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Outdoors blog

Archive for February 2011

Salmon River steelheading is hot if you can take the cold

FISHING — Two hours per fish?  If you don't believe me, here's the report just filed by Idaho Fish and Game for steelheading success.  

Anglers are investing an average of 9-24 hours per fish on portions of the Clearwater.

But the Salmon River fishing is on fire.   

Hanford Reach steelheading slow in February

FISHING — Here’s the February steelhead fishing recap for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia just filed by Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities:

Lower Reach (Hwy 395 to old Hanford town site):

An estimated 174 steelhead were caught and 140 steelhead were harvested in February.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 12 hours of fishing. Boat anglers have faired better than the shore anglers at 9 hours per steelhead versus 32 hours per steelhead for bank anglers. A total of 1,374 steelhead have been caught this season and 1,011 hatchery steelhead have been harvested. WDFW staff sampled 15 percent of the estimated angler effort in this fishery in February and 25 percent for the season. Catch and harvest numbers are well below the 2008 and 2009 fisheries but similar to those of 2004-07.

Upper Reach (Vernita Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam):

On December 8, WDFW opened the Columbia River from the Hwy 24 bridge (Vernita Bridge) to Priest Rapids Dam for the retention of hatchery steelhead. This is the first time this area has been open in the winter for steelhead in many years.  Angler effort has been relatively light.  We are currently averaging 1 boat trip per day.  Very few anglers are fishing from shore for steelhead. No steelhead were reported in February. Only 2 boats were interviewed.  An estimated 225 steelhead have been caught in this fishery with 47 hatchery steelhead harvested. 

Art Wolfe to present slideshow at Whitworth

NATURE/TRAVEL — Wildlife photographer and Public TV “Travels to the Edge” host Art Wolfe will give a lecture and slide show Tuesday, 7 p.m., at Whitworth University’s Weyerhaeuser Hall Robinson Teaching Theatre.

Wolfe, 59, is one of the best globetrotting nature imagers in the world. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Non-resident hunting fees increase in Montana

HUNTING — Out-of-staters will pay more for Montana big-game combination licenses in 2011.

State voters approved a November initiative that moved 7,800 outfitter-sponsored big-game and deer combination licenses to the general nonresident license category, they also increased the associated license fees. 

            The fee increases include:

  • Nonresident big game combination license fee of $912, up from $643;
  • Nonresident deer combination license fee of $542, up from $343;
  • Nonresident elk combination license fee of $812, up from $593.

Info on application deadlines, forms and other details are on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website on the Hunting page under licenses.

The fee increases apply only to nonresident combination licenses. Other nonresident licenses are not affected.

The revenue generated by the increased license fees is earmarked for wildlife habitat conservation and public hunting access programs.

Plan ahead for big chinook run at Hanford Reach

FISHING — The forecast is bright for the “upriver bright” fall chinook salmon headed primarily to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia this summer and fall.

This year's run of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia River basin is expected to be the fifth largest since at least 1948, and nearly 200,000 fish higher than the recent 10-year average return, according to preseason forecasts released last week by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The forecast is beefed up by estimates for a large upriver bright component of 398,200 adult fish to the mouth of the Columbia River.  That would be the second largest since record-keeping began in 1964. The largest return was 420,700 in 1987.

Savvy anglers know the largest share of upriver brights are destined for the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River, Priest Rapids Hatchery, and the Snake River with smaller portions headed for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers.

See a detailed story in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Record run expected for “wild” fall chinook to Snake

 FISHERIES — Good news for the progress of restoring native Snake River salmon runs: Forecasts completed last week predict 17,500 Snake River “wild” fall chinook salmon will return to the mouth of the Columbia. This is a stock protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A record run of 15,400 returned last year. T

the lowest return among records dating back to 1986 was just 772 wild fish in 1998.

In 2009, only 4,086 wild Snake River chinook returned to the mouth of the Columbia.

Read a detailed story in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Fly pattern raffle boosts conservation

FLY FISHING – The Spokane Fly Fishers annual fly pattern raffle to support fisheries conservation projects is March 9, 6:30 p.m., at St. Francis School Auditorium, 1104 W. Heroy.

Members and public alike can by chances on locally tested and tied patterns as well as escorted fishing trips to area waters.

The public is welcome to buy or donate flies.

Info: (509) 990-4782

BLM to rein in wild horse management

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to scale back costly roundups of wild horses.

In a news release issued Thursday, BLM officials said they will reduce the number of wild horses removed from the range by about one-quarter — to 7,600 per year. The agency also will expand the use of fertility controls and increase the number of animals adopted by individuals or groups. The bureau continues to oppose horse slaughter, which some in the West have advocated as a way to thin herds.

Other groups have called the past roundups inhumane.

The BLM can't win on this issue. But it's clear the land and wildlife habitat is losing the battle where wild horse herds have grown too large.

The new approach comes a week after the House approved an amendment to cut the agency’s budget by $2 million to protest the roundups. The program’s annual cost has tripled over the past decade to $66 million. Annual costs are expected to reach at least $85 million by 2012.

More than 38,000 wild horses and burros roam in Nevada, California, Wyoming and other Western states. An additional 40,000 animals are cared for in corrals and pastures in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

An analysis of the public’s comments and a detailed proposed implementation strategy will be posted at www.blm.gov  on Feb. 28.  Public comments will be accepted through March 30 by e-mail to wildhorse@blm.gov with “Comments on Strategy” in the subject line.
  

New ranger named for Colville’s Republic District

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest has named a new district ranger for the Republic District.

Tom Whitford, 20 years with the agency, will take over on March 14. He will replace Steve Rawlings, the forest’s fire management officer, who has served as acting district ranger since November.

Read on for more details.

Free skier abandons snow, hits the surf

SKIING — If the bitter cold is turning you off to hitting the slopes in the Inland Northwest this week, maybe you should consider the possibilities of skiing Hawaii — in the surf!

Check out big-time freeskier Chuck Patterson's switch from the steep and deep to the steep and deep blue seas on skis — complete with plastic ski boots.

Get the complete story from Surf magazine here.

Enchantments reservations go online Monday

BACKPACKING — Reservations for overnight permits to camp in the Enchantment Lakes Basin will be available only online beginning this year, starting Monday.

A popular destination in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, camping in the Enchantments from June 15-Oct. 15 is limited, and permits are picked by lottery each year.

Instead of hand-processing thousands of permits, the Wenatchee River Ranger District has changed to an online system, according to a news release. Applications may be filed beginning Feb. 28. Those who win permits will be notified beginning April 5.

The application fee of $5 per person, per day is the same, but an additional $6 will be charged per permit. Fees pay to administer the system and help fund wilderness rangers and other on-the-ground services.

Hikers can also access alerts and other recreation information through the reservation website. Applications require a profile and password, which can be set up in advance. Those without access to the Internet can call the reservation helpline at (877) 444-6777.

Eagles terrorize Sprague Lake coots

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The winter ice cap was almost gone from Sprague Lake a few days ago, but this week's cold snap has reversed the trend — and that's bad news for the coots that had taken up residence in the open waters. 

Here's the Saturday scoop just received from birder Greg Falco of Sprague:

Today Sprague Lake is almost all frozen (minus 12 for a low at my place).

There are about 5 small openings in the ice with ducks, mostly Common Goldeneye, tightly packed.   The coot flock was in one opening about 40 feet across, and getting smaller.

Twelve bald eagles were standing on the ice around the defenseless coots.  More balds were perched around the lake. 

Nothing scientific, but I’ll say the coot population has been reduced by more than 100 in the past week with about 50 birds left.  I’ll be surprised if any are left tomorrow.

Parks Canada gives cold shoulder to science experts

WILDLIFE — Mike Gibeau, an internationally recognized grizzly bear specialist who spent more than three decades with Parks Canada, is retiring June 3 and the federal agency has no plans to replace him, just as the agency did not replace science manager Cliff White when he retired more than a year ago.

Conservationists say these decisions indicate that Parks Canada has a declining interest in science programs.

See story in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
  

Wolf poaching in Methow confirmed

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials this week confirmed the killing of an adult male gray wolf, shot in Eastern Washington more than a year ago and dumped in eastern Skagit County.

Investigators believe the wolf was shot somewhere east of Rainy Pass just west of the Methow Valley, according to a Wenatchee World report.

Officials are releasing some information about the incident, hoping the public can help solve the case. Wolves are protected in Washington by state and federal endangered species laws.

The animal was shot and skinned, said Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement.

State and federal authorities are investigating two other wolf poaching cases, one from 2008 in the same part of northern Washington and a September case in northeastern Oregon.

Cenci said a citizen reported the most recent wolf poaching.

Cenci would not say whether they believe the latest confirmed wolf poaching was from the Lookout Pack, the state’s first documented breeding wolf pack in 70 years. The pack makes its home in the Methow Valley and surrounding hills.

“Big” expectations for spring chinook run

FISHING — Big is still the operative term for the spring chinook salmon fishery nosing into the Columbia River.

Last year it was a big run. This year the emphasis is on the proportion of fish in the run that are big.

The forecast is for 198,400 upriver spring chinook returning to the Columbia bound for upstream this year, close to the 10-year average — the eighth largest run since 1980 — but well below last year's huge run of 423,000 fish.

The upside: more than 100,000 of those fish are forecast to be five-year-olds, going 18-30 pounds or larger, compared to only 26,000 of the larger fish last spring, said Joe Hymer, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department salmon specialist in Vancouver.

In other words, expect fewer chinook than last year but a much higher percentage of five-year-old jumbo kings.

Of the 198,400 upriver spring chinook expected to return to the mouth of the Columbia, about 66,000 should be hatchery fish bound for the Snake River and 24,000 should be wild Snake River fish.

Last year about 134,000 chinook bound for the Snake River returned at least as far as the mouth of the Columbia.

Idaho and Washington fish and wildlife managers will meet in March to discuss Snake River spring chinook seasons. If approved, about 600 chinook could be harvested from the lower Snake River, Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists say.

Glen Mendel, WDFW fisheries biologist in Dayton, said it's unlikely the state will be able to open all four areas where fishing was allowed in 2010.

Rep. Hastings vows to block breaching Snake River dams

RIVERS — Speaking to the  Pasco-Kennewick Rotary Club on Wednesday, Congressman Doc Hastings, R-WA,  said he’ll use his position as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee to block any bills related to breaching lower Snake River dams.

Hastings said salmon runs are recovering under current management practices and dam breaching is the last resort.

The Tri-City Herald reports Hastings as saying he’s concerned that tearing down any Snake River dam puts every other dam at risk.

Environmentalists favor removing dams to restore Snake River salmon runs.

REI recalling 160 Novara Fusion bikes

BICYCLING — REI is recalling about 160 bicycles because of a potential fall hazard.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says the alloy steerer tube on certain Nova Fusion bicycles could separate from the fork, causing the rider to lose control, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

No injuries have been reported, but there has been one report of the tube detaching.

The recall is for bikes with serial numbers U95Y07321, U96Y28393, or in the sequential range of the last four digits U96Y28876 through U96Y29128. (Serial numbers are located on the underside of the bike)

These bikes were sold at REI stores nationwide and at REI.com from November 2009 to November 2010 for between $600 and $900.

