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Outdoors blog

Archive for March 2012

Photo captures fury of Palouse Falls at flood stage

RIVERS — Leave it to photographer Brian Jamieson of Spokane to capture Palouse Falls today with an image so telling you can almost hear the thunder of the river running at flood stage.  Big!

See more of Jamieson's photography in his photo album.

See another spectacular shot made today by Northwest Artistic Photography.

Region is flush with great spring hikes to waterfalls

STATE PARKS — The Palouse River is running flood-stage big this week, prompting prime time for a visit to Palouse Falls State Park.

The park is between Washtucna, Wash., and the Snake River at Lyons Ferry

The falls are chocolate brown and thundering about 185 feet in a billowing cloud, as the folks at Lyons Ferry Marina verify in the photo (left).

Palouse Falls State Park (Discover Pass required) has some sweet hiking trails leading out toward the falls.

BE CAREFUL if you hike. Some trails lead right to the edge of steep cliffs, and they are particularly slippery when wet.

Do you love hiking and waterfalls? Here are details on some sweet waterfall hiking destinations in this region.

TV host tells his side of Idaho illegal hunting citation

HUNTING — On March 20, I devoted my weekly Outdoors column to the case of Oregon hunter Bob Beck, a TV hunting show host, who pleaded guilty to shooting two deer in Idaho even though he had only one non-resident tag.

The  case was made a year after the 2010 hunt when a sportsman gave Idaho Fish and Game a tip after seeing the hunt and the killing of both deer on Beck's Extreme Outer Limits program, which aired on the Sportsman Channel. Beck did not own up to the illegal kill until he was confronted by authorities. The guilty plea was entered and the fines were assessed in February 2012.

Beck has issues with my reporting and commentary on the case. He's elaborated his concerns in posts at many online forums.

Indeed, he's working to have details on the outcome of the case changed. But as of this week, the ruling remains the same as I reported it on March 20 based on information from Idaho Fish and Game Department investigators and the Benewah County prosecutor.

I'll update any changes that develop in the case.

As of today, the case is still active in Oregon.

Meanwhile, you can hear Beck's version of the case in his own words in a radio interview conducted last week by John Kruse of Northwest Outdoors Radio.

The taped interview will air on the show as follows:

  • on 1240 KOFE in St. Maries Saturdays at 8 AM.
  • on 920 KXLY  in Spokane Sunday at 6 AM.
  • on 1230 KSBN in Spokane on Sunday at 2 PM.

Kruse also plans a follow-up interview with Beck..

BLM reopens Rock Creek-Escure Ranch; seeks leads on vandalism

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been reopened after the agency repaired about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

Report any tips that might lead to the arrest of the vandals to the BLM Spokane District Office, 1103 N. Fancher Road, Spokane, Washington, or call (509) 536-1200.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch for about 70 years before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here, it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

Governor signs Discover Pass bill; two-vehicle covered starting today

PUBLIC LANDS — A Washington Discover Pass — required for parking in state parks and most other state lands — is valid for two vehicles starting today, according to legislation signed this afternoon by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The change took effect immediately. Holders of previously issued annual Discover Passes may enter a second vehicle license number on their existing pass.

The rule making the $30 annual pass valid for only one vehicle was largely criticized by consumers after the state recreation land pass was enacted in July 2011.

Pass transfer between two vehicles also applies to vehicle access passes (VAPs) issued free with purchases of annual fishing and hunting licenses for access to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recreation lands and water- access sites.

Read on for more details from Washington State Parks.

Spring closure limits upper Columbia anglers, protects spawning rainbows

FISHING — Washington regulations prohibit fishing March 1-May 25 in two stretches of the upper Columbia River (listed under Lake Roosevelt rules) near Northport.

Today's Fishing-Hunting report in the Sports section said anglers have been catching big spawnng rainbows near gravel bars in the Northport area.

Well, they'd better be careful where they're doing that.

The report did not mention anglers lobbied two years ago for the spawning closures, which prohibit fishing in stretches that include the mouths of Sheep Creek, Deep Creek and Onion Creek to protect the big rainbows at a vulnerable period.

See details on page 96 of the 2011-2012 fishing regulations for definitions of the CLOSED WATERS, one stretch above Northport and one below.

The photo above shows the boundary markers for those two stretches of water.

Lake Roosevelt levels continue to drop

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1259.10 this morning, as it continues to drop about a foot a day, a trend likely to continue for the next week at least.

“With an increase in precipitation, the water supply forecast is increasing. As a result, the lake level is predicted to be approximately 1257 by March 31,” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports today, noting that Lake Roosevelt is now being operated for flood control.

Based on the current forecast it is now estimated that the flood control elevation for Lake Roosevelt at the end of April will be in the 1220-1225 range.

The official forecast will be available during the week of April 9 and the actual flood control elevation for the end of April will be set.

Click here
for more detail concerning the forecast for the Columbia River System.

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

Avalanche advisory: Dangerous conditions widespread

WINTER SPORTS — Winter has ended on a high note in terms of snow in the mountains, with a better than average snowpack that is still accumulating. 

Skiers, boarders and snowmobilers should find great spring riding well into June this year, said Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

BUT anyone braving the mountains during this wet weekend should be aware of the “considerable” potential for avalanche on the steep slopes.

Read on for the region's full avalanche advisory.  

