Only one little snowpatch was visible up in the higher forest openings of a nifty lake-studded mini-wilderness that buffers Kalispell from Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

But a short hike into the Jewell Basin hiking area revealed that snow still clogs many of the national forest high country routes under the forest canopy. 

Twin Lakes, above, were still mostly iced up…although there was enough blue water showing for a few old friends — who glissaded down to the lake's edge — to make a quick — very quick —  skinny dip to remind them they're still mortal.

The snow is compact and it's not difficult to walk over on the flat stretches. But where the snow covers the trail on steep slopes, it's treacherous.  Good boots and ice axes required.

I expect this week's heat to resolve the issue pretty much region wide in about 10 days.

Mountain bikers head to Kettle Crest for work, play

MOUNTAIN BIKING — Riders from across the Northwest are planning to meet on the Kettle Crest Trail Aug. 10-14 to mix trail work with single-track pedaling on the Kettle Crest trail system in northeastern Washington.

“One day is reserved for trail work (under the direction of the Forest Service and experienced trail crew leaders) in order to leave the trails in better shape,” said Peter Jantz, president of the Spokane-based Fat Tire Trail Riders Club.

The event is sponsored by Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Fat Tire Trail Riders, the US Forest Service and New Belgium Beer. For more info, visit the Fat Tire Trail Riders website.

The Kettle Crest Trail and its connectors offer incredible views and top-notch singletrack in a sub-alpine setting.

Portions of the Colville National Forest along the trail have been proposed for wilderness, which could preclude the use of bicycles.

A meeting in Spokane tonight will present information about the forest plan revision and effective ways to comment on the proposals

Highly poisonous hemlock found near South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — “Recently I was dismayed, but not surprised, to find poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) growing beside Hangman Creek below the High Drive Bluff,” said Diana Roberts, WSU area extension agronomist for the Spokane/Lincoln County Extension

Why is this significant?

“Poison hemlock is the most poisonous plant in the Western Hemisphere,” she said.

Roberts offers these insights and tips:

  • Poison hemlock is a plant native to the Pacific Northwest, but it is increasing in population locally. At this point there are a few plants in Hangman Creek below the Bluff, but many more upstream and it is likely to increase
  • It grows in moist locations, often close to Water/Cow Parsnip which looks somewhat similar (see photos)
  • Parsnip is edible but water hemlock is extremely poisonous. Confusion between the 2 species can be fatal to people seeking parsnip
  • Hemlock does not have to be ingested to cause damage. Pulling out the plants without wearing long sleeves and gloves causes an itchy rash (like poison ivy). However, allowing the plant to come into contact with mucous membranes can be fatal, i.e. don't let your dog run through this stuff - especially with mouth open and tongue lolling.
  • Keep yourselves and your pets out of it! 


  

Lack of thermal barrier could be issue for upper Columbia anglers

SALMON FISHING — Here are the latest observations on upper Columbia salmon fishing from Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.

  • Chinook and sockeye salmon fishing below Wells is picking up.
  • The sockeye salmon bite below Wells Dam on the Columbia River is good when releases from the dam allow safe navigation.
  • Sockeye fishing can be great with Mack’s Lures hot colored mini Cha Cha Squidders behind chrome dodgers below Wells Dam. Try those Super Baits and Plug Cut Super Baits in Hot Tamale behind a big flasher.
  • The Brewster Pool is still thin.We are concerned about the lack of a thermal barrier at the mouth of the Okanogan.

Safety Tip: Pay attention to safe boating practices below Wells Dam, Jones advises.

“There is a great variation in the amount of water being dumped from hour to hour. Sometimes it is safe to cross the river straight from the launch to the sockeye hole. Sometimes you need to hug the bank and go way downstream before crossing.Particularly the guys with shorter boats and lower freeboard need to heed that advice to avoid tragedy.”

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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 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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