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Outdoors blog

Archive for August 2012

Illia Dunes cleanup continues after 3,000 partiers trash shores

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Cleanup continues at the Illia Dunes area along the Snake River downstream from Lower Granite Dam after last weekend's college-crowd of about 3,000 left the popular recreation site marred by trash.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Snake River shoreline in that stretch, closed the area until it can finish the cleanup, including getting glass out of the water area and testing water quality.

Signs warn that glass is prohibited but that rule, among others, was not observed last weekend.

Corps spokesman Bruce Henrickson said volunteers have offered to help clean up the mess, but for safety reasons the Corps is using only volunteers it has organized.

No decision has been made as of 1:30 p.m. Friday on whether the area will be open for the Labor Day Weekend.

Corps officials said they will be reviewing whether they should adopt a policy of prohibiting alcohol use at the site.

Read on for more details from Henrickson.

About 70 attend CdA pro-wolf rally; hunter’s views not appreciated

PREDATORS — About 70 people attended a pro-wolf rally in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, the day the state's wolf hunting season opened.

The Coeur d'Alene Press has this news report on the rally, including the observation that a hunter who tried to support Idaho's current wolf management plan did not received a warm welcome for his thoughts. 

UPDATE: Wedge Pack wolves get holiday reprieve while another cattle attack investigated

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington wildlife managers have given a reprieve to four wolves targeted for killing in the state’s northeastern corner.

But the wolves aren't taking a holiday.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday that it was giving the temporary reprieve to give its team in the field a break, to avoid running into people outdoors on Labor Day and to evaluate what it’s learned so far about the pack’s activities. Officials say they’ll reconsider next week.

Then they received a new report of a wolf depredation on cattle in northern Stevens County, which is being investigated today.

The move announced Thursday to bring staff out of the field came after protests from conservation groups who argued that there’s little evidence the Stevens County pack, known as the Wedge pack, were to blame for recent depredations on the Diamond M ranch. Eight livestock have been injured or killed since last month, most recently in mid-August.

Officials killed one wolf Aug. 7 and planned to kill up to four more.

The conservation groups include Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity. The department maintains that the wolves are responsible.

If you still have a full appetite for the past week's regional wolf news, here's an assortment of stories compiled and headlined by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine:

Wolves Are Confirmed To Have Killed 54 Cows, Sheep And Other Stock In Oregon

WDFW Ends Its Fruitless Hunt For Wedge Wolves, Though At Least Figures Out There Are 11 Up There

WDFW, ODFW Want To Manage All Wolves In Their Respective States On Their Own, AP Reports (About A Couple Weeks After We Did)

There's Another Pack Of Wolves In The Wallowas, At Least Seven Up The Minam River

A Bunch Of Wolf Groups Take Credit For Getting WDFW To Call Off The Wedge Wolf Hunt

WDFW Says, Look, We've Been Hunting Those Wolves For 12 Days, Time To Give The Boys In The Field A Break, Plus It's Labor Day Weekend

Anderson Will Provide A Wolf Update To Fish & Wildlife Commissioners On Sept. 5

Decomposed Body Of Dead Young Wolf Found In Wedge

Spokesman-Review Map Shows Range Of Wedge Wolves Over 1-month Summer Period

Gets The County Wrong In The Headline & Lead, But Captures The Essence Of The Wedge Problem

WDFW Wolf Manager Says, Look, People Are Going To Disagree About Whether Wolves Killed Something Or Not; At The End Of The Day, Agency Makes The Final Determination

ROW Adventures rates No. 1 in Travel + Leisure survey

OUTSTANDING – ROW Adventures, a Coeur d’Alene-based rafting and adventure travel company, was named No. 1 Tour Operator in the 2012 World’s Best Awards survey by Travel + Leisure magazine readers.

Tour operators were rated on criteria such as staff, itineraries, activities, accommodations, food and value. ROW received the highest ranking in any of the annual survey’s categories, which also included airlines, hotels and destinations.

“We are honored with this recognition and very grateful to all those who have trusted us with their precious vacation time,” said Peter Grubb, who co-founder, who said he had to buy a suit for the presentation ceremony in New York.

Grubb co-founded ROW as a whitewater rafting company in 1979 and has expanded to offering a variety of trips in 17 countries.

Grubb and wife Betsy Bowen are standout's locally and internationally for their contributions to protecting the outdoor environment.

Chelan tailrace opening to salmon fishing

FISHING — Starting Saturday, fishing for chinook salmon will be allowed at the Lake Chelan Project Tailrace to target fish returning to a net pen release area.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced the season will run Sept. 1-Oct. 15 from the railroad bridge to the Chelan PUD safety barrier below the powerhouse.

 Read on for details posted by the agency.

With bear spray in pack, woman suffers bites from grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  The recent story of a bear protecting its cubs in the presense of humans calls for a review of basic procedures for walking in bear country:

  1. Bear spray is an effective deterrent to bear attacks.
  2. Bear spray is useless if not immediately accessible when a bear is encountered.

In Montana and Idaho, grizzlies are especially active this time of year looking for berries to put on fat for the winter, as displayed in the photo above snapped last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Hikers and especially stealthy hunters, such as archers, should be prepared for bear encounters during fall.

See a video on using bear spray effectively

See more tips for especially for hunting and fishing in bear country.

Fire restrictions loom for Labor Day weekend campers, hunters

PUBLIC LANDS — Fire danger as well as still-burning wild fires will be a major factor for some campers and hunters heading for recreation areas in Idaho, Montana and Washington during Labor Day weekend.   

Smoking, campfires and use of chain saws are restricted on most state and federal lands to prevent more fires. Access roads and trails to some areas are closed because of existing fires, notably in Montana and central Idaho.

For example, the Selway River Trail, popular with hikers and hunters in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is closed this week as fire crews clear timber falling on the route in the Moose Creek District.

No major fires are listed on the Colville or Idaho Panhandle National Forests, but fire restrictions are in place.

Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger continues to be rated extreme in much of the region, said Joani Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Umatilla National Forest. 

National forest websites are the best all-hours sources for updates on fire-related restrictions.

Websites with updates on fires and restrictions include:

THROUGHOUT THE WEST

IDAHO

WASHINGTON

Prosser man wins berth to World Duck Calling contest

WATERFOWLING —  Abel Cortina of Prosser won the premier solo event in the Washington State Duck Calling Championships last weekend, earning a berth in the prestigious World Duck Calling Championships held over Thanksgiving holidays in Stuttgart, Ark.

John Plughoff of Yakima dominated goose-calling, winnng the Washington State Goose event as well as the Open Goose event.

Cortina — chairman of the Washington Waterfowl Association and one of the judges in the state event — won the Washington premier contest in 2003 and went on to place 16th at Stuttgart.

Cortina missed several years of competitive calling while serving in the military, although he won the 2005 Arizona state title while stationed there and returned to finish second hin the Washington state event last year.

Cortina teamed with another WWA member, Mike Maier of West Richland, to top the Two-Man Duck event.

Apparently Cortina’s position with the WWA judges doesn’t help him in the competition. Judges never know who’s competing at any time; they’re in a segregated area and can only hear (and grade) the calls — not seeing the callers.

Read on for the list of top callers in each division.

Wolf hunting opens Thursday in Idaho; pro-wolf rally in CdA

PREDATORS — Idaho's 2012-2013 wolf hunting season opens statewide on Thursday (Aug. 30).

A season has been open since July 1 on private land in the Panhandle Zone, but no wolves have been reported harvested to date.

Wolf advocates are countering the Thursday wolf season opener with a rally “honoring the 379 wolves killed in Idaho, during the 2011-2012 wolf hunt.” The event is set for 3:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Fort Sherman/Coeur d’Alene City Park.

Live music, guest speakers, refreshments are planned as well as a trap-release workshop put on by Footloose Montana. The session is aimed at educating citizens on how to identify traps/snares, and if necessary, how to release a pet that is caught in a trap or snare.

 

The 2012-2013 wolf trapping season opens Nov.15 in six wolf zones.

Wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules are posted on the Idaho Fish and Game website.

Bear aware: Tips for hunting-fishing in bear country

WILDLIFE — More anglers are heading into the mountains and hunters soon will follow, putting more people out among wildlife, including bears.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers basic tips to help hunters and anglers avoid attracting bears, which can be dangerous people if not just destructive to their camping gear.

Worse, a bear that finds value — notably food — in raiding camps or threatening humans almost surely will become a repeat offender that ultimately will have to be killed.

Click “continue reading” to refresh your memory on tips that come from years of case studies 

Biologists lower expectations for Columbia steelhead

FISHING — Uh-oh.  Not only have the steelhead been slow to come up the Columbia River and in to the Snake — many of the fish we thought would be coming won't be coming at all.

Fish managers from Washington and Oregon have downgraded their forecast of A-Run steelhead moving up into the Columbia system.

Despite that, there's a bunch of steelhead already in the system and many of them are ready to start pouring over Lower Granite Dam any day.

But here's the not-so-great news just released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met Monday August 27 to review steelhead stock status.  TAC updated the forecast for Group A upriver summer steelhead to 191,000, or 61.3% of the 311,800 fish preseason forecast. 
  • The 191,000 Group A steelhead return would be the lowest since 1999 (176,500). 
  • TAC agreed it was too early to update the Group B run size, but recognized Group B passage was tracking less than expected, indicating the Group B run may also be less than forecast.

Party trash forces Corps to close Snake recreation area

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular recreation area along the Snake River southwest of Pullman will not be open for Labor Day because it was trashed last weekend by hard-partying visitors.

Apparently school's in session at WSU.

The Corps of Engineers closed the Illia Dunes after more than 3,000 visitors left broken bottles and beer cans on the beach and littered parking lots with trash, creating health and safety hazards.

The corps says it doesn’t have the resources for such a big cleanup job if visitors can’t pick up after themselves.

The dunes are a popular recreation site with sandy beaches on the south shore of the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam

Walk and learn: Nisbet, Gifford lead hike on South Hill bluff Wednesday

TRAILS — After a good turnout last week, author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading another walk this week on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 29) starting at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: 477-2167

Where they’re biting: Latest Idaho fishing reports

FISHING — According to last year and the averages from recent years, anglers can soon expect a spike of steelhead to start pouring over Lower Granite Dam and up the Snake River into Idaho. I mean any day. Get ready.

But the action wasn't heavy yet on Monday morning at the mouth of the Clearwater River at Lewiston.

A fishing friend who was there filed this report:

  • 20 boats and 11 shore fishers. 5 salmon caught and 1 steelhead kept. I got one of the salmon. A jack.
  • Clearwater temp at the RR bridge was 50.3 at 0430 and 50.8 at 11AM.
  • I fished from early till 1430.

Meanwhile, here' s the latest Idaho Fish and Game Department report of highlights from the Idaho Panhandle:

Lake Coeur d’Alene: Kokanee are becoming more abundant and smallmouth bass are going strong on the lake. Anglers recommend trolling for the kokanee but smallmouth are holding near the shoreline—try twin-tailed grubs or tube jigs to entice the smallmouth. Look for Kokanee in the Arrow Point area in the north of the lake; in the south end try Powder Horn Bay. Most of the kokanee are 35-45 feet down. Pike are sticking around the bays on the lake. Spinnerbaits, spoons and husky jerks are attracting the pike.