Ospreys migrating back to Spokane area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Tundra swans are flocking to the region, enjoying the  fields and sloughs flooded with our record March wetness.

But while the swans will continue north in their spring migration, other birds are moving in to say all summer and raise broods in our midst.

Among the recent arrivals:

Brad & I found our first osprey of the year on the dike road between Silver and North Silver Lake in Spokane County on March 28.

—Fran Haywood, Spokane birder

Paddlers have eye on surging Hangman Creek

PADDLING — Spokane paddler and guidebook author Dan Hansen couldn't find a scouting report for a stretch of Hangman Creek at high water, so he set out by foot to find out for himself.

Hansen hiked the 10-mile stretch from the Qualchan Historical Monument site downstream to Valley Chapel Road and found excellent paddling water — with a few big rapids to be aware of — at a flow of about 1,000 cubic feet per second.

“At many times of year, Hangman Creek generally flows at less than 200 cubic feet per second. But rain on snow can make the water spike, presenting an opportunity for paddlers,” Hansen said.
 
A rain-on-snow event can cause the creek's flow to more than double in 24 hours. It might be 4,000 cfs one day and dropping quickly two days later. And within a few days, the rush is over.

See Dan Hansen's Facebook page video report of Hangman Creek at 1,000 cfs.

Note:  Hansen previously reported that he floated the river at 3,500 cfs. Here's his retraction of that initial report:

“A group of us ran that section of the creek after I sent that…. It was 1,000 CFS, and it was actually just about perfect. I remember thinking at the time that my initial assessment of the creek was wrong. I’d be scared to death to run it at 3,500.”

This week: On Tuesday, Hangman Creek peaked at almost 3,500 cfs. It's down to 1,700 today but likely will go back up considering the amount of rain in the weather forecast.

Directions to Qualchan Historial Monument:

Drive south from Spokane to Waverly, which is just southwest of Fairfield. From the main street tavern, go north and west on Spangle/Waverly Road 5.5 miles. Turn right and follow North Kentuck Trails Road just over 2 miles to Hangman Creek. Cross the bridge and start looking for the small monument on the left.

Palouse Falls is a rage; prime time for a hike

STATE PARKS — The Palouse River is running big this week, prompting prime time for a visit to Palouse Falls State Park.

The park is between Washtucna, Wash., and the Snake River at Lyons Ferry

The falls are chocolate brown and thundering about 185 feet in a billowing cloud, as the folks at Lyons Ferry Marina verify in the photo above.

Palouse Falls State Park  (Discover Pass required) has some sweet hiking trails leading out toward the falls.

BE CAREFUL if you hike. Some trails lead right to the edge of steep cliffs, and they are particularly slippery when wet.

Do you love waterfalls? Here are some sweet area waterfall hiking destinations.

OK given to remove Mill Pond Dam from Sullivan Creek

STREAMS — The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a permit that allows the Pend Oreille County PUD to remove Mill Pond Dam, which is downstream from Sullivan Lake. This long-planned project would improve miles of fisheries habitat.

Another two years of planning will be needed before the work can begin.

Read on for history and details from the Department of Ecology.

STP still hot on cyclists’s summer tour list

 

CYCLING — The 200-mile Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic — which can be done in one or two days — shows no signs of declining in popularity.

STP, the Northwest's largest multi-day cycling event, capped at 10,000 riders, filled it's quota on Feb. 21 this year — a full month earlier than in 2011.

The event was founded 32 years ago and is organized like a well-tuned machine by the Cascade Bicycle Club.

Who rode STP in 2011?

  • 10,000 riders
  • Oldest rider: 85
  • 18% first-time riders
  • 100 safety and medical riders
  • 30 Ride Referees
  • 228 riders who have participated in 10+ STPs
  • One rider who has ridden them all: Jerry Baker!
  • Riders came from 42 states plus Canada (Alberta, B.C. & Ontario) and England.

Skiing into spring at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Spokane photographer Brian Jamieson caught the flavor of the fun and action at Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park's Pond Skim event last weekend.

Yellowstone elk decline continues; wolves only partially responsible

WILDLIFE — A major elk herd that migrates between Yellowstone National Park and Montana suffered another steep decline last year due to a hard winter, predator attacks and hunting, state and federal scientists said Tuesday.

An Associated Press report says new data from wildlife agencies show the Northern Yellowstone elk herd is down to about 4,174 animals, a 10 percent drop from the prior year’s count. That follows a 24 percent drop in 2011.

Yellowstone biologist Doug Smith said the herd remains healthy despite its smaller size. The number is more in line with historic levels since wolves were reintroduced and grizzly bears and mountain lions returned naturally, he said.

The herd peaked at about 20,000 animals in 1992, a few years before wolves were brought back from Canada after being absent from the region for decades. Since then, the herd has declined about 80 percent.

Read on for details from the AP.

Idaho Legislature kills bills aimed at cyclists, ATV hunters

Two bills of interest to outdoor recreationists have died in the Idaho Legislature.

  • Legislation that would have taken away the authority of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to regulate hunting with ATVs died in the state Senate on a 20-15 vote. See the story here.
  •  
  • Idaho state Rep. Roy Lacey's H.586 would have required motorists to give bicyclists a three-foot safety zone when passing them on the roadway. See the story here.

Bicycle ‘Ride Around Washington’ coming to Palouse

BICYCLING — RAW — the popular Ride Around Washington organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club — is focusing its 2012 on the region from Chewelah south through Spokane and around the Palouse. 

