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Archive for November 2011

Mount Spokane nordic trails to be groomed for Friday

NORDIC SKIING — Mount Spokane State Park's snowcat groomer is set to roll on the 30-mile nordic skiing trail system starting Thursday night, park manager Steve Christensen said.

A snowmobile groomer has been used to pack many of the trails and a good base is set for the big groomer to pretty up.

“We need more new snow to work with, but it should be good for this weekend,” he said.

A Washington Sno-Park Permit ($40 annual) is required as usual on vehicles for parking in the three Sno-Park lots used at Mount Spokane by snowmobilers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers. 

A Grooming Sticker (additional $40) must be attached to your Sno-Park Permit for parking at the Selkirk Lodge Sno-Park lot where nordic skiers take advantage of the excellent groomed trails.

A Washington Discover Pass ($30 annual) allows parking DURING WINTER only at the limited pull-out spots along the road that are not supported by the Sno-Park program, such as at the vault toilets just inside the park entrance.

Daily permit users beware:  Quirky language in the legislation that created the Discover Pass requires state park visitors who buy daily $20 Sno-Park Permits to ALSO have a daily $10 Discover Pass on their vehicles.  Park rangers are not happy with that deal, but that's the law they have to enforce until it's changed. 

Polar bear scientist based in Kettle Falls finalist for prize

WILDLIFE SCIENCE — A Kettle Falls-area polar bear scientist is one of 29 leading conservationists internationally who are in contention for next year’s $100,000 Indianapolis Prize.

Steven Amstrup moved to Stevens County about a year ago when he retired from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center in Anchorage.

Thanks to an accommodating polar bear, he arrived with both legs.

Read the story by S-R reporter John Craig.

Cantwell irked with Canadians for withholding unpublished salmon virus study

FISHERIES — Officials north of the border had reason to suspect viruses in Pacific salmon a decade ago, but kept it under their tukes.

Sen. Maria Cantwell this week is calling for stronger communication between American and Canadian officials following the disclosure that Canada failed to reveal the results of tests that appear to show the presence of a potentially deadly salmon virus nearly a decade before a salmon-virus scare this fall, the Associated Press reports.

A Canadian researcher’s work surfaced this week after she sought and was denied permission by a Canadian official to try to have her old data published.

Researchers with Simon Fraser University in British Columbia announced in October they had detected infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, in two wild juvenile Pacific salmon collected from the province’s central coast, prompting fears the influenza-like virus could wreck the Pacific Northwest salmon fishing industry.

U.S. scientists say they’re disappointed the Canadians never mentioned the researcher’s earlier, 2002 work.

Read a more detailed story from the Seattle Times.

BLM appoints citizens to CdA District Resource Advisory Council

PUBLIC LANDS — Five new members were named today to the Bureau of Land Management’s Coeur d’Alene District citizen-based Resource Advisory Council.  The announcement was just released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The appointees will serve a three-year term and advise the BLM on public lands issues.

The newly appointed and reappointed members are:

  • Alan Harper, Commercial Timber Industry representative.
  • Jann Higdem, Energy and Mineral Development representative.
  • Dan Dinning, Elected Official representative.
  • Clifford Swanson, Dispersed Recreation representative.
  • Patricia Perry, Tribal Representative

The RACs, composed of citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, help the BLM carry out its stewardship of 245 million acres – the largest land portfolio of any Federal agency.  The BLM has established 29 RACs across the West, where most BLM-managed land is located.  Each RAC consists of 10 to 15 members with an interest in public land management, such as conservationists, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, Tribal officials, state and local government officials, academics, and others.

Bowhunters reaping rewards of late deer season

HUNTING — It ain't over 'til it's over, as the saying goes.

The whitetail rut might be winding down in some areas, but it's still a positive factor for hunters who have tagged big bucks in the past couple of days.

Bowhunters in eastern Washington's late archery season are effectively using calls and scents for bucks on the prowl.

Before climbing into his stand for the afternoon on Sunday, Joel Enevold said he freshened nearby scrapes with Tink's 69 doe-in-rut buck lure. He barely got settled in his stand at 1 p.m. before he spotted the “split brow-tine” buck he'd been seeing in the trail cam photos. The bruiser was working a scrape. The buck slowly but surely kept coming in, sniffed the air below Enevold's stand and posed for a storybook archery shot that dropped him five yards from where he was hit.

“This buck is the largest I have taken since the age of 15 and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to harvest such a great animal,” he said.

Meantime, his brother passed up two 4x4 bucks that afternoon. “Both bucks were grunting up a storm, and one buck decided to stop 20 yards away and shred a tree for a few minutes,” Brandon Enevold said. “Bucks seem to be actively searching for does and traveling with their noses close to the ground.”

He's confident his time will come before the season expires.

Wolverine study training volunteers in Sandpoint

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Volunteers with skills to travel deep into the backcountry on skis or snowshoes are being trained for monitoring bait stations involved in an Idaho-Montana wolverine research project.

Wolverines are a backcountry-loving secretive member of the weasel family protected by the Endangered Species Act.

A “Bait Station Leader” training course will be held Saturday, (Dec. 3) from noon to 5 p.m. at the Sandpoint Ranger District offices at 1602 Ontario. (Another is planned for Jan. 14.) The program:

  • Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists Michael Lucid and Lacy Robinson will hold a session on bait station construction and maintenance.
  • Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will give an avalanche training.
  • Hang out with mustelid and winter tracking expert Brian Baxter in the classroom and then in the woods and learn more about who you are sharing the forest with. 
  • A talk winter travel basics also will be presented.
Interested? RSVP by Thursday to to take the Bait Station Leader training.
If you are interested in helping with this project, but would rather not be a Bait Station Leader, please respond to
The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group is giving the wolverine research a big boost by helping to secure funding as well as providing manpower.
Click here for more information on wolverine research.

Bald eagles finally flocking to Lake CdA for annual feast

WILDLIFE WATCHING – A week can make a big difference in the numbers of bald eagles gathering for their annual feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

On Tuesday, the season's second weekly eagle count at Wolf Lodge Bay tallied a whopping 76 bald eagles, said BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo. That compares with 64 eagles counted on the same date last year.

That's exciting news for birdwatchers, considering that 2010 was a record year for the migration, with a peak of 254 eagles counted in the bay during the BLM survey on Dec. 21. 

Tuesday's count indicated a big swing in eagle movements. The first survey of the season on Nov. 22 found only 12 bald eagles compared with 42 counted on the same day in 2010.

Top viewing areas are from Higgens Point as well as south from the Wolf Lodge Exit off I-90 on Highway 97 around to Beauty Bay.

  • Read more details tomorrow in my Thursday Outdoors column regarding eagles and how they might be be linked to the numbers of kokanee in the region's lakes.

Will Montana hunters step up to the plate to control wolves?

PREDATORS — A quote to consider regarding the status of wolf control in Montana:

“Most hunters say 'I'm just not going to put aside my deer and elk season for wolves.' So it will be interesting to see if anybody shows up and if they'll be effective at harvesting wolves in a season that doesn't include other harvest opportunities.”
Quentin Kujala, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife section chief, about hunters' interest in hunting just wolves now that big-game season has ended in Montana.
- Missoulian (Montana Standard)


Idaho nonresident big-game tag sales start Thursday

HUNTING — Idaho's 2012 licenses, tags and permits go on sale Thursday, with sales of the popular nonresident Selway B elk tags starting at 9 a.m.

.Nonresident hunters can buy their licenses and tags at Fish and Game offices, any license vendor, or by credit card by calling 1-800-554-8685. They can also buy them online.
Details on the sale and purchase of tags for residents and nonresidents on pages 92-96 of the Idaho 2011 Big Game Seasons rules booklet.
Residents also can buy 2012 hunting licenses starting Thursday, and they can buy a receipt for deer and elk tags, which don’t go on sale until after deer, elk and pronghorn controlled hunt drawings.
Resident hunters can redeem the receipt for a deer or elk tag after the controlled hunt drawings in July so those whose names were drawn don’t have to exchange their general season tags for controlled hunt tags at a Fish and Game office. Instead the controlled winners are simply issued a controlled hunt tag at any license vendor. The rest are issued general season tags.

Aging sagebrush rebel keeps up fight against feds

A 75-year-old lawyer who fought private property rights battles alongside Idaho U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth and her Nevada rancher husband Wayne Hage in the 1990s is still cultivating the Sagebrush Rebellion’s roots and earning handsome speaking fees from conservative audiences across the West.

Associated Press writer John Miller has been looking into the efforts of Frank Kelly Grant to carry on where Reagan administration Interior Secretary and Sagebrush Rebellion crusader James Watt left off before he was booted out of government for, among other things, his attempt to privatize federal lands.

Read on for the AP Story.

Feds propose habitat protections for Selkirk caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday a proposal to designate 375,562 acres of critical habitat in North Idaho and northeastern Washington for southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The action was prompted by appeals starting in 2002 by environmental groups. The action could lead to rule changes for logging, fire control and human activity in some areas. Comments on the proposal will be accepted until Jan. 30.

See comments from Forest Service on what's already being done to protect the region's caribou in today's news story.

The southern Selkirk Mountains caribou was listed as an endangered species in 1984. At last count, 46 caribou were surviving in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho, northeastern Washington and British Columbia.

The proposed critical habitat is located in Boundary and Bonner counties in Idaho, and Pend Oreille County in Washington. These lands are currently considered to be occupied by the species.

Read on for details from today's announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Members sought for Master Hunters advisory board

HUNTING– The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is accepting letters of interest through Dec. 18 for membership on the department’s Master Hunter Advisory Group.

Four positions are open on the 15-member volunteer group, which advises the state on issues affecting the department’s Master Hunter program and more than 2,000 master hunters statewide.

Applicants should email Lt. Eric Anderson, Master Hunter policy lead, at

Washington wolf plan up for commission vote; fishing proposals to be heard

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — After four years of development, extensive public review — and lingering controversy —  the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider adopting a plan for managing wolves as they re-establish breeding packs on the east side of the state.

The commission, currently with seven citizen members, is scheduled to take action on the Fish and Wildlife Department’s recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan on Saturday (Dec. 3), the second day of a public meeting set for Dec. 2-3 in Olympia.

The agenda is posted at on the WDFW website

Key aspects of the proposed wolf plan establish recovery objectives for gray wolves in Washington, along with strategies for addressing their interactions with livestock and wildlife species such as elk and deer.

The plan does not necessarily come with permanent funding to pay for livestock losses or support the wildlife monitoring suggested by the plan.

WDFW began developing the plan in 2007 anticipating that gray wolves would naturally migrate to the state from Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia. Since then, five wolf packs have been documented in the state – three in northeastern Washington and two in the north Cascades.  Other packs are working along the Idaho-Washington border and at least one also is working along the Oregon-Washington border.

The gray wolf is currently listed as endangered throughout Washington under state law and as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state under federal law.

Since 2009, WDFW’s proposed plan has been the focus of 19 public meetings, written comments from nearly 65,000 people, a scientific peer review, and recommendations from the 17-member citizen Wolf Working Group, formed in 2007 to advise the department in developing the plan.

The wolf plan calls for allowing 15 breeding wolf packs before taking management measures to limit further growth of the packs. A discenting faction within the wolf working group recommends about  eightwolf packs be tolerated before controling wolves.

  • On Dec. 2, the first day of the meeting, the commission will consider proposals by WDFW to acquire land in four counteis, including Grant and Asotin counties to preserve critical habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • In addition, WDFW will brief the commission on proposed new sportfishing rules for 2012-13. The proposals will be refined before the panel votes on them in February.

WA wolf management plan likely to be approved

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Despite considerable controversy over the proposed Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, it's likely to be approved this weekend by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Read my previous blog post for links and details.

The major point of contention is the number of breeding packs that will be allowed before the state would be allowed to control the number of wolves through hunting or some other means.  Hunters and livestock groups, looking at the experience of Montana and Idaho, would like to keep the number of breeding packs low — around eight —  considering the amount of game and habitat available.

However, scientists commenting on the plan have sided with advocates of a higher number of breeding packs — around 15 — for genetic diversity and sustainability of the wolves.

I'll guarantee this much:  Having too many wolves won't be good for anyone, ESPECIALLY the wolves themselves. 

Lawsuits are likely down the road no matter which way the Fish and Wildlife Commission votes on Saturday. So, the panel's best course in order to make their best case in court is to side with the scientists.

Meantime, sportsmen are going to have to find a way to fund wildlife science to document the changes in big-game herds as wolves expand in order to take advantage of the plan's caveats for preventing declines in deer and elk numbers.  Without that science, grumbling will be moot.

Need another perspective:  Here's a Seattle Times op-ed column, Washington's Wolf Management Plan only a starting point.

Motorized boating rules enacted for Missoula-area rivers

BOATING - New restrictions on motorized boating went into effect last weekend on Missoula area rivers, including parts of the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot.

On the Clark Fork, motorized travel is prohibited year-round through Missoula, from the old Milltown Reservoir area to just above the confluence with the Bitterroot on the western edge of town.

The previously unrestricted stretch of river from Kelly Island Fishing Access Site (FAS) to Harper’s Bridge FAS has the following regulations:

  • Motorized travel, except personal water craft (PWC), is allowed only from May 1-June 15.
  • 20 horsepower travel is allowed Oct .1-Jan. 31.
  • Float-only fishing is allowed the rest of the year.

Harper’s Bridge to St. John’s FAS, also previously unrestricted, is now open to motorized watercraft (except PWC) from Oct. 1-June 15 and to 20 hp or less June 16-Sept. 30. The regulations remain the same as they have been below St. John’s.

On the Bitterroot, the new regulations prohibit the spring unrestricted motorized travel that once was allowed below Florence Bridge. Under the new regulations, only 20 horsepower or less travel is allowed from Oct. 1-Jan. 31 for the entire river, and the rest of the year is float only.

On the Blackfoot, the former Milltown Reservoir area is now closed to motorized watercraft.

 This is just a summary of the recent changes. Boaters should review the new regulations and associated map on the FWP website.

The new regulations were proposed to address public safety concerns, social conflicts and a few outdated regulations pertaining to the Milltown area, officials said.

White Christmas wood duck returns to Riverfront Park

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WATERFOWL — She’s back! A wood duck once again is bringing the “White Christmas” spirit to Riverfront park.

The mystery has been solved about the wood duck bringing a white Christmas spirit to Riverfront Park.

Some speculated it was an albino, others suggested the duck with the pink eye rings was a leucistic bird in disguise.

The bird has been feeding among the mallards for several weeks in the Spokane River between the Opera House and Carousel. Local birder Buck Domitrovich photographed what likely was the same bird last year at the park (left).

Wild wood ducks normally migrate away from the Spokane-North Idaho area around mid-October.  Most birders agreed this woodie might be the product of captive breeding, but nobody seemed to know for sure — until local birding expert and breeder Dennis Dahlke chimed in.

“This white duck is a captive bred female wood duck,” he said. “She is not albino, just a color variation.  Belonged to a friend of ours. Coyotes helped her escape when they killed most of the other ducks in that pen last winter.”

The woody is smaller than the mallards she paddles around with, but she holds her own — she's not afraid to take after bigger birds that get in her way.

Freak show: One birder emailed me with an interesting observation about the way many of us view wildlife:  “It's interesting to me that human freaks freak us out but other animal freaks turn us on,” she said.

Rifle prize offered to lure Bitterroot wolf hunters

PREDATORS —  A southwestern Montana sportsman’s group is hoping to encourage wolf hunting in the Bitterroot Valley by holding a drawing for a rifle from among the names of those who successfully bag a wolf in December. 

Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association President Tony Jones tells the Ravalli Republic the drawing is an effort to get enough hunting pressure to fill quotas set for wolves in two areas where elk populations have been declining. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials virtually eliminated elk hunting opportunities in the southern Bitterroot Valley after several years of poor elk calf survival. 

Quotas totaling 54 wolves have been established in the East and West forks of the Bitterroot River. A total of 17 wolves had been shot by Friday.

Ferry County Commissioners steer clear of Kettle River bait fishing proposal

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — At a public meeting today, Ferry County Commissioners remained neutral on a proposal to repeal selective gear fishing regulations and allow bait fishing and barbed hooks in a portion of the Kettle River.

The proposal, which stems from the Kettle River Advisory Board, has stirred considerable opposition from anglers and groups who say the restrictions have allowed native trout population to grow in size and numbers despite the river's habitat limitations.

The county commissioners apparently are hearing the public concerns and the consensus that bait fishing would quickly erase gains the fishery has made under selective gear rules that restrict anglers to using artificial flies or lures with single barbless hooks.

Ultimately the decision will be made by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which will discuss new fishing regulations proposals this week in Olympia and vote on the proposals in January or February.

For background on this important fisheries management issue, check out my Thursday outdoors column.

The Fish and Wildlife Department wants to hear your opinion on this and other proposals to be considered for the 2012-14 Washington Sportfishing Regulations pamphlets. Comments are due by Dec. 30

See all the details and proposals on the WDFW 2012 fishing proposals web page.

Send your comments on any of the proposals to:

Forests adopt standards for motorized access to grizzly habitat

PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Panhandle, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests have adopted standards for motorized access within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones in a two year effort prompted by a 2006 court decision.

The Grizzly Bear Access Amendment makes no changes at specific sites. Changes to motorized access will be accomplished through separate, site specific NEPA analyses, including public comment and consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Panhandle National Forests officials say.

Implementing the standards across the recovery zones affecting Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming is expected to take up to eight years, they said.

The Grizzly Bear Access Amendment sets standards for road density and percentage of core habitat for grizzly bears across 30 Bear Management Units (BMUs) within the recovery zones. This amendment is expected to continue the current downward trend of grizzly bear mortality on national forest system lands within the recovery zones, but could result in approximately 16 to 48 miles of currently open motorized routes being barriered and an additional 18 to 54 miles of open routes being gated once standards are fully implemented, officials said.

Lochsa land exchange flush with challenges

PUBLIC LANDS — A public open house meeting is scheduled Tuesday in Grangeville to help the public understand a new proposal in the controversial Upper Lochsa Land Exchange involving national forest and private timberlands in Idaho.

The new proposal to protect timberlands west of Lolo Pass could save jobs for Idaho towns, if its supporters can find a legal way to push it through, according to a story in the Missoulian.

The latest version of the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange draft environmental impact statement would have the U.S. Forest Service make an acre-for-acre swap with Western Pacific Timber Co., all within the boundaries of Idaho County, Idaho. County Commissioner Skip Brandt said that would help his rural communities hang on to their economic base, the Missoulian reports.

But that could violate the Forest Service's requirement to get fair market value for any property it exchanges, the newspaper explains. It prefers an appraised swap that offers one acre of public land for every two acres of the approximately 40,000 acres of Western Pacific Timber property. A different deal could require congressional approval.

The land in question is checkerboarded around U.S. Highway 12 along the Montana-Idaho border. It is popular with snowmobilers and cross-country and backcountry skiers in winter, as well as campers and hunters in summer and fall. It has good habitat for sensitive species such as steelhead and bull trout, lynx and wolverine.

The exchange has been in the works since 2008. If an alternative surfaces from this draft, it could be finalized around fall of 2012.

The open house meeting in Grangeville is set for 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 29) in the National Guard Armory.

See an index map showing areas involved in the proposed land exchange.

Snowy owls making a scene across the country

View Snowy Owls in the Upper US, 2011-12 in a larger map

BIRDWATCHING — Inland Northwest birders have been buzzing this month about the early arrival of snowy owls as they migrate from the arctic to northern Washington and new places in North Idaho.

This reporting caught the eye of a Jesse Ellis, a researcher in the Zoology Dept. at University of Wisconsin - Madison, who got interesting results by tabulating all of the snowy owl reports across the country as of Thanksgiving weekend.

“I know there have been many Snowy Owl reports there in the past few weeks, and people are speculating there's an invasion there,” Ellis said. “Well, it's everywhere. A few days ago I started mapping reports in WI and MN, and that quickly expanded to ND, SD and MI. Given the good coverage in the Pacific NW, I decided to add those states as well.”

The sightings on the map (above) are plotted the point to the nearest population center mentioned in posting by affiliated birders.

Ski areas offer cool deal to fifth graders

WINTER SPORTS — Once again, fifth-grade students are being treated like royalty at Inland Northwest ski resorts, with free skiing and other discounts.

The Fifth Grade Ski or Ride Free Passport, costs $20, entitles students to three free lift tickets at each of the participating mountains, including 49 Degrees North, Mt. Spokane, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass and 16 other resorts in the Northwest Rockies.

Some resorts also offer free or discounted ski rentals and lessons.

Parents and siblings accompanying the fifth- graders sometimes can get discounts.

Get more details, download applications or apply online.

Climbing: Pays to be tough guy when self-rescue is only option

ICE CLIMBING — A climber suffers serious injuries while ice climbing in Wyoming.  Feel the pain with him and the helplessness of his partner as they focus on getting to safety.

Would you have done anything differently?

Would you have made it?

Paddling, cycling programs presented by local adventurers

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — I'm having a difficult time deciding which of these free programs I'll check out on Monday evening:

 Bicycling under the Midnight Sun on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, program by Chuck and Wendy Huber for the Spokane Mountaineers, Monday, 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Canoeing the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories, a video look back at an epic 360-mile club trip in one of North America’s more remote waterways, by Dick and Kathy Spencer for the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, 7 p.m., at Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

Book pegs Rainier tops in the world for wildflowers

NATURE — Mount Rainier National Park ranks as “possibly the most flowery place in the world,” according to a recently published book that picks the 50 best wildflower spots in the world.

The book, “Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World,” was written by Bob Gibbons and published in November and contains 200 color photos and short write-ups on each spot.

Gibbons, a photographer and tour guide, traveled five continents and more than 20 countries, including Ireland, Turkey, South Africa, Iran and Australia to get photos for his book.

The specific site featured in the book’s photo of Mount Rainier National Park shows lupine, paintbrush and other flowers on Mazama Ridge near Paradise.

The book features sites that offer relatively easy access, a long display and a varied palette of flowers. The cover photo shows a Greek hillside covered in a rainbow of wildflowers.

In the U.S., Gibbons visits Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California. In addition to Rainier, Olympic National Park is listed among the world's top 50 wildflower havens.

If you can visit only one site in North America, make it Mount Rainier, Gibbons advises his readers, calling the park a magical place. The author also suggests nearby Chinook Pass on state Route 410.

Waterfowling by canoe is budget hunter’s dream trip

HUNTING — John Roland retrieves my duck while we were waterfowling by canoe today. 

Who needs a dog?

Best of all, after the hunt I sent him back to his master and let her feed him.

ROW offers deals for outdoors crowd on Adventure Tuesday

Playing on the craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for the third year ROW Adventures will be offering “Adventure Tuesday™” — featuring one-time, limited quantity deals to quick dialing adventure travelers.

No need to stay up all night. Adventure Tuesday™ will begin at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Nov. 29th.

Act quickly for deals on whitewater rafting trips to the Lochsa River, a family multi-day rafting adventure on the Salmon River and a land-based tour of the Galapagos Islands.

Details of Adventure Tuesday™ deals are kept secret by the Coeur d'Alene-based company.

Sign up here to get the newsletter and Monday's last-minute announcement of deals.

Maybe a tractor rental should come with every moose tag

HUNTINGDon Gunter of Post Falls had all the tools for going out to fill the coveted Idaho moose tag he drew this year: Rifle, pickup, knives and saws, strong hunting partner…

But he also was prepared for the bigger job of handling a moose.

After passing up three bulls, he finally took this beauty where he could use the winch on his ATV to drag it whole into the back of his pickup.

To complete the job, he had a tractor front loader at home to raise the carcass for skinning.

He looks to be the perfect moose hunting partner for the next guy to draw a tag for an animal that easily weighs 800 pounds.

Hunter orange clothing works in more ways than one

HUNTER SAFETY — Wearing fluorescent orange clothing already was a requirement for hunters in Montana when I passed my hunter education course and bought my first hunting license in the 1960s.

I know some guys think only scaredy cats wear hunter orange, especially in Idaho and Oregon, where sportsmen don't have the courage to enact minimum hunter orange requirements for modern firearms seasons.

Although Idaho's statewide hunting accident rate is low, more than 70 percent of recorded incidents are caused by hunters mistaking other hunters for game animals.

Hunter orange clothing requirements virtually eliminate mistaken for game shooting accidents.

And the impact on modern-firearms big-game hunting is nil, something that was confirmed to me again last week as I sat on a stand during the late whitetail buck hunt.

I was wearing a fluorescent orange fleece jacket with a camouflage pattern. A whitetail doe came out of the woods and angled through a slight opening in the woods to within 25 yards just upwind of where I sat leaning against a tree. At one point she looked right at me before twitching her tail, nibbling the brush and taking her sweet time walking on past.

I've lost track of how many times I've had the same experience with deer, elk and antelope.

Hunters who can hold still and take advantage of the wind have nothing to fear from hunter orange clothing, but a lot of life to gain if a foolish hunter is in the area.

Salmon River steelheading hot as interest wanes

FISHING — The holidays are taking a bite out of the fishing pressure on the Snake and Salmon rivers, but the fishing in the Salmon near Riggins has been very good for anglers with a pass to leave home.

“A lot of bigger native steelhead have moved into the river system, many over 32-inches,” Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures reported Wednesday afternoon.  “Recent rains have not affected the river which is in good shape with great visibility; water flow at 5110 CFS. Water temperature last week hovered between 37-38 degrees. However a cold snap over the weekend dropped the river temperature to 36 degrees which slowed the fish down and have them holding in the deeper pools. Deep diving, slow action plugs, bait divers and drifting bait seem to be the best methods to entice the fish.”

So how good has the fishing action been?  Check out this report from Sinclair:

Salmon River (Riggins) creel report for Nov. 13-20

42 anglers fished with Exodus hooking into 100 steelhead or 2.4 fish per person and landed 71 or 1.7 fish per person.

Birthday boy Jeff Lind from Athol, Idaho, limited out by 12:30 pm with drift boat guide Jeff Wieber on Nov. 19.

Terry Pike from Columbus, Ohio, landed the  MONSTER 36-inch  native steelhead (pictured above) that gave him quite a fight from the drift boat guided by Norm Klobetanz.

Thanksgiving greeting from the game warden’s diary

Here are best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving in the form of a short story you'll find heartwarming, or perhaps a bit of a heartburn. It was passed on to me from a reader.

A game warden was driving down the road when he came upon a young boy carrying a wild turkey under his arm. He stopped and asked the boy, 'Where did you get that turkey?'

The boy replied, 'What turkey?'

The game warden said, 'That turkey you're carrying under your arm.'

The boy looks down and said, 'Well, lookee here, a turkey done roosted under my arm!'

The game warden said, 'Now look, you know turkey season is closed, so whatever you do to that turkey, I'm going to do to you.

If you break his leg, I'm gonna break your leg. If you break his wing, I'll break your arm. Whatever you do to him, I'll do to you. So, what are you gonna do with him?'

The little boy said, 'I guess I'll just kiss his butt and let him go!'

Windy days risky for hiking at Mount Spokane

MOUNTAIN WEATHER — “Today I hiked down to the Spokane Mountaineers chalet (near the cross-country ski trails) through knee-deep snow,” said Holly Weiler, a club member and diehard hiker.

“Then I hiked back to the car and discovered a big tree across the driveway, right over my footprints from 30 minutes before!

“It made me change my mind about doing any other woodland hiking on this windy, windy day!”

Grizzly in zoo has reason to postpone hibernation

CRITTERSOne of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's four 11-month-old grizzly bear cubs enjoys a pumpkin for a snack at the Zoo in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Besides providing the animals with enrichment, the pumpkins are a preview to the treats many of the animals will receive on Thanksgiving Day.

Most ski areas open; 5th graders get special deal

WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain opend its lifts Monday while 49 Degrees North had customers floating on two feet of prime powder for it's opener on Saturday.

Lookout Pass will reopen on Thanksgiving and Mt. Spokane opens Friday, conditions permitting.


Don't waste this great early season by  you have a fifth grader in the family, take advantage of the 5th grade ski FREE passport that gives these prime learning-age kids free lift tickets at more than 20 Inland Northwest resorts. 

The passport also includes special deals on equipment rentals, lessons and other activities. Some ski areas even offer specials for parents or siblings.

Bighorn ram evaded hunters, poachers, but fell to car

BIG GAME — A Washington bighorn ram that had endured countless hardships, evaded predators and the occasional hunter lucky enough to draw the rare bighorn sheep hunting permit for the Vulcan Mountain area met its end in a collision with a motor vehicle last week along the Kettle River in Ferry County. 

Wildlife biologists viewing the photo above estimated the ram was 8 1/2-9 1/2 years old.

Wife of man killed by bear hunter sues 3 firms

HUNTING ACCIDENTS — The widow of a man fatally shot by a hunter who mistook him for a bear in September has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the hunter and three Western Washington companies, reports the News-Tribune in Tacoma.

Although a jury acquitted the shooter of manslaughter charges — a bit of pure luck from the perspective that hunters should always positively ID their target — the case is going back to the courts.

All of this could have been avoided and a life saved with a little forethought, a hunter orange vest and a bit of patience on the hunter's part.

Read on for the rest of the story by TNT reporter Adam Lynn:

Bald eagles taking their time getting to Lake CdA for annual gathering

WILDLIFE WATCHING – The annual gathering of bald eagles that feast on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene is getting off to a slow start.

The eagle count at Wolf Lodge Bay is down by 70 percent from last year at this time, said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.

Hugo made the first weekly survey of the season on Tuesday and counted only 12 bald eagles compared with 42 counted on the same day last year.

“It could be the storm we just had,” she said. “We’ll be out on the lake Saturday for the special eagle boat cruise for veterans, so we’ll see if the changing weather makes a difference.”

She also points out that 2010 was a record year for the migration: 254 eagles were counted in the bay during the BLM survey on Dec. 21.

The eagles traditionally start gathering in mid November, peaking in numbers during December before the birds start moving on as the fish spawning ends in January.

Wind, warming changes avalanche conditions in mountains

WINTER SPORTS — “We just began Chapter II of winter 2011/12,” Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center says in an announcement this afternoon. 

“This change in weather is introducing a significant load to a weak snowpack.  As of the sending of this email (Tuesday 3:30 p.m.) freezing levels have risen to 6,000 feet and above and precipitation is rain or a snow/rain mix.  Winds are picking up and blowing a consistent 20 mph with higher gusts; direction seems to be variable but prevailing westerly. 

“Expect an unstable inverted snowpack with heavy wet snow overlying a dry weak base.  Unstable conditions will remain with the passage of the pineapple express and a natural avalanche cycle may become widespread. 

“Human triggered avalanches will be likely for a period following this but you should have some good clues as, “where not to go”, if you choose to venture out.  Travel in avalanche terrain is not advised. ”

Read on for the full pre-season advisory.

Comments requested on Kettle River bait-fishing proposal

FISHING — As I explained in my Thursday outdoors column, a proposal has come through the back door of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to revert back to allowing bait fishing in the Kettle River.