The company says consumers should stop riding the bicycles and contact their local REI store or the REI customer service center to arrange for a replacement fork to be installed free of charge.

Consumer Contact: REI at (800) 426-4840 anytime or go to the recall page of REI’s website.

Option cites removal of Lake Roosevelt cabins

PUBLIC LANDS — The National Park Service may require the removal of 25 private cabins that have been built and upgraded over many years within the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area northwest of Spokane.

That’s one of three options in an environmental assessment released Thursday by the agency. The other two options would allow the private cabins to remain under five-year leases. The public will have 45 days to comment before the Park Service is scheduled to make a decision.

The cabins were authorized in the 1950s to encourage recreational use of the lake. They are located at Rickey Point and Sherman Creek. If the removal option is chosen, the owners would have to remove the cabins when the current leases expire.

Chilly Hilly bicycle tour to live up to name this weekend

BICYCLING — Western Washington's annual “Chilly Hilly” bicycle tour should live up to its name this weekend.

Thousands of bicyclists are expected to take part Sunday in the 33-mile bike trek around Bainbridge Island. The National Weather Service says rain is in the forecast, with Sunday temperatures in the low 40s.

Cascade Bicycle Club, which organizes the tour, says more than 6,000 riders took part last year.

Robins looking forward to spring, too

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bird feeders are especially alive with activity in this cold weather as birds — and other wildlife — look for easy calories.  To get a cross section of species, you need seed feeders filled separatel with black sunflower seeds and others with niger as well as suet feeders, such as the one attracting the flicker above.

Meantime, some birds just want you to provide bushes for cover, especially if they still hold berries and fruit from last season.

Here's a birding update from North Idaho comes via Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries online:

“The Arctic chill and accompanying snow storm brought about 20 robins to seek shelter in the trees and shrubs around our Post Falls home on Thursday,” posts Kerri Thoreson on her Facebook page. “The sight of the birds made me wistful for springtime. More photos of our red-breasted visitors.”

More photos of Kerri's robins here.

Avalanche advisory: now is safer than later

WINTER SPORTS — The Inland Northwest avalanche advisory issued this morning notes that snow that accumulated in the cold temperatures of recent storm is light enough to warrant only “considerable” avalanche danger in many (not all) areas.  But a change is expected around Sunday.

The coldest snow temperatues recorded this morning at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center was -18F at Hidden Lake in the northern Selkirks.  

“This cold weather is weakening the entire pack but most significantly in the upper 3 feet where we have some weak layers around crusts and changing density storm snow,” said Kevin Davis, center director.  “Luckily, for now the load from the new snow this week is light and it is not adding alot of stress to these weak layers.  It is most unstable where wind-loaded or hardened by wind.  The situation will change on Sunday when we get rising temperatures and more snow, and this will bury another layer of surface hoar.  Enjoy it now, bundle up, and be safe.”

Ice fisherman jigs up a whopper

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FISHING — The arctic weather chilling the Inland Northwest is firming the surface at some lakes and pushing the reset button for ice anglers.

If you're looking for a wall-hanger fish to brag about this weekend, try to guess where the angler in this video is fishing — and be sure to cut a big enough hole.

Silver Bow offers crash course in fly fishing

What:  Beginner fly fishing class on basics to get started in a one-day crash course. Covers equipment, knots and gear, trout habits and the flies they like, reading water, presenting, fly casting and fishing local waters.

Where:  Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley.

When: Saturday March 12th, 9:30a.m.-3p.m.

Cost:  $30:

Instructor: Angela Morgan

Sign up: (509) 924-9998

Jennings: Who’s flying high at Schweitzer?

SKIING — Fireworks will pierce the cold mountain air tonight and Saturday around a stunning display of aerial skiing stunts during  the Yoke's Outrageous Air Show at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. 

S-R skiing columnist Bill Jennings has the down to earth story on the Olympian who makes aerials look easy.

Weekly fishing report: Ready for March openers?

FISHING — The weather isn't necessarily cooperating, but Al Liere is on the ball with a preview of the region's lakes that are opening for fishing on March 1. Check it out in his weekly Hunting & Fishing Report.

Lowe looks for aid to document unmatched Eiger climb

CLIMBING — Jeff Lowe is an icon familiar to anyone who paid attention to climbing from the 70s into the 90s until MS began ravaging his body.

The first ice climb of Bridal Veil Falls and his problem solving to conquer the route known a Octopussy put him on the covers of Sports Illustrated as well as the major climbing mags.

But his nine-day ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in 1991 stands alone.  His Metanoia route has never been successfully followed.

This video gives a glimpse of a documentary, narrated by Jon Krakauer, that already has a good start at chronicling this landmark climb by the man who introduced mixed climbing to the world.

But the project is short of funds.

Check it out regardless of whether you can or cannot contribute. 

It’s bargain time for Baja sea kayakers

SEA KAYAKING — It's time to quit thinking about a sea-kayaking adventure in the Sea of Cortez and Mexico's Baja California.  It's bargain time to the safe part of Mexico.

I'm just back from a nine-day trip of paddling and camping — The gray whales were parading their newborn calves for us. 

But here's why I'm mentioning this before I run my feature story in the paper:  Air fares have just been slashed.

Alaska Airlines is running a web special that will get you from Spokane to Loreto for about $350 round trip through April 30!

Check out the outfitted trip offerings from Sea Kayak Adventures based in Coeur d'Alene. 

The tough bird dog trainers aren’t chilled by a storm

HUNTING — He saw the storm coming Wednesday, but he had eight dogs scheduled for training and he welcomed the wind and snow flurries as a learning experience.

“You can't just train hunting dogs when it's nice,” said Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennel off the I-90 Four Lakes Exit .  “Sooner or later you're going to have to hunt or run a field trial in difficult weather, and you want your dog to be accustomed to it.”

But when the storm bloomed into a full-fledged blizzard, he loaded the horses and dogs in the trailer and beat it out of the lonesome Lincoln County scablands.

“Being in the field in a storm isn't so bad, but you don't want to kill yourself and your dogs on the slick roads getting home.”

Eagles join feast of region’s winter kill

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mount Spokane area birder Ron Dexter knew something was up — or more likely down — when he a lot of raven activity above his home last month.

When he hiked up to investigate, he was not surprised to find the carcass of a dead deer. But he was entrigued at the collection of scavengers it attracted, including coyotes that had departed, their places at the “dinner table” filled by a half dozen ravens, a few magpies, several bald eagles and an immature golden eagle. 

His tip for distinguishing a young golden from an immature bald eagle: A golden has a central wing white markings and the upper half of the tail is white. (See a more detailed explanation by clicking “continue reading” at the bottom.)

“I returned later to set up my remote sensor camera. Over the next few weeks I got photos of up to four bald eagles at a time and two golden eagles, one juvenile and the adult in the photo (above).

In addition there were up to two coyotes, a red-tailed hawk, ravens and magpies. Also, a few deer investigated the scene.”
 
Note: Golden eagles are fairly rare in Spokane County and when they do show up they can be mistaken for immature bald eagles. However, Dexter said he usually see at least one every winter in the foothills of Mount Spokane.

“I have never seen one here during the summertime,” he said. “This indicates to me that they probably do not nest in northeastern Spokane County and are drawn here by the activity of the bald eagles that feed on the winter kill.”

While economy slumps, hunters gain numbers

HUNTING — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week reported a total of 14,974,534 paid license holders for 2009, the largest figure since 2002 and an increase of 526,494 since 2008.

Paid license holders have increased in 24 states in the five-year period from 2005 to 2009.

The 3.6 percent rise in paid license holders represents the largest year-over-year increase since 1974. (A “paid license holder” is one individual regardless of the number of licenses purchased.)

The National Shooting Sports Foundation cites several contributing reasons for the increase:

  • Many state wildlife agencies over the last decade have launched programs to increase hunting participation.
  • A difficult economy motivated hunters to fill their freezers with game rather than store-bought meat.
  • Hunters who were among the unemployed or had their work hours reduced used some of their free time to go hunting.

The hunting heritage has never been more valuable to the country than today, with urbanization and development gobbling up wildlife habitat in critical areas.

The 21 million hunters who have purchased at least one hunting license in the past five years are the backbone of conservation funding in America, contributing more than $1 billion each year through the purchase of licenses, tags, permits and stamps and through excise taxes paid on firearms and ammunition.

The NSSF points out that proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunting, have purchased more than 5 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Orr out of spotlight, but not out of the money

OUTFIELD — George Orr of Spokane no longer is making his voice heard on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, as explained in my outdoors column today.

But he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

“I love a good debate,” said the former state legislator, a Democrat.

“And in two years, I'm going to have an extra $300 to spend on fishing tackle for my grandkids. After the last presidential election I got three conservative guys to put there money where their mouths were. 

“I bet each one of them that Obama would not take away their guns. They'd better pay up. My grandkids are counting on it.”

Sea lions taking bigger bite out of Columbia River sturgeon

FISHING — Steller sea lions are killing sturgeon at Bonneville Dam almost twice as fast this winter as in 2010, having taken at least 1,000 total since early January, according to a story by Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.
 
The first California sea lion was spotted at Bonneville Dam on Monday, said  Robert Stansell, a Corps of Engineers biologist. The marine mammals also are ambushing salmon and steelhead at the dam.
 
The highest daily count of Steller sea lions was 21 on Jan. 26. Corps observers have documented at least 32 individual Stellers since Jan. 20. Twenty are confirmed as being seen in past years.
 
No hazing of the sea lions is occuring at Bonneville Dam.

Washington and Oregon officials are waiting for a “letter of authorization'' from the National Marine Fisheries Service before they are allowed to proceed with any sea lion management.

City Parks offers tours on skis, snowshoes

WINTER SPORTS – The first weekend in March is a time to tour for women on skis and families on snowshoes.

The Spokane Parks and Recreation Outdoor Program is sponsoring a family snowshoe tour on March 4 at Mount Spokane. The activity is geared to include active kids as young as 4.

A women’s ski tour of the 49 Degrees North nordic trails is set for Sunday March 5, complete with lunch in the rustic yurt.

Sign-up: Spokane Parks Outdoors Program or (509) 625-6200.

Revised plan to merge natural resource agencies gets committee approval

OLYMPIA — Legislation to merge the Washington’s parks and wildlife agencies into a new Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation was approved Monday by the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee, but not before compromises were made.

Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian reports the substitute measure retains the current policy and rule-making authority of the Fish and Wildlife Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission. The original proposal supported by Gov. Chris Gregoire would have reduced the panels to advisory roles.

Currently, those commissions hire and fire their agency directors. In 1995, Washington voters approved Initiative 45 to secure the commission's role in hiring and firing the Fish and Wildlfie director. But Gregoire wanted that authority so the director of the new agency would be on the governor's cabinet.

The substitute bill compromises by giving the governor authority to appoint a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation secretary from a list of five candidates submitted jointly by the wildlife and parks commissions.

Also added to the new department is the state Recreation Conservation office and the law enforcement portion of the state Department of Natural Resources.

The substitute version of Senate Bill 5669 — which changed the name of the proposed new agency from the original Department of Conservation and Recreation to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation — goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Read on for more details.

Proposed Panhandle big-game hunting rules revealed

HUNTING – Idaho Fish and Game biologists just released a preview of proposed changes for Idaho Panhandle big-game hunting rules. They will be presented to sportsmen for their comments the week of March 7 at public meetings still to be scheduled.