Fernan Lake: The Panhandle Health District lifted the health advisory on Hayden Lake on August 23. The lake is safe again for fishing and swimming. Bass in the lake will stay deeper during the day, but you can use surface lures in the evening.

Coeur d’Alene River and St. Joe River: Fish these rivers with dry flies such as hoppers, beetles and ant patterns which have been effective on both rivers. You are more likely to find fish in the tailouts with the cooler temps on the St. Joe River.

The Clark Fork River is also a good option for the next couple of weeks now that temps have dropped…bugs will be moving again.

The chain lakes have been very good for pike and bass

Hauser, Cocolalla and Fernan lakes have also been good fishing for crappie, pike, bass and trout.

Colvilles install salmon weir across Okanogan River

FISHERIES — A temporary picket-style salmon weir recently has been installed on the Okanogan River about 15 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River near Brewster, the Colville Tribe reports.

The structure spans the Okanogan river, but leaves room along the west bank for small waterdraft to pass around the weir.

The weir was installed a mile downstream from Malott Bridge during three weeks of construction by Chief Joseph Hatchery staff to test methods for sampling chinook salmon heading upstream to spawn.  The river can flow through the weir but the picket slots form a barrier to upstream-bound adult salmon and angles them into a trap.

“This summer we will watch for any negative effects the structure may cause,” said Keith Wolf, the hatchery's lead scientist. “We will be able to count fish, and get good estimates on the salmon returning to the Okanogan River. After closely monitoring the site for the next several weeks, we will see how salmon react to the weir and we’ll make any necessary modifications we need to for the permanent structure.”

The weir allows the staff to manage summer-fall chinook, sorting out fish of hatchery origin while releasing wild fish to continue their spawning migration.

Joe Peone, Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) Fish and Wildlife director, explained in a media release:

“This project plays an important role in adult management of summer Chinook that are destined for the spawning grounds in the Similkameen River and the U.S. portion of the Okanogan River. It allows managers to manage natural-origin (NOR) summer Chinook to be the primary spawners (70%) and allows us to control the number of hatchery-origin spawners (HOR) about (30%) on the breading grounds.

In return, the CCT will be able to harvest the HOR summer Chinook and distribute to the CCT members,” he said. “At the same time, we want to make sure our Okanogan weir does not hinder any salmon stocks from migrating up the river. This is why we are doing a two-year feasibility study to monitor adult behavior as they approach the weir.”

The Okanogan River test weir was funded by Grant County Public Utility District and will be operating until the end of September.

Peone said the hatchery staff will operate the weir and communicate with resource agencies regarding the project findings.

Hot summer leaves bears vulnerable to traffic

WILDLIFE — A summer heat wave and poor huckleberry crop is causing trouble for bears in the region by forcing the bruins to lower elevations where they run into conflicts with people.

Heads up:  A grizzly has been seen near Priest Lake.  Keep a clean camp and a garbage free cabin area.

The problem has been more than apparent farther norther in Canada.

This year, 16 black bears, a wolverine, several wolves, and countless elk and deer have been killed on the highways and railways in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

The human-caused animal death toll keeps rising — due, experts say, to a late spring and hot summer that has kept bears in the valley bottoms, and also to increased traffic speeding through the park.

Read more in this Calgary Herald story.

Whitetail buck offers sure sign fall is coming

BIG GAME — Antlers raw from freshly shed velvet, this whitetail buck's clock is ticking toward the rut.

The image was made last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Waterkeeper wants weevils to fight Pend Oreille milfoil

LAKES — A North Idaho water quality watchdog group hopes the courts will force the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to include biological elements in efforts to eradicate Eurasian milfoil.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper filed a petition for judicial review Tuesday in 1st District Court, naming the state agency and its director, Celia Gould, as defendants.

The group wants to revise Idaho's noxious weed rules that prohibit biological control so weevils can be used to control milfoil that has invaded the Pend Oreille watershed. The state agency prefers using herbicides, diver dredging and bottom barriers.

“We can't afford to sit back any longer and wait passively for the changes that need to occur to emerge on their own,” Shannon Williamson, executive director of the nonprofit, said in a statement.

Wildlife Summit probes Idahoans’ thoughts on management

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idahoans care deeply about fish and wildlife, and whether they engage in it or not they strongly support hunting and fishing, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

That's one of the points made at the beginning of the three-day Wildlife Summit held over the weekend at venues acrosss the state.

Read on for insight from the beginning of the summit reported Saturday by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Spokane cyclist, Abbott, dies in Montana bike race

BICYCLING — Daniel D. Abbott, 62, of Spokane died while participating in a mountain bike race northeast of Helena on Saturday.

According to Lewis and Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson, Abbott collapsed Saturday afternoon while participating in the York 38 Special bike ride. He was pronounced dead at the hospital in Helena.

A medical condition apparently led to Abbott’s death, Nelson told the Helena Independent Record.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye on Labor Day agenda

 SALMON FISHING — Although the the season still could be closed on short notice, it appears as though Lake Wenatchee will be open to sockeye fishing through Labor Day, thanks to a record-busting run to the upper Columbia River.

About 50,000 sockeye have turned into the Wenatchee River of the 63,000 predicted to make this year's run to Lake Wenatchee. Going into the past weekend, anglers had caught only about 7,000 of their 23,000 quota.

The daily limit hs been bumped from three to five sockeye 12 inches in length or greater.

Fish counters have tallied a whopping record of 515,666 sockeye over Bonneville Dam, the first hydro project the fish encounter on their run from the Pacific into the Columbia River. That shatters the previous  record of 386,505 in 2010.

The count at Rock Island Dam on the mid-Columbia is 410,498 sockeye. Rock Island is the seventh and final dam the sockeye climb before a portion of the run turns into the Wenatchee River.

Most Columbia sockeye continues upstream over Rocky Reach and Wells dams before heading up the Okanogan River. More than 363,200 sockeye had been counted at Rocky Reach last week. That’s more than triple the 10-year average count.

The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery could be closed on short notice depending on how many fish anglers catch this week.

Anglers are advised to check daily the Fishing Hotline at 360-902-2500 or the Fishing Update Web page.

Sporting clays event to boost local Boy Scouts

SHOOTING — Here's a classy event, a good time and a chance to hone shotgunning skills on the fascinating sporting clays course at Double Barrel Ranch south of Mica Peak.

What: 5th Annual Sporting Clays for Boy Scouts, with competitoin, food, prizes.

When: Sept. 14.

Where: Double Barrel Ranch south of Mica Peak

Who: Open to single shooters and teams, sponsored by Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts.

Pre-register: 325-4562; www.nwscoutshoot.org

Snake River anglers cashing in on pikeminnow reward fishery

FISHING — The Lewiston Greenbelt area has been the hotspot the past two weeks for anglers cashing in on the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Harvest reports for Aug. 13-19 show 1,350 pikeminnows turned in to the Greenbelt check station by anglers for cash rewards in the program funded by the Bonneville Power Adminstration.

The next best total was 752 from Cascade Locks. Boyer Park south of Colfax has been hot, dropped to 399 this week.

The Dalles Boat Basin was by far the best producing area in June and early July, but the catch has dramatically delcined there in the past month.The total catch turned in to the 21 check stations on the two rivers that week was 6,733 pikeminnows from 939 anglers, for a rate of 7.2 fish per angler, up from 6.7 the previous week.

From May through Sept. 30, registered anglers are paid $4-$8 per fish in a program to curb the number the fish, which prey on young salmon and steelhead.

As of last week, 17,793 anglers had turned in 103,506 fish. Including bonuses for catching pikeminnows that have been tagged, some anglers have earned more than $60,000 in five months of fishing.

Info: Pikeminnow Reward Program, (800) 858-9015.

Investigators find dead wolf in northern Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — State officers were unsuccessful this week as they attempted to trap and possibly kill up to four wolves in northern Stevens County  — but they found the carcass of a gray wolf that had died of some other means.

The carcass reportedly was decomposed and cause of death could not be determined by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

The graphic above shows how far the Wedge Pack has ranged in the six weeks since the alpha male was trapped, radio-collared and released. WDFW officials say the pack's full summer-winter range is likely much greater.  They also noted that aerial monitoring coupled with on the ground observation show the collared male can be miles away from other wolves in the pack.

“It's a misconception that a pack always runs together,” said Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager.

Read on in this post for today's late afternoon WDFW update on the effort to deal with Wedge Pack cattle depredations.

Lake Roosevelt water levels trending higher for Labor Day

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1280.60 at 9 a.m. today following about three weeks of gradually lower levels.

Over the next week, the level of Lake Roosevelt will decline slightly and is expected to be between 1278.7 – 1279.70 on Aug. 31, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Over the Labor Day weekend the level of the lake will rise slightly and is predicted to be in the 1280-1281 range.

These are only predictions are subject to change.

Get daily lake level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Better yet, check out this new NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.
  

Pro-wolf groups ask Gregoire to stop plan to kill wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Seven conservation organizations sent a letter today calling on Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and state agencies to rescind a state Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to thwart attacks on cattle by killing up to four wolves in the Wedge Pack in northeastern Washington.

WDFW officials announced last week that up to four wolves may be killed in the Stevens County area near the Canada border after the latest in a series of wolf attacks that had injured six cattle and killed two. 

The state killed a wolf in that area on Aug. 7 in response to a series of attacks in July. That was “lethal removal” mission the agency has launched under its 2011 wolf management plan.

The conservation groups contend the WDFW field analysis of the Diamond M Ranch's livestock was flawed and the cattle may not have been killed by wolves.

The letter was directed to WDFW Director Phil Anderson from the Western Environmental Law Center and forwarded to Gov. Gregoire and other state lawmakers.

Contacted today, WDFW regional manager Steve Pozzanghera said the department stands by its detailed field investigations that confirmed the attacks were by wolves. 

He said that while agency staff have been working in the area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers all week, no wolves have yet been trapped and fitted with radio collars and none has been killed.

Read on for the media release the seven conservation groups issued today announcing their letter to Gregoire and their complaints.

New wildlife land in Asotin County off-limits to some hunters

HUNTING — An Asotin County ranch purchased by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last winter is open to public walk-in access this year with the exception of some big-game hunters.

Deer and elk hunters are allowed on the newly-acquired addition to the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area only if they drew “4-0 Ranch” special hunting permit, officials said this week.

“The restriction is an effort to provide high-quality hunting opportunities and was something the rancher wanted as a condition for sale of the property,” said Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman.

The 2,180-acre 4-0 Ranch parcel – the first of a multi-phase, multi-year public land acquisition project – was purchased in January with the approval of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The ranch is within Game Management Unit 172 (Mountain View).  But neither GMU 172 permit holders nor general season deer and elk hunters are allowed to hunt the parcel this year.

Read on for more details.

Judge denies claims in mountain goat goring case

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  A judge has dismissed most of a widow’s claims in a $10 million suit against the federal government after her husband was killed by a mountain goat at Olympic National Park two years ago, saying that even if it seems unfair, the park can’t be sued for the decisions it made, according to the Associated Press.