Selective gear rules adopted with local citizen input in the 1990s have clearly improved the numbers and size-range of trout in the Columbia River tributary.

The rules, which are popular for improving fisheries at many lakes and streams in the region, require anglers to use artificial flies or lures with single, barbless hooks. 

Bait is prohibited in selective gear fisheries because it usually results in the deep-hooking death of a trout even if the angler intends to release it.

Now, however, a few locals want to liquidate the gains and allow bait fishing. They say they're looking out for the best interest of their kids.

I say the best thing we can do for their kids is teach them a little bit about fisheries conservation. Do this by taking them out with a fly, spinner or jig to a river that has four or five times more trout than it would after a couple years of bait fishing.

Then, if they want to fish with bait, take them to nearby Curlew Lake, one of the best mix-species fishing lakes in Washington. 

The Fish and Wildlife Department wants to hear your opinion on this and other proposals to be considered for the 2012 Washington Sportfishing Regulations pamphlet. Comments are due by Dec. 30

See all the details and proposals on the WDFW 2012 fishing proposals web page.

Send your comments on any of the proposals to:

Here are details of the specific proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River: 

#14. Kettle River Fishery Additions
Proposal:  Removes selective gear rules in a portion of the upper Kettle River near the town of Curlew.  
Explanation: Provides recreational opportunity through removing selective gear rules from the Canadian Border upstream to Hwy 21 Bridge at Curlew. 


Fly fisher faces cold reality on Spokane River

FLY FISHING — While skiers were waiting in lift lines to go busting powder over the weekend, 20-something Spokane fly fisher Dustin Bise snapped this photo to illustrate his peaceful day casting for trout on the Spokane River.

Big snow: nordic skiers having fun, too

WINTER SPORTS — Alpine skiers weren't the only ones reveling in the early onslaught of winter and the deep powder in the mountains last week.

Cross-country skiers were having a great time making tracks from the back-country of North Idaho, on Mount Spokane's ungroomed but inviting nordic trail system, and even on the Ferry County Rail Trail, Golden Tiger section near Republic (above).

Colville Forest OKs South End motor vehicle plan

PUBLIC LANDS — Off-road vehicle riders have more routes for legally riding their ATVs and motorcycles on the Colville National Forest, according to a plan approved this month.

Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West signed the South End Motor Vehicle Management Plan, which designates roads and trails that create quality loops, connect communities and provide access, camping and parking.

The plan, two years in the making, designates motorized routes between U.S. Highway 395 and State Highway 20, including the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages.

Read on for more details.

Aerial photos define Banks Lake drawdown, good fishing holes

FISHING — The jury's still out on how much the lowest maintenance drawdown in Banks Lake's history will impact the reservoir's popular sport fisheries.

But opportunistic bass, walleye, whitefish and panfish anglers are making photos and detailed notes of exposed structure they'll want to explore with hook and line when the water levels begin returning to normal levels this winter.

And agencies are taking advantage of the drawdown to make some recreational improvements to boat launches, docks and other facilities, including Coulee City Marina.

The Bureau of Reclamation is giving anglers a boost by releasing a series of aerial photos taken on Nov. 15 with the 27-mile long lake's level down 31 feet from full pool.

The aerial photos, plus others snapped from the ground to show boat launching improvements, were snagged and posted along with updates by Andy Walgamott on his Northwest Sportsman magazine website.

The Banks Lake level was 1,538 feet last week, covering only 19,600 surface acres — about a third less than at the 27,694 acres it covers at full pool with the level 31 feet higher.

Avalanche awareness classes scheduled by Idaho Panhandle experts

WINTER SPORTS —  Backcountry travelers are urged to sign up for one of several free avalanche classes being presented by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center as well as Idaho State Parks and Recreation.

While groups can book special avalanche classes — The Spokane Mountaineers have a session booked in January — here are public sessions scheduled so far:

In Sandpoint, the following two-hour presentations start at 6 p.m. in the new Forest Service Building, west of town on the way to Dover.

Dec. 15, “Beacon Practice Avy Gear Review.”

Jan. 10, “Fire and Ice, Risk Assessment and Situational Awareness.”

Jan. 27-28, Special indoor and outdoor training especially for snowmobilers. (Check it out at Idaho State Parks snowmobile eduation program)

Feb. 10, “Ten Years of Avalanche Fatalities in North Idaho.”

Info: Kevin Davis  (208) 265-6686

A Silver Valley class, “Avalanche Awareness, Route Finding, and Rescue,” is sent for Jan. 21 at the Forest Service building in Smelterville. The indoors session starts at 10 a.m. followed in the afternoon by a field session for beacon practice and rescue training at Mullan Pass.

Info: Dan Frigard, (208) 883-2131.

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho State Parks and the Avalanche Center will conduct free classes especially for snowmobilers on Jan. 13-14.

Info: Idaho State Parks snowmobile eduation program or call Marc Hildesheim, North Region trails specialist, (208) 769-1511.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will begin issuing regular avalanche advisories on Friday mornings beginning Dec. 16, said Kevin Davis, Forest Service hydro tech in Sandpoint.

The center is working on a new website with information that will be available to smartphones.

Idaho has its fill of ‘down under’ hunters

HUNTING/POACHING — Three Australians on a North Ameican hunting trip have been sent packing, but not before Idaho officials fined them thousands of dollars for elk poaching and told the bad apples they could never return to hunt in Idaho and virtually anywhere else in the United States.

All three paid thousands of dollars in fines and restitution in an Elmore County courtwhile forfeiting two hunting rifles before the long plane trip back home.

Read on for the details from Idaho Fish and Game.

It’s official: snow closes North Cascades Highway for season

MOUNTAIN ROADS — The Washington Transportation Department decided today to close the North Cascades Highway for the winter.

The 37-mile section of Highway 20 was temporarily shut down Nov. 15, and the department made it final today with heavy snow in the forecast.

The highway between Diablo and Mazama is the northernmost route across the Cascades. It’s typically closed in the late fall by avalanches and reopened in the spring.

This is a harbinger of great news for Methow Valley nordic skiers.  Enough snow has accumulated in the valley to allow many off the cross country ski trails to be packed by groomers pulling rollers.

Wild week for wildlife police: 48 arrests, 24 warnings made

HUNTING/POACHING — Hunters relished wintery conditions that coincided with the onset of the rut last week. Conditions were good for filling a tag in the final days of the late rifle whitetail buck hunt, which ended Saturday in northeastern Washington.

Poachers seemed to like the conditions, too. Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police made 48 arrests and issued 24 warnings during the past week in the Spokane Region.

Failure to tag a deer or using someone else’s tag on a deer were common infractions, but officers also were ticketing for violations including littering and road-hunting to spotlighting and shooting bucks that didn’t meet the new four-point minimum in Units 117 and 121.

Read on for details about just a few of the more interesting citations and investigations area officers had to deal with in the past week.

Anglers not holding a high standard along Snake River

FISHING – Anglers along the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers have been leaving a lot to be desired in the categories of ethics and compliance with fishing rules.

On a recent boat patrol along the Snake River upstream from Clarkston, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police found plenty of lawbreakers.

Fourteen citations were issued in the fourhour patrol, reports Capt. Mike Whorton, department enforcement supervisor in Spokane.  

Montana may sell 7,200 acres of state land

PUBLIC LANDS — Montana is considering the sale of 7,280 acres of its lands in northeastern Montana’s Daniels County, 49 tracts ranging from 5 to 360 acres, according to the Billings Gazette.

“Over the years, landowners and others in Daniels County have urged the Department (of Natural Resources and Conservation) to initiate sale of lands due to the large amount of state land in the western half of the county,” Hoyt Richards, Glasgow Unit manager for the DNRC’s Trust Land Management Division, wrote in an email. 

Roughly half of western Daniels County is in state ownership, designated as a large block of blue lands on maps. The state land piled up in Daniels County by a quirk of fate. When the federal government granted states every section 16 and 36 in each township to be held in trust for educational purposes, areas such as national parks and reservations were excluded.

Read on for more of the story by Gazette Outdoors reporter Brett French.

Idaho web cams: Links for ski areas, highways

WINTER SPORTS — Technology has made it easier than ever to monitor snow conditions for the region's mountain passes and winter sports resorts. 

Click on the following links for web cam views of your favorite North Idaho ski area or the road to get there.

IDAHO Web Cams


Fourth of July Pass

Lookout Pass

Palouse Divide (ID-6, Harvard Hill)

Priest Lake

Schweitzer Mountain

Silver Mountain

Washington web cams: Links for ski areas, highways

WINTER SPORTS — Technology has made it easier than ever to monitor snow conditions for the region's mountain passes and winter sports resorts. 

Click on the following links for web cam views of your favorite Washington ski area or the road to get there.


Blewett Pass

49 Degrees North

Loup Loup

Mount Rainier

Mount Spokane

Sherman Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Stevens Pass

White Pass


Montana web cams: Links for ski areas, highways

WINTER SPORTS — Technology has made it easier than ever to monitor snow conditions for the region's mountain passes and winter sports resorts.

Click on the following links for web cam views of your favorite Montana ski area or the road to get there.


Big Mountain

Big Sky

Discovery Basin

Lost Trail Pass

Montana Snow Bowl

British Columbia web cams: Links for ski areas, highways

WINTER SPORTS — Technology has made it easier than ever to monitor snow conditions for the region's mountain passes and winter sports resorts.

Click on the following links for web cam views of your favorite British Columbia ski area or the road to get there.

CANADA Web Cams 

 All British Columbia Highways


Big White


Kicking Horse


Kootenay Pass (Salmo-Creston Highway/Stagleap Park)

Lake Louise


Red Mountain


Silver Star


Tonight: Banff Mountain Film Festival ending 3-day run at The Bing

ADVENTURE FILMS — Adventure lovers have been feasting at a very full plate of films in Spokane during the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the Bing Crosby Theater. The lineup of films was selected Friday morning by Mountain Gear staffers. A series of 21 films — seven a night — is being shown in a different lineup each day starting tonight.

Friday night was a real crowd pleaser with full range of emotion and stunning photography. Saturday featured something new for the World Tour:  A filmmaker introducing his film, and he was a local — Jordan Halland of Coeur d'Alene, who helped film the Ice Climbing crowd pleaser Blue Obsession.

The film fest is a virtual sellout, but a few tickets may still be available for tonight. Call Mountain Gear for possible leftovers, 325-9000.

Click on the popular intro footage (above) of short clips from all the festival films to get a taste for what's to come.

Mountain Gear staffers (left) met with World Tour hostess Michelle de Camp of the Banff Mountain Film Festival Friday afternoon to choose the lineup of films. Expect a heavy and sometimes powerful mix of drama, action and stunning photography this year. 

Their goal was to offer variety every night from the movies licensed for the show. Following is the lineup in order:


All.I.Can — A visually stunning film featuring time-lapse sequences, creative visuals, great skiers and deep powder and environmental messages. Voted Best Feature-length Mountain Film,

Treeverse — Five days will people who never set their feet on the ground.

Trail Collector — Vignettes of riding various mountain biking trails — the only fat-tire flick in the World Tour this year.

 Kadoma — A movie about kayaking in the Congo, with a dramatic ending that could not have been scripted. Voted Best Film on Expedition and Adventure.

Reel Rock: Ice Revolution — Takes ice climbing to a new level.

C.A.R.C.A. — One man's quest to revolutionize the world of animal avalanche rescue.

The Freedom Chair — A great competitive skier finds a new way to win out of necessity. Voted Best Film on Mountain Sports.


On Assignment Jimmy Chin — A look behind the scenes of a passionate Yosemite climber.

Solitaire — A different kind of ski movie rising from the desert of South Africa.

Seasons: Fall — A 4-minute moody kayaking flick made on Washington's White Salmon River, part of a four-season series.

Spoil — An environmental film that avoids preachiness and relies on visuals to make its point about development and its potential impact on a special line of bears. Voted Best Film on Mountain Environment and Ranked #2 in People’s Choice voting at the Festival in Banff.

23 Feet — Three young women head out on a prolonged road trip to find the meaning of a simple life.

Blue Obsession — Jordan Halland — a heart throb in crampons — sets out on an unusual and artistic ice climbing adventure in Alaska glaciers near Juneau.

Cold — Follows mountaineers as they learn why 16 other expeditions had failed to climb an 8,000 meter Pakistan peak during winter. Grand Prize Winner at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and likely to make you hesitate to ever complain about the cold.


Ski Bums Never Die— A light, inspiring short movie about characters you might see this year when you travel north to hit the slopes at Whitewater Ski Area near Nelson, B.C.

Chasing Water — An honest look at the length of the Colorado River. Voted Best Short Mountain Film.

Seasons: Winter — Perhaps the best of the  four seasons series, a 4-minute flick of winter kayaking with some nifty toboggan entries and a cheerful cameo appearance by river otters.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan: The Last Frontier — Australian Tim Cope get's more than he expected as he follows the conqueror's epic 10,000-kilometer route. The 1 1/2-year expedition took 3 1/2 years.  Banff film viewers reportedly fall in love with the main character. Winner of the People's Choice Award at Banff.

Sketchy Andy — Hang on to your seats as a dirtbag climber takes the discipline of slacklining into the future.

Towers of Ennedi — Veteran climber Mark Synnott – known more for his far-flung adventures than his technical accomplishments – brings young climbing stars Alex Honnold and James Pearson to the Ennedi and its unclimbed rock towers in Chad, Africa.

Reel Rock: Origins - Obe and Ashima — A climbing gym innovator works with a 9-year-old child climbing prodigy.

Read more about the Banff Mountani Film Festival World tour.

Silver Mountain moves up opening date to Monday

WINTER SPORTSSilver Mountain Resort has just announced it will open lifts for skiing on Monday morning, moving up the date four days from an annoucement made a few days ago.

Steady snowfall in the region's mountains this week has given skiers and snowboarders a wealth of early season options.

Lookout Pass opened Friday to rave reviews from powder hounds. Schweitzer and 49 Degrees North opened today.

Mount Spokane officials say they plan to open on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Idaho Panhandle avalanche expert sizes up current conditions

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will begin issuing regular avalanche advisories on Friday mornings beginning Dec. 16, said Kevin Davis, Forest Service hydro tech in Sandpoint.

The center is working on a new website with information that will be available to smartphones.

Meantime, read on for Davis’s observations on current conditions for winter backcountry travelers.

49 Degrees North joins bandwagon; chairlifts to open Saturday

WINTER SPORTS — Officials from 49 Degrees North ski area have just announced that a big dump of snow in the past 48 hours will allow them to open chairlifts and start their season on Saturday.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort and Lookout Pass also will be open

Schweitzer will open Saturday; Lookout Pass opened today.

Here's the word received from 49 Degrees North, slightly revised from what the resort sent earlier today:

OPENING DAY IS SATURDAY! 16 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours with more on the way today.

The mountain will be open Saturday through Tuesday from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Chairs 1,2,3,5 will be running with access to hundreds of snow covered acres.

Lift tickets will be $40 for everyone 7 years and older on SATURDAY.

We will close Wednesday and reopen again Thursday for Thanksgiving Weekend. Due to early season conditions, we advise skiers and riders to stay on the groomed terrain.

Cantwell, Inslee lead effort to protect roadless forests

CONSERVATION — Two Washington lawmakers led a bipartisan group of 131 sponsors to introduce legislation Thursday to assure an administrative rule protecting 58.5 million acres of wild roadless areas on America's public lands

Led by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, a group of sponsored by 20 Senate and 111 bipartisan House co-sponsors introduced the legislation to bolster the recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act will confirm long-term protections against damaging commercial logging and road-building for vulnerable wildlands on 30 percent of the 193-million-acre National Forest System, shielding roadless areas from political tides and whims of future administrations.

