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Outdoors blog

Archive for February 2012

Two-car Discover Pass bills working through Legislature

STATE PARKS — The Washington state House has passed HB 2373, which would allow two cars to share one Discover Pass, a $30, year-long parking pass for state parks and some other state lands. 

Unlike a similar bill that recently passed the Senate unanimously, the House bill would add a $10 registration fee on all recreational vehicles until 2015 to go toward state parks. 

Supporters said the bill would make it cheaper for families to visit state parks while replenishing park coffers.  

Opponents said it would implement a tax on recreation vehicles in the guise of a fee.   

The bill would allow families to buy a Discover Pass transferrable among any family vehicle for $50, and would exempt disabled veterans from having to buy the pass. 

The measure is headed for the Senate.
  

Court tells Forest Service fees to take a hike

PUBLIC LANDS — The fees forest visitors have been paying to access trailheads in some national forests may be history following a federal court ruling.

The Ninth Circuit Court of appeals recently ruled the U.S. Forest Service “Federal Lands Access Enhancement Fees” are not legal. Essentially the court said the agency couldn't charge fees under the program for hiking, walking, hunting, fishing, picnicking, parking, four wheeling, boating, horseback riding and other uses on undeveloped federal land.

Read the story in today's Los Angeles Times.

The Forst Service  began charging access fees in 1996 on some forests, such as the Wenatchee, Okanogan and Umatilla.   Other forests, such as the  Idaho Panhandle National Forests did not adopt the fee program.

“Everyone is entitled to enter the national forests without paying a cent,” wrote Judge Robert Gettleman for the unanimous three-judge panel.

 The Forest Service is studying the ruling, and has 60 days to request a rehearing.

I have not yet received answers from my request for comment from affected forests in Washington.

“For now the recreation fee program remains unchanged in the Pacific Northwest,” said a spokesman from the Forest Service Region 6 headquarters in Portland.

Stay tuned.

Patience, fly fishers: skwala hatch coming soon

FLY FISHING — Weather put a chill on the Yakima skwala hatch today.

Scored with Pat's Rubberlegs under an indicator, though.

Dry flies ready… and waiting for a week, more likely two.

Patience.

Video: American Whitewater makes case for its cause

RIVERS — American Whitewater, a national river and river running advocacy group, needs support to continue standing up for free-flowing rivers that are always under pressure for water demands.

Last year, the group had a voice in taking down a few dams, protecting flows in rivers and representing paddler interests.

Since 2005, American Whitewater has been involved in the removal of 14 old and uneconomical hydropower dams, restored flows and improved access to 25 significant whitewater runs and supported designation of 1,118.75 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. I

See a video report on the group's latest projects on this  highlight reel.

Join American Whitewater here or call (866) 262-8429.

Rehabilitation of Yellow Dog Creek discussed

FISHERIES — A presentation on the rehabilitation of Yellow Dog Creek, a major tributary of the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River, is set for Tuesday (Feb. 28).

 This and other watershed restoration projects are being undertaken by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests in partnership with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The presentations will start at 1 p.m. at the IPNF headquarters, 3815 Schreiber Way in Coeur d'Alene.
Info:  (208) 765-7223.

Program: Hike, bike and paddle in China, Turkey

 ADVENTURING — Spokane Mountaineer Connie Connelly is set to share highlights of recent far-flung outdoor trips in a free slide show program tonight.

Follow Connelly biking the rice paddies of Southern China and hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking Turkey.

The program starts 7 p.m. at the Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6011 E. Mansfield (go north on Fancher Road from Trent and turn right just before the tracks).

Wolf verified roaming through Kalispell

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A wolf was caught on tape by a police cruiser's dash cam roaming through northwest Kalispell.  The video and tracks were confirmed as a radio collared wolf by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists.

Tough neighborhood.

Read the story in the Daily Interlake.

Are Republican candidates in step with Americans on public lands?

PUBLIC LANDS — Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have suggested they would support degrees of selling federal public lands or transferring federal lands to states to manage.

Similar proposals promoted during the Reagan administration by controversial Interior Secretary James Watt fizzled after being douced by overwhelming public opinion.

A recent poll conducted by Colorado College found support for public lands in the West continues to be deep, with 85 percent of Westerners agreeing that public lands play a large role in state economies.

Check out this High Country News Writers on the Range column, “Some politicians turn public lands into a political football,” by William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.

‘American Guns’ TV hosts coming to Spokane

SHOOTING – Hosts of the Discovery Channel’s “American Guns” will be in Spokane March 3 for a meet-and-greet before the Friends of the NRA fundraiser at the Red Lion Inn at the Park.

Rich, Renee, Paige and Kurt Wyatt, a family known for firepower and cleavage, will be available to the public 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m.

The annual fundraising banquet raises money to promote gun safety, education programs and scholarships. Tickets available at Sharp Shooting, White Elephant, Wholesale Sports and Mountain Shadow Arms.

Compromise bill would require license plates on OHVs

OFF-ROADING — It's no secret that off-road vehicle riders run rampant in some areas of national forests and other public lands that are closed to motorized traffic.  But even if you catch them in the act, little can be done to report the offenses because ATVs and off-road dirt bikes don't need licence plates necessary for ID.

A compromise bill is in the works in the Washington Legislature that would help open more roads for OHV riding  while getting a licensing requirement promoted by environmentalists. Many OHVers support the licensing portion of the bill to help deal with the bad apples in their ranks.

See Olympia reporter Jim Camden's Spin Control column for the details.

Rathdrum angler doesn’t make last round in Bassmaster Classic

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk, 24, of Rathdrum, Idaho, didn't get skunked today but he also didn't come up with enough fish to make the cut for the third and final day of competition in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

The photo above shows Palaniuk landing his first of three fish totaling 5 pounds 15 ounces at today's weigh in. But that total just moved him up to 48th place among the 49 anglers who competed today. He was the only angler in the competition to get skunked on Day 1

After today's weigh in, the field was cut to 25 anglers for the last day of fishing.

Josh Polfer of Nampa, Idaho, a Bassmaster rookie, is the only Westerner to make the cut. In two days of fishing, he's in 19th place.

Continue reading for the latest news on the leaders and the complete catch totals in this “Indy 500” of bass fishing.

Rathdrum angler skunked on opening of Bassmaster Classic

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk, 24, of Rathdrum, Idaho, had a horrible start among the 50 select anglers who roared off this morning to start the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

The weigh-in has just been completed, and Palaniuk is the only angler in the field who caught no fish.  He's in last place after Day 1.  I don't have a report on what happened.

The 30th Bassmaster, a three-day culmination of months of qualifying tournaments, no longer has the distinction of being the richest prize in bass fishing. The Forrest Wood Cup claimed that distinction wtih a $1 million championship prize to Scott Suggs in 2007.

But the Bassmasster Classic is still considered the big stage. A win here can put a half a million bucks in your pocket and bring sponsors to your door.

This is the second consecutive year Palaniuk has qualified for the “Indy 500” of tournament bass fishing.

Palaniuk caught a lot of attention in last year's main event. The youngest competitor in the 2011 classic and the only angler to qualify from the West, he finished in fourth place, winning $30,000.

This year, four anglers from the West are in contention, including Josh Polfer of Nampa, Idaho, and Californians Jared Lintner and Iah Monroe.

Read on for more details on Palaniuk and the ESPN Bassmaster Classic TV coverage, which is being compiled for broadcast next week.

Avalanche advisory: tricky conditions in backcountry

WINTER SPORTS — Persisting weak layers, new snow, wind, changing temperatues — and more new snow forecast for the weekend — add up to warnings for backcountry travelers to use great caution in the backcountry this week, according to this morning's avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

“Tricky conditions in the mountains today due to weak layers of facets below a crust and buried surface hoar,” says Kevin Davis, the center's technichian who was out checking the North Idaho snowpack on Thursday.

“Avalanches triggered in these weak layers have the potential to be larger due to firmer windslabs in the upper pack on wind scoured slopes.  A Winter Storm Warning will be in effect this evening and continuing into Sunday morning.  The avalanche hazard will rise to HIGH due to the expected weather.”

Read on for the full avalanche advisory for the region. 

Friends ready to rally for Centennial Trail

TRAILS — The 4th annual Friends of the Centennial Trail  Adventure Auction is set for March 9 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Silent auction starts at 6 p.m.; dinner's at 7 p.m.; live auction at 8 p.m.

People who support the fabulous 39-mile trail from Nine Mile to the Idaho State Line (and beyond) already are getting tickets and gathering friends to join them at tables for a feast.

“Eighty percent of the proceeds go directly into our Trail Builders fund for projects on the Trail,” said Kaye Turner, the friends group's executive director. “Remember the bumps at Barker Road - our Trail Builders fund fixed those.”

Kris Crocker, KXLY's star weather reporter, will once again be the MC — and she's gathering a table of friends, too.

Tickets: 624-7188 or e-mail friends@spokanecentennialtrail.org.  

Idaho Senate nixes sale of landowner hunt tags

HUNTING — The Idaho Senate, in a rare 17-17 tie vote, killed a bill that sought to allow landowners to sell special hunting tags they receive because their properties provide important habitat for deer, elk, or pronghorn. 

The measure that died Wednesday was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a Republican rancher from Terreton. 