Robert Boardman, a 63-year-old registered nurse, was trying to protect his wife and friend when the 370-pound billy goat gored him, severing arteries in his thigh, on a trail near Hurricane Ridge in October 2010. The goat is believed to have been one that harassed park visitors for years.

His wife, Susan Chadd, sued, accusing the government of negligence in its management of the goat, known as “Klahanne Billy” for the name of a nearby ridge. She also alleged that the park botched the rescue effort – the one claim that was not dismissed in U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan’s ruling in Tacoma this week.

Bryan said even though the park could have acted more quickly to kill or relocate the goat, its actions are immune from lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act because they involved an exercise of discretion related to public policy.

The one remaining claim is that the park staff failed to act quickly once the attack was reported, AP reported.

Ski club affronted by Forest Service cabin policy change

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING — Montana skiers who've volunteered to maintain a ski-in cabin near Chief Joseph Pass say they're insulted the Forest Service is putting the cabin on the national reservation system.

The Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club will no longer offer its services to operate and maintain the Gordon Reese Cabin they donated to the U.S. Forest Service at Chief Joseph Pass in 2001, according to a story in the Ravalli Republic.

The announcement came days after the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest supervisor signed a decision that officially put the cabin on the national online reservation list.

Club members have maintained that the cabin was built with the understanding that it would remain open and free to the public in the winter months. They claim the agency’s move to rent it is violation of that original agreement, the Republic reports.

IFG cools its report on Clearwater River water temperature

FISHING UPDATE — The Clearwater River is NOT the temperature of bathwater, as reported yesterday.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department's steelhead update report posted Tuesday said Clearwater River water temperatures were around 65 degrees. 

That caught MY attention. That's way too warm for normal operating conditions, considering water was still coming out of the bottom of Dworshak Dam to usher young steelhead and salmon downstream and encourage adults to come upstream.

Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager, checked into the situation this morning and said the temperature report was an error.

“The water temperature is still in the low 50s,” he said minutes ago.  Anglers on the water know that, of course, but the rest of us look closely at river reports from various sources.

“The releases from Dworshak are not ending earlier although they did reduce flow recently,” DuPont said. However, the cooling flows from Dworshak will be decreased significantly in September, he said.

Meantime, warm water in the Snake continues to stall the steelhead run over Lower Granite.  The cooling trend in weather could jumpstart fish movements any day.

Edith Cavell’s Ghost Glacier crumbles, causes tsunami

PARKS – A hanging glacier that’s captivated hikers, climbers and tourists for as long as humans have explored Jasper National Park, Alberta, broke loose from its precarious perch on Mount Edith Cavell this month, according to a story with photos at Examiner.com.

The crash of ice created a tsunami from the Cavell Pond below that gushed out, ripping up a corner of the popular trailhead parking area and trails.

Luckily, the event happened early in the morning on Aug. 10 before visitors had arrived. No one was injured.

The Ghost Glacier is a smaller blue-ice glacier on the east side of Mount Edith Cavell, next to the larger Angel Glacier on the mountain's north face.

While glaciers are slowly disappearing around this globe, centuries of ice were instantly lost in this event. Park officials estimate 50-60 percent of Ghost Glacier crumbled away.

See a video report on the melting of the Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefields.

See a model of climate induced glacier change over 160 years.

Where is Mount Edith Cavell?  Click here.

Wildlife enthusiasts sign up for Idaho Wildlife Summit

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — More than 800 hunters and anglers, birders and wildlife watchers and others interested in wildlife conservation have signed up to participate in the Idaho Wildlife Summit that starts Friday and runs through Sunday (Aug. 24-26).

“It is extremely gratifying to see so many Idahoans care enough about their wildlife to be involved with the Wildlife Summit,” Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said in a media release. 

The three-day event will convene at the Riverside Hotel in Boise and six concurrent satellite sites in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Salmon, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. People also may participate online in real time.

The agency hopes to involve as many people as possible in helping to set the direction for how wildlife is managed in Idaho, to find common ground, and ultimately to build a broader base of support for wildlife conservation. 

Part of the conversation involves the question: Where will the funding come from to manage game and non-game critters alike?  Currently virtually all of the funding for Idaho's wildlife management comes from hunter and anglers.

Participation is free, but registration is required because of limited seating.

The Boise venue is at capacity, but an overflow room, which will feature a live video feed, is available.

Click here for more details and background.

Guidelines posted for hiking near mountain goats

HIKING — Reports of aggressive mountain goats have forced rangers once again to close some trails in Olympic National Park, where a hiker was gored and killed by a goat two years ago.

Hikers can play a role in preventing these otherwise docile creatures from becoming dangerous in their high-country habitat.  Here are guidelines posted by the Washington Trails Association:

The 50/50 rule: pee off trail, give goats a wide berth

If you only remember two guidelines around mountain goats:

> No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail.
  • Hikers should urinate at least 50 feet off the trail, preferably on rocks. The animals' attraction to the salt in human urine can bring goats closer to trails (and the hikers on them) than is good for either species.
  • Try to stay 50 yards (or about 150 feet) away from mountain goats at all times. For photographers, this means using a telephoto lens to snap your shots. Never try to approach or pet kid (young) mountain goats. No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail. If the trail doesn't permit you to go around, consider turning back early.

“If the goat wants the trail, give the goat the trail,” Nancy Jones, a Visitor Services Specialist with the Cle Elum Ranger District, told WTA last year. “Back off. Give the goat the right-of-way. Go the other way.” 

Beacon Hill trails get $4K boost from REI

PARKS — Trail rehabilitation and restoration projects around Beacon Hill and Camp Sekani are getting a boost from the REI store in Spokane.

The store's presented $4,464 to the Spokane Parks & Recreation board for use in the popular mountain biking and hiking area. 

This is the last of three community grant part checks REI has awarded for 2012, a year of record giving through the program, said Carol Christensen, REI outreach specialist in Spokane.

 In addition to the Parks & Rec Foundation, REI awarded $10,000 to the Friends of the Centennial Trail and $10,000 to the Riverside State Park Foundation.  

That's a total $24,464 boost to popular local outdoor recreation destinations.

“REI’s mission, 'To inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship,' is what drives the market-based grant program,” Christensen said.

The Friends of the Centennial Trail and Riverside State Park Foundation pooled a portion of the grant funding to hire a volunteer coordinator to “recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to perform repairs, maintenance, and cleanup of the Centennial Trail, including campgrounds, recreation sites, and cultural sites and to create and maintain a database of volunteers.”

All three organizations have already been active in getting volunteers on the trails with more than 150 hours logged through the volunteer coordination program and several trail projects completed at Beacon Hill/Camp Sekani.

Get involved with these organizations by contacting Jake Graham at Riverside State Park, email riverside@parks.wa.gov , or Mike Aho at Spokane Parks and Rec, maho@spokanecity.org.

Info: Carol  Christensen, cchrist@rei.com.

Motorized use issue changes guard at Oregon forest

PUBLIC LANDS — The new supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon is touring Wallowa, Union and Baker counties this week to meet the public he will be serving in the wake of a flap over restricting motorized use on the forest.

Kevin Martin succeeds Monica Schwalbach, who has taken a new assignment with the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland.

She left less than 18 months after assuming responsibility for the Baker City-based forest.

The Wallowa-Whitman has been embroiled in controversy regarding its proposed travel management plan, which would have closed almost 4,000 miles of roads and trails to motor vehicle use.

Schwalbach withdrew the plan in April amid public protests, and it is being revised.

Opportunity knocks for upper Columbia kings

SALMON FISHING — Fishing guide Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Fishing Guide Service says now's prime time for catching good-quality chinook salmon in the upper Columbia River near Brewster.  Here's his report:

On the Brewster Pool the bite has transitioned from Sockeye to Kings.  This is a short window where the Chinook are more eager to bite and still of good eating quality.  These Kings will bite Super Baits and Plug Cut Super Baits as well as plug cut herring.  

Mountain Dew Plug Cut Super baits 42” behind a big rotating flasher is one tried and true presentation.  Fill the Super Bait with oil based tuna and dip it in your favorite sauce.  We like Pautzke’s Krill Juice.  Make sure your herring is fresh and cured nicely to stay on the hooks.   

Guided walks highlight South Hill bluff features


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TRAILS — Author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading walks on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails this month to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 22). The walk will be repeated Aug. 29.

Both walks will start at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: Diana Roberts,  robertsd@wsu.edu

Palisades, Beacon Hill also getting TLC

On the heels of a $50,000 grant for a forest health project at High Drive Park, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has granted an additional $70,000 to the City of Spokane Urban Forestry program for similar work at Palisades Park and Camp Sekani/Beacon Hill.

“The money will be used for contract work on thinning and pruning the forest. This will reduce the risk of intense, uncontrollable fires that would threaten adjacent homes and neighborhoods as well as the trees themselves,” said Guy Gifford, a forester with DNR. 

“The thinning and pruning will also improve the forest health as the remaining trees will have more space, light, and moisture so they will be less susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles” he added.

Photographer makes time; pikas respond

WILDLIFE — Most people just keep hiking through mountain talus slopes when they hear the squeaky whistle of a pika.

But Montana wildlife photographers Jamie and Lisa Johnson have learned there's much to be gained by parking in a pika hot spot and hanging out with the “rock rabbits.”

Lisa and I spent the past several days camping in the Beartooth Mountains. The purpose of the trip was in search of Pika, a small animal that lives at altitude. We struck out at the start, but finally found a great place where (after many hours) we were accepted (or at least ignored) by the Pika.

We ended up with just under 800 images of Pika. Amazing mountain range, we also took many scenic shots.

Graph shows steelhead still stalled in Columbia

FISHING — With steelhead counts on the downward trend at Bonneville Dam, the first dam they reach from the ocean on their upstream migrations, they haven't even started to rise out of double digits over Lower Granite Dam, the last dam they cross before hitting the Grande Ronde River and Idaho.

Could this be a year for another big late August-early September spike over Lower Granite?

Wolf kill target raised to 4 in NE Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — After discussions with ranchers who've had cattle injured and killed by wolves in the past four weeks, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials have raised to four the number of wolves that might be killed to stop the depredation.

The guideline had been set at three last week after a Diamond M Ranch calf was injured and another calf was killed by the Wedge Pack on a Colville National Forest grazing lease in northern Stevens County near Laurier.

Department officers are moving into the “wedge” area between the Columbia and Kettle rivers today in an effort to trap and put radio collars on more gray wolves in the pack to monitor their movements. Wolves are protected by state endangered species laws, but lethal action is authorized under the state wolf management plan to protect livestock.

WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers confirmed that Director Phil Anderson had authorized department officers today to kill up to four wolves in the pack in the coming days or weeks if required to thwart the attacks on livestock. 

Wolf attacks have been confirmed on up to eight of the ranch's animals in the past four weeks, including two calves killed.  Officers responded to the July attacks by killing one non-breeding female wolf in the area on Aug. 7.

Read on for the official announcement by the WDFW.