Roadless areas provide many benefits to Americans and wildlife: They safeguard the source of drinking water of 60 million Americans; they contain some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in National Forests; and they provide abundant opportunities for quality outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, and backpacking, supporting an industry that contributes an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

National forests cover 9.2 million acres of Washington – about one-fifth of the state’s total land mass. There are two million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Evergreen State, including sites like Kettle River Range, Dark Divide and Lena Lake.

Sen. Cantwell's office prepared this report highlighting the economic, environmental and societal benefits that roadless areas provide.

Whitetail bucks on the move for hunters as season nears close

DEER HUNTING — I saw my first buck yesterday as I walked my dogs near my house at 4 a.m.  — in my neighbor's driveway just south of Spokane.  Nice five-point whitetail with nose to the ground, lifted only to let my dogs know he'd take them on if they came any closer.

Then I drove with a friend for an hour north to try to find another buck during daylight where I could hunt.

Indeed, I got into deer. Had one buck walk 40 yards upwind of my stand at 9:45 a.m. — nose to ground just like the one near my house — but I couldn't quickly make a positive ID that he had at least four antler points on one side. He didn't respond to calls.  He was on a quest.

The rut is on and the bucks are active as Washington's late whitetail buck season ticks down. The season ends at the close of hunting hours on Saturday.  (North Idaho hunters have until December.) Conditions couldn't be better, although deer numbers clearly are down from the good ol' days.

Note: The photo above shows a fine whitetail buck taken a few days ago near Omak by Shawn Ankney. Here's the report from Jason Verbeck of Okanogan Outfitters:

The whitetail but has begun around here. I thought you'd enjoy this great buck that was taken from around our area.  The mule deer migration also has just begun. The whitetail buck (above) is a monster, huh.  Washington state is very underestimated for the quality of our bucks.    Personally I am happy with it staying that way. 

Omak feeling all shook up this morning

EARTHQUAKES — Earth-shaking news from northcentral Washington today.A 4.6 mag. earthquake occurred in Omak, Wash., today at 5:09 a.m., and was ~11.9 km deep, according to Andy Buddington of the Spokane Community College geology department. See the seismogram from the SCC station above.

I wonder what Omak hunters thought as they got ready to head out after deer this morning.

Northwest Avalanche Center begins daily forecasting

WINTER SPORTSThe Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center  began daily avalanche forecasting this week, and the season has started with a bang.

An avalanche watch went into effect last night as new snow has piled up in the Cascades and Olympics over the past few days, and more is on the way.

NWAC produces daily mountain weather and avalanche forecasts for the Olympics and Cascade Mountains from Mt Baker to Mt Hood. Backcountry recreationists and those crossing the mountain passes are encouraged to check the avalanche forecast before heading out into the mountains in the winter.

In the Inland Northwest, check the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Banff Mountain Film Festvial starts three-day run at the Bing

ADVENTURE FILMS — Adventure, humor, awareness and awe, plus a   good dose of pucker factor, are coming to   Spokane this weekend in a road show of top outdoor adventure films.

And if you don't already have tickets, you may be out of luck.

The cream of the crop from the 31st annual Banff Mountain Film Festival will be traveling from Alberta to The Bing Crosby Theater tonight through Sunday.

But tickets are sold out through TicketsWest.  Call the Mountain Gear Retail Store, 325-9000, to see if any tickets are left for this popular annual event.

The World Tour shows will take the audience to extremes, from ascending to one of the coldest places on earth to rappelling into the hottest place – to take a sample of molten lava from the bowels of a volcano.

The films feature all sorts of outdoor pursuits, including climbing, wildlife, pedaling and paddling.

See above for the always popular festival film clips compiled into the exciting World Tour into segment.

Then click here for details about this year's festival as well as links for clips on many of the top films.

Obama administration urges new wilderness protections

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in Idaho, Washington and seven other Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior.

The administration apparently hopes that significant local support that's already been generated for these areas will prompt a Congress that can’t agree on the simplest things to approve legislation establishing new land protections.

The proposals include creating San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington and protections for the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of central Idaho.

The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.

Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land, the Associated Press reports. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been declared wilderness.

The proposal is the latest plank in what the administration is calling the America’s Great Outdoor’s initiative. Representatives from all 50 states were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The conservation plans are meant to protect public land, encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and bolster employment in tourism and recreation.

Online vote names NEW seven wonders of the world

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — A world-wide online pole has named a new list of seven wonders of the world.  Check it out and see if you agree. 

I'm thinking the people who voted on this have not been to the Grand Canyon.

Schweitzer opens lifts Saturday, day after Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTSSchweitzer Mountain Resort announced today that it will open for the season on Saturday, the earliest opening for the resort since 1984.

About 20 inches of snow was reported at the resort this morning. That combined with the work of a snowmaking system will allow two chair lifts to open.

Reduced prices will be in effect this weekend and mountain parking will be free.

Schweitzer joins Lookout Pass ski area, which announced that it will open Friday.

Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park has announced on its website that it will open on Dec. 3.

Silver Mountain Resort and 49 Degrees North have not set dates for opening.

WA qualifies for $1 mil grant to boost hunting, fishing access

SPORTSMEN'S ACCESS —  Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say they plan to use a $1 million federal grant and at least $400,000 from big-game hunting application fees to improve recreational access to private lands in Eastern Washington.

WDFW is one of 11 agencies nationwide to qualify for funding fromthe U.S. Department of Agriculture in the second round of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, established under the 2008 federal Farm Bill.

The public can read details and post comments through Dec. 15  at this website.

“Hunters consistently rank access to suitable hunting areas as one of their top concerns,” said Nate Pamplin, assistant director of the WDFW wildlife program. “With the additional federal funding, we’ll be able to build on current state efforts to expand hunting opportunities for years to come.”

WDFW also received a three-year $1.5 million grant to expand access to hunting and fishing on private lands throughout the state during the first round of the program. The department is currently using that funding to establish contracts with landowners to open their lands to outdoor recreation.

Pamplin said the new $993,231 grant will be used to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in Eastern Washington in several ways:

  • Provide incentives to private landowners to allow hunting on forested properties in Kittitas, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties.
  • Work with landowners in Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Walla Walla and Whitman counties to improve habitat enrolled in both the federal Conservation Reserve Program and WDFW access programs, as I described in this story about research to help boost CRP's benefits for pheasants.
  • Initiate a “Feel Free to Fish” program in southeast Washington, paying  private landowners for shoreline access to river fisheries.

Waterfowl hunting website compiles watershed of info

WATERFOWLING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has a new waterfowling website ready for hunters to take advantage of the best forecast fall flight of ducks since 1955 — and the foul weather that's ushering them southward and into our region.

The site has information for new or returning waterfowl hunters, ranging from the basics of duck and goose identification to details on hunting locations, equipment, licensing requirements and handling harvested waterfowl.

One portion of the site is devoted to helping hunters zero in on places to hunt waterfowl. The information isn't necessarily specific. Hou'll still have to go out and do your homework. 

The site also is a quick stop for hunters checking on waterfowl regulations and seasons, especially for the more confusing seasons for Canada geese. Goose management in much of Estern Washington restricts hunting to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, but late fall and winter bring added opportunity on holidays including the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 24-25, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16.

Skier Jamie Pierre was hot model before avalanche death

EXTREME SKIING — This short video show's an easy day of cliff skiing for Jamie Pierre, the Montana skier and ski-film star who died in an avalanche on Sunday.

The video is fun to watch. Basically it's a commercial for the various ways Go-Pro video cameras can be attached to a skier. And they found a guy who could do it with ease.

Hayden man fined $13,000 for poaching trophy bighorn in Montana

POACHING —  A 64-year-old Idaho North Idaho man has agreed to pay more than $13,000 in restitution and fines and will lose his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life for illegally obtaining a Montana hunting license and killing a trophy bighorn sheep in north-central Montana, the Associated Press reports.

Roger J. Woodworth of Hayden, Idaho, was sentenced Nov. 6 by District Judge Nels Swandal as part of a plea agreement with Fergus County prosecutors, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

FWP officials say Woodworth illegally bought a Montana resident hunting license in 2009, then applied and was drawn in the lottery for a bighorn license in the Missouri River Breaks north of Lewistown, where he shot the ram.

A tip led to the charges against Woodworth, who was required to give up the bighorn sheep trophy mount.

Hunter indicted for killing hiker he thought was a bear

HUNTING — A grand jury in Salem, Ore., indicted a bear hunter Monday on a criminally negligent homicide charge in the shooting death of a hiker near Silver Creek Falls State Park.

If convicted, 67-year-old Eugene Irvin Collier of Turner could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

KVAL reports Collier was hunting with his 12-year-old grandson on Oct. 25 when Collier mistook the hiker for a bear and shot Christopher Ochoa, a 20-year-old from French Camp, Calif., and a Marine reservist who was due to report for active duty later the same day.

Oregon court halts killing of cattle-eating wolves; case pending

 ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that conservation groups have a good chance of overturning a state order to kill wolves blamed for attacking livestock, and issued a stay that will remain in force until the lawsuit is settled, according to the Associated Press.

The ruling filed in Salem set one condition: that conservation groups post $5,000 security against any livestock losses while the case is pending.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an order in late September to kill two members of the Imnaha pack in Wallowa County, including the alpha male, after confirming by radio tracking collar data that the pack was responsible for another cattle kill in Wallowa County.

Conservation groups sued to challenge it, arguing the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, which allows wolves to be killed to reduce livestock attacks, does not comply with the state Endangered Species Act.

Whitetail rut kicks into high gear; WA rifle season ends Saturday

DEER HUNTING — The silence has been broken. Some of my Rut Reporters in northeastern Washington have been virtually mum this season as they searched for big bucks. Even rutting activity has been spotty with big buck movements mostly after dark. Until now.

Hunters are buzzing. The excitement is palpable.

The rut appears to be on in a big way almost across the board in Eastern WA, North Idaho and throughout Montana.

Colville hunter Kevin Scheib has been patiently monitoring his trail cams since July, when he documented a few big bucks that disappeared as soon as the September archery seasons started.

Just this weekend, the big ones began to show again. Scheib caught a photo of the hot buck above out in the open well before the end of legal shooting time. Read what Scheib reported, and then tell me where you think he'll be in these last few days before northeastern Washington's late whitetail buck hunt ends on Saturday:

“Now it's on like donkey kong. This guy is swollen and hot for teacher. He came in chasing three does; the first mountain buck I've seen coming out in the lowlands.”

One last tree planting effort at Hangman Creek before winter

CONSERVATION — The InlandNorthwest Land Trust is calling for volunteers ond FRIDAY to “Beat the Frost” with a tree planting effort to help restore a riparian area along Hangman Creek just south of Spokane.

The group hopes to get 10-15 volunteers from noon to 3 p.m. Friday to help plant 200 trees at either the Bryant/Sayre property or the neighboring Hein property while the weather permits.

The trees will help stabilize the stream bank, decrease erosion and future solar radiation, and increase wildlife habitat along Hangman Creek.

What you will need: gloves, water, snacks (if you wish), and a shovel.

Contact: Brooke Nicholson, email or

call (509) 328-2939 to sign up and receive directions.

Steelhead movements slow down on Snake River

FISHING — The number of steelhead climbing over Lower Granite Dam has slowed to 100-200 a day as the fish start hunkering in for the winter and the next big surge of movements in February or March.

There should be plenty of fish to catch in the Snake and tributaries if you can zero in on them.

But other factors play a role in angler success from week to week and even day to day.

Last week, Salmon River anglers from the Riggins area were riding high with great fishing success.  But the weekend brought change, as Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures observes in this post-weekend wrapup:

Steelhead fishing was definitely affected by the storm system front and the full moon over the weekend; Saturday was one of the toughest fishing days of the year with few fish found throughout the entire river corridor. Fortunately the moon is waning and the weather pattern has settled and already the fishing has picked back up and returned to the incredible fishing we had for the past 2 weeks. While water temperatures continue to hover between 37-38 degrees, the fish are maintaining interest in plugs and in particular the infamous “truck and trailer”. These fish are still very acrobatic and we have started to see many more natives, especially over 32” in the last few days.

North Idaho rail trails continue to garner headlines

TRAILS — North Idaho continues to get a steady stream of good press from its world-class rail trails — the Route of the Hiawatha near Lookout Pass and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes that runs from Mullan to Plummer.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy publication recently published a feature about Wallace entitled, “In Idaho, Former Silver Mining Town Reinvents Itself as Trails Destination.” 

“When we use the phrase “destination trail,” the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho is exactly what we have in mind,” the author says. “The trail itself is the draw; people come from across the country, and sometimes the world, to ride this 15-mile rail-trail through the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains and wilderness area, including a 1.6-mile tunnel.”

As recreation enthusiasts add it to their “bucket list” of adventures, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy named the Hiawatha to its Rail-Trail Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The nearby Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, North Idaho Centennial Trail and Old Milwaukee Road corridor, has meant to local populations have made “giant impact” on local communities, Wallace businessmen told the writer. The 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes passes directly by Wallace, a geographical key to transferring trail-user numbers into commerce that fills up to 20 percent of the beds in the Wallace Inn during the summer trail season.

Info:  Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails

North Cascades Highway closes, possibly for season

MOUNTAIN PASSES — The North Cascades Highway closed in the past hour (Tuesday evening) as Washington highway crews prepare for storms and heavy snow storms in the coming days.

State Department of Transportation officials say they will reassess road conditions, avalanche danger and weather forecasts on Monday to determine whether the Highway 20 pass can be reopened.

The highway betwen Winthrop west to Marblemount closed for the winter on Dec. 1 last year

The National Weather Service predicts up to 22 inches of snow by Thursday morning with more snow to come during the weekend.

It's time to start keeping an eye on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association cross-country ski trail grooming situation.

Three to five inches of snow have been falling daily since Friday at the higher elevations of the highway near Washington Pass.

Farther south in the Cascades, Chinook and Cayuse passes — mountain gateways to Mount Rainier — already have closed for the season.

Last chance for online survey on allowing electronic duck decoys in WA

WATERFOWLING — Wednesday is the dealine for hunters to let the state know whether they want to head down the slippery slope of allowing electronic decoys for waterfowling.

Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012.

The agency is approaching this petition by asking hunters (WILD ID requierd to vote) to comment by Nov. 16 in an online survey on this single question:

This survey is a followup to the first round of hunting proposals presented in late summer. See the results from more than 3,000 respondents to the previous survey on hunting proposals for 2012-14.

Updated with video: WA approves conservation land acquisition to boost wildlife

CONSERVATION — Although the discussion on the state's wolf plan caught most of the attention last week, the  Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission also made a major land acquisition after years of support and negotiations facilitated by The Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The purchase of 7,711 acres of wildlife habitat in Kittitas County is another testament to the benefits of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program that was proposed for huge cuts in last year's legislative session.

This purchase concludes the second phase of the “Heart of the Cascades” project that adds over 10,000 acres to WDFW’s 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The plan helps “block up” public land to protect big game habitat from winter ranges all the way up to summer ranges.

  • Click on the video above to see a two-minute clip that explains the Heart of the Cascades Project.

Last year, 2,675 acres were acquired in the Bald Mountain/Rock Creek area, about 25 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. This year’s acquisition involves purchase of 3,807 acres from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for $2,325,000 and 3,904 acres from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) for $2,317,000.

Funding for the new acquisition comes from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through a Habitat Conservation Plan grant.