The seven-day, 400-mile supported bike tour isn't until Aug. 4-10, but it's already 92 percent SOLD OUT.

Download the 2012 RAW Ride Guide for a detailed description.

  • The guide is a masterpiece of organization, with checklists worth reading for any bicycle tours.

Online-only registration for RAW opened on January 10, 2012.  It was 92 percent sold out on March 27. 

Cyclists may join the Cascade Bicycle Club when registering for the event or in advance by visiting the membership page.

More heat on hunters to get the lead out

HUNTING — Birding and wildlfie groups are focusing the spotlight on hunters and shooters who use lead shot and bullets claiming that 20 million birds die each year of lead poisoning.

Read the story here.

Lynx shows up at wolverine bait station

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Although they're trying to document the presence of wolverines, getting good snapshots of a Canada lynx still made the day for volunteers monitoring bait stations for the wolverine research project trail cams in North Idaho last week.

The photo comes from a bait station set up by Idaho Fish and Game, which is partnering on the research with Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Note the black tufts on the tips of the ears, and the huge furry feet that give it snowshoe-like buoyancy  on the snow. The winter track of a lynx looks as though a powder puff has been dabbed in the snow.

The lynx, which is federally listed as a threatened species, feeds primarily on snowshoe hares

See more bait station photos of the lynx as well as of the volunteers and other critters visiting the bait stations — on the Wolverine Study Facebook Page.

Vandalism forces temporary closure of BLM’s Escure Ranch, Rock Creek

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been closed as the agency repairs about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

The BLM has been investigating the incident and officials say repairs should be complete so the area can by reopened by the weekend.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here (when the closure is lifted) it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

Mount Rainier ultra bike ride registration deadline looms

CYCLING — RAMROD, the grueling Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day, isn't until July 26, but Saturday (March 31) is the deadline to register for the lottery drawing to get in to one of the region's premier thigh-busting bicycling events.

Sponsored by the Redmond Cycling Club, RAMROD is a challenging ultra-ride of 152 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing.  The nature of the ride, with three major climbs and a route through Mount Rainier National Park, requires the club to limit the event to 800 cyclists.

Applications are accepted through March 31 for the lottery to determine participants.

Cost: $105.

Drawing is April 12.

Deadline looms for multiple season permit applications

HUNTING — Saturday, March 31st is the last day to purchase a Washington multiple season permit application for 2012. This permit allows a sportsman to hunt in the archery, muzzleloader and modern rifle seasons rather than having to choose just one weapon type.

The number of deer permits has increased this year from 4,000 to 8,500 and elk permits from 850 to 1,000.

Click here for more information.

Click here to purchase an application.

Snowshoers find plenty to walk on

WINTER SPORTS — Photo shows a group of snowshoers enjoying a fine March 24 during the 6th annual Goat Mountain trek above Lake Pend Oreille. Almost daily snowfall in the previous five days has left fresh layers on a deep snowpack.

The hike is one of the many active events organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

4,000 miles of roads closed on Wallowa-Whitman forest

PUBLIC LANDS — Passenger cars, ATVs, dirt bikes and four-wheel-drive rigs will be prohibited on on nearly 4,000 miles of roads in northeastern Oregon's Wallowa-Whitman National Forest starting in June.

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest management plan, entered last week into the Federal Register — prohibits motorized vehicles on 3,835 miles of roads and ATV trails in a 1.3 million-acre area of the forest in Union, Baker and Wallowa counties.

Opponents based in Enterprise already are organizing. They have 45 days to appeal. However, some groups and fisheries officials support the closure.

Earlier versions of the policy triggered one of the most vocal resistance efforts in the state, with more than 6,000 people signing petitions urging the U.S. Forest Service to leave all the forest's roads open, according to a story by the Oregonian.

The changes don't affect motorized travel in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, but they will affect some areas used by groups such asberry pickers and hunters.

 There's still plenty of places to go by motor power. The 2.3 million-acre Wallowa-Whitman has a total of 9,111 miles of road.
  

Panhandle Mountaineer will describe alpine adventures

CLIMBING – Karl Dietrich, an accomplished North Idaho mountaineer, will be presenting a slide show of his alpine adventures at 6 p.m., March 29 at the Laughing Dog Brewery in Ponderay, sponsored by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Chilly good-bye: Diary, days 18-21

SNOWMOBILING — The last leg of their adventure following the Iditarod Sled Dog Race started smoothly as Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane left Nome, Alaska, to run back 250 miles to return a borrowed snowmobile at Unalakleet.

But the biggest adventure of the trip that would total nearly 1,400 miles was on its way.
 
The first day was a sweet 106 miles to a cozy cabin, and the next day another swift 125 miles in cold, clear weather.
 
Then the blizzard hit. Bob got stuck in a whiteout. Josh fell through a snowbridge and soaked his feet in a creek.
 
Read on for the details and photos on how they holed up and survived thelast day and night of their irondogging trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Loal paddler presents program on Bowron Lakes

PADDLING  – Dwight McCain of the Coeur d’Alene Canoe and Kayak Club will present a free program on paddling the 72-mile Bowron Lakes circuit in the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia on Monday (March 26), 7 p.m., at Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Local photographers set spring seminar, speaker

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — The annual photographic seminar and field trips sponsored by the Inland Empire Chapter of the Photographic Society of America will be held March 31-April 2 at Spokane Community College.