Currently, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission allows eligible landowners to participate in drawings for “Landowner Appreciation Tags.” 

According to the Associated Press, Siddoway wanted to allow landowners the chance to cash in on these controlled hunting tags by letting them sell them to other hunters, at any price they negotiate. 

The bill raised concerns that Siddoway sought to extend to landowners like himself a lucrative new option that violates the spirit of Idaho’s hunting legacy — preserving opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged, the Associated Press reported.
  

Sky-high skiers to fly at Schweitzer

Yokes Outrageous Air 2011 Schweitzer Show Highlight from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — Crane your necks upward for some serious ski stunts Friday and Saturday….

What: Yoke's Outrageous Air Show aerial ski-jumping exhibition, plus fireworks, music
Who: Olympic freestyle gold medalist Jean Marc Rozon; four-time world champion Steve Omischl; Olympian and Canadian Ski Hall of Fame inductee Brad Suey and others
When: Friday-Saturday (Feb. 24-25) at 6:15 p.m.
Where: Schweitzer
Details: Hour-long shows include synchronized multiple twisting flips, fireworks and outdoor music

Cost: Free

Read on for ALL the details.

Colville NF supervisor withdraws South end OHV plan

PUBLIC LANDS – Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West has withdrawn the South End Motor Vehicle Project enacted in November after years of planning to guide off-highway vehicle use.

This decision was appealed in January by Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group.

West withdrew the project after the appeal was reviewed by the Regional Forester in Missoula. No timeline has been set for rewriting the project that would allow off-road vehicle riders to establish more legal riding routes on the south half of the 1.1 million acre forest.

The conservation groups appealed primarily on the basis that the project rewarded groups who illegally pioneered new trails in national forest areas where off-road travel had been prohibited.

“The South End project is an excellent project,” West said in a written statement.  “Not only does it provide a wonderful network of family-friendly OHV routes that connect communities, it provides for the rehabilitation of heavily impacted campsites, stream corridors, and illegal motorized trails. 

“I withdrew the decision so that we can supplement our analysis of the project to make sure the decision to proceed is based on solid rationale that fully considers the impact to other resources.”

Avalanche survivor: ‘We weren’t being idiots’

WINTER SPORTS — Elyse Saugstad, who survived the Stevens Pass-area avalanche that killed three of her skiing companions on Sunday, provided more details about the event in a followup interview with the Anchorage Daily News, her hometown paper so to speak.

Click “continue reading”  for the story.

Click here for more details and links to video interviews.

Alberta oil camp sloppiness contributes to 145 dead black bears

WILDLIFE — Alberta appears to be taking a Stone Age mentality to petroleum development in the realm of its highly regarded wildlife resources.

Read this Calgary Herald report about 145 black bears that were shot last year by Fish and Wildlife conservation officers after the bears had been habituated to garbage in the oilsands region.

Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell said it suggests Albertans are far from using best practices “or even a modern attitude” toward wildlife management.

Idaho Panhandle wolf toll up to 58

PREDATORS — Idaho hunters and trappers have killed a total of 58 wolves in the Idaho Panhandle region with another five weeks left in the seasons that started last fall.

At least 318 wolves had been reported killed by hunters and trappers across the state as of Wednesday.

The graph above includes the Idaho Panhandle harvest though Wednesday, with projections to the end of the season based on the average take the past four weeks, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene.

Hayden explained:

Right now it looks like the final harvest should be pushing 80 wolves in the Panhandle.  That’s a significant number.  From 1998 through 2009, the Panhandle wolf population grew by at least 26 percent per year (and probably pretty close to this number).  Based loosely on areas where we do have decent information, it appears that the final reported harvest will probably be a little over 30 percent of the pre-season wolf population.  That harvest rate may be enough to hold the population in check in general, within limits of local variation.

In this region, we’ve conducted 15 wolf trapping classes, with two additional final classes scheduled by the first of March.  Nearly 450 folks will have gone through the wolf trapper education program this year.  As experience builds, this group will become more and more effective in helping to manage our wolf population.

Mission accomplished: 42 wolves killed in Idaho’s Lolo Zone

PREDATORS — Wolf culling has ended for the season in the Lolo Zone as aerial gunners, trappers and sport hunters have killed a total of 42 wolves since spring 2011, Idaho Fish and Game Department officials reported this afternoon.

With moose and elk populations at critical low levels, Idaho went to the extraordinary measures of enlisting aerial shooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlfie Services to kill 14 of the wolves from a helicopter in early February.

State officials say the Lolo Zone wolf numbers have been reduced by about half but as may as 50 or so still remain in the zone bordering Montana.

As of today, Feb. 22, hunters and trappers have taken a total of 318 wolves across the state since seasons opened last fall.

See an followup story with reaction from wildlfie groups here.

Read on for more details.

Calif. game commission president getting ripped for cougar hunt

HUNTING — Californians love and protect their mountain lions, even though the state is among the few where cougars have attacked and killed people in the past 20 years.

But the president of the California Fish and Game Commission is getting pressure to resign after he booked a perfectly legal mountain lion hunt in Idaho and filled his tag.

The incident is highlighted in this Huckleberries post by Dave Oliveria.

Bhutan trekking show funds opposition to Mt. Spokane ski expansion

Tonight's program on trekking in an exotic land is aimed at funding a local issue at Mount Spokane.

Spokane mountaineer John Roskelley will present a program on trekking in Bhutan tonight, 6 p.m., at the Community Building, 35 W. Main.

Donations benefit Save Mt. Spokane Coalition. RSVP: aswan@landscouncil.org.

The Spokane Mountaineers has voted to join The Lands Council in opposing a plan to expand the alpine ski area at Mount Spokane.

Roskelley, a mountaineer and former Spokane County commissioner, has been an outspoken opponent to adding a chairlift and opening ski runs on what's now considered the “backside” of the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

Trout expert speaks about Lake Pend Oreille

FISHING – The Lake Pend Oreille Fishery Recovery Task Force and Idaho Fish and Game Department will update the status of trout and kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille at the annual “State of the Lake” public meeting tonight

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Ponderay Events Center by the Bonner Mall north of Sandpoint.

Wisconsin-based lake trout expert Mike Hansen will offer his perspective on the program to control lake trout and restore the Pend Oreille kokanee fishery.

Presentations will summarize 2011 predator removal, including lake trout netting, telemetry, Angler Incentive Program and response of the lake’s fishery to recovery efforts.

Info: (208) 769-1414.

Update: What’s this truck doing on Antoine Peak?

CONSERVATION FUTURES — Getting a ticket.

That's the answer the hiker wanted to hear after he snapped this photo of an vehicle that had been illegally driven into the Spokane County Conservation Futures land that rises up behind East Valley High School.

The ruts these clowns created will remain as a reminder of their selfishness. They went beyond the locked gates and got stuck on roads that are closed to unauthorized vehicles to protect the area and its wildlife.

But there's some consolation, the hiker reports. They had to pick up the beer cans they littered in the area and the county issued the driver dude a $134 citation.

Hats off to the hiker who took the time to take the photo and make the case so the county could bring some justice to the vandals.

Lewiston hiking author opens hike trails website

HIKING — Mary Aegerter, a hiking author from Lewiston, has opened a Hiking from HERE website featuring some of her favorite hikes in the region geared to hikers leaving from the Lewiston-Pullman areas.

She plans to change the offerings every few weeks.

Currently, she's offering information on early-season hikes at the BLM's Escure Ranch south of Sprague, WA, as well as Rapid River near Riggins, ID. 

Washington snowmobiler killed in Montana avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — I'm working with other media to help get word out the avalanche conditions are dangerous throughout much of the region.  The latest of at least five avalanche deaths reported in the region in the past three days occurred Monday in northwestern Montana.

Two Washington snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche that killed a man from southeastern Washington.

The Flathead County sheriff's office says the slide occurred at 4 p.m. Monday about 12 miles east of Kalispell in the Lost Johnny drainage of the South Fork of the Flathead River.

Undersheriff Jordan White says 33-year-old Charles John Dundon III of Connell, Wash., triggered the slide as he rode his snowmobile across an open slope. Dundon and another man were caught in the slide, but the second man wasn't buried.

Dundon is the fifth person to die in an avalanche in Montana this winter.

AVALANCHE DANGER RATED HIGH

Today, the West Central Montana Avalanche Center upgraded the avalanche danger to “high” in the Rattlesnake, southern Swan and southern Mission mountains above 5,000 feet. The center said the ski patrol at Snowbowl is reporting that ski cuts are producing dangerous slab avalanches.

Bitterroot Mountains avalanche danger will be raised to “high” once snow starts falling, the avalanche center said.

In southeastern Montana, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center rated the avalanche danger as “high” on wind-loaded slopes steeper than 35 degrees in the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison ranges, the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City.

“Today is not a day to trifle with the snowpack,” the center said in its report. “It’s ornery and getting more dangerous as more snow falls and wind blows.”

Why should we comment on avalanche tragedy?

WINTER SPORTS — Like other commentary's on Sunday's avalanche fatalities in the North Cascades, my column today is getting some people to think and learn.

Other readers are reacting emotionally and telling writers and the experts we quote that we have no business analyzing avalanche incidents.

The people involved in the Stevens Pass avalanche tragedy were carrying equipment and using safety techniques that were adopted after experts had investigated previous accidents.