Ranging from 2,500 to 6,000 feet in elevation, the property has a wide diversity of habitats, including coniferous forests, basalt cliffs, shrub-steppe and riparian areas. It supports many federal- and state-protected species, including spotted owls, bull trout and steelhead, as well as many game species, including elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

The property will be managed with support from TNC, RMEF and the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative—a coalition of public, non-profit and tribal land managers—to share the estimated $123,500 annual operation and maintenance costs.

Montana hunters not killing enough wolves, counties say

PREDATORS Idaho's wolf trapping season starts today to boost the take of wolves in areas where hunting hasn't been able to fulfill the quotas set by the state.

Meanwhile in Montana, where the general rifle season hunting past the half-way mark, the public and some officials are starting to doubt that hunters will fill the quota set for wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot, according to a story in the Ravalli Republic.

Fish and game commissioners suggest the wolf season likely will be extended. Once hunters are done with their deer and elk hunting, maybe some will focus more on wolves.

On the other hand, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department just announced it will be closing a central Montana region to wolf hunting because the quota of 18 wolves has been reached.  Read on for the announcement.

The hunting of all wolves in Montana Wolf Management Unit 390, which include portions of Silver Bow, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Meagher, Gallatin, Park, Judith Basin, Wheatland, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon, Golden Valley, Fergus, Petroleum, Musselshell, Yellowstone, Big Horn, Treasure, Rosebud, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, Custer, Powder River, Carter, Fallon, Wibaux, Dawson and Richland Counties will closeWednesday, November 16, at one half-hour after sunset.

The order halting the hunt came after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials received word that the pre-established harvest quota for wolves in the WMU had been met.

Young deer hunter executes whitetail double-header

DEER HUNTING — Full disclosure: I didn't even SEE a buck during legal hunting hours over the weekend around my hunting niches in Northeastern Washington, but serious whitetail hunters were filling their tags as though the world was about to end.

I saw does with fawns and no bucks following. But it's just as clear that bucks are turning on virtually everywhere. Rattling and calling were getting results.

North of Spokane, 12-year-old Karsen Enevold and his grandpa, Randy Enevold, devoted a well-chosen weekend to filling his buck tag from a tree stand.  It was time well spent.  After patiently waiting as several does milled around near their stand, Karsen smoked a nice buck that came in to tend them, and then filled his doe tag with a second shot — all within 10 seconds.  Mission accomplished.

In the Idaho Panhandle, hunters are reporting considerably more buck activity, and some nice bucks are hitting the dirt.
But Joe Cabral of Russell Pond Outfitters near St. Maries was still relaxed with plenty of time left in his seasons.

“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is prime time here,” he said.  “I ALWAYS see bucks cavorting around that day.” 

Idaho Fish and Game panel proposes new hunting rules

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week approved several proposals for legislation to be submitted to the 2012 Idaho Legislature.

  • Amend 36-1510 to also allow youth under the age of 12 who are participating in the mentor hunt program to possess a firearm.
  • Create ability to transfer a control hunt tag to a minor child or grandchild.
  • Amend the Nonresident Season Hunting License to be a Nonresident Season Hunting/3 Day Fishing License, retaining current fee structure for the nonresident season hunting license.
  • Amend the Sportsman’s Package License to include a wolf tag with an adjusted fee. The new fees would be $114.65 license fee plus $9.60 vendor fees for a total of $124.25. Idaho code requires half vendor fee per item for this license. The license and tags are scaled at about 63 percent of full price. Current total cost is $117.25.

Commissioners directed Fish and Game to develop revised language for the department’s motorized hunting rule, and release it for public comment; meanwhile, Fish and Game will implement a moratorium on applying the rule in any additional hunt units.

Commissioners acknowledged that off-road vehicle use is one of the biggest issues for hunters.

Fewer nonresidents hunting Idaho elk and deer

HUNTING — The amount of money Idaho is taking in through the sale of nonresident deer and elk tags is down nearly $3 million from its peak in 2008, state wildlife officials say.

Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency has put in place a six-month hiring freeze on all open positions, eliminated at least two high level positions, and is looking at cutting some programs, the Associated Press reports.

He said the economic downturn is why fewer out-of-state hunters are heading to Idaho. Most of the agency’s money comes from the sale of tags, licenses and permits.

“It’s hard to put a finger on specifically what’s not happening,” Unsworth told the Post Register. “What’s happening is just less of everything. At some level, somewhere, something’s not getting done, and eventually the public’s going to notice it.”

Unsworth said items that could be cut include aerial surveys of big-game populations. That could lead, he said, to a reduction in the number of deer or elk that game managers would allow to be killed because regional supervisors tend to be more conservative when setting harvest numbers if they don’t have reliable estimates about herd populations.

He said the result is a downward spiral in revenue.

“You do put yourself in a spin,” he said. “At some point you become irrelevant politically. The great old tried and true ‘hit the nonresidents up for revenue’ isn’t working.”

Besides state revenue from out-of-state hunters falling, Idaho guides have seen fewer clients and small communities are losing revenue from fewer hunters.

Rufus Woods rainbows coming on for bait anglers

FISHING — Fishing success continues to improve for lunker rainbows at Lake Rufus Woods downstream from Grand Coulee Dam, according to Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.

James Cato of Selah, Wash., fished with son Mike and guide Jeff Witkowski and one other angler on Sunday (Nov. 13)  to land this their 4 guy limit of triploid ainbows from the reservoir.  They had brought 38 to the boat by noon. The largest was 9.2 pounds.

“As the water temperature descends through the 50s, the bite should only get better,” Jones said.  “You can run to the net pens and slip sinker Pautzke’s Fire Bait or find places from Brandt’s landing and down where you are seeing plenty of activity on the surface and work those fish. 

“If there is plenty of current when you are fishing bait with a slip sinker try adding a Mack’s Lures Smile Blade in front of your bait as an added attractor. 

Try casting a quarter ounce Worden Lures Black Roostertail or, if you are fly angler, a Mack’s Lures “Smile Blade Fly” to get those fish on artificials.  A slower irregular retrieve worked best.” 

Current flow and weed length dictate your leader length when you are bait fishing at Rufus, he said. “The more current pushing your bait down and the higher the weed growth, the longer you need to make your leader to keep that bait where it will tempt a fish.  Five or even six feet long is not out of the ordinary.”

Also, he said, be ready for ice in the boat launching areas.

Fly fishing reps join West Slope anniversary

FLY FISHING – A fly fishing equipment expert representing several top company will be at the and a Hardy rods and reel collector will be on hand for Saturday’s anniversary celebration at Westslope Fly Shop in Spokane.

Ski-hucking record holder is West’s first avalanche victim of season

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING — Professional skier Matthew Jamie Pierre died in an avalanche he triggered while snowboarding at the unopened Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort Sunday afternoon.

Pierre, 38, of Big Sky, Mont., was snowboarding with a friend in the South Chute area when the avalanche swept him off a cliff, said Unified Police Department spokesman Lt. Justin Hoyal.

The area where the two were snowboarding would be considered within the boundaries of the resort if it were open, Hoyal said. But until the resort opens, no avalanche control work is being done.

Pierre appeared in numerous Warren Miller films and in 2006 set a world-record cliff jump on video at Wyoming’s Grand Targhee Resort by dropping 245 vertical feet.

“It wasn’t some yahoo stunt,” Pierre told The Associated Press after setting the record. “I chose to do it so it would open up doors so I could witness my faith in Christianity.”

Powder magazine has published this look at Pierre's career.

Chinook, Cayuse passes close for winter

MOUNTAIN PASSES — The state Transportation Department has closed Chinook and Cayuse passes for the winter because of avalanche danger.

The department says strong winds drifted snow Monday across both Highway 410 and Highway 123 on the east side of Mount Rainier. Access to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort on Highway 410 remains open.

Chinook and Cayuse typically close in November for the winter.

Snowy owl dazzles birders along Lake CdA

BIRDWATCHING — Along with the first lowland snowfall, a snowy owl migrating to this area from the arctic was reported seen on the Rathdrum Prairie on Saturday by Inland Northwest Birders.

On Sunday a different snowy owl was photographed along Wolf Lodge Creek and the northeast end of Lake Coeur d'Alene feeding on a dead bird.

“This makes two of these guys in our immediate area which isn't one of the regular places Snowy's turn up,” said North Idaho birder Doug Ward.  “Hopefully this spells a banner year for these remarkable birds.”

Lookout Pass plans to open lifts for skiing Friday

SKI RESORTS — The weekend storm dumped 21 inches of new snow on the Montana-Idaho border, giving Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area the jumpstart it needs to start operating its lifts and open for the season at reduced rates starting Friday (Nov. 18).

Lookout is the first of the area's ski resorts to announce an opening date.

The majority of the front side of the mountain will be open with top-to-bottom skiing off Chair 1 with a minimum of 10 runs, the resort announced this morning. The beginner rope-tow will also operate.

“Our groomers are busy packing down the weekend snowfall and conditions should continue to improve throughout the week,” said Phil Edholm, President and CEO of Lookout Pass. “We anticipate open powder, packed powder and freshly tilled corduroy on Friday.”

Reduced lift ticket rates will be in effect. Prices will be posted on prior to Friday’s opening. Additional lifts and terrain will open as soon as conditions allow.

Pioneering condor chicks soaring in Grand Canyon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two of three California condor chicks that hatched in the Grand Canyon of Arizona earlier this year are doing well, including one that recently took its first flight from the nest.

The other surviving chick is flapping its wings and hopping around its cliff-cave nest, indicating it's ready to fledge, too.

The third chick recently perished, possibly from a fall from the nest, but not before the three chicks and their parents set milestones for recovery of the endangered species:

  • The greatest number of chicks hatched in the wild in one breeding season since the effort to recover endangered condors in the Grand Canyon region began in 1996.
  • The first time during recovery efforts that three chicks were producedin the wild in a single season.

“We remain hopeful that the two remaining chicks will join the ever-growing flock,” said Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based conservation organization that oversees the condor recovery program in Arizona and southern Utah.

Read on for more details.

Some are calling this the best-ever ski movie

All.I.Can. Teaser 2 from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

ADVENTURE FILMS — Voted best full-lenght feature film at the recent Banff Mountain Film Festival, All.I.Can. takes ski movies to another level.

Here's a mini-review from Spokane Mountaineer Steve Reynolds:

“All.I.Can” just released, some already saying the best ski movie ever. With a message much larger than skiing, it also sets new standards in outdoor cinematography and movie-making. The 2 year-effort for this is understandable. From the same makers of the best avalanche educational video available, “The Fine Line.” 

Because it's a feature-length film, it may not be in the lineup of about 15 films to show in Spokane this weekend for the World Tour of Banff films at the Bing Crosby Theater.  

But I'll keep you posted.

Whitman geology prof to speak on Grand Coulee origins

THE LAND — The Cheney-Spokane Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute is sponsoring a free public lecture “Latest Pleistocene Geologic History of Upper Grand Coulee” by Dr. Patrick Spencer on Thursday, (Nov.17), 7 p.m., on the Eastern Washington University, Cheney Campus, in Science Building, Room 137.

Dr. Spencer,  professor of geology, Whitman College will lecture on recent work on fine grained sediment in Upper Grand Coulee, including analysis of grain size distribution, sedimentary structures and radiocarbon age dates on key localities, suggesting that some of the sediments accumulated in a calm-water setting, possibly in a lake behind a moraine-dam.  Grand Coulee was then swept by Missoula Floods, leaving behind a record of high energy processes. 

Woman deer hunter details unnerving encounter with wolves near Chelan

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A woman scouting for deer during Washington's early deer hunt details her tense encounter with two wolves that apparently were defending their deer kill near Lake Chelan in this blog post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

No shots fired. I admire her poise.

Lake CdA eagle cruise for veterans, military and families

WILDLIFE WATCHING  – Veterans and active military are being honored with a special eagle-watching cruise set for Nov. 26 on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The free two-hour partyboat cruise to view the annual congregation of bald eagles is organized by the U.S  Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Fish and Game.

Participants are invited along with their immediate families must make reservations by calling (208) 769-5043. Seating is limited to 160.

Migrating eagles visit the Coeur d’Alene area in winter to take advantage of the kokanee spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay. 

The eagles already are starting to show up and numbers will build to a peak in December before the birds start moving on the spawning ends in January.

Last winter, a record 254 eagles were counted in the bay by BLM biologists on Dec. 21.

Is Landers the only one skunked by whitetails this weekend?

DEER HUNTING — Nothing resembling the buck above showed its face to me in the whitetail thickets of northeastern Washington today. 

Less than one week to go in the 2011 late buck hunt.

Inland Northwest Land Trust annual party is Monday

 CONSERVATION — The Inland Northwest Land Trust, which works quietly with landowners to preserve the landscape with conservation easements and other methods, will hold its annual meeting and Harvest Party Monday, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Community Building lobby, 35 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

INLT vital statistics:

44 conservation easements

29 partner projects

33.9 miles of shoreline protected

12,174 acres conserved

Hunting groups support Ore. order to shoot wolves

WILDLIFE – Three hunting groups are supporting the state of Oregon in a lawsuit trying to overturn state authority to shoot wolves that attack livestock, the Associated Press reports.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Oregon Hunters Association, and the Oregon chapter of the North American Wild Sheep Foundation have all asked the Oregon Court of Appeals to allow them to file friend of the court briefs supporting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Conservation groups are trying to overturn a department order to kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack that have been blamed for livestock attacks in northeastern Oregon.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says in a statement that elk herds are struggling to survive in places wolves have been reintroduced.

Conservation groups counter climate change and habitat are more likely causes than wolves.

Winter Sports Kickoff at REI on Saturday

WINTER SPORTS —  Pick up season lift passes for your favorite mountains, talk to vendors, enter to win outdoors gear and get free info on outside in the winter on Saturday (Nov. 12) at the annual Winter Sports Kickoff, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.

Birding groups call on mayors to rein in cats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mayors of major U.S. cities received a letter from a major bird advocacy group this week asking them to stop the epidemic spread of feral cats that threaten national bird populations as well as scores of other wildlife.

Letters were mailed to mayors of the fifty largest cities in the Unites States by the American Bird Conservancy urging them to support responsible pet ownership and oppose Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs that promote the feeding of outdoor cats.

 “Cat overpopulation is a human-caused tragedy that affects the health and well-being of cats, our native wildlife, and the public,” says Darin Schroeder of ABC. “Numerous published, scientific studies have shown that trap, neuter, re-abandon programs do not reduce feral cat populations, and that outdoor cats, even well-fed ones, kill hundreds of millions of wild birds and other animals each year in the U.S., including endangered species. Birds that nest or feed on the ground are especially vulnerable to cat attacks.”

 There's no disputing that. But cat lovers have been living in denial forever.

Good luck in your attempt to use logic and facts to save millions of birds a year, ABC.

Whitetail bucks coming out of the closet; rut heads for Nov. 20 peak

DEER HUNTING — Whitetail bucks are geting on with the rut, chasing does during daylight in some areas despite the bright full-moon phase. Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson delivered some proof in the photo above, snapped on Sunday.

He said bucks in his area were on the move and necks on most bucks were clearly swollen.

The activity isn't the same across the board, but no hunters should be going out this week without a plan to do some rattling.

Here are a couple of the latest reports:

Eastern Washington — “Pictures on my trail camera indicate much more activity during daylight hours,” said Nate Krohn, who seriously hunts the eastern Okanogan region. “The majority of the activity seems to be in the early morning. I did notice one area in the snow where it appeared two medium sized bucks were locking horns. It didn’t appear to be very intense, but still a sign of change for the better. All of the decent sized bucks I am getting on my trail camera are still by themselves, but I am guessing that will change soon.”

Let's hope so. Washington's late whitetail buck rifle hunt in northeastern Washington ends Nov. 19.