Statewide season proposals for 2011 will be coming out sometime the next few days on the Idaho Fish and Game Department website.  Look in the “ Comments and Survey Questions” section in the lower right corner.

Hunting seasons will be set the last week of March at the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in Boise.

Read on for a summary of the Panhandle proposals from Jim Hayden, Idaho Panhandle big-game manager:

Solo climber made wise choice ditching winter ascent of McKinley

MOUNTAINEERING — Records aren't often set by being safe and rational, but a Mount McKinley climber can bask in the glory of being alive.

After 22 days of climbing last month, Minnesota mountaineer Lonnie Dupre turned back from his attempt to make the first January solo ascent of the 20,320-foot (6193-meter) peak. Also known as Denali, McKinley is the highest mountain in North America.

Dupre, 49, of Grand Marais, had ascended to 17,200 feet and was poised to make a bid for the summit, but continuous high winds, gusting around 100 mph along with -50 degree temperatures pinned him in a snow trench where he hunkered for seven days and slowly lost strength.

When the winds abated enough to allow Dupre to escape the trench, he descended to the relative safety at 14,200 feet in eight hours.

The mountain is so cold, its winds so ferocious and the daylight so skimpy in January, the odds of success are small. Only nine expeditions totaling 16 people have reached the summit of Denali in winter. Six people have died on winter attempts.

Only one team has reached the mountain’s summit in January: Two Russians in a three-person party reached the peak on Jan. 16, 1998.

From 14,000 feet, Dupre made a two-day trudge back into 7,200-foot Base Camp on Kahiltna Glacier, where he was picked up by a Talkeetna air taxi and flown back to civilization.

The snowfield landing area was lonely when the plane arrived, a ghost town at the site that will be bustling with expeditions starting in May when the normal climbing season begins.

Oregon wolves out in the open

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Blue Mountains elk winter in the low open canyon slopes of Oregon, and the recent-arrival gray wolves figured that out fast.

These wolves made themselves at home on the open slopes in northeastern Oregon near Pendleton, where they've been feeding on elk, according to Dale Denney of Bearpaw Outfitters in Colville.

It's an exciting sight for some and an enraging sight for others.

Either way you look at it, it's humbling to watch this 40-second video clip of two wolves taking down an elk.

Montana surveying right-wing boundaries

OUTDOOR POLITICS — Two Associated Press news stories this week out of the Montana Legislature give sportsmen reason to pause and wonder if these are the healthiest approaches to the issues.

  1. Republicans enthused by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s recent tough talk on wolves are getting closer to using an ancient “nullification” doctrine to disregard the federal law protecting endangered and threatened species — a plan that even the governor quickly dismissed as “off base.”
  2. The Montana House voted 55-45 to approve a gun rights bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in urban areas without a permit. House Bill 271 would allow anyone eligible for a concealed weapon permit to carry without actually applying for a permit. Law enforcement officials are very concerned. Concealed carry is already allowed in rural areas without a permit.

More swans sighted, but big freeze coming

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Another report on tundra swans in the region, this one coming from Warren Current in the Colville area:

“Yesterday afternoon I saw seven tundra swans along the shoreline of Lake Roosevelt just south of Colville Flats (Highway 25).  Other species in the vicinity included Canada geese, mallard, northern pintail, American wigeon, bufflehead adn common goldeneye.”

The level of Lake Roosevelt has gone down to 1270 feet which has exposed additional sand islands and more shoreline in that area, which seems attractive to waterfowl,he said.

But while the recent thaw and mild weather has lured the birds into this portion of their northern migration, the arctic cold coming this week will hold them up and maybe move them around.

Large numbers of tundra swans are in the Cougar Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene, and they're showing at the Calispell Lake area, where ice-up may force them out closer tot he Pend Oreille River, as well as at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Backcountry skiers find peak experience on Scotchman

WINTER SPORTS — A Saturday trek to the top of Scotchman Peak gave three backcountry skiers a heavenly if not gusty view of Lake Pend Oreille.

Jake Ostman, Jacob Styler and Michael Lucid — along with their canine companions Coco and Mojo — skinned up their skis for the ascent and made great tracks back down through the powder and wind-packed slopes.

Ostman's Facebook page has good photos of the day that hint at why the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are working so hard to protect the area northeast of the lake.

The photos, including the one above, also readily tell backcountry travelers that new snow and high winds have created huge cornices on ridges and avalanche danger on wind-loaded slopes.

Be careful out there.

Tundra swans showing at Calispell Creek, CdA Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Lake Coeur d'Alene's Cougar Bay is filled with waterfowl, at least 1500 individuals, reports Lisa Hardy of CdA Audubon.
 
Among them are 99 swans, almost all of which were tundra swans.
 
On Friday, birders from Newport found about 65 tundra swans on Calispell Creek about a mile downstream from Calispell Lake in Pend Oreille County.
 
The migration has begun.
 

Elk study begins in western Montana

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Forty-four cow elk  in western Montana's Ravalli County have been equipped with GPS collars as part of an elk population study expected to last through 2013.

Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the University of Montana attached the collars earlier this month to the elk captured with net guns and tranquilizer darts fired from a helicopter.

Biologist Craig Jourdonnais of Fish, Wildlife and Parks tells the Ravalli Republic that the study should show how elk are using the landscape in the East and West Forks of the Bitterroot River.

State biologists plan to conduct three or four flights a month to check for mortality as well, which will among other things help peg the impacts of wolves, cougars, bears and other impacts on elk numbers.

Biologists hope to capture and radio-collar elk calves this spring as part of the study.

Nordic trails dazzle at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — The trails, grooming and skiing conditions simply could not be better than they were Sunday at Mount Spokane's cross-country ski trails.

One more brilliant day in the forecast before grimness returns.

 

Palaniuk makes great showing at Bassmaster, earns $30K

NEW ORLEANS — Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum finished fourth in the Bassmaster Classic after the final weigh-in today for the three-day “super bowl” of bass fishing.

Palaniuk, 23, was the youngest of the 50 anglers to qualify for the competition. He also was the only angler from the West.

See a gallery of 13 great photos of Brandon's three-day run in the Classic.

See the ESPN schedule for TV coverage of the Classic to air next week.

Defending champ Kevin VanDam of Michigan won his fourth Bassmaster title and the first-place prize of $500,000 by weighing in 15 fish over the three days totaling a whopping 69 pounds 11 ounces.

Alabama angler Aaron Martens finished second with a total of 59 pounds, followed by another Alabama angler, Derek Remitz with 56 pounds 8 ounces and Palaniuk with 55 pounds 7 ounces.

Martens earned $45,000, Remitz $40,000 and Palaniuk $30,000.

Today Palaniuk caught a big bass weighing 7 pounds 13 ounces. He told the cheering weigh-in crowd, “I had another one that I swear tried to eat this one.”

Palaniuk, who earned his spot in the classic by winning the $60,000 Federation Nation championship prize last fall, was already creating a buzz of interest among angling media during the pre-fishing in the Louisiana Delta before the event.

He reportedly slept in the back of his pickup to save money.

At least 15 family members and friends made the trek to New Orleans, several driving 2,400 miles one way from North Idaho.

Read on for a Bassmasters report featuring the winners.

Meetings highlight Idaho big-game season proposals

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Department is planning a series of public open house meetings to discuss proposed big-game seasons and rules for the fall hunting seasons.

Some meetings in the Clearwater region are as early as Tuesday. Panhandle meetings will be the week of March 7, but have yet to be announced.

Proposal highlights and meeting dates will be updated on the Fish and Game website.

Palaniuk was in a fog with top Bassmaster

PRO FISHINGBrandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum told the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in crowd in New Orleans tonight that he was fishing this morning in thick a fog and could hear other anglers casting nearby, but he couldn’t see who was around him.

Suddenly he realized he was sharing the water with reigning champion and three-time Classic winner Kevin VanDam.

“He was great and very respectful of me, and I’m trying to do the same for him,” said Palaniuk, 23, one of a small group of “youngsters” in this year's Classic. “It’s awesome to be fishing next to someone who I’ve looked up to since I was eight years old.”

He had good reason to look up to VanDam.

The champ had a huge day, topping the entire 50-angler field with five fish totaling 22 pounds 8 ounces to soar up to the top spot after the second day of fishing.

Palaniuk,  the only angler from the West in this year's Classic, caught a limit of five fish totaling 17 pounds 14 ounces today. Combined with the five fish he caught Friday, his total is 32 pounds 8 ounces with one more day of fishing to go.

VanDam's total is 41 pounds 11 ounces.

See all the first- and second-day results here.
  

Rathrum angler has shot at win from 4th place in Bassmaster Classic

PRO FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum moved from 11th place to fourth place today  after the second day of fishing among the 50 anglers in New Orleans for the Bassmaster Classic .

Palaniuk, who's been creating a buzz since he arrived, has a shot a victory in the three-day Super Bowl of bass fishing, which runs through Sunday at  the Louisiana Delta.

Palaniuk, the only angler to qualify from the West, caught five fish totaling 17 pounds 14 ounces today. Combined with the five fish he caught Friday, his total is 32 pounds 8 ounces with one more day of fishing to go.

The leader is defending champ Kevin VanDam of Michigan with 41 pounds 11 ounces. In second is  Kansas angler Brent Chapman with 38 pounds 1 ounce. In third is  Alabama angler Aaron Martens with 33 pounds 2 ounces. See all the first- and second-day results here.

Follow the event online and Palaniuk  online; see  my  previous blog post and ESPN interview with Palaniuk.

Brandon might be the only angler from the West at the Classic, but he's not alone. .

At least 15 family members and friends made the trek to New Orleans, several driving from his hometown of Rathdrum, Idaho.

“That's only 2,392 miles Palaniuk, the 23-year-old winner of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation championship last fall, has been sleeping in his truck to be able to afford his foray into professional fishing.

Palaniuk has good fan base at Bassmaster Classic

PRO FISHING — As I write this, Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum is still waiting for his weigh-in after the second day of fishing at the Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans.

Palaniuk, 23, is the only angler from the West among the 50-angler field.  He finished the first day of fishing in 11th place.

But he has a vocal group of fans, including about 15 family members who made the 2,400-mile expedition from Idaho to watch him compete in the bigget bassing event in the world.

Region’s resorts welcome holiday skiers with powder

WINTER SPORTS — Powder is the word for President's Day Weekend skiers.

Around 2 feet of blower powder piled up and was waiting for skiers today. The full moon is out and everyone is ready to go out and shred!  

For those of you heading off the managed slopes of area resorts, John Olson, Forest Service hydrologist in North Idaho had this reminder:

“No matter how much fun you are having, you can still die in an avalanche.”

The weekend avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center says avalanche danger ranges from MODERATE to HIGH depending on the area.  

  

Fernie Alpine Resort  reported 9 inches of new powder snow earlier today and it was still snowing.

– 22cm in the last 48hrs and currently snowing close to 5cm an hour of Blower Powder.

Fish and Wildlife Commission takes stand on merger bill

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission issued a statement today voicing its opposition to a provision of  bill being considered in the Washington Legislature that would reduce the commission’s authority.