Skiers who enjoy the backcountry will add what they learn from Sunday's incidents in the Cascades to make their next outing safer.

No one is saying they shouldn’t do it.  Objective people are saying look, understand, learn.

  • Start with this website of video avalanche tutorials.  “A Dozen More Turns” is a must see. It was made by the sister of an avalanche victim who saw the value in analyzing a tragedy so others might learn and live.
  • Subscribe to the region's avalanche advisories. They're conveniently linked from a tabs on the S-R outdoors web page.
  • View two video interviews: (1) Elyse Saugstad , who credits an avalanche airbag backpack for helping her survive the Stevens Pass avalanche, (2) KHQ-TV's Dave Cotton interviewing me on the lure of skiing backcountry.
  • Read todays New York Times story on western avalanche fatalities this season.
  • See my blog post with numerous links for more information about the Stevens Pass avalanche incident.
  • Bookmark the website for avalanche.org, for authoritative discussion and links of avalanche awareness. 

What’s this truck doing on Antoine Peak?

COUNTY PARKS — A hiker sent in this photo of a pickup stuck on Antoine Peak, the Conservation Futures area above East Valley High School.

The mountain is managed by Spokane County Parks. No unauthorized motorized vehicle access is allowed.

My question to the hiker:

I wonder if this is another example of the sad way maintenenace workers leave ruts in the access road as they maintain the radio towers on top of the peak, or whether it's another case of vandals disregarding the “No Motor Vehicles” signs and locked gates.

His answer:

Not unless Busch Light cans tossed about are part of “maintenance.” Already sent the ranger an email with this shot & a couple others.

BLM proposes fee increases at Lake CdA sites

BOATING – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proposing recreation fee increase for sites around Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Daily boat launch fees at Blackwell Island and Mineral Ridge would increase from $4 to $6 and season passes would increase from $30 to $40.  

Tent camping fees at Mica Bay Boater Park, Killarney Lake Recreation Site, Huckleberry Campground and Windy Bay Boater Park would rise from $8 to $10 a night. 

Trailer camping fees at Huckleberry Campground along the St. Joe River are proposed to increase from $15 to $18 a night.

No fee increases have been proposed for the U.S. Forest Service sites in the area.

The proposals will be considered by BLM’s District Resource Advisory Council  Wednesday (Feb. 22)  at the BLM office, 3815 Schreiber Way.

Info: (208) 769-5004.

Paws & Poles event leads to fun on skis, snowshoes

WINTER SPORTS — It's time for skiers and snowshoers to hitch a ride behind their dogs and sign up for the sixth annual Paws & Poles Race. The event that benefits SpokAnimal CARE is set for March 3 at 49 Degrees North.

Enter a 5-kilometer cross-country skijoring race or leash up to your dog for a 3K snowshoe race.  Both races will begin at 11 a.m. at the resort's Nordic Center. 

Registration opens at 9 a.m. Entry fee: $20.

Pre-register at Mountain Gear in Spokane. Info: 325-9000.

See photos of last year's event here.

Author to read from Grizzly Manifesto at Gonzaga

WILDLIFE — Canadian conservation author Jeff Gailus will read from his book “The Grizzly Manifesto” at Gonzaga University this week, sponsored by the university's Environmental Studies Speaker Series.

The program will start at 7 p.m., Wednesday, (Feb. 22) in the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium. Gailus plans to read from his book and discuss the future of grizzly bears in the United States and Canada.

Gailus has developed extensive knowledge of grizzlies, following them from Yellowstone National Park through the Canadian Rockies to the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area (pronounced musk-quah-ke-chee-kah) in northern British Columbia.

The free event, open to the public, is titled, “A Grizzly Tale of Two Countries: Grizzly Bear Management and Recovery across the Medicine Line.”

Videos: Stevens Pass avalanche tragedy from two angles

Elyse Saugstad describes surviving the Stevens Pass-area avalanche.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

My Monday interview with KHQ regarding the lure of skiing out of bounds.

Update: more video interviews regarding Stevens Pass avalanche tragedy

WINTER SPORTS — Pro skier pro skier Elyse Saugstad gave a TV interview this morning answering questions about the ABS Avalanche Airbag device she credits with saving her life Sunday in the deadly avalanche that killed three of her companions near Stevens Pass.

If asked the question, I'm sure Saugstad would point out that the airbag would not have helped her if the avalanche had rammed her into a tree or rock. But in this case it helped, and it's worth checking out, investigating, learning, understanding….

The three were skiing in a group of 13 friends that included both local and visiting skiers, according to ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, who was among the skiers in the group.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center had issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet.
 
Across the West, there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season as of Feb. 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks avalanche deaths in the U.S.

Update: device credited with saving skier in deadly avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — Pro skier  pro skier Elyse Saugstad gave a TV interview this morning answering questions about the ABS Avalanche Airbag device she credits with saving her life Sunday in the deadly avalanche that killed three of her companions near Stevens Pass.

If asked the question, I'm sure Saugstad would point out that the airbag would not have helped her if the avalanche had rammed her into a tree or rock. But in this case it helped, and it's worth checking out, investigating, learning, understanding….

The three were skiing in a group of 13 friends that included both local and visiting skiers, according to ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, who was among the skiers in the group.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center had issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet.
 
Across the West, there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season as of Feb. 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks avalanche deaths in the U.S.

Steelheaders reporting good catches in Snake and Grande Ronde

FISHING - Friday was a shirt-sleeve day with plenty of action for Grande Ronde River steelheaders.

Dennis Matsuda and Dan Hansen of Spokane caught and released 13 steelhead during the day, some of them beautifully fall bright fish.

Not bad for February.

Giant airbag provides soft landing at Lookout Pass Terrain Park

WINTER SPORTS - Skiers and riders can perform bold new tricks in the terrain park with greatly reduced risk at Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area, Feb. 24-26.

A large inflatable air bag will be in place Friday through Sunday below the biggest ramp at Lookout’s Exit 0 terrain park, located directly above the base lodge.

Read on for details from Lookout Pass spokesman Bill Jennings.

Milestone: 100,000 boaters complete safety course

BOATING — The Washington State Boating Program reached a milestone in its mandatory boater education program last week, issuing card number 100,000.

David Eckols of Seattle won tickets to a Seattle Seahawks game for being the 100,000th boater card recipient.

See my recent column pointing out that since January, all Washington powerboat drivers age 40 and and younger must  have a boater education card to operate a boat powered by a 15 horsepower motor or larger.

Last year, the Boating Programs recorded 17 boating fatalities, the lowest number in 10 years. According to Washington State Parks Director, Don Hoch, educated boaters are less likely to be involved in boating accidents than non-educated boaters.

“Since the program started in 2008 we have had an outstanding compliance rate,” says Hoch. “The great news is that we are starting to see a reduction in boating fatalities, property damage and injuries. We hope this trend continues.”

Read on for more details about Washington boater education requirement.

Rathdrum angler returns to Bassmaster Classic

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk, 24, of Rathdrum, Idaho, has been pre-fishing this weekend, warming up with the 50 anglers competing in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier City, LA.

This is the second consecutive year Palaniuk has qualified for the “Super Bowl” of tournament bass fishing.

Palaniuk caught a lot of attention in last year's main event. The youngest competitor in the 2011 classic and the only angler to qualify from the West, He finished in fourth place, winning $30,000. 

This year, four anglers from the West are in contention, including Josh Polfer of Nampa, Idaho, and Californians Jared Lintner and Iah Monroe. 

Read on for more details on Palaniuk and the ESPN Bassmaster Classic TV coverage scheduled for the following week.

Expert to speak on polar bears in Colville

WILDLIFE – An internationally recognized polar bear expert who moved to Stevens County will present a slide program about the threatened status of the arctic bruins at 7 p.m., March 2, at the Colville Community College.

Steven Amstrup, who’s studied polar bears in Alaska for 30 years, will discuss the impacts of global warming on the bears, followed by a question-answer period.

The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

The S-R recently reported that Amstrup, who worked at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, is one of 29 conservations up for a prestigious $100,000 Indianapolis Prize for 2012, to be awarded Sept. 29.

Mount Spokane today flashback to old days of nordic skiing

WINTER SPORTS — Last night's storm dumped about 10 inches of new powder on the Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails, so much so fast the groomer couldn't keep up with it.

Deja vu.  It was like heading up to the mountain 30 years ago before big groomers.

A backcountry skiing Mecca.

People venturing out and breaking trail for others to follow.

I heard one guy grousing that the trails weren't groomed to perfection as he tried to plow through five inches of powder that had fallen after the groomer has passed.

He simply had the wrong tools on his feet for the conditions.  Skiers on classic or touring skis had big smiles on their faces.

It was a great day to step out in the winter woods and back in time.

3 reported dead in Stevens Pass avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — Three people have died in an avalanche near Stevens Pass ski area, authorities say. Others who had been reported missing were accounted for today, the Seattle PI Online reports.

Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office said the slide occurred in an out-of-bounds area near the popular resort in the Cascade Mountains. About 14 inches of new powder greeted skiers in the area this morning.
 
The three were skiing in a group of 13 friends that included both local and visiting skiers, according to ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, who was among the skiers in the group.
 
The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center had issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet.
 