North Idaho — “Guys in this region are seeing plenty of whitetail rubs,” said Tom Anderson, who's been posting more buck photos on the brag board at Big R near Sandpoint. The mule deer rut appears to be peaking right now, and the peak for whitetails usually follows by a week or more.

Idaho whitetail seasons hunts continue into December in some units.

Wildflowers, trees of High Sierra featured in SCC show

NATURE — Andy Buddington, a hiker and local science prof, will give a free slideshow on “Flowers and Trees of the Highest Sierra” on Wednesday (Nov. 16), 12:30 p.m., at Spokane Community College, Buildling 27, Room 201. 

Post Falls boat ramp closing for season on Monday

BOATING — The Q’emiln Park boat launching ramp on the Spokane River in Post Falls will be closed for the season beginning Monday (Nov. 14).

The ramp, situated upstream from Avista’s Post Falls Hydroelectric Development, is closed each year in mid-November because of weather conditions and dropping water levels.

Generally, the ramp re-opens in the late spring or early summer, depending on the amount of inflows into Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Avista’s annual drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene will cause Spokane River levels above the dam to drop to about 3 feet below the summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet on Nov.14. Water levels may drop by as much as 5 additional feet by the end of January.

Updates: Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River.

  • In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357.
  • In Washington call (509) 495-8043.

Roosevelt near full pool, but slight drop forecast

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1288.31 at 8:06 a.m today.

The elevation of Lake Roosevelt is expected to draft slightly and be operated in the 1286-1288 range over the next week, the Bureau of Reclamation says.  The reservoir is being operating the boost chum spawning in the lower Columbia River and for power. 

Throughout the month of November lake levels are predicted to slightly decrease as chum spawning continues.

Daily lake level forecast: (800) 824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day.


Steelhead fishing access pinpointed on Snake tributaries

FISHING — After reading my outdoors column on steelheading puzzles along the Snake River and tributaries, some readers are asking where they can go fishing on the Touchet and Tucannon rivers.

Touchet River steelheading is allowed during the June-through-October gamefish season, as well as during the steelhead season that runs Nov. 1-March 31.

Much of the Touchet is private, but anglers find access:

  • At levees within the towns of  Dayton and Waittsburg.
  • Between the two towns at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park.
  • At the WDFW Dodd fishing access site nine miles north of Touchet and Highway 12.
  • And from private landowners who often give permission to anglers who ask.

Tucannon River steelheaders find easy public fishing access in the first mile of river up from the Snake.

Farther upstream, one encounters mostly private land for miles. Permission for one property often is granted at the Tucannon River RV Park above Starbuck.

Anglers also can find access on state and national forest land farther upstream to the Tucannon Hatchery, but most of the steelhead harvest occurs downstream from Highway 12.

Historically, December is an excellent month for steelheading on the Tucannon.

Where would you go to see a moose?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader emailed me today asking where he could bring a friend from out-of-state to see a moose.

Most of us who live in this region take moose for granted.  We see them regularly, if not predictably. Seeing a moose for the first time would be a big deal for this reader and his friend.  But where to send them?

I had a moose in my yard near Hangman Creek a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of the bull since.

Mike Miller of Spokane snapped a photo of this bull moose on Wednesday while dayhiking along the Little Spokane River.

Just last year, moose were chasing dogs accompanying hikers in the Dishman Hills.

I put out a few queries to Fish and Game officers. So far, they haven't come up with an area where you could regularly be likely to drive up and see a moose, although moose are being poached not far from I-90 near Cataldo.

One moose was killed in a collision with a motorist off Highway 2 just north of Spokane this week and another was killed by a vehicle two weeks ago off Highway 195 just south of town.

Moose are all around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, and up the logging roads throughout the region. I saw one near Liberty Lake last week. Elk hunters have told me they've been seeing more moose than elk up the logging roads from Idaho's St. Joe River area to 49 Degrees north in Washington.

 But it's tricky to tell somebody where he could go out and see one tomorrow.

Ski resort chain offers guarantee for bad skiing days

DOWNHILL SKIING – Tired of paying big money for bad skiing? A condominium and home-rental company is offering a fix.

ResortQuest, which has properties in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, is offering clients a snow guarantee that allows guests to move to one of its other resort destinations at no extra charge in the event of less-than-favorable snow.

The resorts involved include Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone and Steamboat in Colorado, Sun Valley in Idaho and Park City in Utah.

Northern Regional forester named deputy chief; headed to D.C.

NATIONAL FORESTS — U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has named Northern Regional Forester Leslie Weldon the deputy chief of the agency, the Associated Press reports

Weldon will move from Missoula to Washington, D.C., early next year to take over the position, which has been vacant since Joel Holtrip retired two months ago. 

Weldon has overseen 15 national forests and four national grasslands in the states of Montana, Idaho and North Dakota since 2009. She took over Tidwell’s job as regional forester when he was named the agency’s chief. 

Tidwell says Weldon’s management, community involvement and partnership skills were key considerations in her promotion. He says her experience, judgment and leadership will serve the agency well

Bucks safe on one side of road, targets on the other side

DEER HUNTING — Why did the buck cross the road?

In Northeastern Washington, it might be for a little safety afforded by the new four-point minimum buck rule.

After many hours of hunting, Elizabeth Odell — a few days shy of her 14th birthday —  got her four-point buck in Unit 117 last weekend (top photo), maintaining her goal of bagging at least one turkey and one deer since she was 9 (photo at left). Odell is from Spokane hunts with her father, Jim, and grandpa, Dick.

This buck, shot in Stevens County, would have been legal in any northeast unit that's open for the late whitetail buck hunt through Nov. 19.

However, bucks with fewer than four points on at least one antler are not legal for hunting this year in Units 117 and 121.

Just east of Highway 20 in Pend Oreille County, any whitetail buck is legal.

No virus found in B.C. salmon; testing continues

FISHERIES — Canadian government officials said Tuesday they have found no signs of a potentially deadly, infectious salmon virus in British Columbia, according to an Associated Press report.

Researchers with Simon Fraser University in British Columbia announced last month they had detected infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, in two wild juvenile Pacific salmon collected from the province’s central coast, prompting fears the influenza-like virus could wreck the salmon fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest.

But Tuesday, officials backed off.

“There’s no evidence that (the virus) occurs in fish off the waters of British Columbia,” Dr. Cornelius Kiley, a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday, announcing results from the government investigation.

Officials are continuing to test samples for the salmon virus, which has affected Atlantic salmon fish farms in Chile, Maine, New Brunswick and other areas. It does not affect humans.

Fastest steelhead fishing reported upstream in Snake, Salmon

STEELHEADING — The latest Idaho steelhead fishing harvest report indicates slower than normal fishing in the lower reaches of the Snake River, but good fishing upstream from the Salmon River.

Great fishing has been reported from the Salmon River area near Riggins.  Read on for details. 

City recruiting helpers to build trails in NW Spokane park

TRAILSSpokane Parks and Recreation Department is planning two volunteer trail building days at Wyakin Park. This undeveloped park is in the northwest part of Spokane at the corner of Assembly and Francis. 

“This area is about 20 acres and will make a great small trail area that is close to Riverside State Park, and the Merkel Trail system,” said Mike Aho, the city's outdoor program director. “It makes a great hiking, trail running, dog walking and Mountain Biking park for the northwest residents.”

“To make this happen we are relying on volunteer labor to help create another close to home nature area. Your help continues to make Spokane a great place to live and recreate by helping out.”

The work days are:

  • Friday (Nov. 11-Veterans Day), noon-3 p.m.
  • Saturday (Nov. 12), 9 a.m.-noon.

Sign up: Contact volunteer coordinator Ted Moon at or 991-5166

Bring Trail tools (shovels, racks, litter bag, loppers), Gloves, Sturdy Shoes, water bottle and dress for weather.

Meet at the park just North of Francis Avenue on Assembly Street.

Who’s looking down on Mount Rainier?

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — I love this autumn photo of Mount Rainier snapped by my backcountry skiing buddy, Rick Rocheleau. Even Seattle residents tell me they can't remember seeing a hole in the clouds so perfectly poised over the state's highest peak.

Resort proposes putting powder days in spotlight

SKIINGWhitefish Mountain Resort is proposing putting up beacons in downtown Whitefish to signal skiers when there are ideal conditions at Big Mountain.

The Missoulian reports resort marketing director Nick Polumbus presented the idea to the Whitefish City Council.

Under the proposal, a pair of beacons would be installed on the Great Northern Brewing Co., the tallest building in downtown Whitefish. A blue LED light would flash on days when the summit received at least 6 inches of snow overnight and an amber light would flash on inversion days, when the summit is above the clouds. The beacon would only be on between 8 a.m. and noon.

Polumbus says the resort had three inversion days last season and 18 days in which it received more than 6 inches of snow.

Everglades python not a dainty eater

SNAKES — Assuming you've eaten your breakfast, check out the AP photo from Everglades National Park showing the capacity of a Burmese python for consuming an ENTIRE deer — whole.

Indeed, they kill alligators, great blue herons and full-grown deer, but Florida wildlife officials say these large reptiles are unlikely to be aggressive to humans.  Read on for the story from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.

Electronic navigation devices can leave hikers out in the cold

HIKING/SURVIVAL — It's good news that a Leavenworth hiker who got lost last weekend walked out safely from the woods after spending an unexpected cold night in the mountains. He had the gear and know-how to survive. Yay!

But a few readers have been intrigued by one of the last graphs in the Associated Press story quoting sherrif's deputies who said the source of the man's trouble was electronic devices that weren't functioning properly because of the cold weather.

The story did not elaborate, leaving us to wonder what electronic devices he was relying on: GPS?  Headlamp?  Or God forbid, a smart phone with its notoriously poor battery life?

I don't know. But I can tell you this:  A map and compass require no batteries and work great in cold weather.

Just sayin'.

Idaho wolf trapping season opens Nov. 15

PREDATORS — Hunters and their guns have not been particularly effective in controlling wolf numbers in Idaho in the two seasons that have been held over the past three years.

This month, wildlife managers will turn to trappers to do the job.

The first wolf trapping season in decades opens Nov. 15-March 31 in the Lolo zone; Selway zone; Middle Fork zone; Dworshak-Elk City zone, except Unit 10A; and the Panhandle zone, except for units 2 and 3. All other zones are closed to trapping, subject to an Idaho Fish and Game Commission review in January.

Trappers must complete a required wolf trapping class before they can buy wolf trapping tags, valid only in zones with an open wolf trapping season. Licensed trappers may buy three tags per trapping season. Wolf tags cost $11.50 for resident hunters, and $31.75 for nonresidents. Trappers also may buy an additional two hunting tags per calendar year.

See details of wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules here.

Read on for more information for trappers — as well as for the public who might encounter wolf traps on their own or with their pets. 

Also, read this disturbing story from the Great Falls Tribune about a bird hunter whose dog had a near-death experience with a snare trap, which is legal under the Idaho rules.

Long-time hunters scare up a few tricks for elk camp

HUNTING — Regardless of whether they fill their tags or not, it's clear that Ron and Jeannie Worley of Loon Lake had a good time at their elk camp up Coleman Creek on Halloween. They decorated their campsite and let any potential trick or treaters know they were entering the realm of graying “brush shooters, whiners and cry babies.”

Hunter numbers down, poachers up, Idaho Fish and Game officers say

HUNTING ENFORCEMENT — “I patrolled nearly 2000 miles of back roads during October and encountered fewer elk hunters and far fewer elk camps than in the recent past,” said Jerry Hugo, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer in North Idaho. “Panhandle resident elk camps far outpaced non-resident elk hunting camps this fall.”

But there's been no shortage of poachers, officers say.

Tips are being sought to help nab whomever killed two moose shot and wasted near Cataldo around Oct. 29.

District Officers operated several bull and cow elk decoys during closed seasons in an effort to enforce our current Panhandle big-game regulations.

“I saw and heard from hunters that they were seeing LOTS and LOTS of moose,” Hugo said. “Moose are definitely enjoying the abundance of the new found forage in Unit 6 and are not as vulnerable to severe winter weather conditions as elk and deer are. But the roads make moose far more vulnerable to poachers.

Some hunters might think they're a cut above a poacher by putting out salt licks in Idaho to lure big game. While that's legal in some states, it's illegal in Idaho.

“District Officers found several more salt licks this fall,” Hugo said. “Officers are gathering the locations of every salt lick that we find and we are saving the GPS coordinates. It is unlawful and unfair chase to hunt elk over any form of salt.

“Idaho Geologists assure us that there are NO naturally occurring salt licks in north Idaho. We are currently devising ways to catch these poachers on site.”

Dishman Hills group celebrates 45 years — with more conservation plans

The  Dishman Hills Natural Area Association is the low-key local conservation group that just keeps on giving. Consider joining the celebration and seeing what the groups in planning next.

Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Fest coming to Gonzaga

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING — Human-powered winter pursuits will be featured in nine films to be screened during the Winter Wildlands’ 2011-12 Backcountry Film Festival presentation coming to Spokane.

And a long list of door prizes is being accumulated, including ski gear and even a two-day trip into the Wing Ridge tent camp in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

When: Friday Nov. 11; doors open at 6:30 p.m., shows at 7 p.m.
Where: Gonzaga University’s Jepsen Center, Wolfe Auditorium.
Tickets: $7 general admission, $3 students (with student I.D.)  Purchase tickets in advance Here.

Check out the films in the festival road tour.

Presented by Gonzaga Outdoors and the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition in conjunction with the Spokane Mountaineers and Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.  All proceeds to benefit Gonzaga Outdoors and the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition.

The evening is especially geared toward skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing with chances to win related door prizes. The festival highlights Winter Wildlands Alliance’s and other grassroots groups’ efforts to preserve and conserve winter landscapes for quiet users. The festival travels to more than 75 communities throughout the United States, and then overseas to Antarctica, Europe Australia and Asia.

Read on for the list of films.

Anglers anchor to catch Rufus Woods rainbows

FISHING — “There are plenty of 2- to 4-pound triploid rainbows to be caught in the lower end of Lake Rufus Woods,” downstream from Grand Coulee Dam, says Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.

We did not get a trolling bite to kick in (this week), but once anchored up we were able to catch fish casting flies and slip-sinkering bait,” he said. 

“Find places from Brandt’s landing and down where you are seeing plenty of activity on the surface and work those fish.  Pautzke’s Fire Bait is a good choice for slip sinkering.  Try casting a Mack’s Lures “Smile Blade Fly” to get those fish on artificials.  A hand twist retrieve worked best.” 

Ask this surf boarder if whales have bad breath

WHALES — And she didn't even have to pay for a whale-watching tour. Close call.  Check out this short video and tell me what do you think?

Wolverine study gets boost from Scotchman Peaks group effort

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Wolverine research in North Idaho and northwestern Montana got a big boost Friday from an online voting campaign spearheaded by the Friends of the Scotchman-Peaks Wilderness.

The group generated enough enthusiasm and web clicks from supporters to win a public vote for a $29,700 grant from Zoo Boise. The wolverine study proposal written by FSPW executive Phil Hough will enable Idaho Fish and Game Deparment researchers to continue their study and upgrade their research on the reclusive creatures in the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains.

Job opportunity: The grant will help fund a part-time wolverine study coordinator.  Check here for the job description and application.

Goat-goring lawsuit already having impact on park wildlife

WILDLIFE — The $10 million claim against Olympic National Park for the October 2010 goring death of a hiker already is having an impact on the park's tolerance of overly friendly or aggressive wildlife.