During a conference call, commissioners unanimously approved a statement objecting to the provision in Senate Bill 5669 that would eliminate their authority to set regulations and to appoint and remove the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The statement says the provision would “reverse the will of the majority of the people as reflected in Referendum 45.” That referendum, approved by voters in 1995, transferred from the governor to the commission the authority to set policy for WDFW and appoint its director.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor, also expressed concerns about another provision of the bill that would consolidate WDFW with the state Parks and Recreation Commission and state Recreation and Conservation Office.

Commissioners said they are concerned about added administrative burdens that would result from consolidating the agencies into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation. Under the bill, the director of the new agency would be appointed by the governor.

Rathdrum angler 11th after first day at Bassmaster Classic

PRO-FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum is in 11th place after the first day of fishing among the 50 anglers  in New Orleans for the Bassmaster Classic .

The three-day Super Bowl of bass fishing runs through Sunday at  the Louisiana Delta.

Palaniuk, the only angler to qualify from the west, caught five fish totaling 14 pounds 10 ounces in the first day of competition.

The leader, Alabama angler Aaron Martens came in with five fish totaling 20 pounds 7 ounces. See all the first-day results here.

Follow the event online and Palaniuk  online; see  my  previous blog post and ESPN interview with Palaniuk.

PALANIUK HAS FAMILY FAN BASE

Brandon might be the only angler from the West at the Classic, but he's not alone.  Here a morning post from the Bassmaster Classic blog.

“Most Classic anglers have supportive families, but few can top B.A.S.S. Federation Nation qualifier Brandon Palaniuk. At least 15 family members and friends made the trek to New Orleans, several driving from his hometown of Rathdrum, Idaho.

“That's only 2,392 miles from Bayou Segnette State Park, or one day, 15 hours of driving at the speed limit. His mother, Tonya, and stepfather, Dan Lyden, along with his grandmother and aunts, stood in the bleachers and cheered him on. Palaniuk, the 23-year-old winner of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation championship last fall, has been sleeping in his truck to be able to afford his foray into professional fishing.

“He's also signed up for the Bassmaster Elite Series, which kicks off in March. Family members held up a banner in the bleachers imploring Palaniuk to 'Do Work.' That's the code phrase he uses to tell his mother when he's faring well in a tournament — 'I do work,' he tells her.”

— Dave Precht

Dworshak flows into Clearwater River to be reduced

FISHING — Water discharge from Dworshak Dam near Orofino, Idaho, will temporarily decrease starting Saturday, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations officials announced this afternoon.

Discharge flow through the powerhouse will be decreased from approximately 11,000 cubic feet per second to 6,200 cfs on Saturday and Sunday.

Peaking flows through the powerhouse will fluctuate Monday through Friday between 2,500-8,600 cfs, with the reservoir levels lowering about one-quarter of a foot each day, based on currently expected inflows.

Corps officials advise boaters and other persons using waterways both in Dworshak Reservoir and below the dam on the Clearwater River to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow.

Water-management conditions can be viewed on the District website at www.nwd-wc.usace.army.mil/nww/rreports.htm— click on “Hourly” and look in the “TOTAL” column under the “OUTFLOW” heading on the reservoir report. Reservoir elevation is found in the “FOREBAY” column under the “EL AT POWERHOUSE” heading.

Let’s get it straight about fishing

OUTDOOR WISDOM — After attending last night's Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Bing — a thoroughly entertaining evening of film that overshadowed the unpolished ramblings of the tour hosts — I left knowing one thing for sure:

The most common misconception about fishing is that it's all about catching fish. 

Montana wildlife officials steady toward wolf delisting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Despite Gov. Brian Schweitzer's call this week for Montanans to defy federal endangered species laws and kill wolves (see story), the state's game wardens aren't launching a war on the controversial predators.

On Wednesday, Schweitzer announced he was done waiting for federal permission to manage wolves in Montana, according to the MIssoulian. He encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on livestock throughout the state, including the northern portion where federal rules prohibit that. He also said he wanted Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials to start killing wolves that threaten elk herds.

However, on Thursday, the Missoulian reported that FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim as saying  the department was still pursuing a formal request to shoot some wolves in the Bitterroot Mountains, but did not have larger plans.

Schweitzer's announcement was similar to a decision by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in October to drop all state efforts on wolf management until the federal government delists the animal.

Idaho's Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ed Mitchell said, “I'm not even talking about wolves anymore.” He referred questions to Gov. Butch Otter's press office.

Tuesday is furlough day for state employees

STATE GOVERNMENT — Plan ahead today if you need something from a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department office — or most other state government offices.

Monday is the Presidents Day holiday and Tuesday is another furlough day for most Washington state employees.

This will be the seventh of 10 unpaid days in the current budget period to cut state spending by $70 million. Law enforcement and other crucial workers are exempted, including state wildlife enforcement agents.

The next furlough day will be March 28.

Weekly hunting-fishing report for the Inland Northwest

FISHING-HUNTING — The ice is almost gone from Sprague Lake this week, a harbinger of a new season to come.

Here's the latest hunting fishing report, posted today by S-R columnist Alan Liere. 

Applications due Feb. 28 for Red Ives cabin lottery

NATIONAL FORESTS — The lottery drawing is coming up for summer reservations at a popular Forest Service “cabin” on the St. Joe River.

Applications for staying at the former forest service employee home at Red Ives from Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 30 must be received by Feb. 28 at the St. Joe Ranger District, Avery Office, 34 Hoyt Dr., Avery, ID 83802.

High demand prompted officials to book the facility on the upper region of the popular fishing and floating river rather than put it on the national public lands reservation system.

More than 400 applications were received for the 2010 season, but only 50 applicants were granted reservations before the open season was filled, officials said.

Red Ives Cabin lottery applications are available online.  For information, call (208) 245-4517.
  

Rental dates not booked through the lottery will be available on a “first-come” basis and posted on the cabin web site the first week of April.

Other rental opportunities on the St. Joe Ranger District include:
  

Find details about these and other rental options on the Idaho Panhandle Natioanl Forests website.

Join Great Backyard Bird Count Friday-Monday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins tomorrow across North America  — and in your own neighborhood, if you choose.

Volunteers do a census on the birds in their yard or neighborhood and record the data online to create a huge database you can see, sort and study online.

The Birds of North America Online is offering free access to comprehensive profiles of nine species, from common to rare. Visit the Birds of North America Online and click on the photo for the species you want to see.

The effort is coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited — all good sources of birding info. 

FIVE reasons to do the GBBC

1.
The birds you see will be recorded for all time. Just count for at least 15 minutes on one or more days and enter your checklist at www.birdcount.org.

2. Your counts ensure that the birds in your town or favorite birding locales will be represented in this continentwide event.

3. Scientists and birders alike can see the tallies as they roll in for more than 600 bird species.

4. In its 14th year, the GBBC provides data to track dynamic bird populations through time, a feat that would be impossible without the participation of tens of thousands of people.

5. Celebrate birds by watching them at your favorite spot. See photos of birds submitted from around the continent or send in your own for a chance to win birdy prizes.

For more news about the count, read this week’s article in The New York Times.

  

Best of Idaho photography lured to North Cascades

OUTDOOR IMAGES — Linda Lantzy,  an outdoor photographer who sports a classy “Best of Idaho” scenic images Facebook page includes some shots she couldn't resist from Washington's North Cascades, according to our Huckleberries blogger, Dave Oliveria.

You can see her other favorites here.

Birds bring signs, sounds of spring to Riverside State Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING — During a local birding foray Wednesday, Spokane Auduboner Kim Thorburn reported hearing a canyon wren sing at Deep Creek in Riverside State Park. 

“The winter and Bewick's wrens have already been at it for a week or two,” she said. “I also saw a pileated woodpecker drumming on Pine Bluff in the Park.  Spring juices seem to be flowing.”

Chronic wasting disease still a threat to big game

HUNTING — Chronic wasting disease isn't getting the press it received a decade ago as the malady was being documented in deer and elk in several states and provinces. However, while stepped up testing programs from coast to coast are affirming that most areas remain disease free, CWD is still cropping up in new places, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance.

For example, in testing done during the past hunting season:

  • MaryIand documented its first case of CWD in a deer.
  • Minnesota documented the first case in a deer outside of the fenced captive herd where CWD was documented in 2002.
  • Alberta tested 12 new cases in wild deer among more than 3,000 heads tested.
  • Nebraska found CWD in a record 52 of 3,645 deer tested, but found only a slight increase in the area where previous CWD cases had been detected.
  • South and North Dakota found 3 cases among 243 elk samples and 22 among 1,407 deer.

Washington and Idaho remain free of CWD.

CWD is a disease of the central nervous system in deer and elk that’s related to the “mad cow” disease that affects cattle. To date, there’s been no link between CWD and diseases that affect humans.

Wildlife officials throughout the country advise hunters to avoid eating the meat of any animal that shows symptoms of being anything less than 100 percent healthy. However, it's notable that the some of the states reporting deer testing positive to the disease also noted that the deer were otherwise healthy, according to the CWD Alliance's latest report.

Read on for more info on how CWD is affecting hunters.

Rare dark snow goose spotted by West Side photographer

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Skagit Valley Herald photographer Scott Terrell saw something stand out among thousands of white snow geese grazing in a field of winter wheat as he drove along Fir Island Road in northwestern Washington Tuesday.  

It was his first sighting of a black snow goose, called a “dark morph,” formerly known as a blue goose.

And his first chance to make an image of one.

The Audubon Society website notes that the dark morph goose is extremely rare in Washington.

Veteran birder Tim Manns, president of the Skagit Audubon Society, was intriqued when told of the sighting.

“I’ve never seen one,” Manns told the Herald. “We do get a few blue geese through this area every once in a while, but they are much more common on the east coast. So it is somewhat of a rarity around here, although not completely unusual.”

Pride of 8 central Washington cougars in one photo: here’s the truth

WILDLIFE — A trail cam photo that shows eight cougars in one frame (click “continue reading” below) has been going viral on Northwest websites and e-mail lists since a hunter shared it with friends on Christmas day.

As usual, not all the the information in the anonymous e-mails is correct.

But Wednesday, after tracking down the man who made the photos, and collaborating his info with wildlife biologists who looked into matter, the real story is even better than the made up stuff.

All the details are in my Thursday outdoors column.  But first a few facts to dispell the misinformation in the circulating e-mails, of which I've received at least eight:

— The images are from a motion-activated camera a hunter placed on a private ranch near Moses Coulee northwest of Quincy.

—The cougars were not feeding on a carcass.  No carcass was in the area.

“Cougars are notoriously territorial,” said Jon Gallie, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's biologist in Wenatchee. “Seeing eight in one spot is a wildlife jackpot.”

Rathdrum angler drawing attention at Bassmaster Classic

PRO-FISHING — Rathdrum, Idaho, angler Brandon Palaniuk (pronounced “pal-a-nick”) is catching some attention — and perhaps some extra cash — as he warms up for this weekend's Bassmaster Classic — the Super Bowl of competitive bass fishing.

An e-mail just received from a Bassmaster insider said Palaniuk, 23, is creating some buzz around the competition site at  the Louisiana Delta near New Orleans. The insider said he'd heard the Berkley fishing tackle company “just signed on to sponsor him, which suggests someone sees real potential in this guy!”

The 50 anglers who qualified for the Classic are pre-fishing this week; competition will run Friday-Sunday.