Fish extinction greatly accelerated, study shows

CLIMATE CHANGE — Out of sight, out of mind.  Next thing you know, they're extinct.

And it's happening faster than ever to fish species, according to a recent study detailed in a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050, the Bulletin reports.

This new information comes from a U.S. Geological Survey study to be published in the September issue of the journal BioScience.

In the fossil record, one freshwater fish species goes extinct every 3 million years, but North America lost 39 species and 18 subspecies between 1898 and 2006. Based on current trends in threatened and endangered fish species, researchers estimate that an additional 53-86 species of freshwater fish may be extinct by the year 2050.

Since the first assessment of extinct North American freshwater fishes in 1989, the number of extinct fishes increased by 25 percent.

“This study illustrates the value of placing current events into the context of deep geologic time, as rocks preserve an unbiased record of natural rates of processes before human activities began to alter the landscape, the atmosphere, the rivers, and oceans,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.

Governor candidates fuzzy on state parks funding solution

OLYMPIA — Regarding the state's cherished park system, the two men vying to be Washington's next governor are of the same opinion — it needs public funding.

They're just not sure on how much money to commit.
 
Read this Everett Herald story on what candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna say about the future of the Wasington State Parks system.
 
In case you've been sleeping for the past three years, Washington State Parks are in a dire funding crisis, as this recent S-R story reports.
 
Read on for sobering perspective from a state wildlife commissioner.

Festivals celebrate monarch butterflies fall migration

NATURE — If you're looking for a different sort of fall vacation, consider focusing on one of five national wildlife refuge hot spots for the Eastern population during the fall migration of monarch butterflies.

Every fall, monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles from as far north as Canada to overwinter in Mexico. When swarms of monarchs pause en route to rest and feed on nectar-bearing plants, admirers will be ready to see them blanket trees and shrubs in orange and black.  

See more details on both the East and West migrations.

Read on for more details about monarchs and some prime viewing spots in five states.

More wolves to be killed to curb Washington cattle attacks

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say they plan to kill more wolves in northern Stevens County to curb a spree of attacks on cattle.

After confirming that wolves killed one calf this week and injured another, the agency intends to kill up to three members of the Wedge Pack, Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman said Friday.

“Our officers will try to trap and put a radio collar on at least one more wolf in the pack for monitoring,” she said. “Then the intent is to lethally remove up to three more wolves to disrupt the pack and reduce its need to feed so many mouths.”

The Wedge Pack roams the Colville National Forest area the Diamond M Ranch leases for grazing between the Columbia and Kettle rivers. Wolf attacks have been confirmed on at least five of the ranch's animals in the past four weeks, including two calves killed.

A female non-breeding wolf in the pack was killed by department officers on Aug. 7 after wolves had killed a calf and injured two others. The kill was the first by the agency under its wolf management plan adopted in 2011. Although gray wolves in Eastern Washington are protected by state endangered species laws, the plan allows lethal removal in some cases.

Remote camera images indicate the Wedge Pack includes at least a breeding pair, a few sub-adults and a few pups, but the exact number of wolves isn’t known, Luers said.

Sockeye limit increased at Lake Wenatchee

SALMON FISHING — Starting tomorrow (Aug. 18), the daily limit for sockeye at Lake Wenatchee will increase to five fish 12 inches or longer. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just anounced the change along with an extension of the sockeye fishing season at Lake Wenatchee through Labor Day.

Reason for action:  To date, at least 46,000 fish have migrated past Tumwater Dam in route to Lake Wenatchee. Projections of the total run could exceed 62,000 fish. Current angler participation and catch rates have indicated that these actions are warranted.  At least 23,000 fish are estimated to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish. To date, less than 7,000 sockeye have been estimated in the harvest.

Read on for more detals from the WDFW.

Tonk the grizzly hazing horse a celeb at Western Montana Fair

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Trail ride wrangler Erin Bolster and her famous steed, Tonk, were greeting fans at the Western Montana Fair in Missoula last week to celebrate the 1st anniversary of their heroic encounter with a grizzly bear.

Bolster and Tonk rode into the national spotlight after repeatedly charging a grizzly that had burst into a trail ride Bolster was leading near Glacier National Park. As the bear chased a horse carrying a terrified 8-year-old boy through the timber, Bolster was able to get Tonk to overcome fleeing instincts and charge the grizzly into submission. 

My story about the encounter last summer swept across the nation and landed Bolster — Tonk, too! — in New York for Late Night with David Letterman.

Bolster said she's met a lot of people and had many career opportunities because of the favorable response to the fame she and Tonk have garnered.

This summer, however, she's been living mostly in a tent near the Flathead National Forest, leading trail rides for the flood of people young and old who've booked trips in anticipation of touching the horse flesh of a hero. 

Big fines coming for encroaching on orcas

MARINE WILDLIFE — A boater who was caught by the Coast Guard too close to Puget Sound killer whales on Wednesday won’t be penalized, but next summer violators could be fined thousands of dollars, the Associated Press reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the Coast Guard and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to educate boaters about a 2011 requirement to stay at least 200 yards away from orcas, spokesman Brian Gorman said. Previously it was just a guideline.

“Our intention is to depend on education and warning rather than coming on like gangbusters,” Gorman said.

They’ll make a decision before next summer’s boating season on issuing fines, Gorman said. Civil penalties under the Marine Mammal Protection Act could reach $11,000, and fines under the Endangered Species Act could be as high as $32,500, Gorman said.

Gulp.

Read on for more details from the AP.

Volunteers needed for trail work at area parks

TRAILS – Trails at Liberty Lake, Mount Spokane and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge are scheduled for rerouting or maintenance projects by the Washington Trails Association in the next few weeks.

The most ambitious project involves work near a popular waterfall to make the Liberty Lake County Park natural area trail safer and more sustainable.

All of the work is done by volunteers led by trained WTA leaders. Some businesses, such as Itron, have encouraged employees to volunteer on specific days, said Jane Baker, WTA leader in Spokane.

Liberty Lake work dates are Sept. 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 27, 29 and Oct. 11, 13 and 14.

Mount Spokane projects are underway this weekend with more set for Sept. 15-16.

Little Pend Oreille Refuge work is set for Sept. 22-23.

Sign-up online  or call (206) 625-1367.

Fish suffering from Forest Service road neglect

PUBLIC LANDS — Shrinking budgets at national forests are putting the squeeze on native fisheries.

Cutbacks in maintaning mountain roads have left a backlog of work totalling more than $1 billion in the national forests of Washington and Oregon alone, the Forest Service officials report.

The result is erosion, clogged culverts, road blowouts, blocked fish passage, and spawning areas smothered in silt.

Northwest Public Radio has an excellent report on the situation.

Wolves launch more attacks on Stevens County cattle

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Another confirmed wolf attack on cattle in northern Stevens County is prompting the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to consider more lethal action and possibly breaking up the Wedge Pack near the Canada border.

Department officers confirmed on Tuesday that a Diamond M Ranch calf was attacked by wolves on a Colville National Forest grazing lease in “the wedge” area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers. Today officers are responding to reports from the ranchers that two more calves were killed, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

If verified, the ranch operated by the McIrvin family will have had at least three calves injured and three killed in four weeks. The ranch grazes about 400 cattle in the area during summer.

“Basically, cows, big-game and wolves are everywhere in that area,” Luers said.

In mid-July, officials confirmed that wolves had injured a cow and calf and killed another calf from the northern Stevens County ranch.

A female non-breeding wolf was killed by department officers on Aug. 7 in an attempt to disrupt the wolf pack's pattern of targeting livestock. The kill was the first by the agency under its wolf management plan adopted in 2011.

Gray wolves are protected in Eastern Washington by the state endangered species laws.

One male wolf trapped and released from the Wedge Pack (one of eight confirmed packs in Washington) is wearing a GPS tracking device that helps the agency monitor the wolf pack's movements. Starting Monday, agency biologists will attempt to trap and put tracking collars on more of the wolves.

“We're going to try to thoroughly document their range and what they're doing,” Luers said.  “After that, we'll decide which way to go. Everything's on the table, including removing more wolves and trying to disperse the pack.”

In a report just filed by Capital Press online, rancher Len McIrvin suggests the Wedge Pack will need to be taken out.

There are so many wolves now, he said, the only acceptable option is trapping and poison.
Compensation is not the answer, McIrvin said, because the proposed fund is for a maximum of 10 ranches to receive $5,000.

“We’d use up the $50,000 ourselves,” McIrvin said. “We’ll still have the wolves and they’ll still put us out of business if we don’t eliminate them.”
  

McIrvin reported a loss of 11 calves and five bulls last year. Not all of the losses were confirmed kills by wolves. At least a few have been confirmed as cougar kills.  But McIrvin expects the cattle losses go to up this year.

  • See my recent column for background on wolf attacks and management in Washington.
  • See the latest update and details on the Wedge Pack issues from Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

Idaho commission to set waterfowl seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider hunting seasons for sage grouse and waterfowl and changs to the motorized hunting rule when it meets on Aug. 23 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

Read on for details.

Oregon governor seeks peace as salmon gillnetting issue heats up

FISHING — Trying to head off a ballot measure to ban gillnetting for salmon on the Oregon side of the lower Columbia River, Gov. John Kitzhaber has told state fisheries managers to come up with new regulations that would accomplish a similar goal while still keeping gillnetters on the water.

Sportfishermen like the idea of getting gillnets off the lower Columbia.

The governor’s plan landed with a thud for gillnetters, who said there is no way the state can produce enough hatchery fish to make up for the loss of the high quality wild fish they catch in the main channel or mainstem.

They get $3 a pound for wild fish caught in the main channel, but only 75 cents a pound for hatchery fish they catch in places like Youngs Bay, where hatchery salmon are released specifically for commercial harvest.

 Read on for more details in a story by the Associated Press.

Idaho salmon-crab poachers tell truth, eventually

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife police must feel like parents dealing with kids sometimes. I'd like to hear the author of this poaching enforcement report tell the story over a couple of beers.

Sgt. Chadwick contacted a recreational boat returning to the dock in Westport late Sunday evening. The four Idaho men on board the craft were happy to show Sgt. Chadwick their limit of four Chinook. The open bow of their boat was already covered with canvas, however Sgt. Chadwick noticed there were bits of wet grass up underneath, as well as a crab caliper, which indicated they may have been crab fishing. When questioned, they denied having any crab on board and claimed their pots had been stolen.

Despite their denials, Sgt. Chadwick conducted an inspection and found 11 crab in a live well up front. Looking at the live well on the opposite side, he found it was full of rain gear and a life jacket with a couple of fresh scales. Digging a little deeper, Sgt. Chadwick found two extra Chinook hidden under the rain gear.

Officer Do arrived to assist and asked the foursome where they were staying. At that point, the men had already been advised of their rights, and decided to confess to having three more over their limit back at camp. The Officers followed the four men back to camp and found they had a total of five Chinook over the limit. The fish were seized and various citations issued.

Man runs 75 wilderness miles through The Bob in 15 hours

PUBLIC LANDS — On July 31, Ben Laster, 29, of Kalispell reported ran 75 miles north to south across Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness in 15 hours.