Professional photographer Nevada Wier is the featured presenter for the event, which also includes three free all-day Field Trips, on Monday April 2.

Click here for information and registration.

South Hill Bluffs look spiffier tonight, thanks to volunteers

TRAILS — In the photo above, volunteers pose with the metal-recyclable garbage they picked up today from the South Hill Bluff below High Drive.

Bravo, and a special tip of the hat to the teenagers.
 
If this looks like a crew you'd like to join for the “firewise efforts” to protect the network of trails and the adjacent neighborhoods and for other worthu projects on the bluff, contact Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu.
 
Or check them out on their High Drive Bluffs Facebook Page.
 

Upper Columbia steelheading closes Sunday

STEELHEAD FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has issued an emergency closure of fishing for steelhead and whitefish in the Uppler columbia river tributaries effective a half hour after sunset Sunday.

Actions: Close the Methow, Wenatchee, and Icicle Rivers on March 25 to fishing for steelhead and whitefish.

Read on for the details of the emergency just posted.

Cyclists rule in Yellowstone Park this week

BICYCLING —  Here’s another sign of springtime in Yellowstone National Park: Portions of the park have opened to bicycling.

The park has closed to snowmobiles for the winter but has yet to open to motorized vehicles for the summer.

In the meantime, bicyclists can travel between West Yellowstone, Madison, Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs, although not to Old Faithful or Canyon.

Park officials say bicyclists should be well prepared for weather that can quickly change to severe snow, ice and cold. Potentially dangerous animals including bison and grizzly bears are out and about and no services are available.

Yellowstone officials say anybody bicycling in Yellowstone this time of year should be ready to endure winter conditions for an extended period and be able to rescue themselves if necessary.

Spokane Bike Swap sets up at fairgrounds

BICYCLING — The Spokane Bike Swap is taking shape at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Bike vendors are setting up and sellers can bring bikes in until 8 p.m.

Shop for bikes Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-noon.

Admission: $5 per person, free for 12 and under.

Lake Roosevelt levels continue downward trend

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1265.10 at 11 a.m.

The reservoir's elevation is expected to continue to decline over the next week. With an increase in precipitation, the water supply forecast appears to be increasing. As a result, the lake level is predicted to be approximately 1258 by March 31.

Lake Roosevelt is now being operated for flood control and is continuing to meet power demand, Hanford Reach flows and tailwater flows for chum below Bonneville Dam.

The March Water Forecast has the flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt as follows:

  • March 31 – 1268.4 feet
  • April 15 – 1252.4 feet
  • April 30 – 1237.0 feet

For a forecast updated daily at 3 p.m., call (800) 824-4916.
  

Avalanche advisory: watch out on the steeps

WINTER SPORTS — “Snowfall continues in the mountains and the riding conditions Thursday were superb,” reports Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center after his North Idaho mountains snow survey. 

” It was easy to figure out where not to go yesterday with the signs being easy to read.  Small natural slides on NE slopes and human triggered slides on south slopes told us to keep it off the steeps. 

“You might see these slides from yesterday but you probably won’t see slopes sliding naturally today.  You could, however, trigger these weak layers on slopes steeper than 35 degrees and the big stuff above 5,500 feet will be unstable where wind-loaded. 

“When it warms up this weekend, and it could get downright balmy, avoid steep terrain on any slope and stay away from cornices.  Great snow out there right now, just continue to be careful.”

Read on for the entire report for the region.

Annual Buttercup Hike Saturday at Dishman Hills

HIKING — The 46th annual Buttercup Hike led by the Dishman Hills Natural Area society is set to for Saturday, starting at noon at the Camp Caro lower parking lot.

The hike moves at a gentle pace for all to enjoy.

 

South Hill Bluffs to get TLC Saturday

TRAILS — Join the fun as the 'Friends of the Bluff' are having a trash cleanup day Saturday (March 24), 9am - Noon.

Meet at the main trail head just south of the Bernard and High intersection. Be prepared for the weather and to hike to our two focused sites which are 1/4 and 3/4 mile down the slope.

Volunteers are encouraged to:

  • -Wear heavy duty clothing, leather gloves, and hiking footwear
  • Bring wheelbarrows/dollys with ratchet straps and ropes as tie downs
  • Bring several sturdy cloth bags (think reusable grocery bags) for the smaller stuff
  • Bring plenty of water to drink

    Post event cool down at the Rocket Market (0.8 miles east at the corner of High Dr/Hatch).

Jim Schrock of Earthworks Recycling www.earthworksrecycling.com is donating the metals disposal bin.

					Diana Roberts, PhD Area Extension Agronomist WSU Spokane/Lincoln County Extension 222 N Havana St Spokane WA 99202-4799 Phone: 509-477-2167 Fax: 509-477-2087 Email: robertsd@wsu.edu 

Commission to set Washington hunting rules April 13-14

HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will vote on about a dozen proposals involving significant changes in hunting regulations for the 2012-2014 seasons when it meets April 13-14 in Olympia.

Fish and Wildlife Department game managers gave the panel detailed presentations on the proposals during the commission meeting earlier this month in Moses Lake.

Audio files posted on the commission's website allow you to listen to those presentations as well as the public comment on the agenda topics.

Click here to see the revised proposals the commission will be considering next month.

Where’s Aldo? His words ring true 125 years after his birth

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us.