Read on for an ESPN pre-event Q&A interview with Palaniuk, who earned his berth at the Classic by winning the $60,000 grand prize at the 2010 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship in Shreveport, La. — a long way from his North Idaho home.

By the way… Despite having competed in tournaments in the nation's goldbelt of bass fishing, he told ESPN that Lake Coeur d'Alene is still his favorite place to fish.

Mt. Spokane ski area expansion clears hurdle

STATE PARKS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission today OKed environmental considerations in the conceptual expansion proposals for expanding Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

According to a press release just posted, the commission “issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for the proposed action.”

 The Commission is expected to consider this proposal at its May 19 meeting in Spokane. 

Comments on the proposal may be submitted through March 16, 2011 to randy.kline@parks.wa.gov

The SEPA determination, checklist, maps, and additional documents related to the proposal have been posted to the State Parks website.

Cattlemen sue feds over region’s wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A Washington state cattle group is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force the agency to review federal protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Attorneys for the Washington Cattlemen’s Association say the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington, according to an Associated Press report. The cattle association is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm based in Sacramento, Calif.

Foundation spokesman Harold Johnson  the government has not met its mandate to periodically review if wolves should be listed as an endangered species, AP reports.

An estimated 1,700 wolves roam the Northern Rockies, including at least one breeding pack in Eastern Washington. A federal judge in Montana reversed two attempts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to lift protections for the species in the last several years.

Local teen heads out on pro-bassing tour

PRO BASSING — Joey Nania, 19, of Liberty Lake headed out of the region this week with fellow Inland Empire Bass Clubber Art Acuff of Spokane Valley to begin the 2011 professional bass fishing season at the Central Open in Texas.

After that, Nania plans to make a base in Birmingham, Alabama, to be close to major tournament venues.

Nania, the nation's only two-time Junior Bassmaster Champion, debuted on the pro bass tour last year. He finishing 9th in the BASS Central Open on Lake Amistad and first on the Washington State BASS Federation Nation Team while slipping to 24th in a field of 55 anglers at the Federation Nation National Championships. 

 

Coyote is 10th critter documented with rabies in southern Oregon

WILDLIFE — A coyote has become the 10th animal in Josephine County to test positive for rabies over the past 13 months.

The coyote was found in the Cave Junction area, where seven foxes and one goat have all died from the disease. The other rabies victim was a fox near Merlin, The Mail Tribune reported.

The coyote has yet to be tested to determine whether it contracted the same strain of bat rabies found in the other dead animals.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say it’s likely that other animals have contracted rabies in the Cave Junction area.

“Maybe we hit the jackpot and it’s the only one,” said Colin Gillin, the department’s state wildlife veterinarian. “But normally, when you find it, it’s in others.”

Read on for more of the story moved by the Associated Press.

Hunting, fishing trends pegged in national status report

OUTDOOR TRENDS  – The ebb and flow of hunting and fishing is detailed in a recently released federal report  on hunting and fishing statistics.  For example:

  • The number of turkey hunters has increased at more than twice the rate of the growth of the U.S. population since 1991.
  • The number of duck and deer hunters has remained stable since 1991.
  • Turkey hunters in 2006 went out twice as many days as they did in 1991, and the rates for duck and deer hunters going out also increased by 20 percent to 40 percent.
  • While the overall number of hunters has declined, most of this can be attributed to a large decrease in small game and dove hunting. Rabbit and squirrel hunting lost half their participants since 1991, which may indicate that new hunter recruitment is declining.
  • Fishing participation has dropped for both freshwater and saltwater angling and for nearly all species of fish, with the exception of flatfish.
  • Anglers have increased their average days of fishing, so overall fishing efforts remained stable.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a new report, “Trends in Fishing and Hunting 1991-2006: A focus on Fishing and Hunting by Species,” that provides a detailed look at fishing and hunting by species and offers information on national and state fishing and hunting expenditures, participation rates and demographic trends. 

The 72-page report, an addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, represents a comprehensive survey conducted by the Service’s Wildlife Sport Fish and Restoration Program. Data used to support the study were obtained from 11 fishing and hunting surveys sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Assn. of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Read on for quotes on the meaning of the report:

Billboard offers $10,000 reward in OR wolf poaching case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Conservation groups are putting up a billboard in Eastern Oregon showing a dead wolf in a quest to send the person who shot and killed it to jail, according to an Associated Press story.

Starting today, drivers headed east on U.S. Highway 82 out of La Grande are seeing the billboard offering a $10,000 reward for information in the September shooting of a 2-year-old male wolf from the Wenaha pack in northeastern Oregon. 

The wolf was wearing a radio tracking collar and being monitored by wildlife biologists in Oregon and Washington who were trying to peg the movements of the pack that roamed the boarder of the two states.

Wally Sykes of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems says illegal killings of wildlife give rural communities a black eye and discourage tourists interested in wildlife.

Sykes says Northeastern Oregon Ecosystems and other conservation groups are paying for the $2,700 cost of the billboard.

The $10,000 reward has been raised by conservation groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wolf de-listing bill on fast-track in DC

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Congressman Mike Simpson fast-tracked wolf delisting legislation Monday by tacking language onto a federal budget bill that would strip Endangered Species Act protection from wolves.

An Associated Press story origining from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune says Simpson’s measure would reinstate a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that removed wolves in Idaho, Montana and portions of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah from the list of federally protected species.

It would not be subject to judicial review that has twice overturned wolf delisting rules in the region.

“It makes no sense to call wolves in Idaho and Montana an endangered species. Not only do wolf populations far exceed recovery goals, but without proper management, those populations have grown to the point where they are adversely impacting other wildlife populations in the region and wreaking havoc for ranchers, hunters and public land users in Idaho,” said Simpson, R-Idaho

Read on for more details.

Group tours offered at Spokane Fish Hatchery

FISHERIES — This is a good time of year to see how trout are produced in Spokane for the updoming fishing season:

It's before the fair-weather rush of school groups and prime time to see fish in all stages, including the egg stage.

The Spokane Fish Hatchery is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week year-round for self-guided observation of fish and fish-rearing activity.

While Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery workers do not have time to show visitors around, trained volunteers can be scheduled to give guided tours for groups of 15 or more.

  • To schedule a tour, call  (509) 892-1001.
  • To volunteer to be trained to help with tours or to donate to the hatchery tour program, contact Mike Coyle, (509) 220-3004.

Idaho Fish and Game chief Groen retiring

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced his retirment.

Cal Groen will leave his post as the agency's top man at the end of March and return to Lewiston, where he plans to spend much of his time hunting and fishing, according to today's story in the Lewiston Tribune.

Groen, 64, officially announced his retirement this morning at 10:15.

Read on for the rest of the story by Lewiston Outdoors writer Eric Barker:

Bill would restore hound hunting for cougars

OLYMPIA — Fifteen years after Washington voters banned using dogs to hunt cougars, lawmakers want to set permanent hunting seasons allowing licensed hunters to use hounds to track the cats, according to an Associated Press story.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, is the latest step in a seven-year process of addressing the 1996 ban through a pilot program aimed at testing cougar hunting seasons with dogs to stem the cougar conflict complaints that spiked after the ban.

The original three-year program has been extended twice so far.

Representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Commission say the pilot program has resulted in a 75 percent decline in confirmed complaints about cougars killing pets or livestock, or causing other problems.

Still, opponents of the bill say the use of hounds is cruel and inhumane, and is not being limited to public safety concerns.

The major opponent to the bill is the out-of-state-based Humane Society of the United States, which was a major funding source for the initiative campaign to ban hound hunting for cougars and bears.

HSUS is not affiliated with the “Humane Society” pet shelters that do the hard work of taking care of stray pets on a local level. Instead, HSUS is a multimillion-dollar conglomerate that mainly creates issues to feed its fundraising mission. 

I elaborated on this with details from the HSUS tax returns in this recent column, one of several on the subject.

Meantime, read on for more of the AP story from Olympia.

Owls think winter nesting is a cool idea

WILDLIFE — Several of the 11 owl species that inhabit most parts of Idaho are already well into their courtship, according to Jim Lukens of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

They get the early start so the hatching of owlets will coincide with peak prey abundance in spring and gives owlets a long summer to become skillful, self-sufficient hunters, he said.

Your after-dark walks have been met with hoots of great horned owls, but maybe you didn't recognize that it was a female and male talking to each other.  Among the wealth of informaton offered at owling.com  this audio recording of a female and male calling back and forth. The sequence starts with the female, then the male and ends with the female.

Another good source of information on these fascinating nocturnal birds of prey is Owl Pages.

Meantime, read on for for more details about what local owls are doing in this season of love.

Hunter volunteers to help woman with coyote issue

HUNTING — When the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department enforcement officer in Pend Oreille County received a call from a woman distressed about coyotes frequenting her yard, he had a cost-effective solution:   A hunter.

Officer Severin Erickson responded to the coyote complaint in Usk last week and learned the woman was afraid to let her animals out of the house because a pack of coyotes was visiting her home almost every morning and evening.

Her husband was out of state working and she was scared to shoot a firearm.

Erickson contacted a certified master hunter who was happy to hunt the coyotes for the lady starting the next day, Erickson reported.  The woman was very thankful for the help, WDFW officials said.

Another busy week for Spokane Region wildlife cops

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – The usual suspects and activities kept Washington Fish and Wildlife officers plenty busy, according to the latest weekly report.  But before getting to the criminal activity, its worth noting that the officers occasionally have to laugh at themselves.

Several flocks of turkeys that are over-flourishing on the South Hill have been causeing neighbors a lot of grief, and officers a lot of headaches.

One officer, two biologists and several volunteers attempted to use a net gun to capture a flock frequenting one neighborhood. What did they learn?

“The turkeys could out-run the net gun even at 15 feet!” the report said.

Read on for a mere sampling of last week’s enforcement activity highlights in this region.

Spokane Region wildlife cops working on shocking angle

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – Electrifying news comes today from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department:  Some wildlife enforcement officers are doing the preliminary work required to be able to equip themselves with Tasers.

Stay tuned, and  well-grounded.

Nuisance moose may get paint job from officers

WILDLIFE — Washington Fish Wildlife officers have been armed witha new weapon to deal with nuisance moose.

Six paint ball guns and accessories valued at more that $1,200 were given to the Spokane region thanks to a donation from the Northwest Sportsman’s Club in Spokane. 

The guns will be used primarily for hazing moose in the greater Spokane area and Pullman, according to Mike Whorton, spokane region enforcement chief.

Prolific poacher gets five months in jail

WILDLIFE ABUSE — The sentence: Just five months in jail for the man investigators say call the most prolific wildlife spree killer in Washington state history.

Cody Stearns of Western Washington was caught in an interview by KIRO TV as he left the courthouse last week after being convicted on five counts of poaching. Fish and Wildlife officers said they believe the man has killed more than a hundred animals and that the actual total could be much higher.

Even though he denied killing ANY animals, the KIRO website also includes a slideshow with graphic scenes sampling the evidence that piled up against Stearns.

Feed the tribe with Rufus Woods hog-like rainbow trout

 FISHING — Heading downstream from Grand Coulee Dam has been productive for anglers casting bait rigs near the commercial net pens at Lake Rufus Woods, according to Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service

His photo above indicates the rough range of possibilities for these outsized fish.