Across the West, there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season as of Feb. 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks avalanche deaths in the U.S.

U.S. House votes to allow oil drilling in ANWR

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday night to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling as a provision of the Transportation bill.

This was proved to be a bad idea for the fragile arctic environemnt and the colossal wildlife values of the arctic plain in the 1990s.  It's still a bad idea.

Wildlife commission approves Okanogan land purchase

CONSERVATION — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase of 165 acres of key fish and wildlife habitat in Okanogan County today during a conference call meeting.

State Fish and Wildlife Department officials say purchasing the land along the Okanogan River about 20 miles north of Omak will allow the agency to protect spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead, and grassland and shrub steppe beneficial to wildlife.  

The property will become part of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, managed by WDFW to provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species as well as public access for outdoor recreation, such as fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.

The $795,000 purchase price will be funded with grants from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lake Roosevelt levels begin downward trend

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt was at elevation 1277.60 at 7 a.m. this mornining and headed for a slight downward trend next week to the 1276-1278 range.

The reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam currently is being operated for power demand, Hanford Reach flows and to meet tailwater flows for chum below Bonneville Dam, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports.

The February Water Supply Forecast has been released and contains flood control elevations.

Flood control elevations are as follows:

  • February 31 – 1290 feet
  • March 31 – 1281.5 feet
  • April 30 – 1253.9 feet

Flood control elevations are the MAXIMUM elevations for Lake Roosevelt to be able to accommodate the anticipated spring runoff. Lake levels can be lower due to increased demand for power, supplementing downstream flows for fish, emergencies, etc. This is the current situation in which the flood control elevation is above the actual level of the lake. The forecast is based upon the weather.

The next flood control forecasts for March and April can and probably will change.

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

Lunker perch matches 36-year Idaho record

FISHING — An Idaho record yellow perch measuring 16 inches long and weighing 2.6 pounds was caught Feb. 11 in Lake Cascade by Bob Shindelar of Meridian, Idaho, to tie an Idaho record unmatched since 1976.

One angler described the lunker perch as “a smallmouth bass in drag.”

Dale Allen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager, said Cascade has produced several perch longer than 15 inches.

The largest perch tend to be females, which are currently producing eggs that add weight. There's still about a month to six weeks before those fish spawn, Allen said.

Read on for the full story from Roger Phillips, outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman.

Avalanche advisory: storm could prompt changes

WINTER SPORTS — New snow this week has created good sliding conditions for skiers and snowmobiles. But The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's weekly advisory cites conditions and areas of concern in the snowpack.

“The southerly aspects were a little firmer with suncrusts and shallower snow but the north aspects had a sufficient amount of new snow and the buried crusts were a little deeper,” writes IPAC technician Kevin Davis, reporting to today on his Thursday outing to test the backcountry slopes.  “So was the buried surface hoar.  You can't miss it on the north aspects where its standing proud.  It wasn't shearing easily yesterday but check it today on steep slopes.  Your main concern this weekend will be the new snow, Winter Storm Watch, loading buried surface hoar.”

Read on for the complete report.

Fishing film helps anglers ‘Connect’ with wild steelhead

FISHING — A Spokane showing of “Connect,” the 3rd film from Confluence Films, will be shown on Feb. 22 as a benefit to raise money for the Wild Steelhead Coalition and efforts to protect Columbia River wild steelhead.

The film features six international fishing locations, 12 anglers, 10 fish species and one angry croc.

The 2011 Fly Fishing Film Tour featured a clip of Connect, but the full feature film will be shown Wednesday at The Lincoln Center, 1316 North Lincoln Street. Doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 7.

Tickets will cost $5 at the the door; procedes from tickets and raffle items will go the WSC.

 Info: Josh Mills,  jmills81@hotmail.com  or contact Silver Bow Fly Shop

Revised master hunter elk season proposed near Turnbull

HUNTING — Yesterday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had not firmed up proposed revisions of the master hunter December elk hunts in units surrounding Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Today it has.

Proposed hunting regulations for 2012-2014 are being updated here.

The proposals for master hunter seasons are being posted on a separate Master Hunter web page.

The revised master hunter proposals were posted here, highlighted in yellow, this afternoon.

Agency managers explain:

“Our original proposal was to completely eliminate this hunt, but it was a big change and many local landowners supported continuing the opportunity. So we have changed our recommendation to retain two GMUs, antlerless only to address damage, and retain the same dates.

The revised master hunter proposal:

GMU 127 & 130, general antlerless only, season Dec.9-31.

Cabela’s to open ‘outpost’ store near Yakima

OUTDOOR RETAILERS – Cabela’s announced this morning it is introducing a new store format that will bring the outdoor sporting goods retailer to Washington Plaza, a shopping center under construction at the former Costco property near Yakima.

The news was reported by the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The Sidney, Neb., company announced the Union Gap store, the first under its smaller “Cabela’s Outpost Store” format, during its fourth-quarter earnings call to shareholders.

Cabela’s plans to open the 40,000-square-foot store by this fall. The Post Falls Cabela's store, by comparison, has 125,000 square feet of showroom space.

Despite Cabela’s popularity, local businesses that have served Yakima Valley’s outdoor and hunting community remain optimistic.

Gary Fairbanks, owner of Fairbanks Outfitters, a fly fishing shop in Yakima, said he can compete on price, noting that he has ordered product for customers at a lower price than listed in the Cabela’s catalogs.

“They have a huge selection,” he said. “But (its) prices are quite high compared to mine.”

Read on for more details from the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Montana rejects extending Bitterroot wolf hunt

PREDATORS — A proposal to extend this year’s wolf hunt in a portion of the Bitterroot Valley was rejected today by Montana’s wildlife commission. 

The proposal, voted down 5-0, would have allowed the hunt to continue in the area near the Idaho border until April 1, according to the Associated Press.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioners said they were reluctant to approve a piecemeal extension of the hunt instead of taking a statewide approach. They also said they did not want to disturb a wildlife study under way. 

Hunters had pushed for the extension, citing a decline in elk numbers. Just six wolves have been killed out of the area’s quota of 18. 

Montana’s wolf hunt ended on Wednesday. The 165 wolves reported killed as of today equal 75 percent of the state’s 220-animal quota.
  

Correction: hunting rules vote set for April

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The newspaper version of today's outdoors column includes an error by saying the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on hunting season proposals in March.   The vote will come in April, but the March meeting will be the last opportunity for public comment at a commission meeting.

Read the corrected column here for the latest news about the evolution of the hunting proposals.

Also, I've heard that despite the approval of the Game Management Advisory Council for changing the either-sex general elk hunts to bull-only in the west portion of northeastern Washington's Selkirk Elk Herd, state wildlife managers are considering leaving the seasons as they've been.

Apparently the landowners that spoke against the proposals at the recent Colville meeting got the agency's attention.  The landowners fear the move to increase the northeast elk herd will lead to more crop damage.

State wildlife managers have not yet announced what they will recommend to the commission next week. 

Visualizing the long-distance backpacker

HIKING — Hikers who tackle entire lengths of long-range trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail are called “thru hikers.” 

Follow them on the Thru Hiking facebook page. 

Marksmanship clinics offered for adults, kids

SHOOTING — A two two-day rifle marksmanship clinic will be held March 3-4 at the Fernan Rod & Gun Club. This will be the first of six clinics to be held in the Coeur d'Alene area this year sponsored by Project Appleseed, an offshoot of the Revolutionary War Veteran's Association.

A Project Appleseed clinic also is set for May 5- in Medical Lake.

Clinic instructors will teach three shooting positions, use of the sling, six steps to firing the shot, natural point of aim, how to zero a rifle and more.

The program also features a few true stories of the American Revolution surrounding the events of April 19, 1775, when marksmanship met history and American Heritage was born. Read more about it here.

The Appleseed Project also promotes civic involvement.

The clinic will be held 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. March 3 and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. March 4.

The gun club is at 11600 E. Fernan Lake Rd.

Cost: Men $70, women $10, kids under 21 pay $5. Active military, law enforcement officers, and elected officials with ID can register FREE.

Info: (208) 819-0866, email ID@appleseedinfo.org .

Pre-register on the Appleseed website.

Pend Oreille “State of the Lake” fisheries meeting Feb. 22

FISHING — The Lake Pend Oreille Fishery Recovery Task Force and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will update the status of trout and kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille at the annual “State of the Lake” public meeting next week.

to discuss the status of fish populations in Lake Pend Oreille, the progress of the fishery recovery effort, and potential rule changes for 2013. 

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 22 at the Ponderay Events Center by the Bonner Mall north of Sandpoint. 

Wisconsin-based lake trout expert Mike Hansen will offer his perspective on the progress of the program to control lake trout and restore the Pend Oreilee kokanee fishery. 

Presentations will summarize the 2011 predator removal efforts, including lake trout netting, telemetry, and the Angler Incentive Program, and the response of the lake’s fishery to the recovery effort. 

Info: (208) 769-1414. 

Idaho wolf killed near Hailey had parvovirus

PREDATORS — Lab reports released Tuesday show that a wolf killed Jan. 22 near Hailey, Idaho, was suffering from parvovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea and ultimately death from dehydration.

The homeowner killed the wolf after it had been observed near his house for at least two days and was acting sick or injured.