“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

― Aldo Leopold

Idaho sets 2012 big-game hunting seasons

HUNTING — Idaho's 2012 big-game hunting seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, gray wolf and mountain lion hunts were set today by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

The commissioners adopted Fish and Game staff recommendations and added a few changes of their own.

Read on for details.

Idaho adopts spring chinook fishing seasons

SALMON FISHING — Anglers will be able to start fishing for a big run of chinook salmon in Idaho waters on April 22 under a fishing seasons and rules package adopted today by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

Chinook fishing will open in the Clearwater River, Snake River, Little Salmon and lower Salmon River in what's could be the third largest run since the fishery opened 12 years ago.

Closing dates will be announced later by Idaho Fish and Game Department officials.

The season is based on forecasts that an estimated 83,600 adult hatchery origin fish will cross Lower Granite Dam.

Read on for season details as released minutes ago by Idaho Fish and Game.

New map plots up to 10 wolf packs in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Up to 10 wolf packs could be roaming in Washington, according to a new wolf recovery map (above) posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If the evidence leads to confirmation, that would be 100 percent increase in the state's verified wolf packs over the past year.

Most of the wolf activity is in northeastern Washington, but the pack activity is being found in the Blue Mountains and even the North Cascades.

A good update on the Washington wolf situation, summarizing the presentation state wildlife officials made at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commisison earlier this month, has been posted by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

The Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department recently introduced an online wolf-reporting tool that enables the public to help alert wolf researchers to expanding wolf activity.

Click here to listen to the audio transcript of the March 9 wolf presentation.

Another study verifies bear spray beats guns

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A Brigham Young University study has supported previous research indicating that bear spray is a more effective deterrant to a grizzly bear attack than a gun.

See the story about the research in the Billings Gazette.

See my story package on the use of bear spray plus a video on how to use bear spray effectively.

Colville Forest seeks comment on Power Lake project

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest has released a proposal to thin trees and decommission some roads in the Calispell Creek drainage southeast of 49 Degrees North Ski Area.

The public has until mid-April to comment on the environmental assessment for the proposed Power Lake Vegetation Management project.

Proposed treatments would include fish habitat improvement through decommissioning approximately 4 miles of road, replacing or removing 10 culverts, and commercial timber harvest and thinning on up to 8,000 acres to improve forest health and reduce fire danger while improving wildlife habitat.

In order to complete these treatments, temporary and new road will be constructed and approximately 2 miles of County Road 2022 (Middle Fork Calispell Creek Road) will be relocated onto County Road 2030 (Bartlett Road) and Forest Road 3500050 to improve fish habitat and water quality. Approximately 21 miles of currently closed roads in the project area are proposed to be decommissioned to protect resource values.

Video: 1947 diposal of sodium in Lake Lenore

FISHING — This archive video has been making the rounds for a few years, but it's worth bringing up for a little fishing camp banter now that the fishing for Lahontan cutthroats is picking up at Lake Lenore.

The 1947 newsreel shows the U.S. War Assets Administration using Lake Lenore as a disposal site for drums of sodium into the lake.

Lake Lenore is in Grant County south of Coulee City, Wash.  At the time of this newsreel, it was thought to be too alkaline to support fish.

Decades later, Washington fisheries biologists imported Lahontan cutthroat trout stock originating from the alkaline waters of Pyramid Lake, Nev.  The fish thrived in Lenore — as well as farther north in Douglas County's Grimes Lake — to provide a popular selective fishery for anglers.

BC approves controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort in Purcell Mountains

PUBLIC LANDS — British Columbia Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson has announced his approval of controversial private-company plans to build the $900-million Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere.

The area is considered a pristine conservancy important to grizzly bears and backcountry recreation.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, opponents say they have not given up the fight to block the building of the luxury all-season resort that will have two hotels and 1,360 residential units with 6,250 beds.

Here's the Calgary Herald report:

B.C. approves controversial Jumbo Glacier ski resort:
$1B proposal has divided Kootenay region residents for decades

Here's the CBC News report on the decision.

See my story and photos about hiking in the area, which is featured in my guidebook, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.


  

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Last leg of Trip: Diary, days 16-17

SNOWMOBILING — After celebrating their 1,100-mile snowmobile trip on the Iditarod Trail behind the Iditarod Sled Dog Race at two post-event banquets with dog mushers in Nome, Bob Jones and Josh Rindal are getting back in the saddle for a two-day, 250-mile trip backtracking to Unalakleet to return a borrowed snowmobile.

The video (above) is a clip from Tuesday's KHQ-TV interview regarding my blog on the intrepid irondoggers.

It's just one more leg of their adventure: two more days of traveling in bitter cold and camping in drafty trail cabins. Are they about done in?  No.  Jones said he wishes he could be starting all over.

“Spring makes fantastic snowmobiling in Alaska,” he said, “Even at 20 below.”

Read on for Jones's Iditarod diary for days 16-17.

Olympic Discovery Trail proponents call for help

TRAILS — The half-realized dream of a national-class lowland trail running 130 miles from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean needs money, quickly, to deal with a new requirement for an environmental assessment.

The Olympic Discovery Trail, which volunteers have been piecing together for 24 years along the Olympic Peninsula’s north coast, has come to a land-use planning jam:

The group has until March 31 to raise enough money to construct an alternate trail segment plan the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is requiring to avoid a sensitive wetland area.