Here's his secret for matching what the fish are eating with a distinction that makes his bait more irresistible.

At Rufus, we know the fish are feeding below and downstream of the net pens on fish pellets.  How would they find our pellet imitation among the gazillions of actual food pellets?  Well, they wouldn’t.  So we fish where they are with a bait that is in the area they are eating, and only a bit bigger than what they are feeding on.  However, we use rainbow color and glitter to attract their attention. 

North Cascades Park expansion proposal presented tonight at GU

PUBLIC LANDS — Efforts to expand the area of North Cascades National Park will be presented in Spokane tonight by The American Alps Legacy Project. The program starts at 7 p.m. at Gonzaga University's Jepson Center, Wolfe Auditorium.

 Supporters seek to expand the park to cover the area originally envisioned for the park. 

Colville National Forest OHV plan stalled

PUBLIC LANDS –A plan to open more roads at the south end of the Colville National Forest to off-road vehicles is months behind its original schedule as forest staff tries to comply with environmental regulations.

The plan, expected to be released for public comment last fall may not be ready for release until June, said Nancy Glines, forest planner.

“As we worked through we came to the requirement for an environmental analysis on (vehicle) emissions,” she said. “That’s where we are.”

Postponing approval leaves dirt-bike riders and ATVers with fewer roads to ride this season and curtails efforts to build connector trails to roads approved for their use.

On the other hand, the plan also proposes reducing the areas where OHVers are allowed to camp with their vehicles.

Fly fishers getting their line yanked

FLY FISHING – Last week, while fly fishing on Rocky Ford Creek north of Moses Lake, Pat Kendall of Spokane was startled to walk up on a rattlesnake coiled on a large flat rock.

“It’s mouth was open ready to strike and its tail was up ready to rattle,” he recounted, noting that the surprise rattled the hackle on his Stimulator.

“I froze and the snake seemed to do the same. I then backed away, touched the snake with my fly rod, and discovered it was plastic.

“Some joker had pulled a good one on me, putting the snake in just the right place. I’m sure he scared a bunch of others.”

Kendall didn’t think twice about what to do.

“The snake’s still there doing its thing,” he said.

Indeed, I've heard from two more anglers who have cured their hiccups as they stumbled onto the fake ankle biter, including Jerry McBride of Spokane, who calmed down enough to snap and share the photo above.

Critters provide Valentine’s Day inspiration

WILD LIFE – Blush if you must, but mating season is an exciting time to get out the binoculars.

Many eagles, owls, hawks and other large birds such as ravens and magpies are making whoopee in the skies and treetops of the Inland Northwest.

Golden eagles have been seen performing their swooping mating flights over the hills and cliffs above the cliffy shores of Lake Roosevelt.

Coyotes also have reason to howl as they pair up.

But while there are some similarities between human and critter behavior around Valentine’s Day, here’s a point at which men may want to stray:

When looking for mates, male meadow voles – grassland rodents that look like mice with short tails – listen for the pitter-patter of little feet.

Female voles are most receptive when males catch them hours after giving birth. New mammas will mate after about 5 minutes of courtship, compared with up to 90 minutes for other females.

Sky-high skiers to fly at Schweitzer

Outrageous Air Show from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

OUTDOOR SPECTATING — Here are a few men with skills worth looking up to.

What: Yoke’s Outrageous Air Show aerial ski-jumping exhibition, plus fireworks, music. FREE.

Who: Olympic freestyle gold medalist Jean Marc Rozon; four-time world champion Steve Omischl, Olympian Brad Suey and others.

When: Friday Feb. 25-Saturday Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Details: Hour-long shows includes synchronized multiple twisting flips, fireworks and outdoor music.

Conserving working ranches topic of fundraiser

CONSERVATION — John Dawson, a Colville-area cattle rancher, will be featured at a Spokane event this week sponsored by several conservation groups to raise awareness of need to maintain working ranches for the benefit of wildlife.

Read my December feature story about Dawson.

The Dawson family are the first in Stevens County to put their ranch into a conservation easement to assure that it remains a ranch and is not developed.  The move has been lauded by conservation groups, wildlife biologists and cattlemen who know that economic pressures force many of them to develop and price the land out of the reach of the next generation of ranchers.

The event with appetizers and wine is set for Friday at the American West Bank Building lobby, 41 W. Riverside Ave. Doors open at 6 p.m.; program starts at 7.  It's sponsored by Conservation Northwest, Inland Northwest Land Trust and The Lands Council. Sen. Lisa Brown is a host.

RSVP to Crystal Gartner, (509) 570-2166, crystal@conservationnw.org

For more info, read my December feature story about the Dawson's and their conservation easement decision.

Steelheader group funds trout program

SPOKANE — About 20 lakes and ponds in southeastern Washington will be stocked this season wtih “jumbo” trout, thaks to funding from The Tri-State Steelheaders.

The Walla Walla-based sport-fishing and habitat-enhancement group stepped up last year when the program to raise outsized trout was axed in the first round of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie budget cuts.

In recent years, the state has raised about 4,000 jumbo rainbows — each measuring 14 inches or larger and weighing about 1.5 pounds —  at its Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

The standard “catchable-size” rainbow trout reared at the hatcheries generally run 8-12 inch inches long.

But jumbo trout require about 14 months of rearing and more fish food to reach the larger size, said Jon Lovrak, a WDFW hatchery complex manager.

“When we had to cut the program, the Tri-State Steelheaders stepped up to provide $4,400 to cover the extra fish food necessary to grow them to that popular bigger size,” Lovrak said.

Some of the fish will be stocked in time for the March 1 opening at some lakes.

Lakes and ponds scheduled to receive jumbos this year include Dalton Lake in Franklin County; Quarry Pond and Bennington Lake in Walla Walla County; Blue and Watson lakes in Columbia County; and West Evans and Golf Course ponds in Asotin County.

Rainier’s Carbon River Road to become trail for hikers, bikers

NATIONAL PARKS — Mount Rainier National Park officials have given approval to convert Mount Rainier’s Carbon River Road into a 9-mile trail for hiking and biking.

The road has been closed to vehicles since it was heavily damaged in a 2006 storm. It leads to the Ipsut Creek campground, which now is only reachable by hikers or bikers.

The park service Friday also decided to convert the campground to backcountry use, according to a Tacoma News-Tribune story. When money becomes available, a new vehicle campground is planned elsewhere in the park.

Since the road was built in the 1920s, rocks and gravel from floods have raised the bed of the Carbon River by up to 31 feet, with some stretches of the road now lower than the river.

Mount Rainier’s Carbon River Road declared a trail

NATIONAL PARKS — National Park Service officials announced today they plan to convert Mount Rainier’s Carbon River Road into a trail for hiking and bicycling.

The road, once a popular road access to a secluded area of the park, has been closed to vehicles since it was heavily damaged in a 2006 storm. It leads to the Ipsut Creek campground, which now is only reachable by hikers or bikers.

The park service today also decided to convert the campground for backcountry use. When money becomes available, a new vehicle campground is planned elsewhere in the park.

Since the road was built in the 1920s, rocks and gravel from floods have raised the bed of the Carbon River by up to 31 feet, with some stretches of the road now lower than the river.

Fly Fishing Film Tour coming Thursday to The Bing

FLY FISHING — Here's another good reason to visit one of three area fly shops this weekend:

They have discounted tickets to The Fly Fishing Film Tour, which will make its fourth annual winter run through Spokane on Thursday, bringing the pulse of rivers, saltwater flats and heart-thumping music to the Bing Crosby Theater.

Ten new films have been compiled into two hours of drama, savage strikes and humor set to start at 7 p.m.

I'll have a story detailing the event an all the stories in Sunday's Outdoors section.

But you might want to buy tickets sooner.

Tickets cost $12 in advance at Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley, Westslope Fly Shop next to
Northern Lights Brewery and Castaway Fly Shop in Coeur d’Alene, $14 online at flyfishingfilmtour.com and $15 at the door.

Bill would expand Alpine Lakes Wilderness

WILDERNESS — Members of Washington's congressional delegation are making another attempt to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascades, according to a Seattle Times report.

Republican Rep. Dave Reichert and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray reintroduced bills Thursday to expand the wilderness area by about 22,000 acres and to designate parts of the Pratt River and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River as wild and scenic.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell is a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, and congressmen Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott, Norm Dicks, and Adam Smith are co-sponsors in the House.

Reichert and other members of the delegation have introduced similar measures in recent years, but the bills didn't pass both the House and Senate.

Biologists focus on fate of Methow wolf pack

WILDLIFE — Washington wildlife biologist are keenly watching during the February wolf mating season to see if there's any breeding activity in the Methow Valley's Lookout Mountain pack. Two years ago, that pack became the first in Washington to have a confirmed breeding pair.

State Fish and Wildlife Department experts suggest the breeding female was killed last May and her radio collar destroyed, according to a story in the Methow Valley News.

The pack has fluctuated in size, numbering as many as 10 in the spring of 2008.  Biologists estimate the pack has dwindled to perhaps just three wolves.

The Methow Valley News story also updates the area's pending wolf poaching case involving local landowners.

MEANWHILE IN IDAHO…

Federal wildlife officials on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a petition to kill up to 60 endangered gray wolves in Idaho’s Lolo area that have been preying heavily on big game herds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to approve the hunt plan submitted last August by Idaho Fish and Game. A similar petition to remove wolves in the Bitterroot Range of Montana is pending.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are listed as an endangered species under a federal court order, but state and federal officials have been looking for ways to curb their population.

Montana landowners try to reduce angler access to streams

FISHING - Ranchers unhappy with Montana's stream access law are moving a bill through the Legislature that tinkers with rules that allow access to public waters via irrigation ditches, according to an Associated Press report.

Anglers are opposing the measure.

The Republican majority in the House mustered up enough votes Wednesday to endorse the measure 55-44.. The bill opens up an issue decided by the Supreme Court in 2008 declaring that a slough that runs through the Bitterroot Valley property of 1980s rocker Huey Lewis and others is a public waterway and open to recreational use under the state stream access law.

The state's stream access law says that Montana rivers and streams are open to all if reached from public property, even if they eventually flow through private land.

Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, said House Republicans are turning their backs on sportsmen and anglers, but predicted the bill could be stopped in the Senate.

“I think there's a coalition who will stand up for Montana's sportsmen and women,” Van Dyk said. “The House GOP's actions today are par for the course. The monkeys have gotten a hold of the zookeeper's keys over there.”

Weekly avalanche forecast: danger ranges moderate to high

WINTER SPORTS — The weekly avalanche forecast posted today by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center indicates that backcountry winter travelers need to pay close attention to conditions in specific areas.

In the Selkirks from Schweitzer north to Caribou Creek the danger is generally rated as MODERATE for the weekend. However, route selection in the Selkirks is important, experts said. “Last weekend’s wind loading and heavy wind slab on the North and Easterly exposed slopes failed naturally in several areas,' rasiding the danger to CONSIDERABLE in those areas.

St. Regis Basin and Silver Valley showed a MUCH GREATER HAZARD.

The hazard will be HIGH anyhere there's pocktes of big cornices and wind-loaded features.