Immediately after killing the wolf, the homeowner notified Idaho Fish and Game. Two Fish and Game officers arrived and retrieved the dead wolf, a juvenile female. The animal was emaciated and had green fluid diarrhea.

Read on for details.

Montana nears end of statewide wolf hunt; extension sought

PREDATORS — Hunters in Montana have reported shooting 166 gray wolves as the season comes to a close across most of the state today — falling short of the state’s 220-animal quota.

In portions of the Bitterroot Mountains near the Idaho border, state wildlife commissioners are considering extending the season in response to complaints about declining elk numbers, the Associated Press reports.

But for most of Montana the season ends after sunset.

Hunters and trappers in neighboring Idaho have killed 294 wolves to date in a season that runs through June 30. Idaho has no statewide quota.

Read on for more details.

Update: Idaho Statesman comments on Otter’s wolf sentiments to Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — After news reports and blog posts that an Idaho hunter had killed a wolf that had been radio-collared in Oregon, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter offered to send Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber 150 wolves, saying his own state could spare a few of the predators.

The Idaho Statesman editorialized today on Otter's letter in which he sarcastically apologized to Kitzhaber after an Idaho hunter killed a wolf from an Oregon pack that strayed across Idaho's border to the east, according to a report by the Associated Press.

On Feb. 2, the Idaho hunter killed a brother of an Oregon wolf that became a celebrity by wandering hundreds of miles into Northern California looking for a mate.


Otter, no fan of the mid-1990s wolf reintroduction to central Idaho, offered Kitzhaber “my sincerest apologies.”

Then, Otter said he'd have the Idaho Fish and Game Department round up another 150 wolves — or any number Oregon needed or was willing to take.

Tonight: biologists explain plan for Pend Oreille River pike

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Tonight: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Thursday: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

Great American Bird Count this weekend in a yard near yours

BIRDING — It's not too late to get your feeders cleaned and filled and gear up with binoculars and field guides so you can participate in the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count Friday-Monday (Feb. 17-20).

The annual four-day event engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the U.S. and Canada.

Each checklist submitted by you citizen scientists helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing – and how to protect them and the environment we share.

Last year, participants turned in more than 92,000 checklists online, creating the continent's largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

“This count is so fun because anyone can take part — we all learn and watch birds together — whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher.  I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.” 

-Gary Langham, Audubon chief scientist

Click here to see my guide to choosing a field guidebook to birds.

Idaho to present hunting rule changes in Moscow meeting

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game will hold a public meeting in Moscow to discuss 2012 big game seasons and fishing seasons and rules from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., March 7, at the Latah County Fairground Exhibit Bldg, 1021 Harold.
 
Another meeting is set for March 8, at the Fish and Game regional office, 3316 16th St. in Lewiston.

Update: Outside trails case of Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea author

OUTDOOR SCANDALS — It’s been 10 months since Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes alleged that the Greg Mortenson, who became famous with his book Three Cups of Tea, was a literary fraud who used the Central Asia Institute as a personal cash cow, prompting a civil suit and an investigation by Montana’s attorney general.

According to a just published report by Outside magazine — check it out —  Mortenson still isn’t talking. But the case is heating up, with important developments in the lawsuit and hints that the A.G.’s probe could go badly for CAI.

Idaho governor sends sympathy, offers Oregon 150 wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — After news reports and blog posts that an Idaho hunter had killed a wolf that had been radio-collared in Oregon, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has offered to send Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber 150 wolves, saying his own state could spare a few of the predators.

Today's offer came in a tongue-in-cheek letter where Otter sarcastically apologized to Kitzhaber after an Idaho hunter killed a wolf from an Oregon pack that strayed across Idaho's border to the east, according to a report by the Associated Press.

On Feb. 2, the Idaho hunter killed a brother of an Oregon wolf that became a celebrity by wandering hundreds of miles into Northern California looking for a mate.


Otter, no fan of the mid-1990s wolf reintroduction to central Idaho, offered Kitzhaber “my sincerest apologies.”

Then, Otter said he'd have the Idaho Fish and Game Department round up another 150 wolves — or any number Oregon needed or was willing to take.
 

Biologists explain plan to reduce pike in Pend Oreille River

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Feb. 15: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Feb. 16: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

Idaho revising fish management plans; meetings set

FISHING — Idaho is starting to take a look at the big picture of fishing throughout the state as it revises its management plans through 2018.
 
Panhandle Region anglers will be asked to chime in on hot topics such as Priest Lake mackinaw, harvesting more cutthroat trout in the St. Joe and Coeur d'Alene rivers and returning to trophy management of rainbow trout and a limited kokanee fishery on Lake Pend Oreille.
 
The Idaho Fish and Game Deparment adjusts fishing rules every other year. But the state Fisheries Management Plan, approved by the Fish and Game Commission, guides the policy and direction the rules take for five or six years.
 
Public meetings: The agency will explain the issues and begin taking public comment at public meetings next month, starting at 7 p.m. as follows: 
 
March 13: Sandpoint, Panhandle Health Meeting Room, 322 Marion St.
March 15: Priest River, Senior Center, 339 Jackson Ave.
March 22: Coeur d’Alene, IDFG Regional Office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave.
 
Anglers unable to attend the meetings will be able to complete an online opinion survey by March 31.
 
Read on for more details about a few of the spotlight Panhandle topics.

Lincoln County teen injures buddy while shooting rabbit

HUNTING — Just in case it wasn't covered in your hunter education course: Never shoot a rabbit in a road culvert or irrigation pipe when your partner's on the other end blocking the rabbit from coming out.

Read on for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife police officer's report of a hunting accident last week involving two 13 year-olds. One of them is lucky to be alive.

Top elk callers crowned by RMEF

HUNTING — Elk callers from 10 states, led by Oregon, Colorado and Nevada, earned Top honors in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation/Leupold World Elk Calling Championships for 2012.

One man from Idaho and one from Washington were in the cream of the crop.

Competition was held during the RMEF annual convention and expo, which ended Feb. 4 in Las Vegas.

Read on for the results.

Robins moving in big flocks through Spokane Valley

WILDLIFE — Many robins stay in the Spokane area year round, but a little mild weather in February can bring them around like fans to a rock concert.

Here's this morning's report from birder Joanne Powell in the Spokane Valley at Greenacres:

About 9 a.m. I was looking out at my backyard and hundreds of robins appeared, hung around for about 10 minutes then moved west. I went to my front porch and at least 300 robins were perched in the bare deciduous trees lining N. Hodges Rd. They seem to be moving west very slowly so keep an eye out.

Idaho hunter kills sibling to wolf OR-7 that claimed fame in Oregon, California

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An Idaho hunter shot and killed a collared male gray wolf from the beleaguered Oregon Wenaha Pack on Feb. 2, according to a report in the Oregonian. The wolf was killed near Emmett, Idaho, between Boise and the Snake River.

The wolf, dubbed OR-9 for being the ninth radio-collared wolf in Oregon, had left Oregon last July, two months before his Imnaha pack relative — the more famous OR-7 — began an epic 1,000-mile trek west to Crater Lake and then south into California where it's been hanging out in Lassen and Shasta counties.

California Fish and Game has set up a website to follow wolf OR-7.

About that time, Oregon wildlife officials handed down a kill order on the Imnaha pack's alpha male sire and a sibling of OR-7 for attacking cattle. The order remains on hold pending resolution of a lawsuit by conservationists.

The Idaho hunter shot the wolf near a cattle feedlot and winter calving area, Mike Keckler, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, told the Oregonian. Idaho's wolf hunting season runs through March.

OR-9 was born to the alpha female of the Imnaha pack, Oregon's first wolf pack. He was collared Feb. 26, 2011, east of Joseph in the Grouse Creek area when he was about 1 1/2 years old and weighed 90 pounds.
  

250 skiers brave cold, fog at Langlauf 10K

NORDIC SKIING — A few skis got tangled during the mass start for 250 competitors in the 34th annual Langlauf 10-kilometer cross-country ski race Sunday at Mount Spokane.

But the event went smoothly and, as usual, the field feasted on soup an treats before hanging around, listening to a fiddle-accordian band. Then they stepped up to an award ceremony that handed out medals, ribbons and thousands of dollars worth of prizes to participants regardless of how fast they put away the course.

See results and winners of all age groups here.

See a gallery of photos here.

It's the classiest nordic skiing event in the region.

The fastest skiers through the foggy conditions were Brad Bauer, 38, of Seattle, the overall winner in 27:33, and Deb Bauer, 46, of Spokane, the top female in 33:01.

Northwest states eye Lake Mead as source of invasive woes

 INVASIVE SPECIES — Washington, Idaho and Oregon are among the Northwest states and provinces involved in lobbying the federal government to assure that a $1 million appropriation line item in the Department of Interior’s 2012 budget is spent to help cut off the spread of invasive quagga mussels from a main source – the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Other states and groups involved in the campaign include the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Colorado River Fish and Wildlife Council and Pacific Northwest Economic Region, according to a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

Last year several boats infested with invasive species from Lake Mead were intercepted by Northwest states at highway check stations.  The Northwest region’s water-related infrastructure such as hydro projects and irrigation systems is at risk, as well as recreation and aquatic environments.