See a Rails-to Trails Conservancy report on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Panhandle, Kootenai extend comment period on forest plans

PUBLIC LANDS — The public comment period on the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai National Forest Draft Forest Plans has been extended 30 days to May 7, the Forest Service announced today.

The original comment period on the massive forest plan proposals was Jan. 3 through April 5.

“We understand that these documents are long and complex, so we agreed to extend the comment period after receiving requests from several local communities,” said Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor Mary Farnsworth. “The plans reflect 10 years of working with our partners, communities, and interested publics and we want to ensure they all have ample time to digest what is contained in these documents and provide meaningful comments.”

See the Forest Service documents online.

See an S-R story highlighting the forest plan revisions.

See my story about the draft forest plan proposals' affect on recommended wilderness.

Lake Roosevelt levels continue downward trend

RESERVOIRS — The elevation of Lake Roosevelt is slowly going down into the 1268-1264 feet range. Lake Roosevelt is now being operated for flood control and is continuing to meet power demand, Hanford Reach flows and tailwater flows for chum below Bonneville Dam.

The March Water Forecast has been released by the Bureau of Reclamation. Flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt are as follows:

  • March 31 – 1268.4 feet
  • April 15 - 1252.4 feet
  • April 30 – 1237.0 feet


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

Grizzlies emerging from dens, even sows with cubs

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Wildlife officials say grizzly bears are coming out of hibernation and have been spotted along the Rocky Mountain Front and in Yellowstone National Park.

Just before the recent snow storm, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden spotted a female grizzly with three cubs on the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area near Choteau.

Another grizzly female with a couple of cubs was reported west of Dupuyer.

FWP bear management specialist Mike Madel says it’s unusual for family groups to be out in mid-March. Adult males usually emerge from winter dens first, and may already be out.

Yellowstone National Park officials say bear activity has been reported in several areas of the park.

Bears that come out of their winter sleep this early focus on finding and eating winter-killed elk and deer.

Canada moves to protect bats in face of disease

WILDLIFE — Concerned about bat die-off caused by white-nose syndrome, a fungus-caused disease that has decimated bat populations in the United States and Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has asked the federal government to issue an emergency order designating three species of bats as endangered.

See details from the Edmonton Journal.
  

Idaho panel to consider big-game hunting, salmon fishing seasons

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will be setting big game and chinook salmon seasons during a meeting Wednesday and Thursday at Fish and Game Department headquarters in Boise.

According to the meeting agenda, the commission will set seasons for this fall’s deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, gray wolf and mountain lion hunts and a spring season on chinook salmon in the Clearwater, Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers.

Read on for the recommedatons the commisisoners will consider:

Elk Foundation offers to pay trappers to kill more wolves

PREDATORS — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wants wolves to be more aggressively managed in Montana and they’re offering state wildlife officials at least $50,000 to contract with federal trappers to kill more of the predators.

RMEF President David Allen tells the Missoulian the state isn’t using remedies allowed under the wolf management plan to the fullest.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim says the agency is still considering the offer, according to the Associated Press.

Mike Leahy with Defenders of Wildlife argues that assistance from conservation organizations should further conservation, not undermine it.

Despite months of open public wolf hunting and some Wildlife Services action to kill wolves causing livestock losses, biologists estimate Montana’s wolf population grew by at least 15 percent last year compared to 2010 levels.

The state had at least 643 wolves at the end of 2011. FWP Director Joe Maurier has said the goal in Montana is about 425 wolves.

Caribou habitat comment period extended; Bonners Ferry meeting set

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Citing requests from Idaho’s governor, local governments and the Kootenay Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a 60-day extension for public comment on a proposal to designate critical habitat for woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains.

The federal agency made the announcement this morning along with scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for April 28 in Bonners Ferry.

The woodland caribou that range from North Idaho and a sliver of northeastern Washington north into British Columbia are listed as an endangered species.

Federal biologists have proposed designating 375,565 acres of high-elevation critical habitat in Idaho and Washington for the caribou. They say the designation would have little impact on protections that already are in place.

Idaho’s Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and Boundary County officials asked for an extension to the comment period that was announced in November as well as additional opportunities for citizens to participate in public processes regarding the proposal, FWS officials said.

“We recognize the public’s interest in this issue and will work together to help citizens fully understand our proposal to designate critical habitat for caribou,” said Brian Kelly, the Service’s State Supervisor for Idaho.

FWS is re-opening the public comment period on the caribou proposal until May 21, 2012.

Read on for more details about the proposal and the public meeting in Bonners Ferry.

Schweitzer ski area expansion to be considered

SKIING — The Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a hearing next month to consider a Schweitzer Mountain Resort request for a zoning change to accommodate recreation trails and 11 more lots at The Spires.

The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. April 12 and the Bonner County Administration Building, 1500 Highway 2, in Sandpoint.

Staff reports on the proposal will be posted online at the planning department website seven days before the meeting.

Aerial mountain photography documents beauties, bummers in East Kootenays

MOUNTAINS — This 6-minute sequence of excellent aerial photography documents the splendor of the mountains in Canada just north of Washington and Idaho as well as what some of these precious places could look like without protection.