Park officials said they knew of at least one disruptive mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge before Bob Boardman, 63, bled to death after being menaced and gored in the leg by an aggressive goat. But officials have said they had no way of singling out the goat that killed Boardman as a goat they'd had problems with.

New rules for less tolerance of overly friendly or aggressive animals already are in place in the park.

On Sept. 6, a park ranger operating under the new rules killed a mountain goat that for three days had refused to leave a campsite near Upper Royal Basin along the park’s eastern boundary.

Read on for a Peninsula Daily News story detailing the developments that led to the Boardman family filing a $10 million lawsuit on Tuesday against the National Park Service.

Free forest access on Friday

PUBLIC LANDS – Friday is a thrifty time to visit Washington and Oregon national forests that require an access pass for popular recreation sites.

In honor of Veterans Day, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service will waive the fees at sites that normally require a recreaction access pass.  

The passes come in various forms:  a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

Panel to consider wolves, grizzlies, elk in CdA on Wednesday

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet Nov. 9 and 10 at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, 506 West Appleway in Coeur d’Alene.

A public comment period begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The commission’s routine agenda starts at 8 a.m. Thursday and includes a budget briefing and ratification of rules, followed by updates on conservation education, legislation and an elk plan revision.

Commissioners also will consider land acquisitions and hear a presentation on Fish and Game’s black bear/grizzly bear online bear identification training program. They will consider anterless controlled hunts in Unit 45 and hear staff recommendations on the motorized hunting rule.

Commissioners will hear an update on the current wolf season and appoint a commission representative to Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Channel catfish shows amazing itch to travel

FISHING — A channel catfish, of all things, has set the record for traveling the longest distance of any fish in Wyoming fish-tagging history.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department official say the catfish was tagged in June 2007 just below the Kendrick Diversion Dam on Clear Creek east of Sheridan.

Last month, the fish was caught 415-miles away by an angler on the Yellowstone River near Pompey’s Pillar, Mont.

The fish likely traveled down the Powder River into Montana aided by this year’s high water and then turned upstream in the Yellowstone.

Cabela’s profits surge after halting promotion

RETAILING – Outdoor equipment store Cabela’s fiscal third-quarter profit rose 65 percent in the period, propelled by the elimination of an unprofitable store promotion and the strong performance of what the company calls its ”next-generation” stores, according to the McClatchy-Tribune News Services.

The Sidney, Neb.-based company, which operates a store in Post Falls, Idaho, earned $35.6 million in the quarter, up from $21.6 million in the third quarter of 2010.

CEO Tommy Millner said the elimination of a store promotion that offered customers a $150 discount on a $500 purchase helped to significantly increase its merchandise gross margins.

Millner said sales of firearms, ammunition, power sports, fishing gear and men’s apparel were strong, while weaker for optics, archery, tree stands and hunting equipment.

One analyst asked Millner what effect slower firearm and ammunition sales might have on the business. Millner said he thought that was going to happen five years ago, but sales remain strong. The company expects that trend to continue next year because it’s an election year.

Get tickets for Nov. 11 Winter Backcountry Film Fest at Gonzaga

BACKCOUNTRY FILMS — John Latta of the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition is reminding outdoor enthusiats that we're just a week away from the Winter Wildlands Alliance 7th Annual Backcountry Film Festival, set for next Friday (Nov. 11), in the Wolfe Auditorium at Gonzaga University's Jepson Center. 

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., films at 7 p.m..  This is the second season the film festival films will be in Spokane. 

“These are are all new films for 2011-2012,” Latta said  “The Fest is a confluence of fun made possible by some great people working together for good causes,” including the effort to maintain backcountry skiing in the Stevens Peak area near Lookout Pass.

Buy advance tickets online. 
The list of cool door prizes grows everytime Latta sends out a notice, and there will be a drawing for a Black Diamond ski sear package. 
“We'll also be holding a dollar raffle for some truly awsome gear and services donated from local businesses who are supporting our efforts,” he said. 
Donations for door and raffle prizes are being provided by:
Ambler, Fitness Fanatics, GSI Outdoors, Mountain Gear, Mountain Goat, Mountain Khakis, Omega Pacific, REI, Sierra Trading Post, Spokane Alpine House, Title Nine
and Wing Ridge Ski Tours (Eagle Cap Wilderness).
The event is being presented by Gonzaga Outdoors, the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition and Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.

Lake Roosevelt levels geared to helping downstream chums

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1288.72 feet above sea level at 8:18 a.m. today.

The reservoir's elevation is expected to remain in the 1287-1288 range over the next week.  Lake Roosevelt currently is being operating for chum spawning in the lower Columbia River and for power, the Bureau of Reclamation reports.  Throughout the month of November lake levels are predicted to decrease as chum spawning continues.

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

Skiers already making tracks in Canada’s Selkirks

SKIING — Eat your heart out, backcountry skiers. 

The people doing the early Nov. 1 snow surveys on the Durrand Glacier in the Canadian Selkirks found plenty of snow — and it looks like they haven't lost their form for turns in the months off since last season.

Good things to come!

And to further help  you get in the mood, check out the Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival set for Nov. 11 at Gonzaga U. 

Mount Spokane mountain biking topic of parks survey

STATE PARKS – A survey regarding mountain biking at Mount Spokane State Park has been launched by Washington State Parks. People who love the park should comment, even if they are not mountain bikers. Read on and I'll tell you why.

The public has until Dec. 16 to complete the online survey and indicate their desires for mountain biking opportunities at the 13,919-acre state park to help officials plan future trail developments.

Survey questions focus on how park visitors use the trail system now and on how the system could be improved.

After 15 years of effort from the Mount Spokane State Park Advisory Committee, a “master plan” has finally been approved. Now the details and on-the-ground stuff is being worked out.  Trails can and are being realigned for all sorts of reasons, and one of the chief reasons to consider is safety.

Unfortunately, a full mountain biking plan has yet to be completed. 

If you've hiked or ridden a horse on Mount Spokane trails you probably share my feeling that high-speed downhill mountain biking is not compatible with other recreationsts on steep trails. This survey seems to be a start at addressing that.

“We want every visitor to Mount Spokane to have a positive experience, and we know that many people have experienced conflict, frustration, and outright fear when high speed mountain bikers encounter other recreationists,” said Friends spokesman Cris Currie. “The local mountain biking community and state parks in Olympia have created a survey to gather input on this matter and I would hope that each of you might take the time to answer it.

“The Advisory Committee's position so far is to create a high speed mountain biking area in the alpine ski area and then apply more restrictions to mountain biking on other trails in the park.  We've reached no conclusions yet regarding what these restrictions might look like, but we would like your opinions!” 

Fore details on Mount Spokane trails and the master plan updates, see the great Friends of Mount Spokane State Park website.

For more info on the survey, contact: Nikki Fields, state park planner (360) 902-8658, email

Hunters asked to vote on electronic decoys, East-West elk tags

HUNTING – Hunters have until Nov. 16 to comment in an online survey on two new proposals for 2012 hunting regulations being considered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Electronic decoys: Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the state to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012.  Vote here.

East-West elk tags: Some elk hunters want to elminate the East Side-West Side elk tag designations they can apply for special permits on both sides of the state. Vote here.

Have your WILD ID from your hunting or fishing license ready in order to complete the one-question surveys.

More than 3,000 people participated this summer and fall in the online scoping survey on the first round of proposals for the 2012-2014 huning seasons.  See the results.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will consider the refined proposals this winter.

When deer are in the mood, hunters are, too

BIG-GAME HUNTNGNortheastern Washington's 15-day late whitetail buck hunt opens Saturday, and the deer appear to be rising to the occasion. The pre-rut is on.

Local hunters I've contacted are seeing bucks moving with does and in some cases chasing does.

See my outdoors column for details on the units that will be opened to hunting and what you can expect to find.

Need more proof and incentive?.  Check out this report from local hunter and guide Chris van Kempen of Fourtrack Hunting Adventures:

“I went up and checked one of my trail cams and noticed two alright-sized buck's doing some lip curling action (see photo left) 40-minutes apart from each other on the same day. I am thinking love is starting to flow thru the air,” he said, noting that he had numerous trail cam photos of bucks locking antlers together and pushing around as you can see in the other photo (above).

In other words, cagey whitetail bucks are starting to think about things other than being elusive, nocturnal and concealed.

Reports from NE Wash indicate that deer numbers clearly are down and hunters will see fewer deer than in the good ol' days.  But you won't bag a deer by staying home and fretting about that.

Sen. Cantwell calls for US test to confirm Pacific salmon virus

FISHERIES — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, is calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to independently confirm the presence of a deadly virus found in two Pacific salmon in British Columbia, the Associated Press reports

Canadian researchers recently announced they detected infectious salmon anemia disease in two juvenile sockeye salmon for the first time on the West Coast. Canadian government officials are awaiting tests to confirm the results. The virus has caused losses at fish farms in Chile and elsewhere.

See the initial discusson on this virus discovery in this previous blog post.

Cantwell and Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Mark Begich, a Democrat, sent a letter Wednesday to the chairwomen of the Appropriations commerce subcommittee asking them to prioritize research into the virus. The senators also urged NOAA to run its own tests on the salmon.

It’s time for ospreys to leave, but some postponing migration

BIRDWATCHING — Ospreys were late to arrive in the Inland Northwest this year, and some of the fish-eating hawks are hanging around longer this fall, possibly because they got a late start producing their young.

According to Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society Records, ospreys usually arrive to North Idaho in mid- to late-March. This year the first sighting was April 4, probably owing to the lingering wintery conditions.

Normally, the ospreys begin leaving in late September and are usually gone by late October, as they migrate to far-flung summering areas. (See below) But area birders have been reporting late-stayers this week:

  • “I saw an osprey Nov. 1 on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge,” said refuge wildlife biologist Mike Munts. “It was a first for November of the species for me.”
  • “Observed a very late pair of osprey (near Spring Valley Reservoir on Monday), said Terry Gray of Moscow, noting that they were near a nest with a fledgling that appeared to be ready to fly. When he saw them last, they were leaving the reservoir about noon: “They were catching the thermals and were almost out of site.”

See a revealing video, including slow-motion aerials and underwater footage, of the remarkable way ospreys fly and dive for their food.

See eBird data for Idaho for Osprey.

See eBird data for Washington for Osprey.

(“WA data are probably biased toward the west side of the state,” says INW birder Charles Swift.)


Here's a blurb from Out & About on the S-R Outdoors page, Feb. 13, 2005:


An osprey hatched along the lower Coeur d'Alene River is basking in the tropical warmth of Cuba this winter.

The osprey is one of 20 hatchlings that were captured last summer in North Idaho so they could be introduced to South Dakota. Wayne Melquist, a North Idaho wildlife biologist and osprey expert, attached GPS devices to four of the 20 birds before they were put taken out of state as part of a migration research project.

The birds were put in man-made nests, called hack boxes, and fed until they fledged on their own.

“These birds didn't have any parents to tell them where to go for the winter, but that's true no matter what, since the parents naturally leave for the winter before their young do,” Melquist said.

Of the four chicks with transmitters, one is in the New Oreleans area and one got to the coast and then made a beeline for Cuba. Melquist is not sure at this point whether the other two are alive.

How do you talk when you take a kid fishing?

OUR KIDS — “Take a kid fishing” is an accepted slogan in the outdoor industry … Most people agree that our world would be a better place if everyone took an interest in our children and made an effort to get them outdoors.

But but Chelan-area fishing guide Anton Jones (Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service) has an observation from his years of experience that's worth considering.

Your kid’s tip of the week is to watch what you say as well as what you do, he says. 

While delivering lectures may feel like you are teaching your kid, it’s their imitation of your behavior that has the lasting effect and shapes how they behave.  How do you respond on the water to someone cutting you off?  How do you behave when they lose that big fish?  What do you do when you see someone having trouble out there?  What do you do with your trash?  Your behavior helps form their behavior and their outlook on the world.

Idaho Fish and Game seeks tips on 2 moose poached near Cataldo

POACHING – Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are seeking tips to help them nab poachers involved in killing two bull moose on or around Oct. 29. The bulls were killed within 25 yards of each other in French Gulch near Frost Peak in the Cataldo area.

The poacher or poachers took only the hind quarters of one moose.  The remainder of the usable meat from this illegally taken moose was wasted. The entire second moose was left and wasted.  Both were field dressed and the carcasses propped open as if the perpetrators were planning to return to retrieve more meat. 

Anyone with information should call:

  • Officer Mark Bowen, (208) 660-4655, or
  • Idaho Fish and Game office in Coeur d'Alene, (208)769-1414, or
  • Citizens Against Poaching hotline, (208) 632-5999. 

Callers may remain anonymous and are eligible to receive a cash reward. 

Pending brown bullhead record nixed: fish IDed as channel cat

FISHING — Nice try. Even Washington fish biologists couldn't tell just by looking. But they were skeptical, so they did some tests….

The photo above shows a fish submitted as a potential Washington state record brown bullhead after being caught this fall from Lacamas Lake in Clark County.

The fish was unofficialy weighed at 28.1 pounds, said Joe Hymer, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist in Vancouver.

But today Hymer reported: “Upon further review…..genetic sampling determined this fish to be a channel catfish.   While a nice size fish, the state record channel catfish weighed 36.20 pounds, caught by Ross Kincaid in I-82 Pond #6 of Yakima County on Sept,. 6, 1999.”

The current state record bullhead is 11.04 pounds caught in an unnamed lake in Snohomish County in 2000.  Typical size bullheads would be a mere appetizer for this lunker.

Judge orders 6 Idaho forest trails closed to OHVs

TRAILS — A federal judge has decided to temporarily close down trail access to off-road vehicles in sections of the Salmon-Challis National Forest pending a review of the forest's travel plan, the Idaho Statesman reports.

The order issued Tuesday follows a February ruling that the U.S. Forest Service had ignored evidence showing significant damage to trails and the landscape from off-road vehicles when it crafted its 2009 plan.

Brad Brooks of The Wilderness Society says the closure will ensure trails are protected until the forest managers can craft rules better protecting soil, water and vegetation from ATV's and other vehicles.

First wolf in 65 years ventures into western Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first wolf confirmed in western Oregon in 65 years has been roaming Douglas County for a week as wildlife official track its exploration in the high Cascades by satellite.

The 2-year-old collared male, dubbed OR-7, has been staying mostly in the Umpqua National Forest's Oregon Cascades Recreation Area, which is sparsely crisscrossed with old logging roads, according to stories by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune.
Born in Oregon in 2009 and collared last February, this wolf was part of the Imnaha pack in Wallowa County and split from that pack Sept. 10 in what biologists called dispersing, the wolf's version of leaving the nest, Freeman writes.
So far, it has traveled more than 250 miles on its journey and there was no way to guess when or where this wolf will end up, biologists have said.
The last confirmed wolf in Western Oregon was one shot and killed for a bounty in 1946 in Douglas County.
The wolf roaming the county this week is protected as an endangered species.
Biologists have said there was a “high likelihood” other noncollared wolves have reached the Cascades, said Russ Morgan, the ODFW's wolf program coordinator.
Oregon has a minimum population of 23 confirmed wolves since the first wandered in from Idaho in 1999. There was no statewide population estimate for the wolves.

Updated: Wildlife Commission tackling Washington wolf plan today in Spokane

ENDANGERED SPECIES – Washington’s proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan will be presented and discussed during the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting today, starting at 9 a.m. at the Ramada Spokane Airport, 8909 W. Airport Dr.

Public comment will be taken during the afternoon session.

This is the last of four public meetings the commission has scheduled on the controversial management plan that's been two years in the making.

The wolf plan is coming to a head as Washington has documented five breeding packs in the state and as the state Legislature is presparing to convene for yet another round of budget cuts to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. See today's story regarding the uncertainly building for financing wolf management and covering the costs of wolf depredations to livestock.