 

Free Langlauf nordic waxing clinic tonight

NORDIC SKIING — The countdown has begun for the annualLanglauf 10K classic cross-country citizens race set to start at 11 a.m. Sunday at Mount Spokane. 

A free waxing clinic geared to the race will be held today, 6 p.m., at Fitness Fanatics, 2425 E. Trent., where you can pre-register or pick up entry packet from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

Tip:  If you're not a Langlauf skier, expect the parking lot at the Mount Spokane nordic trails to be jam packed Sunday until about 2:30 p.m. 

This is the biggest cross-country skiing event in the region, a distinction boosted by the $6,000 in prizes.

Weekly fishing report finds hot spots for trout, steelhead

FISHING — Highlights from today's FISHING & HUNTING REPORT by SR columnist Al Liere include great shore fishing for trout at Lake Roosvelt and unusually good steelheading on the Clearwater River.  Check it out.

Sportsmen back Wildlife Commission at Legislature

OLYMPIA — Sportsmen jammed a state Senate hearing room Thursday and delivered this message to legislators over and over: Don't strip the Fish and Wildlife Commission of its authority in an attempt to save the state money.
 
The sportsmen were testifying before the state Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee on Senate Bill 5669, which would merge the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, and Recreation Conservation Office into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation.
 
Read on for the on-the-scene report by Allen Thomas, outdoors scribe for the Vancouver Columbian.

New planning rules proposed for national forests

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule today which would establish a new national framework to develop land management plans that protect water and wildlife.

The details are still being analyized, but the proposal comes after 40 public meetings and roundtables across the country that drew more than 3,000 participants. More than 26,000 comments were filed on the notice of intent to issue a new planning rule.

Read on for highlights of the proposal from the Forest Service press release. More public meetings are planned starting in March.

 

Game wardens reality show fined for lack of forest permit

NATIONAL FORESTS – A reality TV show about Montana’s game wardens has been fined $1,050 for not having a permit to film on federal land, according to a story in the Missoulian.

The videographer for Muddy Boot Productions followed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens from state to federal land but didn’t have the a permit to film commercially in national forests.

The permit requirement has been a sticking point for professional photographers who market images made on federal lands.

The company said the crossover into federal land happened spontaneously and they didn’t know where they would end up.

The show, called “Wardens,” follows wildlife enforcement officers day-to-day duties, including checking fishing and hunting licenses, monitoring people searching for antlers, and capturing and releasing rogue bears. It airs on the Outdoor Channel.

Click here to see film clips from the cable TV show that's making Montana game wardens famous.

Lead shot banned for controlling nuisance wildlife

ENVIRONMENT — In an effort to reduce lead toxicity hazards to wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it has banned the use of lead ammunition for it's official control hunting of nuisance birds such as blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, crows and magpies.

The agency often allows lethal control of these birds in areas where they congregate in numbers large enough to cause damage to crops or property or pose a health or safety hazard.

This new regulation will require the use of non-toxic ammunition in the control of these nuisance birds. 

“Depredation hunting tends to leave large amounts of highly toxic lead ammunition on the ground that non-target birds and other wildlife consume while mistaking it for food,” said Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and advocacy director for the American Bird Conservancy.

“We have had many discussions with FWS about using non-toxic shot for all agency operations and we are very glad they have made this decision.”

“The paint industry got the lead out, the gasoline industry got the lead out, the toy industry got the lead out, the home building industry got the lead out of plumbing, and even the automotive industry most recently is getting the lead out of the wheel weights on cars,” Fry said. 
“The lethal impacts of lead in our environment are so well documented and accepted by the science and health community that any deliberate release of lead into a public environment should be viewed as unacceptable.”

State lands parking pass a tough sell in WA

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington's budget crisis is leaving lawmakers with the grim prospect of having to close perhaps 100 of the state's parks plus access sites at some recreation areas managed by other state agencies.

One of the solution's is a $30 Discover Pass user fee for vehicles accessing these public lands, detailed in my Outdoors column today. 

The hitch is that even if lawmakers approve the bill for a new vehicle parking pass, Washington residents have indicated they won't buy it.  

The State Parks Department experimented with a vehicle parking fee for day users at some sites beginning in 2003. But the Legislature rescinded the fee in 2006, after stepped-up enforcement triggered public opposition.

This time around the state parks have few other options. The governor's budget proposal offers no general fund money to the parks system.

Sportsmen have become accustomed to paying their way through excise taxes and license fees.  Hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoor groups have not.

The Washington Trails Association has seen the bottom line and realized a new funding source is desperatly needed to nurse state parks through this budget crisis. The group lobbied in Olympia Wednesday and urge support for the Discover Pass bill.

However, in the WTA magazine, the letters from hikers were clearly against a new parking pass required for public lands access.

People don't think twice about paying a fee for every text message they send, but they balk at paying for public land access and management through fees or taxes.  Where do we go from there?  

Free fly tying activities at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — Two free fly tying activites are scheduled at Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave., plus an in-depth class for a fee.

Flies and Lies

  • What: Free fly tying clinic with local professional tier Tom Keefe. Bring your own fly tying gear. Tie flies, get help with techniques and tell fishing stories!
  • When: Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

 LeRoy Hyatt Fly Tying Clinic

  • What: Watch and learn as master fly tyer LeRoy Hyatt demonstrates techniques for his time proven local patterns. FREE.
  • When: Feb 19th 10a.m.-2 p.m.

Advanced Fly Tying Clinic

  • What: Learn how to be a pro tier from expert tier Mark Poirier. Learn 6 patterns and the techniques.
  • When: Feb 15th and 16th  6pm-8pm
  • Cost: $75. Includes materials/tools for use.
    Pre-register:  924-9998.

Cross-country snowboarding catches on, a little

WINTER SPORTS — If you're looking to be a maverick on the snow, cross-country snowboarding is a good bet. Put a little skooch in your getalong with this video.

For you incurable traditionalists, the Spokane Langlauf 10 cross-country citizens race is Sunday, 11 a.m. at Mount Spokane. Don't expect to see any snowboards on the course.

Sportsmen donate netting to protect hatchery fish

FISHING — Spokane Fish Hatchery manager Ace Trump says $2,800 worth of new fish pond protective netting will be installed Tuesday to prevent herons, gulls, raccoons and other critters from taking a toll on the fish being raised for stocking in the region's lakes.

Money for the netting was donated by the Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International — a nice boost to a popular program provided by the cash-strapped Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.  

Several years ago, SCI also came to the rescue to fund and lead fish hatchery tours popular with many groups and schools in the Spokane region.

Rare Utah mule deer tag bagged for $265,000

OUTBID– For the first time since at least 1981, mule deer on Utah’s Antelope Island will be in the cross hairs of a hunter’s rifle, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

A hunter won the right to kill one buck later this year on the 26,000-acre Utah state park with a bid of $265,000 during the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo held last weekend in Salt Lake City.

Hunting groups had been trying to get the Antelope Island hunting tags for more than a decade. One tag was approved last summer on a one-year trial basis, with the requirement that 90 percent of the money from the auctioned tags be used for wildlife habitat improvements on the island.

“I want the money going into habitat improvements, not toilet paper and plungers,” said Miles Moretti, president of the Utah-based Mule Deer Foundation, which helped auction the tag.  

The hunt will be the easy part. The deer are virtually tame.

North Idaho Boat Show runs through Sunday

BOATING — More than 100 boats are on display in three buildings during the North Idaho Boat Show which runs through Sunday at Tobler Marina in Hayden.

No boating or fishing seminars are included, but admission is free and the boats range from small flat-bottom jon boats to a 33 Chaparral cruiser. You'll find center consoles, heavy gauge fishing,
ski-fish, pontoons, wake board and ski boats, runabouts and cruisers said Tobler spokesman Brent Christian.

Stillwater fly fishing program tonight

FLY FISHING — Canadian fly fisher and author Phil Rowley will present a free Stillwater fishing program on “Tactics for Tough Days” tonight, 7 p.m. during the meeting of the Spokane Fly Fishers at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy Ave.

Grand Canyon river float applications due

RIVER RUNNING — Rafters who have the do-it-yourself skills for big water have until Feb. 23 to apply for a coveted permit to run the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park.

The National Park Service is holding its annual lottery this month to assign launch dates for private river trips through the cayon.

The lottery system replaced a years-long waiting list in 2006.

The Park Service will award 436 permits for 12- to- 25-day noncommercial trips on the Colorado River. The permits are for specific launch dates in 2012.

Additional draws will be held for the self-guided trips that are canceled or left over after the Feb. 23 application deadline.

The main applicant must be 18 years or older, and at least one person on the trip must be experienced in whitewater rafting.

Check out the video above to see if you're ready to handle Lava Falls.

WHAT ARE YOUR ODDS?

A rafting trip on the Colorado River requires the luck of the draw or a hefty withdrawal from your savings account.

Not many years ago, rafting permit applicants got on a waiting list that ran as long as 20 years.

Since 2006,  around 8,000 applicants vie for permits in a lottery system. 

Chances of drawing a permit for a specified date are about 1 percent.

Therefore, most people who want to go on a Grand Canyon rafting trip before they die pay dearly for the privilege.  An 18-day trip through 47 major rapids rated 5 or above on the Grand Canyon scale of 1-10 will cost around $4,800.

Hikers plan lobby to keep state parks open

 PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington Trails Association is organizing a Hiker Lobby Day at the state Capitol in Olympia on Wednesday (Feb. 9) to urging lawmakers to support for state parks and recreation threatened with closure because of the budget crisis.

More than 2,000 hikers have signed a petition supporting state lands and others are participating in WTA’s Hiker Lobby Day virtually.

Many state parks will have to close their gates this summer if the legislature does not act soon to authorize a new sustainable funding source.

One option already introduced is the Discover Pass (SB 5622 / HB 1796), which creates a multi-agency fee pass that provides access to recreation lands managed by State Parks, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The fee, $30 for an annual vehicle tab, is a reasonable amount for hikers to pay for access, especially when the alternative is closure of these lands,” says Lauren Braden, WTA spokeswoman. “If managed carefully, this pass will be a great value for Washington recreation opportunities and landscapes, and provide a stable and sustainable source of funding into the future.”

Avalanche accidents reviewed in Sandpoint on Wednesday

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians will present, “10 Years of Avalanche Accident Review in North Idaho” Wednesday (Feb. 9) at 6 p.m. at the Sandpoint Forest Service Building.

The hour-long discussion will focus on common characteristics involved in several fatal avalanche accidents and how winter travelers can learn to recognize similar circumstances in the weather patterns, snowpack, and the terrain they choose to play in, said Kevin Davis, IPAC spokesman. 

Google Earth will be used to study terrain.

Wildlife officer stands out among Washington cops for not shooting

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — A Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officer has been named Officer of the Year by the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs for staring down a gunman and alerting his partner to impending danger .

Chad McGary, 28, of Othello, received the award last week at a ceremony attended by Gov. Chris Gregoire, department Director Phil Anderson and other law enforcement officers.

Read on for details of his encounter in a fishing license check that went bad and ended in gunfire.

Dam reaches goal of 93 percent fish passage

FISHING — Improvements in operating Rock Island Dam will allow survival of at least 93 percent of the young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream, according to the Chelan County PUD.

The utility had to be able reach the 93-percent survival goal to meet federal criteria for boosting spring chinook, steelhead and sockeye runs.