Those of you who hike, paddle, climb and ski in the West Kootenays and East Kootenays will enjoy these images — titles included — of the Selkirks, Purcells, Rockies, Valhallas, Kokanee Glacier, Jumbo, Flathead, Bugaboos and the Coal Mines

The slide show is by Douglas Noblet, with more photos posted at www.wildairphoto.com.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Nome Sweet Nome! Diary, day 15

SNOWMOBILING — After 15 days of mostly below-zero temperatures and 1,100 miles of Iditarod Trail that did-in one of their snowmobiles, Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane finally arrived in Nome, Alaska, on Sunday afternoon — in time to celebrate with the sled dog mushers at their race-end bandquet.

They had to negotiate a  notoriously dangerous stretch of wind-blown ice and scoot into town running on fumes for lack of fuel, but ohhhh what a reception:  They got in the food line to a winner's banquet of prime rib, halibut and a dog sled full of fresh strawberries, for starters.

But while Bob and Josh recuperate a day or two in Nome, their expedition isn't quite over.  Click “continue reading” as Jones explains in his Diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Helpers needed for trail project at Liberty Lake

TRAILS – Helpers are needed for a series of Liberty Lake trail rerouting projects on the 7-mile loop trail at Liberty Lake County Park, starting next Sunday, organized by the Washington Trails Association.

Other scheduled dates for working at Liberty Lake are March 29 and 31 and April 2 and 26.

WTA pledged to rally area volunteers and contribute 2,000 hours of volunteer effort over the next two years in order to get a grant from the Washington Recreational Trails Program. 

Liberty Lake, at 3,000 acres, is one of the largest county parks in the state.  This is an excellent opportunity to get to know the park better and chip in some effort to improve the hiking/biking/horse-riding opportunities. 

Sign up online here.

Info: (206) 625-1367.

Columbia basin steelhead, salmon meeting In Tri-Cities

FISHING — A public meeting to discuss the outlook for this year’s salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia Basin has been set for Wednesday (March 21) in Kennewick, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced.

The fourth annual “Northeast of McNary” meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.-9 p.m. in the Benton County PUD Auditorium, 2721 W. 10th Ave. (corner of U.S. Hwy 395 and 10th Ave.)

State fishery managers will discuss run forecasts and fishing prospects for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries, and invite questions from the public.

“This is the eastside version of the pre-season “North of Falcon” meetings currently being held on the west side of the state,” said John Easterbrooks, WDFW regional fish manager for south central Washington. “The goal is to give anglers an idea of what they can expect during the upcoming fishing season.”

Bonner County mounts case to remove caribou protection

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Bonner County commissioners in Sandpoint have approved spending up to $10,000 as part of plan to have Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou taken off the federal endangered species list, according to a story moved by the Associated Press.

Commissioners last week unanimously approved a plan that involves a contract with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm that focuses on property rights. Commissioners also approved a memorandum of understanding that allows the public to contribute money to the effort.

“We're going to seek out donors,” Commissioner Mike Nielsen told the Bonner County Daily Bee.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984 listed the caribou as a protected species. Woodland caribou, rarely-seen creatures with their antlers stand as tall as a man, are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest as a final toehold in the Lower 48.

Continue reading, more from the AP:

Mountaineer mudders sponsor mountain biking clinic

CYCLING — Registration for the 2012 Spokane Mountaineers Mountain Bike Skills Clinic is open.

Although the clinic at Riverside State Park isn't until June 9-10, the class is limited to 30 — and more than a dozen cyclists already have signed up.

The class — covered in this Spokesman-Review story —  is interactive, comprehensive, personalized and fun.

An online registration form on the Mountaineers's website.

Trail cam video: Bears rock, pole dance, get it on

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana wildlife biologists are sharing this collection of research camera videos featuring black and grizzly bears at bait stations — showing off some of their moves.

Cold overlooked along Iditarod Trail

Septuagenarian Bob Jones of Kettle Falls has chiseled into the frozen culture of arctic Alaska as he's snowmobiled 1,000 miles along the Iditarod Trail.  His diary and photos have been a highlight of my blog for two weeks.

Here's one of Jones's many observations from icy remote villages as he pushed through bitter temperatures:

“Cold weather is never a conversation topic among Alaska villagers. When it drops to 30 below, they just put on another layer of clothing and go about their business.”

Of course, it might be different if Alaska villagers had to come up with something quick to say on an  elevator lift to their office.

See Bob Jones's Diary and photos, days 1-6.

See Diary and photos for days 7-10.

See Diary and photos for days 11-12.

See Diary and photos for days 13-14.

See Nome Sweet Nome: Diary and photos for Day 15.

See Diary and photos for days 16-17.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 13-14

SNOWMOBILING — “I'm too tired to even look at pictures,” snowmobiler Bob Jones said in an email from the tiny village of Golovin on the Iditarod Trail. (Additional photos will come later and be posted here.)   He'd just put in an 11-hour  day that extended well into the night to reach a place where he and Josh Rindal could get out of the cold for a few hours of sleep before continuing their 1,000-mile journey to Nome following the Iditarod Trail.

Despite a fierce cold and a major breakdown that forced them to find a snowmobile to borrow, Jones, from Kettle Falls, and Rindal, from Spokane, have an outside chance of making the Mushers Banquet in Nome tonight (March 18) — if they can make the last 90 brutal miles in one day.

“It will be a cold ride, just like today's was,” Jones reported. “It's -9º and breeze outside as I write this from the library at the Golovin school.  It's about +70º in here and my sleeping bag is only about 5 feet away on a pad on the floor.”