See the agenda for the commission meeting, which continues through Friday for considering other state wildlife issues.

See details of the proposed wolf plan and a timetable for its authorization.

Here's an AP story running in papers today dealing with issues such as why the commission's wolf plan meeting was rescheduled from Olympia to Spokane.

The Spokesman-Review will cover the meeting for a report in Friday's paper.

Read on for more details about the meeting, which was rescheduled from Olympia to Spokane just last week.

Coho providing action for anglers in Wenatchee, Methow rivers

SALMON FISHING — Anglers got some thrills last month from the Yakama Tribe's 15-year effort to reestablish coho salmon in upper Columbia tributaries.

This year's count of the late-spawning salmon into the upper Columbia region is the highest in 78 years, and more are still to come, allowing the first coho fishing season in memory in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers. The coho season closed Monday, but some steelheaders continue to hook into them occasionally.

As of Sunday, 28,662 adult coho swam up the fish ladders at Rock Island Dam, nearly a third more than the last big run in 2009.

Tom Scribner, a biologist who started the coho reintroduction program for the Yakamas in 1996, estimates between 30,000 and 40,000 coho will come over the dam before the run is over. The year he started, coho were all but extinct in the upper Columbia River. None made it to Rock Island that year, he told the Wenatchee World.

“Every year when we break a record it blows me away,” he said last week. ”In 2009, when we had almost 20,000 (adults at Rock Island), that was off the map. … This (year’s run)is beyond my wildest dreams.”

On Oct. 5, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife opened the first coho fishing season on the Wenatchee and Methow rivers in at least 30 years. Jeff Korth, the agency’s regional fish manager in Ephrata, said he couldn’t find any record at all of a coho season on those rivers, and believes it’s been 40 or 50 years since one anyone has fished these two major tributaries for the late-run salmon.

A short coho season was held on the Icicle River in 2009.

Coho historically were the second most-abundant salmon species (behind chinook) in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers, Scribner told the World.

The return of the fish is creating one more reason NOT to go fishing in Alaska.

Read on for more of the story from the Wenatchee World.

National Parks to waive fees

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 11-13.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2011. The Veterans Day weekend fee waiver is the last scheduled for the year.

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

Columbia’s big sturgeon appear to be in big trouble

FISHING — The sturgeon population in the lower Columbia River continues to dwindle and state officials have started talks on how to tweak back sport-fishing seasons for 2012, according to Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

Brad James, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, told the bi-state Columbia River Recreational Advisers Group last week that the number of legal-size sturgeon is projected to drop from 77,000 in 2011 to 65,000 in 2012.

Lance Beckman of White Salmon, a retired fisheries research biologist, supported cutting the harvest rate to 16 percent beginning in 2012.

“The less harvest the better,'' he said. “We've got a resource in deep trouble.''

Read on for more details from the Columbian report.

Trail gives public close look at spawning chum salmon

FISHERIES — It's November, the season of love for chum salmon, which are beginning to head into South Puget Sound streams to spawn.

The annual event is greeted by nature lovers who have numerous areas where they can watch the spectacle.

A good option is the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail near Shelton High School.

By the time the salmon are spent in early December, more than 5,000 people will have visited the half-mile salmon trail situated between Olympia and Shelton just off U.S. Highway 101, the Tacoma News-Tribune reports.

The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, along with the McLane Creek Nature Trail off Delphi Road, are two of the best places in South Sound to see wild salmon spawn in the fall, Larry Phillips, a district fisheries biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the paper.

This year’s escapement to Totten Inlet streams is predicted to be approximately 14,000 fish, most of which will return to Kennedy Creek.  That's down from 40,000 in peak years, but still plenty to provide good viewing.

Some of the chum will fall victim to ocean predators, others will be caught by tribal and nontribal commercial fisheries and others will be hooked by sports anglers fishing for the still-bright fish at the mouths of their natal streams.

Nordic ski swap at Fitness Fanatics Saturday; waxing clinic set

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING — Some people were surprised by the forecast for snow today.  But cross-country skiers are ready to gear up for it at the annual Nordic Ski Sale and Gear Swap at Fitness Fanatics, 12425 E. Trent in Spokane Valley .

The buying starts Saturday at 9 a.m. (good stuff tends to go fast).

 If you need to sell your old cross-country ski gear, get it to the store this week.

Info: (509) 922-6080.


Nordic Waxing Clinic
Thursday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. Free.

Movie: Birdwatchers are crowing about The Big Year

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Big Year, a humorous film based on the more tedious true story (and book of the same name) is flying high at movie theaters across the country. The movie follows birders devoting 12 months to setting a record for logging as many bird species as possible ACROSS NORTH AMERICA.

The flick is getting all sorts of reviews by birdwatchers.  I like this Inland Northwest Birder's comment by  Catherine Albright Temple of Clarkston:

Caught the movie “The Big Year” this afternoon. Very enjoyable, feel good movie. My husband noticing that I was really getting into it leaned over and said ” Don't even think about it!” :)

The cast includes Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin.

“The release of this type of film with this type of talent indicates that birders have finally arrived,” says Woody Wheeler, a West Side naturalist, on his Conservation Catalyst blog.

“In the last decade, bird-themed films like Winged Migration, March of the Penguins and the Parrots of Telegraph Hill surprised the film industry with their popularity,” he writes. “These films demonstrated that there is a large market sector, or demographic, that cares about birds and natural history.”

Although its about a special breed of birdwatchers, the film has a potential audience that might surprise the uninitiated, Wheeler notes:

  • According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 48 million Americans consider themselves “birders.”
  • The purchase of optics, feeders, bird guides and other supplies has become a major industry.
  • Birding books have been best sellers, including The Big Year by Mark Obmascikand the Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley.

Northwest birders have zeroed in on where the movie was filmed.   Here's a note posted today by Inland Northwest Birder Thor Manson in Oliver, British Columbia:

…Most of it was filmed in B.C. The inland drier looking scenes were filmed in the Okanagan Valley.  For example, the scene where they are supposed to be at Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona is actually a place called the Vasuex Lake Nature Center, which is about 5, or 6 miles north of the town of Oliver. 

The pelagic departure scenes were filmed in Tofino, which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the scenes that are supposed to represent Attu were filmed around an area called Tombstone Territorial Park, which is located not too far from Dawson City, Yukon. 

The Big Year show times in Spokane:

‎2:20‎ ‎6:40 p.m.‎

‎Here's one of the more favorable reviews by movie critics:

Rated 3.0 out of 5.0 Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

Birders. You call them birders. Calling them “bird-watchers” is insulting, like calling a Trekker a Trekkie. They are aware that some people find …

Oct. 12, 2011 Full Review


$10 Mil lawsuit filed in death of man killed by park mountain goat

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — The family of a man who was gored to death by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park  last year is suing the Park Service, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Tacoma by the Messina Bulzomi Christensen law firm.

The Interior Department had earlier denied a $10 million wrongful death claim from the family of 63-year-old Bob Boardman of Port Angeles. A department lawyer said there was no evidence of negligence in the October 2010 death.

Tacoma attorney John Messina told the Peninsula Daily News the goat that killed Boardman was a rogue that the park should have done something about.

Park officials said they knew of at least one disruptive goat on Klahhane Ridge but have said they had no way of singling out the goat that killed Boardman as a goat they had problems with.

New rules for less tollerance of overly friendly or aggressive animals already are in place in the park.

On Sept. 6, a park ranger operating under the new rules killed a mountain goat that for three days had refused to leave a campsite near Upper Royal Basin near the park’s eastern boundary.

Advocates not resting as Senate blocks raid on top trails funding source

TRAILS — The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 to reject Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) amendment to siphon the only dedicated source of funding for walking and biking trails into bridge repair projects.

“The amendment was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, important news as we head into what is likely to be months of more attacks on the Transportation Enhancements program,” said Jake Lynch of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Transportation Enhancements funds have been the largest and most cost-effective source of funding for trails, walking and bicycling during the last 20 years.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has posted a short story on both the vote and the amendment.

“This current budget battle has the potential to dramatically alter everything from how we get around to our economic, environmental and personal health for decades to come,” said Lynch, who's based in Washington, D.C.

Follow the political threats to active transportation on the Rails-to-Trails Consevancy blog.

Fly-fishers clean up after beavers at Bayley Lake

FLY FISHING — Volunteers from the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club scheduled a work-and-play day at Bayley Lake in Stevens County last Thursday and found plenty to do.

Beavers had taken over the inlet stream where the club members had worked with state wildlife biologists to build a spawning channel, reports George Potter.

Last year, the beavers were live-trapped and relocated to another part of the refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This year the fly fishers went in to restore the channel.

“Two years of grass and debris from the beaver’s efforts had to be removed,” Potter said. “Gravel was added. Little trout production is expected from the spawning channel, but the trout can at least relieve themselves of eggs and milt (and therefore live longer and grow larger).

“There should be more nice trout in the lake next year. Fishing after the work is a perk for the crew. Several plus 20-inch rainbows were reported.”

The fishing season at Bayley closed on Monday.

Members of the hard working crew were: Mike Garofano, Bob Anderson, Jim Athearn, John Fechner, Scott Fink,

Boyd Matson, Jerry McBride and Potter.

Lower Granite Dam open for vehicle crossing on Veterans Day

RIVERS —  If your upcoming Veterans Day weekend plans include a road trip for fishing or visiting on the opposite side of the Snake River, you may want to take advantage of a  rare opportunity to drive across Lower Granite Dam on Monday.

Most U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams are closed to cross-dam public vehicle traffic on federal holidays, unless otherwise announced.

Lower Granite Lock and Dam, near Pomeroy, Wash., will be open for public vehicle crossings from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. 

Lower Granite’s regular public vehicle crossing schedule allows traffic crossings daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for federal holidays, unless otherwise announced. Tour and school busses must contact the dam at (509) 843-1493 at least 24 hours in advance for crossing authorization.

Pistols allowed in Idaho’s short-range deer seasons

HUNTING — Idaho is in the second year of allowing handguns to be used during short-range deer seasons.

Beginning last year, the use of handguns using straight-walled center-fire cartridges not originally developed for rifles was approved for use in big-game short-range weapon hunts, Idaho Fish and Game officials say.

Most steelhead over Lower Grainite, waiting to be caught

FISHING — The movement of steelhead over Lower Granite Dam has slowed way down, but more than 167,000 of the fish have climbed over the dam and are making themselves available to anglers throughout the upper system.

Surprise? Farmed fish virus found in wild Pacific salmon

FISHERIES — Earlier this month fishery officials in Canada and the U.S. confirmed the deadly infectious salmon anemia had been found for the first time in wild Pacific salmon. The disease was found in two sockeye salmon smolts off British Columbia.

“This is the same disease that devastated salmon farms in Chile and other countries,” says Bob Marshall, Conservation editor for Field & Stream magazine. Marshal points out in a blog post the news sent shock waves through the fishing industries and communities that depend on salmon. 

But while fishermen are alarmed to learn about the finding of a European virus in our iconic fisheries, the news comes as no great surprise to a lot of knowledgeable people who 've been skeptical of salmon farms since their inception.

“Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) has erupted in every country that farms salmon,” said Dale Kelley of the Alaska Trollers Association. “Why would anyone think Canada is immune? It was just a matter of time.”

Said Marshall, “It was good to see the threat also quickly cut through the entrenched partisanship in Washington resulting in a bi-partisan bill to address the outbreak.”

Kelley says Canada needs to explain to the public precisely what it is doing to monitor and enforce biological safeguards on the fish farm industry. “Canada and the U.S. have a responsibility to protect the wild public resources they hold in trust for us all,” he said.

Check out Kelley's op-ed piece in the Vancouver Sun.

Methow Valley Sports Gear Swap on Nov. 5

OUTDOOR GEAR – The annual Sports Swap organized by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association is set for Saturday at the Red Barn in Winthrop.

Here's a tip: Some great gear from bicycles to nordic skis and all the accessories changes hand at cheap prices during this event.

 Read on for details:

It’s official: Big Rock acquired by Spokane County Parks

CONSERVATION — The Dream Trail through the Dishman Hills from Appleway south past Tower Mountain and Big Rock is one step closer to being a dream come true.

On Friday, the land transactions were completed with the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association selling the 80 acre Big Rock property and 10 additional acres for parking to Spokane County Parks and Recreation Department.
Parks had agreed to purchase and manage the property as part of its Conservation Futures lands along with the adjoining Iller Creek Conservation Area.
The transaction marks the beginning of the end of hassles — and tickets — Big Rock visitors have had with parking at the end of Stevens Creek Road. But the parking area isn't scheduled to be built until next year.
“We will not be constructing that parking area until next construction season (probably late-spring/early-summer),” said John Bottelli, County Parks assistant director.
He said the roadway improvements that were completed by DHNAA within the Stevens Creek right of way  provide a bit more room near the end of the road, but the county's official position is that the public should access Big Rock from the Iller Creek trailhead on Holman Road until crews are able to complete the trailhead improvements on Stevens Creek Road.
The Dishman Hills group now plans to focus on linking public access through land purchases or easements to provide a right of way for wildlife and recreationists through this great resource area in Spokane Valley.
Get the scoop and find out how you can help by attending the DHNAA 45th anniversary of land conservation celebration, Nov. 12,  at the Moran Prairie Grange, 6106 S. Palouse Highway.
Sign up on the DHNAA website.

Steelheading hot on Salmon River near Riggins

STEELHEADING — Steelhead fishing on the Salmon River turned on recently and has been incredible the past week with lots of double digit days, reports Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures based in Riggins, Idaho.

For the week of Oct. 23-30, she said her boats guided 91 anglers who hooked into 210 steelhead and landed 141.

The longest steelhead was 35 inches.

“Cooler fall nights and beautiful fall days have the current water level at 5,310 cfs and water temperature at 44 degrees,” she said. “The river is clear with amazing visibility and the weather forecast for the week shows a chance of rain this weekend with cooler day and night temperatures throughout the week.”

Local sportsmen begin selling moose raffle tag

HUNTING — Tickets for Washington’s 2012 raffle tag go on sale Tuesday (Nov. 1). The $10 tickets are a good deal, and they make a good gift for a big-game hunter.

The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council is selling the tickets on behalf of the Washington Department of Wildlife.  For its efforts, the council gets 10 perecent of the sales to apply to the group’s wildlife conservation efforts.

The state agency earmarks the rest of the money for moose management.

Here are the other details:

  • The tag is good next year for Eastern Washington’s Region 1, the state’s hotbed for moose.
  • Bag limit: one moose of either sex.
  • Any open moose unit.
  • Season: Sept. 1 – Dec. 31.
  • Any legal weapon.
  • Open to residents or nonresidents.

Tickets may be purchased by phone, (509) 487-8552, or at the INWC office, 6116 N. Market. A maximum of 3,000 tickets will be sold.

The drawing will be held July 1.

Archer draws short arrow, suffers consequences

ARCHERY — This photo is going around the Internet.  Although I cannot verify it since there are no contacts or specifics, I agree it illustrates a point of caution needed when trying out archery equipment.

The photo reportedly was taken on a cell phone after a man took his friend
to a shop to buy his first bow.  

The clerk reportedly was assisting him in zeroing it in, and, after shooting several arrows, making adjustments etc., the clerk is reported to have accidently handed him an arrow that was too short.

Here's the rest of the report from the anonymous e-mail:

When the man drew back, the arrow tip fell down onto his hand as he released it. They rode to the hospital with the bow in his buddy's hand because it impaled his finger also!  They are both archery amateurs (I'm thinking the clerk is also?).

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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