Apparently the run was not aided by wind, the heat from forest fires or from grizzly bears chasing his butt up the trails.

According to a story in the Kalispell Daily Interlake, Laster ran from the Meadow Creek Gorge to the North Fork Blackfoot River trailhead.

“I never stopped for more than five minutes. It was pretty much 15 hours of running,” Laster said. “I was feeling kind of rough at the end. But not as bad as I thought I would be feeling.”

Laster works as a wilderness instructor for the Wilderness Treatment Center, which counsels troubled youths by exposing them to outdoor experiences.

He left the Meadow Creek Gorge at 4:30 a.m., running with a headlamp, a light wind jacket, electrolyte fluids to mix with his water, about 3,500 calories in Hammer Nutrition gels and nutrition bars, a lighter and extra socks.

His father was waiting for him at the trailhead with specific instructions not to seek help unless Laster failed to show up by 10 a.m. the next day.

“I knew there was a strong possibility that I might spend the night out there,” he said.

He arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 p.m., a couple hours later then he'd estimated if the run went smoothly.

“I could have done it in 14 hours if it hadn’t been so hot,” he told the Interlake.

Duck stamps that boost wetlands, birds aren’t just for hunters

CONSERVATION — If you visit Turnbull Refuge or other national wildlife refuges, consider buying a federal Duck Stamp rather than paying the $3 vehicle entry fee.  The $15 stamp is good for entering any refuge for an entire year, and it helps fund a wildly successful wetlands conservation program.

Anyone who hunts waterfowl is required to buy a duck stamp, but many birders and other conservationists buy the stamps because they know the value of protecting wetlands for the benefit of a wide range of wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says 98 percent of proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to acquire and protect vital wetlands supports hundreds of species of migratory birds, wildlife and plants. The stamps can be purchased from the U.S. Postal Service, from some sporting goods shops and online.

Since the program’s inception in 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $750 million to acquire and protect more than 5.3 million acres of habitat for hundreds of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  These refuges benefit the public by providing access to outdoor recreational activities including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and interpretation.

This year’s Federal Duck Stamp features a single wood duck painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn.  The Junior Duck Stamp features a northern pintail painted by Christine Clayton, a 17 year old from Sidney, Ohio.

Hastings wants public to know costs of saving salmon

RIVERS — The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in Pasco toda on “save our dams” legislation introduced by Congressman Doc Hastings.

The Tri-City Herald reports the legislation would prohibit federal money from being used to remove hydropower dams without specific authorization by Congress. 

The bill also would:

  • Prevent federal grants from being used by groups suing the federal government to breach dams.
  • Make it clear that hydropower is a renewable energy source, just like wind and solar power.
  • Tell consumers about how much laws to protect fish and wildlife add to their power bills.

Shouldn't the bill also assure the public knows the value of fish and wildlife lost to power production, and the associated health issues, and the cost to subsidize the barging industry and the federal cost to replace the dams and deal with the silt issues that will come to a head in the next few decades?

There's a cost to everything. To peg fish and wildlife as the villain is disingenuous.

New access to Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon opens Friday

COUNTY PARKS — The long-awaited trailhead parking area on the south side of the Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area in Spokane Valley will be open to public access Friday at 3 p.m., said Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner.

Heavy equipment is still working at the site accessible from the Palouse Highway near the end of Stevens Creek Road.  County Parks will be hydro-seeding, putting up signs and doing other touch-up worth at the parking area through fall, Knowles said.

The Big Rock area, adjacent to the Iller Creek Conservation Area,  is prized by rock climbers and hikers. It's been secured by the county through a series of deals and purchases with help from the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The new parking area is designed to handle school buses. It will accommodate about 30 passenger vehicles if parked in an organized fashion.

Notable restrictions include:

  • No motorized vehicles allowed on trails beyond the parking area.
  • Dogs must be on leash.
  • Equestrian use of the Rocks of Sharon-Iller Creek Conservation Area is discouraged because newer trails built by volunteers have not had time to compat and poor visibility along trail corridors makesconflicts between different users more likely, Knowles said.

See a map of hiking trails accessible from Stevens Creek or from the north side Holman Road access to Iller  Creek.

TV documentary first to tackle Montana wolf hunting

HUNTING — A TV documentary will air Thursday featuring two Montana hunters confronting the issues and the difficulty centered around hunting wolves. The two-episode program on the Sportsman Channel will be the first to follow a wolf hunt in the Lower 48 states.

It's already getting praised and bashed, as you might expect.  See the video intro above and judge for yourself.

 “On Your Own Adventures” tackles the issue of wolf management head-on with an attempt to present equal parts education and adventure.

Big game hunter and conservation historian Randy Newberg, along with hunting partner, Matt Clyde, will try to outsmart an intelligent predator—and explain the reasons why wolf management is necessary—during an 11-day spot-and-stalk wolf hunt.

The series airs Thursday (Aug.) 16 and concludes on Aug. 23. 

 

To find the Sportsman Channel:

Use the zip code locator on the website http://thesportsmanchannel.com if you plug in your zip code, it will show the providers the channel is on.

I used zip code 99201 and it shows the Sportsman Channel on Comcast ch 428, DIRECTV 605, DISH 395 (that's in HD too).

For more details, see my Outdoors column: TV show confronts contentious wolf hunting issues

Renovated Sportsman Park boat launch reopens at Hayden Lake

BOATING — Sportsman Park boat ramp at Hayden Lake has reopened for public use following a $250,000 renovation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials said today. Some touch-up work is still underway.

Expanded facilities include more than 40 parking spaces and the access road is wide enough for two vehicles.  An ADA approved disabled parking site is available adjacent to the ramp.

All surfaces have been paved and overhead lighting has been installed. The new boat ramp has been extended 20 feet longer than it was before, and has an expanded radius to back vehicles with trailers down the ramp for faster, safer launching.

A boat preparation area enables boaters to get boats ready to launch without blocking the ramp for others in the process of launching or loading. 

Read on for more details.

Feds seek to delist wolves in Wyoming: good luck

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The federal government plans to announce an end to Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming later this month.

Rather than ending years of wrangling between state and federal officials, however, the move promises to spark legal challenges from environmental groups outraged that the state plans to classify wolves as predators that can be shot on sight in most areas.

Read on for details in a story from the Associated Press.

Sprague lands high speed air show for eagle-eyed hawk watchers

BIRDWATCHING — While the new commander at Fairchild Air Force Base is looking into options for bringing back the big Air Show, area birdwatchers are finding their own aerial displays of high-speed flying.

You simply have to know where to look.

Check out this Tuesday report from local birder Jon Isacoff:

Quick run to Sprague sewage lagoons today.  A pleasant surprise was a PEREGRINE FALCON that bombed shorebirds and waterfowl several times, losing a chase with with a Wilson's Phalarope.  Shorebird species present:

Killdeer

Avocet

Spotted Sandpiper

Greater YL

Lesser YL

Baird's Sandpiper

Long-billed Dowitcher

WIlson's Phalarope

Steelhead, salmon fishing opens Sept. 1 on Snake

FISHING — Fishing for steelhead plus the bonus of fishing for expanded daily limits of fall chinook salmon will open Sept. 1 on the Washington portion of the Snake River, officials announced today.

Predicting a strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include three adult hatchery chinook, plus three hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Only hatchery salmon and steelhead may be kept.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead, but must stop fishing for the day – for both chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

Read on for the details from the WDFW.

Cyclists revive criterium race in downtown; set for Sept. 8

CYCLING — The Lilac City Twilight Criterium will debut on Sept. 8 to take over a few downtown streets with exciting tight-group racing — and six tight corners — from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.   The event, which tests riders skills at high-speed cornering in a fun spectator sport, will be followed by a toned-down kids event and a chance for citizens to ride the course to 11 p.m. while it's still blocked to traffic.

The criterium is the just announced extended finale of the 2012 Inland Road Race Series presented by Larry H. Miller Downtown Dealerships and Spokane Rocket Velo.

The downtown criterium had a previous short run of popularity peaking with the nation's best cyclists flying the streets during the U.S. Olympic Cycling Trials in 1984 and 1988.

The event kicks off a weekend of bike-centric events with bike education activities and bike tuneups at REI followed the next day, Sept. 9, by  Spokefest—Spokane’s largest bike-related event.

Lilac City Crit Expo is being organized for the sidelines of the course. 

To reserve a space at the expo, contact Aaron Edwards

Montana logs surge of interest in wolf trapping

PREDATORS — More than 1,200 Montanans have indicated they want to participate in the state's first wolf trapping season, which will open later this year.  The trapping season was approved just last month by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission.

The prospective participants have signed the roster for course they'll be required to complete before they can buy a wolf trapping license.

FWP bureau chief Ron Aasheim said the department is working to develop curriculum and schedules to accommodate those interested in taking the class.

Idaho had similar initial interest from the public during its first wolf trapping season, but only a couple hundred people actually participated during the trapping season.

See more in a story by the Ravalli Republic.

Nisbet to talk about naturalist David Douglas and Turnbull Refuge

NATURE — Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet will present a program, “David Douglas in the Shrub Steppe,” 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21 at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

Seating is limited. Sign-up in advance with Louise Oleary of the Friends of Turnbull, 235-4531, or looeezoleary@netscape.net.

A $5 donation is suggested.

Among Nisbet’s books is “The Collector,” which details Douglas’ role in documenting flora and fauna in the Columbia Basin around 1826.

Douglas fir? This is the man.

Nisbet is curating a museum exhibit,  David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work, set open Sept. 22 in Spokane at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Clearwater steelheaders averaging 8 hours a fish

FISHING — Despite the heat wave, anglers checked on the Clearwater River were catching steelhead at reasonably productive rates last weekend. The water temperature was 52 degrees.

Idaho Fish and Game creel checks found the following rates:

  • Mouth to Memorial Bridge — 13 hours per fish caught
  • Memorial Bridge to Orofino Bridge — 8 hours per fish caught.

The steelhead run remains stalled in the Columbia, with only about 50 or so a day moving over Lower Granite Dam en route to Idaho waters.

Conservation groups urge feds to keep wolves protected in Pacific NW

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Contacts for 24 conservation organizations say they sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Although federal protection on gray wolves in most of Eastern Washington was lifted at the same time wolves were delisted in  Idaho and Montana, wolves remain protected by state endangered species laws.

Wolves setting up housekeeping from the east flanks of the Cascades and into Western Washington would enjoy federal and state endangered species protection.

But groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resource Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and others sent the letter, noting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving toward a decision on whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection. 

  • Just for balance, I'm going to throw in a few observations to the points the groups make in a joint media release.

“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today they occupy just a fraction of their former range.”

  • Wolves  have just begun to work on game herds and kill livestock in Oregon and Washington.

About 100 wolves are dispersed among AT LEAST five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California. 

“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that they are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”

  • Efforts should start now to translocate wolves from Eastern Washington to the Mount St. Helens and Olympics areas to let Western Washington share the diversity/benefits/burden of having wolves. This would speed up recovery and expedite delisting of wolves in the region.

The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest was driven home when the Lookout Pack — the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years — was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.

Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover, benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.