The fish-survival debate regarding the region’s Columbia River dams began in the late 1970s and ’80s, with federal and state agencies and tribes mandating what PUDs had to do to improve fish survival numbers.

Each dam has its own plan for reaching the goals.

Rock Island Dam is fitted with fish ladders that mature fish use to get around the dam on their homeward migration to spawn. But it has no bypass system for young, ocean-bound fish. Spill is the method used to transport the fish downstream.

Follow rare whale’s route along Oregon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Satellite technology is allowing whale enthusiasts to click here and join researchers in tracking a type of gray whale that spends summers off Russia as it makes its way along the Oregon coast.

Researchers attached a satellite tag to a 13-year-old, male western Pacific gray whale known as Flex on Oct. 4. The whale moved east across the Bering Sea and south through the Aleutian Islands into the Gulf of Alaska.

Read on for details.

Barred owls could be shot to help spotted cousins

ENDANGERED SPECIES — How desperate are federal wildlife officials in protecting the endangered spotted owl from the larger, more aggressive barred owls?

A story in the Oregonian says a draft environmental impact statement scheduled for release this summer most likely will recommend shooting barred owls.

Over the next year, in three or more study areas from Washington to northern California, authorized federal workers might kill 1,200 to 1,500 barred owls.

Other measures have failed to give the spotted owl an edge in attempts to get it off the endangered species list.

Adopting a lethal option is a wrenching decision that has split wildlife biologists and environmentalists, the Oregonian said.

WA angler charged with illegal guiding in North Idaho

FISHING — A Washington man has been charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly guiding fishing trips in North Idaho without an Idaho outfitters license, according to a Bonner County Daily Bee story.

Prosecutors charged 49-year-old Charles Osterholm of Deer Park last week following an undercover investigation by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.

Authorities launched an investigation after getting a tip that Osterholm was guiding clients without a license. In November, board investigators posed as anglers and booked a trip with Osterholm to fish for a day on Priest Lake. A subsequent search of the licensing database failed to turn up a valid license in Osterholm’s name.

Sandpoint avalanche clinic for all snowgoers

WINTER SPORTS — A free avalanche workshop for all snowgoers is set for Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint.

The topic to be tackled by the team of Forest Service technicians at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center“What we can learn from 10 years of avalanche accident review in North Idaho?

Contact: Kevin Davis, (208) 265-6686, kevingdavis@fs.fed.us.

Group or clubs can contact Davis regarding free avalanche classes.

ATVers want detour around Idaho Fish and Game laws

HUNTING — Some hunters who ride all-terrain vehicles to pursue their quarry have gone to the Idaho Legislature in a bid to expand where they can drive, according to a story just moved by the Associated Press.

Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, is giving the off-roaders some traction with a bill that would strip the Idaho Fish and Game Department's authority to regulate where hunters can ride their ATVs.

The agency limits ATV travel by hunters during hunting seasons to established roads on about a third of Idaho’s 99 hunting units, mostly in the open spaces of southern Idaho.

The agency has made the case through research that restrictions are needed to protect big-game herds from overhunting and too much disturbance.

But some ATV riders told the Senate and House resource committees today in Boise that they see the state agency in cahoots with the federal government to limit access to public lands.

Those people clearly have not paid attention to the evolution of Fish and Game's ATV restrictions.

Idaho sportsmen who don't use ATV's have been the strongest voice against unregulated ATV use during hunting seasons  — not Uncle Sam.

Read on for another news item, just moved, that impacts Idaho ATVers.

Skier’s death triggers avalanche of grief

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING – Last week’s news that a 40-year-old Seattle woman died exploring the outback slopes near Snoqualmie Pass has generated an outpouring of response on the Turns All Year website devoted to backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.

Monika Johnson, 40, apparently died Tuesday after ski-trekking to the top of Red Mountain, breaking through a cornice and falling hundreds of feet. Her body was found buried under a foot of snow two days later by a King County alpine search and rescue group.

Johnson, a physical therapist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, is being mourned by people who knew her for her compassion to the ill as well as for her love for breaking trail and free-heel skiing the ungroomed slopes. 

See a KIRO TV interview with her brother.

Her story has prompted a long thread of thoughts from friends as well as skiers who didn’t know her on the TAY website, generating more than 17,000 views.

 Here's just one example:

“Looking for a Magic Carpet to Paradise”

This is the title of a post by Monika on “partners wanted” in January.

It was an invitation for an opportunity to ride and ski with a skilled mountaineer who was willing to, perhaps ski with me. It was a missed opportunity.

She inspired me and I never met her. She encouraged me and she didn't know it.

 RIP

Outdoors blogger back in the saddle

OUTBLOGGING — I'm back from a week “in the field” and catching up on a ton of outdoor news and happenings. Clearly the outdoor world has not stopped in my absence.

Although I've been trickling in new info daily, I'll pass on more news and fun as I dig out from 900 e-mails and catch up on phone calls.

How was the field research you ask?  Wonderful if you enjoy — as I do — sea kayaking and camping among cacti, scorpions, whitecaps, whale breath and warm margaritas.

Methow valley winterfest will get your heart pumping

WINTER SPORTS – Nordic ski races and advance skiing camps, a Doggie Dash, biathlon clinics, art shows, comedy theater – and that’s just a sampling of the activities scheduled for this year’s Methow Valley Winter Festival near Winthrop, Feb. 18-27.

See the entire schedule and pre-register for the popular activities online

Read on for more details and links.

CLOSER TO HOME

It's not too late to sign up for the Spokane Langlauf 10-kilometer cross-country citizen race, Feb. 13 at Mount Spokane. This is the largest nordic ski race in the region and a hoot whether you're a serious racer to more interested in the Woolies or Woodies divisions.  Get infor and register online.

Photographer studies whitetails that are white-all-over

WILDLIFE ODDITIES — The occasional white turkey or white moose captures our attention like a snowflake in the desert. But the persistence of whiteness in a small band of northern Wisconsin whitetails has become book material.

If you haven't seen it, check out this year-old TV video report featuring photographer Jeff Richter. 

The highlight: a white buck with antlers in full white velvet. 

Apply for Idaho turkey, bear hunts by Feb. 15

HUNTING — The application period for  Idaho's spring turkey and black bear controlled hunts is open and runs through Feb. 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later. Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Information on spring hunts is available in Idaho's new upland game and turkey rules. Spring 2011 bear hunts are listed in the 2010 big game rules brochures. New controlled hunt numbers can be found online here.

Online applications can be made here.  You must have a 2011 Idaho hunting license to apply.

Smith River applications coming due

RIVERS — Floaters and anglers have until Feb. 15 to apply for the coveted permits to float Montana's Smith River.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department holds a lottery to issue permits required to float the 59-mile section of river south of Great Falls between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge. 

            Applicants can apply for a Smith River permit online through FWP’s automated licensing system, use a paper application available at fwp.mt.gov, or apply in person at any FWP regional office.

            Read on for a summary of changes in the application process.

City Parks offers nordic skiing, snowshoeing activities

WINTER SPORTS — The Spokane Parks and Recreation department offers a full slate of reasonably priced winter nordic skiing and snowshoeing clinics plus outings.

A Feb. 12 guided snowshoe hike at Liberty Lake catches my eye, but there's much more.

Check them out at the Spokane Parks website or call (509) 625-6200.

Banks Lake drawdown set for August

LAKES — Anglers and campers will see new ground at Banks Lake this summer.

Starting Aug. 1, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will lower Banks Lake by 30 feet to complete about $2 million worth of work at Dry Falls Dam and North Dam, according to a Columbia Basin Herald story.

“It sounds like a lot, but we have a footprint on what it will look like,” said Stephanie Utter, manager at the Bureau's Ephrata office. “It's not as bad as it sounds. It's a pretty deep reservoir and it will still have a lot of water in it.”

The lake has had only a few major drawdowns: in the 1960s and later for milfoil control in the early to mid-1990s.

The drawdown will allow construction and upgrades for recreational facilities, too.

At Coulee City, for example, plans call for work on the swim beach area and expand boat moorage sites, she said.

Big Rock access priority for Dishman Hills Association

CONSERVATION – Developing a parking area for the south-side access to the Big Rock conservation area near Tower Mountain is a top 2011 priority for The Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, which recently filled all 14 slots on its board.

After three years of negotiations, the non-profit group acquired the 80-acre parcel in Spokane Valley in 2009.

Since 1994, the association has acquired about 500 acres in the Tower Mountain- Big Rock area, said Michael  Hamilton, association president.

The Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area adjoins Spokane County’s 875-acre Iller Creek Conservation Futures Area, which extends uphill from the Ponderosa neighborhood west of Dishman-Mica Road.

The 2009 deal created about 1,300 acres of Dishman Hills association and county land dedicated to natural-area protection and public, nonmotorized recreation, Hamilton said.

To continue these endeavors, the group needs to continue to cultivate new supporters and donors.

For information on membership and tax-deductible donations, contact Michael Hamilton, 747-8147.

The DHNA’s current slate of trustees includes David Cole, Paul Flanary, Karen Jurasin, Chris Kopczynski, Beatrice Lackaff, David Lill, Bob Ordner, Mary Weathers, Peter Wolbach, Andrew Ashmore, Michael Hamilton, Jeff Lambert, Kris Wolbach and Suzy Dix..

Dishman Hills activities

The group’s traditional Buttercup Hike through the Dishman Hills is set for April 2 followed by the second annual REI-sponsored service day for the natural area on April 9.

Yosemite a Slurpee on steroids in winter

NATIONAL PARKS — This video offers a fascinating glimpse at the flow of frazil ice in the stream below Yosemite Falls. National Park Service rangers say this is just one of many attractions that occur in national parks only during winter before the summer crowds arrive.

Scholarship available for youth fly-fishing academy

FLY-FISHING — The Spokane Fly Fishers area offering to sponsor a youth, 12-16 years old, at the 2011 Northwest Y outh Conservation & Fly Fishing Academy, set th is year for June 19-25 at Hicks Lake near Lacey, Wash.

The $275 sponsorship covers the academy, food and lodging, but the student is reponsible for transportation.
 
The academy is organized for boys and girls by the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited and the Washington State Federation of Fly Fishers. Classes include fly casting, fly tying, knot tying, reading water, safety, macroinvertebrate sampling, and fly fishing.
 
Applications for the Spokane Fly Fisher's sponsorship are not due until April 15, but now's the time to get on the stick: the application requires a teacher's recommendation.
 
Contact: Mike Keegan 455-4433 or Dan Ferguson 325-8885.

Chance to take a shot at biathlon

WINTER SPORTS — Among the many activities ranging from snowshoeing to a Doggy Dash ski-joring race, two “Try Biathlon” events are scheduled near Winthrop, Wash., during the Methow Valley Winter Festival.

The valley’s biathlon team coaches will put on the events Feb. 23 and Feb. 26 to assure that everyone has fun and that safety is a priority in this event that pairs cross-country skiing and target shooting.

The events debuted last year during the Olympics — when the U.S. Biathlon Team was riding high on the medals podium — and were a hit with people of all ages and abilities, organizers said.

This year, the Methow's Winter Festival features biathlog adn many other activities for kids, since the festival starts President's Weekend and continues for 10 days, running up to spring break for many schools.

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers (@SRoutside) Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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