Fundraiser to honor Verner, Abrahamson for river protection efforts

CONSERVATION – Mary Verner, former Spokane mayor, and Deb Abrahamson, a leader in mining pollution cleanup efforts, will be honored Saturday, Feb. 18, in the annual Winter Waters awards fund-raising dinner.

The event at Patsy clark Mansion is sponsored by Upper Columbia River Group - Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

Verner is being honored for her work in protecting Spokane River and aquifer while Abrahamson, founder of the SHAWL Society, is being cited for leadership in dealing with uranium pollution in the lower Spokane River.

Tickets: $25.

Info: 209-2899, e-mail rsvp@celp.org.

New snocat groomer approved for Mount Spokane nordic trails

WINTER SPORTS — Washington's Winter Recreation Advisory Committee today approved $300,000 to purchase an larger snowcat groomer for the 30-kilometers of nordic trails at Mount Spokane State Park, reports George Momany, the Spokane-region representative on the panel.

The appropriation should allow the state park staff to begin widening trails this summer to accommodate the new groomer.

Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, has been campaigning for a larger groomer for years.

“It will cost more in the beginning, but it will save money in the long run,” he said.

“The smaller groomers we've been using are underpowered for the amount and type of snow we get at Mount Spokane, and that results in more breakdowns,” he said. 

“Once we get the trails to the right width, a bigger groomer will be able to work a trail in one pass. That will allow us to groom more miles of trail faster without leaving the rough berm in the middle that you get from double-pass grooming. Skaters will love that.”

The Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation will be calling on volunteers to help trim trails this summer.

Coming Sunday:  The parking lot at Mount Spokane Nordic area will be jammed on Sunday (Feb. 12) for the annual Spokane Langlauf 10K cross-country ski race.

Ice reported unsafe at Fourth of July Lake

FISHING — A Washington ice fisherman visiting Fourth of July Lake on Thursday reported open water around the edges and water over the ice in the main portion of the lake.  He said he packed up and decided it was safer to go ice fishing somewhere else.

This information was reported and added into today's Fishing-Hunting report by correspondent Al Liere, but somehow his original column was published in today's paper without the updates.

Banks Lake water level rising toward normal range

BOATING — The water level at Banks Lake is coming up close to normal range this winter after a dramatic maintenance drawdown that reached 30 feet below normal in October.

The lake elevation was up to 1,561 feet this week, about 7 feet below the normal winter operating range.

The summer-fall drawdown was a deterrent to boat launching and fishing at the popular 27-mile-long reservoir between Electric City and Coulee City, Wash.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to have the lake level back up to around 1,565 feet by April.

See the fascinating aerial photos made during the peak of the drawdown.

Avalanche advisory: Two weak layers to consider

WINTER SPORTS — The region's mountain snowpack is stabilizing, but snow-goers must be aware of a couple of weak layers, says Kevin Davis in the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center weekly avalanche advisory issued this morning.

Of the two layers of surface hoar, one has been buried for just over a week and has stabilized, but continue to watch it on northerly aspects, he said. The other just got buried on Wednesday.  Its not under enough snow to be a problem yet, although in the Cabinets it might be in places, but it could be a problem in the future, he said.

An avalanche workshop is being presented tonight,  6 p.m. at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint. The Avalanche Center staff will review 10 years of avalanche accidents in North Idaho.

February and March are the most common months for human triggered avalanches.

Read on for the complete avalanche advisory.

Congress considers wiping out trail funding

TRAILS — The Inland Northwest, with its fabulous system of rail trails, has insight to what would be lost if a malicious defunding bill gets anywhere in Congress.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy is calling H.R. 7 — the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 — “atrocious” for several reasons.

If it passes the House floor and becomes law as it stands, the bill would:

  • Eliminate dedicated funding for trails, walking and bicycling;
  • Destroy a 30-year precedent of long-term dedicated funding for transit;
  • Do away with the rail-trail eligibility category in the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program;
  • Eliminate the Safe Routes to School program;
  • Reduce job creation potential, since trail, walking and bicycling projects create more jobs per dollar than highway projects;
  • Contribute to our growing health and obesity crises.

A coalition of groups, including cyclists, hikers, conservationist and others, is trying to get word out to defeat this bill when it comes to the House floor—expected to begin Tuesday.

Read an ABC News report on the bill here.

American Trails is keeping track of several trails-related bills.

Pheasant photo triggers memories of morning walks

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — The one-in-a-million pheasant photo by Coeur d'Alene wildlife photographer Tim Christi sparked some pleasant memories after the S-R published it in the Outdoors section.

I received this letter last week:

“My late husband used to rise earlyl in the morning to surveyhis world before beginning his day. He often encountered a pheasant whom we nicknamed The President.

“My husband and the bird would engage each in his own language regarding who actually belonged on this sunny corn-producing hillside by the river. More often than not, they shared a joy of a new day and the joy of being part of it.

“The President shared his land for several seasons.  We knew him by a slightly crippled gait as he nibbled on young corn blades and pecked at the pumpkins.

“We will enjoy the memory via your magnificent picture.”

Angie Williams, Deer Park, Wash.

Dead climber had goal to climb Hood monthly

MOUNTAINEERING — Jared Townsley had a goal this year to ascend Mount Hood once a month.

The 32-year-old from Tigard was a skilled climber who had already scaled the mountain more than a dozen times, sometimes solo, the Oregonian reports

Sunday night, Townsley headed up for a climb that turned out to be his last.

Tuesday morning, search teams recovered the body of the computer engineer near White River Canyon after he fell to his death while descending in icy conditions.

Read the report from the Oregonian here.

Read a report from Townsley's home town paper quoting the family here.

Read the AP report on the rescue/recovery here.
  

Fly fishing films rise to expectations

Doc Of The Drakes, Short from Silver Creek Outfitters on Vimeo.

ANGLING — The annual Fly Fishing Film Tour presented last night to a nearly full house at the Bing Crosby Theater soared beyond expectations. The films were beautifully photographed and brilliantly edited, capturing moods ranging from kick-ass action to admiration and emotion.

The audience, which I would describe as severely male, relished fishing for tarpon, bonefish, huge arctic char and a day of bull-trout fishing with Beckie Clarke (left) a Fernie, British Columbia, guide who led a filmmaker on a hike into a stretch of stream in the Elk River Valley.

The crowd last night gave rousing appreciation for the film Doc of the Drakes (see clip above) and the persistence of a guide and a man with Parkinson's disease determined to hook a trout in the peak of brown drake hatch on Idaho's Silver Creek.

Click here for details about the show and all the films.

Click here for a film clip and my profile of a Missouri River guide who idled his rod to photograph other guides relishing the dry fly action near Craig, Mont.  The film generated loud applause at the Bing.

The Fly Fishing Film Tour will be returning to the Inland Northwest on April 20 in Sandpoint.

Ice fishing event for newbies Saturday at Cocolalla Lake

FISHING — A free event to introduce people to ice fishing is set for Saturday (Feb. 11) at Cocolalla Lake south of Sandpoint, sponsored by Idaho Fish and Game Department.

Everything about the event is free, including bait and the fishing equipment available to borrow. Free hot dogs and hot chocolate will be served. Volunteers from Fish and Game and Cabela's will be augering the holes in the ice. No fishing license is required during the hours of the event, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Idaho Fish and Game is sponsoring this Take Me Fishing event two weeks after a big crowd flocked to the first ice fishing event at Hauser Lake.

Cocolalla Lake is on the west side of U.S. Highway 95 between Athol and Sandpoint.  The trailer and barbeque will be at the boat launch/campground on the north end of the lake.  Follow the “Sportsman Access” signs on the west side of US 95 just north of the Westmond store. 

Read on for more details.

Legislature could raid Sno-Park funds from snowmobilers, nordic skiers

WINTER SPORTS — The Washington Legislature is toying with proposals that could divert dedicated gas-tax funds from established and popular Sno-Park programs. These are the programs, such as those at Mount Spokane, that plow parking areas and groom trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other winter recreation.

Some recreation groups say there's nothing to fear from the proposals, but the issues should be carefully followed.

See the latest on what some contend is an attempt to raid an important winter recreation component of the state's economy in this story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Washington to hire wolf trappers for research

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few good physically fit, personable men or women with biology degrees and outdoor skills are being sought for the newest job openings in the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

The agency plans to hire two wolf trappers and three assistants with job duties that include trapping, radio collaring and monitoring wolves in the North Cascades and Eastern Washington, plus mitigating conflicts and speaking to the public on wolf issues.

See the complete list of the agency's job openings.

Specifics of the gray wolf research positions are detailed here.

Applications are due by Feb. 14.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has more details.

Insecticide-tainted bird seed is case for better monitoring

BIRDWATCHING — Responsible bird enthusiasts regularly clean their feeders to help prevent the spread of disease that can kill masses of birds. But even the most conscientious feeders can be deadly if the seed they buy is poisonous.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. recently admitted guilt in charges of distributing insecticide-tainted bird seed, potentially subjecting itself to $4.5 in fines to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

See news story here.

The American Bird Conservancy is spotlighting this case as an example of the need for regular monitoring to assure the safety of the nation's bird seed supply.

The stakes are high. U.S. Fish and Wildlife surveys indicate that one in five Americans considers themselves among the birdwatchers who spend a total of $36 billion dollars a year on bird food, equipment and birding related travel.