  • True, but wolves had the room to work freely and naturally in Yellowstone. They don't have that room or prey base in Stevens or Pend Oreille counties, and it's certainly not clear that any sort of public majority wants them on the Olympic Peninsula. Elk herds are not out of balance in Eastern Washington with the single exception of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, where hunting appears to be a workable solution.

Read on for more from the media release by the 24 conservation groups.

Centennial Trail among Sunset Magazine’s Top Trails in The West

TRAILS — The Spokane River Centennial Trail — celebrating its 20th anniversary — is listed on Sunset Magazine's list of 20 Best Bike Paths in the West.

That's no suprise to people who live here, and ongoing improvements are steadily making the riverside trail even better.

But wait:  There's no mention of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

Most of the trails on the list have an urban link. That makes marketing sense, but it clearly diverts attention to what some people might consider the BEST trails.

For info on more trails, check in with the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Bitterroot elk numbers up, despite wolves, cougars

HUNTING — An ambitious elk study in the East Fork of the Bitterroot River has documented an increase in elk calf survival.  Wolves have not been a significant factor this year, although mountain lions have taken a toll on the elk.

Craig Jourdonnais of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says he counted 56 elk calves per 100 cows during an aerial flight in July.

He said1976 was the last time elk calf numbers were that high.

The ratio between elk calves and cows at one point in recent years dropped into the teens.

An elk study has found that 17 elk calves have died since June, and of those six were killed by mountain lions and four by black bears. Two deaths were human related and it’s unclear how the other five died.

While biologists are encouraged, they warn there's a reason the study runs for three years.

“It was a screwy winter with not a lot of snow,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks research technician Ben Jimenez said in a story by the Ravalli Republic. “That’s why we do these studies for three years. … Who knows? Maybe this winter we’ll see a huge number of wolf kills.”

Sportsman’s issues topic of Safari Club Symposium in Spokane

HUNTING– A Sportsman’s Symposium focusing on hunting and fishing issues is set for 7 p.m. Thursday Aug. 16, at the North Central High School Auditorium, sponsored by the Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International.

Guest speakers include Nelson Freeman, SCI’s government affairs director in Washington, D.C., and Dick Leland, district director for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Topics Freeman plans to highlight in a town hall meeting format include:

  • Federal public lands policy, including the Forest Service planning rule, the roadless rule and Bureau of Land Management sport shooting policies.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policies limiting hunting on national wildlife refuges.
  • Hunter participation in national elections.

Info: www.inlandempiresci.org

Beauty Creek, Glidden among temporary forest road closures

PUBLIC LANDS — Several roads in the Coeur d'Alene region will be closed during construction starting Tuesday, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced this afternoon.

Beauty Creek Campground Road 438 from the junction with Highway 97 to the junction with Forest Road 453.  The first mile will be open to local traffic only to allow access to Beauty Creek Campground. 

Forest Road 202 will be closed from the junction with Deception Creek Road 612 to the junction with Forest Road 434 near Wolf Lodge Saddle. 

Forest Roads 422, 911, and 6310 in the Tepee Creek area will not be closed but expect delays as road improvements are conducted. 

Construction is expected to last two weeks at the sites listed above and each road will be re-opened as the repairs are completed. 

Glidden Lake access via Forest Road 615 will be blocked by powerline work through Thursday.

REOPENED:

Wolf Lodge Road 202 has been re-opened from the County Road 202 to Wolf Lodge Saddle.  Trailer use is not recommended due to the narrow road width caused by a road failure.

Info: Silver Valley office, (208) 783-2363; and Fernan Office, (208) 664-2318.

Idaho fishing proposals released for comment

FISHING — North Idaho fish managers queried anglers on proposed fishing rules for the Panhandle Region last month before formalizing and forwarding the proposals to Boise.

Now the statewide fishing rule proposals have been posted online and Idaho Fish and Game is giving anglers another chance for feedback before giving the proposals to the Fish and Game Commission for consideration in November.

Comments will be accepted through Sept. 30.

Outdoor retailers give Utah ultimatum on wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS —The outdoor recreation industry is flexing its economic muscle—some $640 billion spent annually by Americans on gear, travel and services—to push for wilderness protection in Utah, threatening to pull a lucrative biannual trade show if the state doesn't change course on environmental issues.

According to a story in the Denver Post, the industry last week gave Utah's governor an ultimatum: give up on a threat to take over federal land in the state or risk losing the Outdoor Retailer outdoor gear show that draws thousands of visitors and injects more than $40 million yearly into the state economy.

The outdoor industry and related services represent a sizeable chunk of Utah's income—roughly $4 billion a year, or 5 percent of the state's gross product, the Post article says.

It's not the first time the 4,000-member-strong Outdoor Industry Association has threatened to take its business elsewhere.

Perseid meteor shower delights area campers

SKY WATCHING — Other than a bit of lingering haze from the region's wildfires, the weekend provided picture perfect conditions for watching the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

I'm impressed at how many of my Facebook friends were out camping in wild places to get the most from the event. (See photo above by Blake Sommers/Outdoor Flip Photography, who was camped at Revett Lake near Thompson Pass at the Montana-Idaho Border — Hike 24 in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.)

The higher the elevation and the farther you are from city lights, the better the viewing.

When our kids were young, our family had a tradition of renting one of the area's fire lookouts or at least camping near one for the Perseid event. We'd roll out our sleeping pads on the lookout catwalk and watch the “shooting stars” until we faded away to sleep.

This year, near the Cabinet Mountains Widlerness, I was graced with a view of a meteor entering the earth's atmosphere with a streaming tail of orange that raced directly up the Clark Fork River. It was better than the Olympics closing ceremony.

Here are more photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower from Universe Today readers around the world.

Where’s the love after birds fledge from nests?

BIRD WATCHING —  Bill Bender of Spokane treated his Facebook friends this summer to a 22-day photo documentary of the hatching and fledging of two hummingbird chicks. They were hatched in a nest built on a wind chime on the deck of his South Side home.

One of the birds left the nest on day 21, leaving the second chick to hang around one more day before fledging, with mamma rarely seen, he said.

Do birds form tight families that stick together through winter?  Some do, including the trumpeter swans that hatch at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

But species that stick together after the nesting season are rare.

Most young birds are on their own soon after they leave the nest. In fact, in many bird families, the parents migrate south long before their youngsters do, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

In the case of most species of hummingbirds, the female raises her offspring until they are out of the nest and able to feed themselves. A few weeks later, she disappears. The youngsters are left alone to fatten up for their long migratory flight to a place in the tropics where they have never been before, the federation says on its website.

They linger at the natal feeding grounds for several more weeks, sucking up as much nectar, sugar water and tiny insects as possible before heading south.

Colville Forest releases revised South End motorized use plan

FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.

Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).

  • See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.

The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.

The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.


Documents:

Steelhead fishing record set on Lower Columbia

FISHING — Steelhead anglers continue the record-setting success at catching the returning sea-run fish in the Columbia river below Bonneville Dam.

The fishery developed big time last year as unusually high, cool flows turned anglers on to turned-on fish.

Here's the report for July 2012 just posted by Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Vancouver.

Total of 20,451 steelhead were kept and released from the lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville last month.  The previous record for any single month was 18,516 in August 2011.

Water OK at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport

CAMPING – The drinking water supply has been tested and OKed at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport, Colville National Forest officials said today.

The water system had been shut down for a week after reports of possible contamination.  

Lake Roosevelt trends to lower water levels

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1284.60 at 8 a.m. today and levels will continue to gradually drop over the next week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Coulee Dam.

Predicted elevations by the end of next week are in the 1280-1281 range. (Full pool is 1290)

In order to meeting court ordered Biological Opinion targets and the Lake Roosevelt Incremental Storage target, the predicted elevation for August 31 is 1279.7. These are only predictions are subject to change with changing weather conditions, high power demand or other unforeseen power emergencies. 

Get daily lake level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Better yet, check out this new NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Kayakers lose interest, options at Chelan Gorge

 PADDLING – Kayakers have largely bailed on a special event just for them.

Whitewater kayak events through the exhilarating but short Chelan River Gorge will become a once yearly rather than four-times yearly event as interest among expert boaters has declined, Chelan County PUD commissioners learned this week.

The PUD and American Whitewater hope the once-a-year release of water from Lake Chelan through the gorge will lead to a more consistent kayaker turnout.

The new plan calls for a water release this year on Sept. 15 and 16 regardless of how many kayakers sign up.

Only about a quarter-mile long, but treacherous with Class 4, 5 and 6 whitewater during spill events, the gorge is navigable only by expert boaters.

The PUD’s federal license to operate Lake Chelan Dam originally ordered four annual releases of water through the gorge for white-water recreation, two in July and two in September. The change comes after a 3-year study revealed not enough interest among boaters to justify four events.

In July, kayakers are spread out among many Northwest rivers, said Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater’s Pacific Northwest spokesman.

Even if enough kayakers showed up to run the gorge, Lake Chelan water levels were sometimes low enough in mid summer that it was impossible to release water, PUD officials said.

Flow will be increased to 375 cfs on Sept 15 and to 400 cfs on Sept. 16.

Boaters must register online prior to the event.

Montana wolf management log gives Washington glimpse of future

PREDATORS — Washington has killed it's first wolf in more than 70 years in response to threats to livestock. Get used to it, as I pointed out in today's Outdoors column.

Wolf watchers in Washington, where the first wolf was been killed under a wolf management plan on Monday, can take a look at Montana and get a glimpse of what's in store.

Click on the attached document to see the latest update to Montana's weekly wolf management report.  Bottom line: Montana has had to kill a total of 65 gray wolves this year after they were implicated in livestock depredation.  That's in addition to 45 wolves taken in the 2012 portion of the state's wolf hunting season.


Documents:

North Dakota’s problem makes it goose hunter’s mecca

WATERFOWLING — North Dakota is opening what looks to be a bountiful hunting season on Canada Geese in mid-August to deal with the flyway's overly successful goose boom.

For the first time, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is recommending a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 30 for the early season that begins Aug. 15 and continues through mid-September.

That’s up from limits of eight and 16 during last year’s early season.

The reason for the liberal bag is simple, wildlife managers say:

There’s too many Canada geese out there - way too many, in some cases.

“Canada geese are definitely emerging as one of the Central Flyway’s top priorities up and down the flyway,” said Mike Szymanski, a migratory game bird biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. “It’s not just the Dakotas having issues; they’re superabundant, and prairie Canada has a ton of Canada geese, too.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged with regulating migratory bird seasons, North Dakota’s estimated Canada goose population this spring stood at a whopping 415,000 birds. That’s more than twice the 162,000 Canada geese tallied in the spring of 2000 and five times higher than the state Game and Fish Department’s management goal of 80,000 birds.

Wolf pack spotted along Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The wonderful Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes rail trail between Plummer and Mullan has always been a wild experience, offering visitors the chance to see birds, coyotes, bears, deer, moose and other critters on a fairly regular basis.

But a friend called with a notable sighting at 4 p.m. today.

“Five black wolves,” he said over a mobile phone from his boat about three miles south of Harrison.

“We're right off the east shore and the wolves were right above the trail. They went uphill within a couple hundred yards of a cabin on a hill before they melted away into the vegetation and trees.

“It was unbelievable,” he said.

Officers leave Stevens County woods without killing second wolf

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officers who killed a wolf implicated in livestock attacks on Tuesday have retreated from the northeastern Washington woods near Laurier today without killing a second wolf as planned.

Bruce Botka, the agency's public relations director, said the Wedge Pack will continue to be monitored, but has dropped plans to kill a second wolf from the pack, at least for now.

Northwest Sportsman blogger Andy Walgamott has a thorough report to date on this incident, which marks the first time Washington has used provisions under its wolf management plan to kill one of the gray wolves that are reintroducing themselves to the state.  Wolves otherwise are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species rules.

Officer looking to kill second wolf in the Wedge

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials this morning said an enforcement officer from out of the region continues to hunt for a second wolf to kill from the Wedge Pack after he shot a female wolf Tuesday.

The wolves are thought to be culpable in several attacks on Diamond M Ranch cattle near Laurier, Wash., since mid-July.

Agency officials from Olympia today asked that I remove a photo used with my blog posted Tuesday night because it showed a state biologist carrying a male wolf that had been caught, tranquilized, radio-collared and released.  In their request they pointed out:

  • The biologist who's been live-trapping wolves for tagging and monitoring is not involved in the current operation to kill livestock-attacking wolves.
  • The male wolf that was collared with a GPS tracking device is considered to be the pack's alpha male and is not being targeted for lethal removal.

However, the GPS-collared male likely is giving the officer clues to the whereabouts of the rest of the pack.

Officials said an unidentified officer from out of the region was brought in because they want to avoid possible retribution by wolf zealots who might target — with harassment or violence — the man assigned to do the dirty work of enforcing the state's wolf management plan. 

Volunteers removing illegal camp at Mount Spokane

STATE PARKS — The Spokane Mountaineers are organizing volunteers to remove an illegal camp apparently established by skiers in a pristine forest on the west side of Mount Spokane State Park.

The illegal campers had installed a stove and cut down trees during the winter.

New flick raises bar for elk hunting filmmakers

BIG-GAME HUNTING — A Bozeman man has based a soon-to-be released movie around elk hunting season and his newborn son.

Visit the online trailer and you quickly see there's some unusual depth and quality to the making of Searching for West by Mark Seacat, a 33-year-old elk hunting fanatic. As Brett French, Billings Gazette outdoor writer points out:

A preview of the film shows dramatic aerial photos of elk on a ridgeline, jaw-dropping slow motion shots of an archer releasing an arrow, all accentuated by a vibrant sound track that makes you want to be in the woods hunting. Now!

While you're online, sign up for the prize drawings. Some good stuff there.

Searching for West will premier at Bozeman’s Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture’s Crawford Theater on Aug. 16 and will be released online at noon on Aug. 22.

  Read on for French's report on the film and the filmmaker.

State kills cattle-killing wolf in northeast Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — State wildlife managers today killed a wolf from a pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in a remote area of northeast Washington for the past five years. Officers are still in the Ferry County area near the Canada border with plans to kill a second wolf.

Acting under the terms of the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) took lethal action after a series of wolf attacks on the Diamond M herd, whose owners graze about 400 head of cattle in an area known as “the Wedge” between the Columbia and Kettle rivers.

The attacks left one calf dead, five cows or calves injured and at least two missing since mid-July. 

This is Washington's first lethal response to the wolf population that's repopulating its former range in the state.  An adult male wolf was trapped (above),  fitted with a radio collar and released in shortly after the mid-July attacks. The transmitter has allowed some monitoring of the pack.

UPDATE: Officers leave woods Tuesday without killing second Wedge Pack wolf.

Read on for the official response, details and background regarding this endangered species milestone.

Baby orca born, photographed near Puget Sound

WHALE WATCHING — An orca calf, born to the famous J Pod that roams into Puget Sound, was photographed Monday shortly after it was born to an 11-year-old mother.

The killer whales were swimming near the San Juan Islands. See a detailed report here.

See other photos — including some really sweet ones — chronicling the pod's baby whales in recent years.

The photo and whale alerts come from the Center for Whale Research and the Orca Network.

E. coli contamination found at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport

CAMPING — E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria was discovered Aug. 4 in the drinking water at the Pioneer Park Campground in Pend Oreille County.

Today Colville National Forest officials said the Newport Ranger District had notified guests who recently stayed at the campground if contact information was available.

No reports of illness had been received, they said. 

While the campground three miles from Newport remains open, the drinking water system has been shut down while the Forest Service investigates the source of contamination.

Info: Contact the Newport Ranger District (509) 447-7300.

Video captures wolf pup howling, pack responding

WILDLIFE — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has captured video of a wolf pup howling with other members of its pack in northeastern Oregon.

The department posted the video, which is an excellent example of how wolves communicate.

It shows a pup by itself in a forested area. Its howls are answered by other wolves in the distance.

Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says the video was captured by a biologist on July 25.

The pup is a member of the Snake River pack, which was first observed in October in the Snake River wildlife management unit, which borders Idaho and includes the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Wilderness.

Dennehy says biologists on Thursday successfully fitted the first member of the pack with a radio-tracking collar.

Wolves, eagles poisoned in Bob Marshall Wilderness

WILDLIFE — The deaths of four wolves and six eagles in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana are being investigagted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the US Forest Service and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

Although officials just announced the investigation, the wolves and eagles were found in the vicinity of the Big Prairie Ranger Station in early May.

Recent lab results have confirmed that the wolves and eagles died as a result of poisoning. 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person(s) responsible for the death of the wolves and eagles.

Contact: Rick Branzell, (406) 329-3000.

Brewster pool sockeye still bright, popular

FISHING — Sockeye salmon fishing in the upper Columbia River is still generating plenty of interest among anglers, and good numbers of fish for the freezer.

The early morning bite in the Brewster Pool can be particularly hot, said Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service:

“The suggested formula for Sockeye would be a big Mack’s Lures Double D Dodger,” he said.  “Then add a 12” leader of 30 or 40 pound test mono back to a Mack’s Mini Cha Cha Squidder in Pink & White. 

“Space the hooks about 2 inches apart.  Then bait the hooks with 1 inch chunks of shrimp cured in Pautzke’s Fire Cure.  Fish this ensemble about 15 down to start.”   

Idaho to hold drawing for unclaimed big-game hunting tags

HUNTING — Sportsmen who didn’t draw in the first round of Idaho big-game tag drawings can apply for the second controlled hunt drawing for unclaimed tags.

The application period for the second drawing for deer, elk and pronghorn hunts started Sunday and through Aug.15. The application fee is $6.25 for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents for each species.

The drawing will be Aug. 20. Any left over tags will go on sale Aug. 25.

See a list of available leftover tags.

Apply for the drawing at license vendors or online.

North Cascades: expansion proposed for little-visited park

PUBLIC LANDS — North Cascades National Park is the second-least visited of the 58 major national parks in the United States, according to Ranger Charles Beall, acting superintendent for the park. Only Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior, draws fewer visitors per year, he said.

In 2011, North Cascades National Park had 19,208 visitors, according to National Park statistics. The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, one of the most visited parks, had more than 15 million. Olympic National Park had nearly 3 million.

Supporters of the American Alps Legacy project want to would enlarge North Cascades Park by roughly one-third, adding 237,702 acres to the total.

They say it would add more protection and stature to the park on both sides of U.S. Highway 2.

But many people are skeptical, noting that there's little money in the federal budget for developing the park, it could restrict hunting and even hiking with dogs.

See the update from the Everett Herald.

  

Wolves attack more Stevens County livestock; Wedge Pack may pay

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A calf injured in a wolf attack in northern Stevens County – the fourth injured or killed in one cattle herd in four weeks – has left the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department contemplating a response, including killing one or more wolves in the Wedge Pack.

“All options are on the table,” Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman in Spokane, said Monday.

The incident, which apparently occurred on Thursday, is the latest of several confirmed wolf attacks on the Diamond M Ranch herd near Laurier. The ranch has a Colville National Forest grazing lease in the “wedge” of land just south of Canada between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers.

  • See my recent column for background on wolf attacks and management in Washington.
  • Click on the video above to see and hear a wolf pack howling.

In mid-July, officials confirmed that wolves had injured a cow and calf and killed another calf from the northern Stevens County ranch.

The Diamond M Ranch is owned by the McIrvin family. In 2007, the ranch also suffered Washington’s first documented wolf livestock depredation in roughly 70 years.

Last year, state officials adopted a wolf management plan to deal with expanding wolf packs, which remain protected by state endangered species laws.

“This latest attack is a continuation of a pattern of wolf-livestock problems in the wedge,” Luers said. “The wolf plan allows several possible responses, including lethal removal, in cases of repeated depredation after other methods have been tried.”

 The response likely will be decided todayTuesday, she said.

Steve Pozzanghera, director of WDFW's eastern regional office in Spokane, was not available for comment.

Following the last attacks on the Diamond M Ranch cattle, a Fish and Wildlife Department trapper caught an adult male wolf and released it after attaching a collar with a radio transmitter.

A pup also was caught and released, confirming the pack had reproduced this year.

A range rider also was assigned part-time to the leased area to help keep wolves away from the stock, Luers said.

She could not confirm that the radio-collared wolf – thought to be the Wedge Pack’s alpha male – was near the recent attack on a calf. She also did not know whether the range rider had confronted the wolves.

After the July attacks, the Fish and Wildlife Department issued the ranchers a special permit to kill wolves caught threatening their cattle, but it has not been used, Luers said.

Tennessee hunter wins Idaho bighorn raffle tag

HUNTING — After 30 years of dreaming for a chance to hunt bighorn sheep, Rob Durrett, 56, of Clarksville, Tenn., has won the 2012 raffle for a prized Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn tag. 

“It’s a life-changing adventure,” he told IFG officials

Every year Idaho Fish and Game provides one tag for a bighorn sheep in Idaho, marketed by the Idaho Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation. The winner will be able to hunt in any unit open to hunting for Rocky Mountain or California bighorn in 2012, pursuant to Fish and Game rules.

This year’s lottery tag includes the coveted Unit 11, in Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Unit 11 is available to the lottery winner only in alternating years.

Durrett has been putting in for an Idaho bighorn sheep tag for the past seven years.

“I always heard Idaho was good place to hunt sheep, and a beautiful, beautiful place,” he said, beaming with excitement. His father was a fan of Jack O’Connor, and the young Durrett grew up on O’Connor’s hunting stories.

Read on for more details.

Bear hunters join hikers, campers, berry pickers in mountains

HUNTING — Black bear hunting seasons opened Aug. 1 in portions of Washington, including areas in the North Cascades as well is areas in Lincoln County.

More bear hunting areas will open Aug. 15, including the area from Spokane north through Mount Spokane.

Although hunting-related accidents with othe recreationists are extremely rare, black or brown are not the best colors to wear while hiking or huckleberry picking during bear seasons.

The black bear season that mixes hunters with the most hikers, campers and berry pickers opens Sept. 1 in most of the areas of northeasthern Washington's Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

  • North Idaho's black bear hunting seasons open Aug. 30.