The bottom line: With tons of bird seed put out each year to make birding convenient, huge numbers of wild birds are at risk if bird seed isn't safe.

The ABC did its own tests and found that most bird seed from popular outlet is pesticide free.

But read on for the conservancy's release of details on the shortfalls of EPA rules and the chilling disregard for bird safety by Scott officials.

Sea lions rebound, become viewed as wolves of the sea

MARINE WILDLIFE — After nearly being hunted out of existence, California sea lions have boomed in population in the 40 years since the 1972 passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

According to several estimates, their number has grown from 5,000 around 1970 to about 300,000.

That growth, however, has coincided at least in part with the decline of a Northwest figure far more iconic and economically significant than sea lions: the salmon.

Check out this lengthy report on the issue by Bill Sheets of the Everett Herald.
  

Applications ready for Red Ives cabin rental

PUBLIC LANDS — Here's another wake up call for anyone contemplating a summer Forest Service cabin or lookout rental.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests St. Joe Ranger District is accepting applications through February for a lottery to select reservation rental dates for the popular Red Ives Cabin.

The rental season for the former ranger home along the St. Joe River is Memorial Day weekend through September.

Most federal lands cabin and fire lookout rentals as well as camping reservations are handled online or by phone through Recreation.gov, the national first-come-first served reservations system.

For example, the Surveyor's Ridge Lookout rental in the mountains high above the St. Joe is handled by the national system, allowing reservations to be made up to 180 days in advance.

However, the Red Ives Cabin, which includes a former ranger home, is handled locally in a lottery drawing.

More than 400 applications were submitted for 50 reservations in 2012 (and 500 applications for the 50 slots in 2013), said District Ranger Wade Sims.

Click here for a previous post on renting the popular Kelly Creek Cabin and other sites on the Clearwater National Forest.

Read on for details on applying for the Red Ives Cabin, Surveyor's Lookout and the Clarkia Bunkhouse. 

Time to reserve forest cabins, lookouts

PUBLIC LANDS — Most rentals for cabins and fire lookouts on national forests and parks are reserved on a national reservation system that allows the public to book dates no more than 180 days in advance.

Check out the National Recreation Reservation Service online or call (877) 444-6777 for a complete list of facilities, to check available dates or to make reservations for most federal facilities nationwide.

Click here for details on an exception to the national reservation system: the lottery for reserving the Red Ives Cabin on the St. Joe River.

Indeed, if you're making plans for prime time this summer, it's time to get your act together if you hope to reserve a night in a popular room with a view.

Read on for specific information regarding cabins and lookouts in the Clearwater National Forest, including Kelly Creek areas.

Update: Sketchy Andy lives long enough to perform with Madonna

SLACKLINING — Andy Lewis, who thrilled and chilled viewers at the 2011 Banff Mountain Film Festival, shared his slacklining genius in a flawless performance on stage with Madonna in Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show.

The video above shows the death-defying balance of the daredevil who caught the eye of Super Bowl talent scouts. 

See his part in Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show here.

See today's interview in the New York Times here.

The movie that coined him as “Sketchy Andy” caught the eye of REEL ROCK and Banff Film Fest judges last year — as Andy's friends verbalized their fear that he may someday — soon —  find the end of his rope.

But not before he performed before millions with the Material Girl.

Click here to see the interview ABC landed with the California native on Monday.

Video: Bicycling as though gravity isn’t a factor

CYCLING — All this snow-free winter weather and the bare roads have turned my thoughts occasionally to bicycling.

However, this video suggests I have a long way to go before learning everything about riding a ROAD bike.

Congress may allow online Duck Stamp purchases nationwide

HUNTING — It looks as though Congress is going to make it easier for sportsmen to one-stop-shop for state and federal waterfowl hunting licenses. That's good news for the sport and for wetland habitats.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 373-1 recently to forward a bill that would allow hunters to buy their federal duck stamps online, similar to the way state hunting licenses can be purchased.

The e-Duck Stamp program started four years ago on a trial basis in eight states, including Idaho (but not Washington). The program allows hunters 16 and older to purchase temporary duck stamps online until their physical stamps arrive in the mail.

Prior to this pilot program, waterfowl hunters were required to buy federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps, at post offices and sporting goods stores. The trouble came when suppliers ran out of stamps early in the season or small rural post offices didn't carry the stamps at all.

If the U.S. Senate follows the overwhelming approval of the House vote, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have the authority to make the program permanent and extend it to all states.

The Federal Duck Stamp was created in 1934 as a federal waterfowl hunting license and a means to conserve waterfowl habitat. The program has generated more than $800 million to protect more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States, land now part of the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamps cost $15 per year, with 98 percent of revenue going straight to land purchases, easements and leases.

Update: Souper Bowl brings women to Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — A great Souper Bowl turnout of women and girls made the most of a perfect day at Mount Spokane to ski, snowshoe and lunch for the benefit of the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant.

The bottom line: ‎280 women came out for the event, enabling volunteers to raise $12,872 for the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant, surpassing last year's effort.

Congratulate yourselves, ladies.

Washington releases flurry of stuff on fishing, hunting rules

FISH AND WILDLIFE — Fishing rules adopted for 2012… upcoming meetings about the Pend Oreille River pike fishery… revised hunting proposals for 2012-2014  — all of this is involved in a small blizzard of proposals and adoptions coming out of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department in the past few days.

It's taking time to get explanation for some of what's going on. Pursuing.

Apparently the agency's biologists defied conservation sense and collapsed to pressure — FROM WHERE?  — to lift selective fishery regulations and allow juveniles to use bait to fish for trout in the Kettle River from the Highway 21 bridge at Curlew north to the Canada border near Danville.

The justification remains unclear as to why the agency would want to back off a working conservation effort on native fish. Curlew area kids have an excellent bait fishing opportunity at Curlew Lake. These kids are losing a valuable conservation education opportunity with a new rule allowing adults to rig them up to kill native trout.

Here are links to recent announcements on three fish and wildlife developments we're following:

Commission adopts new sportfishing seasons, rules at weekend meeting in Olympia.

Click here for the agenda and revised summaries of what was voted on.

Pend Oreille River northern pike plans to be presented in Spokane, Usk on Feb. 15-16.

Proposed rule changes for hunting seasons in 2012-2014.

Proposed northeastern Washington elk management plan.

Read on for the initial response the agency offers for going ahead with the Commission-proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River:

Fly Fishing Film Tour in Spokane Wednesday at The Bing

ANGLING — Beckie Clarke, the Fernie, British Columbia, guide pictured above, leads filmmakers to top-rate bull trout fishing in the Elk River Valley in one of the flicks to be featured in the annual Fly Fishing Film Tour, starting in Spokane at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 8) at the Bing Crosby Theater.

The tour has been a full-house attraction in recent years, featuring about eight fishing flicks edited into a two-hour show.

Tickets: $12 in advance at Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley, Westslope Fly Shop next to Northern Lights Brewery, Swede’s Fly Shop on North Ash Street and Castaway Fly Shop in Coeur d’Alene.

Tickets cost $15 at the door or online.

Click here for details about the show and all the films.

Click here for a film clip and my profile of a Missouri River guide who idled his rod to photograph other guides relishing the dry fly action near Craig, Mont.

The Fly Fishing Film Tour will be returning to the Inland Northwest on April 20 in Sandpoint.

Fly fishing, map and compass and wetlands on outdoor event schedule

OUTDOOR PROGRAMS — Here's a few outdoor programs to consider catching this week:

Fly fishing – “Match the Hatch Simplified,” free program by Oregon fly-fishing author Dave Hughes, 7 p.m., Wednesday (Feb. 8) at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, hosted by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

Map and compass – Free seminar on basics of reading a map and applying a compass for navigation, 7 p.m., Thursday (Feb. 9), at REI. Pre-register here to assure a spot.

Wetlands – The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising banquet for wetlands conservation on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in Pullman. Tickets: Joe Ford (509) 872-3030.

Spokane’s Mountain Gear easy on environment

CONSERVATION — Backpacker magazine and SNEWS named Spokane-based Mountain Gear the Sustainable Retailer of the Year at the recent 2012 Winter Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

The annual award honors outdoor retailers that stand out as leaders for the industry and the communities they serve.

 “This award recognizes the efforts of our entire team to be a sustainable organization and to continually learn and try new ways to reduce our footprint,” said Paul Fish, company president.

The S-R has reported for years on Mountain Gear's environmental activities. Among the stories:

The award givers at the recent Outdoor Retailer show also were impressed with Mountain Gear’s corporate headquarters (see map), an old warehouse renovated with skylights, energy management systems and drought-tolerant landscaping irrigated with collected rainwater.

Recycled materials, low-flow plumbing, waterless urinals and energy-efficient lighting were added. Incentives for employees to commute efficiently or bike to work top it all off.

When skinny skiers go wild

NORDIC SKIING — In honor of the upcoming (Feb. 12) Spokane Langlauf, the annual 10K cross-country ski event at Mount Spokane, let your mind soar and your body be sore while viewing the lengths some skinny skiers will go to be just like crazy alpine skiers, only different.

Langlauf is part of the Selkirk Nordic Series.

Legislature considering hunting, fishing, wildlife bills

WILDLIFE LAWS — The Washington Legislature is considering numerous bills that relate to hunters, anglers and wildlife.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine posted this update on last week's activity.