Anglers greet first of 30,000 sockeye at Lake Wenatchee

FISHING — Anglers reported easy limits of sockeye salmon when the fishing season opened Saturday at Lake Wenatchee.

About 30,000 sockeye are espected to enter the lake this month.

See an opening day report from Northwest Sportsman magazine.

Photos capture Kootenai Falls, cedar grove

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS — Kootenai Falls near Libby and Ross Creek Cedars in the Bull River Valley always are worth a visit and a look.

But Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson has a way of making you wonder why you haven't made time lately for a visit.

Check out these two photos he made over the weekend.  His comments: 

We spent two days at the Ross Creek Cedars located in the far northwest corner of the state. We’ve always wanted to go there, but until recently never seemed to find the time. The trip was well worth it. The campground was great and the Cedars are spectacular. We shot hundreds of images.
 
The Kootenai Falls shot was an experiment. It was a 70 second exposure in broad daylight. It was taken using a +10 stop Neutral Density filter on the lens. This basically reduces the amount of light that can get through to create the image. The longer the shutter is open, the more motion that is captured (making the water look fuzzy).

Storms of Denali author to speak at Auntie’s Bookstore

MOUNTAINEERING —  Spokane Mountaineer John Roskelley is mentioned in a new climbing novel and serves as an inspiration for one of the characters, says author/climber Nick O’Connell of Seattle.

The Storms of Denali, is a disaster epic that O'Connell ranks in the tradition of Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm. Four young men set out to climb a new route on the 20,320-foot peak, the highest and coldest summit in North America. They battle avalanches, fierce winds, and mind-numbing cold to ascend a classic new line up the south face. In confronting these obstacles, the group splinters, leading inexorably to tragedy.

O'Connell will be reading from the novel Thursday (Aug. 9) at 7 p.m. at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane.

See a video trailer of the novel featuring the author and scenes from Denali.

An extraordinary novel. Through verisimilitude and candor rarely found in the nonfiction literature of North America's highest peak, O'Connell plumbs the motivations, risk, and nuances of an ordinary climber's life.  The mounting tension, deft characterizations, and sun-burnt realism of The Storms of Denali transport the reader more vividly than any other book about the mountain.

—Jonathan Waterman, author of In the Shadow of Denali and Running Dry.

Warm water stalls steelhead run into Snake

FISHING — As the graphs suggest, steelhead are moving over Bonneville Dam and heading up the Columbia, but a thermal barrier of warm water in the Snake River is keeping the fish from heading into Idaho.

The chart for Lower Granite Dam shows low numbers of fish heading over the last dam before they reach Lewiston and the mouth of the Clearwater. As of this week, the number of fish over Lower Granite is about a third the number of summer run steelhead recorded this time last year.

But they will come, sooner or later.

Idaho selling some leftover big-game tags over-the-counter

HUNTING — Because some controlled hunt already have started, Idaho Fish and Game just announced it will not include leftover tags for those hunts in a second drawing in late August.

Rather than include them in the second drawings, which comes near the end of these hunts, Fish and Game has designated certain leftover controlled hunt tags to become available on a first-come, first-served, over-the-counter basis starting Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.

Read on for the list of hunts and numer of tags available.

Colville repairing bridge on upper Barnaby Creek

FORESTS — Until a bridge is repaired, access to the Barnaby Buttes Trailhead and many prized huckleberry picking patches on the Colville National Forest will require a much longer drive for those used to accessing them off of South Fork Sherman Creek Road.

The South Fork of Sherman Creek Bridge on Barnaby Creek Road, Forest Service Road (FS RD) 2014000, has been closed because of damage sustained in the July 20 wind storm, officials reported today.

Read on for details.

Tiger muskie tourney at Newman Lake Aug. 18

FISHING — The Newman Lake Open Muskie Tournament is set for Aug. 18 sponsored by Mountain Muskies, the local Muskies Inc. chapter.

Registration starts at 6 a.m. at Newman Lake Resort.

A mandatory meeting for participants starts at 6:45 a.m. Competition runs 7. a.m.-5 p.m.

Preregister: Doug Wood at (509) 263-7235 or email douglasjwood@gmail.com<mailto:douglasjwood@gmail.com

See www.mountainmuskies.com for rules.

Ospreys to be featured during Festival at Sandpoint

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ospreys are going to grab a little of the spotlight Sunday (Aug. 5) during the popular Festival at Sandpoint musical extravaganza.

Biologist Janie Fink, founder of Birds of Prey Northwest, will present a program with live raptors during the Festival’s Family Day Concert.

The Festival's two-week concert series is held at Memorial Field, right below the nests of two osprey pairs that have delighted Festival-goers for decades. When the light poles were replaced last fall, nesting platforms were included on two of the new poles and a webcam was focused on one of the nests.

Birdwatchers have had the privilege to watch online video streaming as the osprey family advanced through courtship, nest building, egg laying, hatching and rearing of the young birds.

At Sunday’s Family Concert, featuring a day of activities for kids and a performance of “Pinocchio” by the Spokane Youth Orchestra, Fink will be giving a 30-minute program on Idaho raptors. She’s bringing live birds that her center is rehabilitating after injury — including an owl, eagle, falcon, hawk and osprey — for kids and adults to see up close.

The Family Concert activities begin at 4:30 p.m.; admission is $6.

Washington State duck calling contest Aug. 25

HUNTING– The 2012 Washington State Duck Calling Championship is Aug. 25, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association, Yakima Valley Chapter.

The event, a qualifier for international competition, will be held at Columbia Park in Kennewick. Contests include:

  • Washington state Duck Calling Championship, open only to Washington residents. 
  • Washington State Goose, open only to Washington residents.

Winners will qualify for the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuggart, Ark.

The event also will seven additional open divisions for duck and goose calling, plus contests for two-person duck and goose, peewee and junior divisions.

Info and registration: Abel A. Cortina (509)786-9196.

Colville forest crews still clearing storm blowdowns

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NATIONAL FORESTS — Crews have reopened all the primary roads on the Colville National Forest since a July 20 storm leveled trees on roughly 4,000 acres of the 1.1 million-acre forest.  Most of the damage was on the Republic Ranger District.

Some of the seconary roads and trails are still plugged with trees that were toppled by the storm — or weakened so much that they're still falling.

Crews have cleared all secondary roads listed as “open” on the Colville National Forest Interactive Motor Interactive  Vehicle Use Map, said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman.  If a road was useable this summer before the storm but not officially designated as “open” to motorized use, crews will not be dispatched to cut out the blowdowns, he said.

“While all roads that were passible prior to the storm event have been cleared of down trees, it is important to note that there are roads that were washed out do to storm activity prior to this event that have not been repaired,” he said.

A list of those roads can be found on the Colville National Forest Web site under Conditions: Road Report

All trailheads are open, but trails can still have trees down across them and potentially weakened trees that could come down.  More trees have fallen on some trails that have been cut out, he said.

“If you're a mountain biker or equestrian headed out on the trails,  you should bring a saw,” he said.

Ten Mile Campground south of Republic (see photos above) remains closed and the Empire Lake dispersed campsites are also closed.

Updates: Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400.

Wet spring was dream for ducks

WATERFOWL HUNTING — Preliminary surveys indicate a wet spring is just ducky for waterfowl.

While the jury's still out on whether pheasants and other upland birds will produce many young after the wetness that smothered our region during nesting, ducks apparently prospered throughout much of North America. The notable exception is pintails.

Is you're retriever in shape? 

Here's a summary of the North America breeding ground population surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Mallard: totaled 10.6 million ducks, a 15 percent increase over last year and a 39 percent increase over the long-term average.

American wigeon: increased 3 percent from last year, but remains 17 percent below the long-term average.

Teal, Green-winged and blue-winged: numbered 3.5 million and 9.2 million, 20 percent and 3 percent respectively above last year. Both are well above the long-term averages by 74 percent and 94 percent.

Gadwall: increased 10 percent above last year’s estimate, and 96 percent above the long-term average.

Northern pintail: numbered 3.5 million, down 22 percent from last year’s estimate, and 14 percent below the long-term average.

More info: www.ducks.org

Wenatchee River opening to chinook fishing

SALMON FISHING — A selective chinook fishery opens Saturday on the lower Wenatchee River. 

Read on for the details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery opens Saturday

SALMON FISHING — The boom of sockeye this year has prompted the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to hold a sockeye fishings season on Lake Wenatchee starting Saturday. 

Read on for the details from WDFW.

Wolf experts confront the myth about native vs. re-introduced wolves

WILDLIFE — After a letter to the editor on Sunday made claims about gray wolves that don't seem to be substantiated published wildlife science, I asked for a reaction from several wolf experts.  Some of that information appears today in my weekly Outdoors column.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie biologist Gary Wiles, principal author of the state's wolf plan, offered this explanation dealing directly with the claim that re-introduced wolves from Canada are “super wolves” compared with the wolves that were in this region before they were extirpated in the 1940s.

“The idea that native wolves were ‘much smaller’ and ‘do not engage in lust killing’ is not substantiated by any scientific proof. 

“The name Canis lupus irremotus is dated and no longer considered scientifically valid.  It is now considered part of the subspecies Canis lupus nubilus, which includes wolves formerly present in the U.S. Great Plains and most of the western U.S. and currently still present in northeastern Canada.  This subspecies is variable in size, but is not substantially smaller than Canis lupus occidentalis of western Canada, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.  Current subspecies designations are based primarily on genetics and skull morphology. 

A complete explanation is in the WDFW's  answers to Wolf FAQs (frequently asked questions).

Pick huckleberries without damaging plant, Forest Service pleads

NATIVE PLANTS — The huckleberry bush, the most revered shrub in the Inland Northwest, is getting less respect as berry pickers succumb to greed.

Practices are getting so bad, the Forest Service has issued a media release warning that recently observed practices — such as CUTTING OFF A BUSH SO BERRIES COULD BE MORE EASILY PICKED — are against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.

My god.

It's safe to say most huckleberry plant abusers aren't among the families returning to their favorite huckleberry hot spots generation after generation.  None of these people wants to damage plants and reduce the harvest of future years.

However, many people may not realize the senseless and improper use of rake-like huckleberry pickers also damages the berry bushes. 

Meanwhile, read on for more information on the latest damaging practices reported by the Forest Service.

Two Spokane River events introduce public to paddling sports

WATER SPORTS – Two events that promote paddling sports are scheduled this month along the Spokane River.

Spokane River Festival for paddlers, Saturday starting at 11 a.m., is being organized by local kayak and rafting groups Saturday at Glover Field in Peaceful Valley.

The event, an evolution of the former Corbin Kick-off, offers a chance to see new boats and gear, join river tours and meet local whitewater enthusiasts. The date was incorrect in an announcement last Sunday in Outdoors

Paddle, Splash and Play on Aug. 18, another free event to encourage families to try craft such as canoes, kayaks, sea kayaks, inflatables, and stand-up paddle boards, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Nine Mile Recreation Area in Riverside State Park (Discover Pass required).

The event is sponsored by Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, Mountain Gear, and Spokane Parks and Recreation.

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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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