Weekend reading: WDFW posts revised hunting rules proposals for 2012-2014

HUNTING — A few days later than scheduled, proposals for hunting rules and seasons for 2012-2014 have finally been posted on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department website.

Check them out. The Fish and Wildlife Commission will take more public input on the proposals during its March meeting in Moses Lake.

 
2012-2014 Hunting Season
The Wildlife Program is currently in the process of developing the 2012-14 hunting seasons. The first public comment period (8/15-9/20) has just wrapped up and department staff are currently analyzing the information received. Hunting season recommendations will be developed and available for public review in early January. Learn more >>

Pre-teen perk: 5th, 6th graders can ski free

WINTER SPORTS — If you have a fifth or sixth grader in the family, take advantage of the free skiing programs offered at many of the region's resorts to encourage youngsters to check out the sports of skiing and snowboarding.

The 5th grade ski FREE passport  gives these prime learning-age kids free lift tickets at more than 20 Inland Northwest resorts.

Idaho resorts offer the perk to 5th and 6th graders.

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

Read on for more details.

Avalanche advisory: snowpack has weak layers

WINTER SPORTS — Storms helped the region's mountains catch up on precipitation in the past two weeks — as you can see from powder piled deep in this Selkirk Mountains sunrise photo iPhoned to me this morning by backcountry skier Alison Boggs.

But the snowpack also developed some weak layers, avalanche experts say.

Technicians from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center observed natural avalanches during their Thursday survey and documented some persistent weak layers.

“Falling snow won't be a concern for a while, but the sun and rising temperatures could be,” said technician Kevin Davis. “Break out you're spring travel tricks if it's getting too warm or if we get inversions. Those crusts are becoming more of a concern as they continue to break down.”

Read on for the full advisory posted this morning, or click here to check out the center's new website under construction.

Wetlands conservation banquet set in Pullman

WETLAND CONSERVATION — The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising event on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in downtown Pullman. 

Social hour starts at 4 p.m. A ticket gets you in for heavy hors doeurves, a drink of choice, the fundraising auction and membership in Ducks Unlimited, which is celebrating its 75th year of efforts for waterfowl conservation.

For tickets, contact Joe Ford (509) 872-3030; Vic DeMacon (509) 336-9151, or Jeremy Lessmann (509) 336-9559.

Since 1937, DU has conserved 12 million acres of habitat across North America, benefiting more than 900 different species of wildlife.

Snake fights back against attacking osprey

WILDLIFE — I have not been able to track down the source of these November photos that are making rounds on the Internet, but they tell an intriguing tale in the world of predators and prey.

Apparently a paddler pulled from the water an osprey that had tried to make a meal of a snake.  But the snake was able to wrap itself around the osprey's neck and lock into a choke hold.

The rescuer reportedly is shown untying the snake from the half-drown bird and letting it loose, while the osprey stood, drying in the sun and trying to recover.  That's all I know.

See for yourself. Click “continue reading” for the unattributed text in the email describing the rest of the fascinating photos.

Photo shows draw of ice fishing, hot dogs

FISHING — This photo illustrates the crowd that can be attracted by offering the free loan of ice fishing gear.

More than 350 people showed up at Hauser Lake Saturday for an Idaho Fish and Game Department Take Me Fishing event. They borrowed gear, feasted on free hot dogs and hot chocolate and fished through the ice for a few hours with no licenses required.

Oh deer! Python has big appetite

WILDLIFE — This week's story about the havoc Burmese pythons are inflicting on wildlife in the Florida Everglades has been brewing for quite a while.

Here's my November blog post featuring photos of a python that had swallowed an entire deer - whole.

Anti-hunters would love species to death

ENDANGERED SPECIES — On Sunday, the CBS news program 60 Minutes highlighted the killer instinct within animal rights/anti-hunting organizations.

Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral was allowed to explain how she's worked to help enact rules requiring a federal permit to hunt the endangered scimitar-horned oryx in the United States.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted an explanation of the new rule  — including a list of myths and explanation of the new red tape the rule requires — after the 60 Minutes report aired.

At face value, this appears to be a noble cause to Feral's financial supporters. After all, why would anyone want to hunt an endangered antelope species that's on the brink of extinction?

In the 60 Minutes segment, reporter Lara Logan asks that question repeatedly to the Texas game ranchers who have used high-fence ranches and hunting to help save three antelope species that have essentially gone extinct in Africa.

“If the species is endangered, why do you hunt them?” she asked.

The answer:  We hunt a few for the survival of the species.

The ranchers clearly explained they have imported antelopes such as the beautiful scimitar-horned oryx to huge fenced preserves where the species has been nourished and allowed to prosper and maintain a gene pool for reintroductions into their native Africa.

Meantime, in order to pay for maintaining these herds in Texas, sportsmen pay a hefty fee to hunt and harvest a few of the oryx that have lived well into maturity and spread their genetics to numerous offspring.

Without hunting to pay the bills, U.S. game ranchers won't be able to afford to maintain oryx herds.

Simple as that, the species could go poof.  

Pricilla Feral said she'd rather see extinction that hunting.

That's sick.  But it's a well-funded position.

Bring a newbie, get half-off on Langlauf entry

NORDIC SKIING —  The annual Langlauf 10-kilometer cross-country ski race, set for Feb. 12 at Mount Spokane, is offering a two-for-one $25 entry fee for skiers who enter along with a first-time participant.

Langlauf is the most popular nordic ski event in the region, featuring lottery prizes for everyone who participates. The fastest skiers get medals and ribbons, but everyone has a chance to win things like skis, restaurant meals and vacation accomodations at ski destinations.

Enter online at spokanelanglauf.org.

Need more info?  Call Fitness Fanatics, (509) 922-6080.

Snowshoeing basics program Thursday at REI

WINTER SPORTS — A free program on the basics of snowshoeing will be presented Thursday (Feb. 2), 7 p.m. at REI in Spokane.

The class will focus on selecting appropriate gear (including women’s specific gear) and finding out where to go snowshoeing in this region.

The class is free, but space is limited. Preregister at www.rei.com/spokane.

Montana’s latest toll on wolves

PREDATORS — Hunters across Montana have shot 145 wolves since the season opened in early September.

The state has set a statewide quota of 220 wolves for the season that started in early September. If that quota is reached, it would reduce the state's wolf population to roughly 425 animals before the spring pupping season. 

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission recently extended the wolf hunt through Feb. 15, unless quotas are met for individual districts.

Several hunting units have met quotas and hunting has been closed.

Unlike Idaho, Montana does not allow public wolf trapping.

IDAHO: See details here on Idaho's toll of at least 269 wolves killed by hunters and trappers since August.

Idaho Fish and Game’s annual report online

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idaho Fish and Game Department Director Virgil Moore delivered the state of the agency report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission last week. 

The annual report, available online, details the agency's funding sources and how officials spent the money.

The report also includes overviews of each bureau.

Selway-Bitterroot foundation banquet features fish biologist

WILDERNESS — The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation — a group that offers all sorts of hands-on support for the two fabled Idaho wilderness areas — is holding its 6th Annual Winter Gathering and Fundraiser Saturday (Feb. 4) starting at 6:30 p.m. at The Orchid Room in Lewiston.

The foundation is an honorable group with 2012 plans that will interest people who support and enjoy wilderness. The evening includes wilderness-oriented auctions along with wine, beer and hors d’ouvres.

The keynote speaker is Forest Service fisheries biologist Katherine Thompson, who's doing fisheries research on the Selway River.

Can't attend but still want to support stewardship of the Selway and Frank?
Become a member of the SBFC here and help care of our wilderness and trails!

Time to apply for Idaho spring turkey, bear hunts

HUNTING — Idaho's application period for spring turkey controlled hunts starts today and runs to March 1.

The application period for spring black bear ends Feb. 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later.

Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

See details on the Idaho Fish and Game Department website.

Idaho to get good share of spring chinook run

SALMON FISHING — If the chinook salmon returns for 2012 holds up to the early forecast, anglers in Idaho could enjoy the third best run in more than 30 years.

The forecast suggests a return that’s a little more robust than last year, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries bureau chief Ed Schriever told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday.

The fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2002 and 2010, he said. If the run materializes as forecast, the numbers heading for Idaho look even better – exceeded only by 2001 and 2010.

Read on for more details from Idaho Fish and Game.

Bright side: lack of snow reduces roadkill

WILDLIFE — It's not something that strikes everyone, but the relatively shallow lowland snow accumulation this winter has made an impact on the sportsman's club that volunteers to pick up road-killed big game.

“It seems we are picking up more animals hung up in fences than off the road,” said Wanda Clifford, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council executive director.

The council has a special permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to deal with freshly dead or mortally injured big game around the area.  “Wildlife Recovery Team” members are trained in how to handle and sometime dispatch game. If the meat is salvagable, they have the permits to take it to local charities for distribution to the poor.

But this winter, the crew isn't working nearly as hard as it did last year.

“Right now it seems we are picking up one or two animals a week compared to that number in a day when the winter is heavy with snow,” Clifford said.

Everybody likes to see wildlife getting a break, but the side effect is that fewer people get to eat salvaged meat.

Read on for the report on the more than SIX TONS of nutritious meat the Recovery Team was able to provide the needly last year.

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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