Then he crashed and slept like a bear in winter… until early the next morning when he filed his diary for two days (click continued reading below) and offered these additional updates:

Mileage: Nearly 1,000 miles so far out of a total trip that will reach about 1,300 miles if they return to Unalakleet as planned.

He had one final thought about his cozy quarters on the library floor before heading out in the bitter cold for another long day: “This is a beautiful school. Probably costs more on a cost-of-heat-per-kid basis than anywhere in the Lower 48!”

I replied to Jones noting that he was an ironman model for people older than 70. “I wonder what all the other septuagenarians in Kettle Falls are doing today?” I poked.

“Being more intelligent!” he replied.

Click “continue reading” to see Jone's Iditarod diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Archery vs. long-distance rifle debated

HUNTING — I heard an interesting discussion at the Big Horn Show.

A firearms hunter said to an archer:  “More skill and dedication is required to shoot deer at 1,000 yards than to hunt deer with a bow at 25 yards.”

I think he might be right while still being wrong.

What do you think?

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 11-12

SNOWMOBILING — Chilled but not chilled out, Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane contginued their snowmobile trek along the Iditarod Trail even though the Iditarod sled dog race is is over and the winners have packed up for home.

“Zero degrees here last night with nary a cloud in the sky.  The most perfect day for traveling imaginable,” Jones said, indicating he was happy to still be on the trail.

“The sun is getting some power and sometimes we can feel the heat through our thick clothing.

“Machines are running fine and things are going great!”

On days 11 and 12  they continued to enjoy hospitality from natives with only a few stressful encounters with deep snow in the arctic cold.

Read on for more of Jones's diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Spokane Tribe offers bounty on Roosevelt walleyes

FISHING — Word is out around the Big Horn Show that the Spokane Tribe has issued a bounty on walleyes payable to tribal members who bring in spawning-season fish from Lake Roosevelt, apparently from the Spokane Arm.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials confirm the tribe has some sort of bounty in place, but the regional fisheries manager with the details has not been available.

The Spokane Tribe has not yet returned a called made this afternoon.

Stay tuned.

While I'm awaiting word from official sources, Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine has a little more on the issue.

Avalanche advisory: Considerable danger on mountain slopes

WINTER SPORTS — Another week of tremendous snowfall in the mountains has created weak layers, with warming temperatures addding heavier layers to lighter layers of snow.  Sounds like a fancy dessert, but instead it's a recipe for considerable avalanche danger in much of the region, according to this morning's avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

“Careful route finding is necessary today to avoid steep slopes, especially where wind-loaded,” said Kevin Davis, center director.

Read on for the full advisory.

Photographer specializes in chasing northern lights

SKY WATCHING — If the city lights and cloudy skies have prevented you from enjoying the recent solor storms generating great shows of Northern Lights, relax, sit back and enjoy this Washington Post story and a gallery of northern lights images by a Montana native who lives in Homer, Alaska.

Dennis Anderson is one of a handful of photographers who make a living by catching the aurora borealis on film.

Volunteers needed to score recreation grant requests

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is looking for nearly 70 volunteers to help determine how millions of dollars in state grants should be spent in Washington’s great outdoors.

The volunteers will score grant applications submitted in two statewide programs: 

  • The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which provides grants to build and renovate parks and trails, and to protect and restore valuable wildlife habitat and farmland.
  • The Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, which provides grants to restore Washington shorelines and create access for people to the waterfront.

The grants are awarded to cities, counties, state agencies, tribes and others.

Read on for details.

Steelhead fishing reopens on Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow rivers

FISHING –  Starting Friday (March 16), selective fisheries for hatchery-reared steelhead on the Wenatchee, Icicle, and Methow rivers will temporarily reopen, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced this afternoon.

Anglers will be allowed to catch whitefish in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers so long as those rivers are open to steelhead fishing.

Steelhead fisheries in all three rivers are tentatively scheduled to run through March 31, but could end sooner if fishing impacts on wild steelhead reach annual federal limits, said Jeff Korth, regional WDFW fish manager.

“These limited openings are designed to support wild-steelhead recovery by reducing the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds,” Korth said. “Anglers can play an important role in that effort by removing hatchery fish not needed to meet spawning goals.”

Because the fisheries could close on short notice, Korth recommends that anglers check the department’s Fishing Hotline at (360-902-2500) or Fishing Rule website for updates.

The Similkameen and Okanogan rivers will remain open for steelhead fishing, although sections of the Okanogan River around the mouth of Omak and Tonasket creeks will close to all fishing Friday to protect wild steelhead staging for spawning.

Read on for more details.

Fishing closes today on Spokane River stretches

FISHING – The annual spring fishing closure to protect spawners in the Spokane River begins tomorrow (March 16).

Fishing won’t resume until June 1 below Monroe Street Dam.

The fishing season will reopen on the river from the stateline downstream to Upriver Dam on June 2.

Check the fishing regulations closely.

Top 5 skills learned in Spokane Mountaineers Backpacking School

HIKING – A few spots are open for the annual Backpacking School taught on Friday evenings over two months by the Spokane Mountaineers

School directors Jeff and Deb Harris offered good reasons for joining the classes. Students will learn and refine their skills in everything from gear selection and navigation to cooking and camp-making tips.

But the Harris's suggest the top five lessons to learn are more subtle:

  1. Know the limits and capabilities of your gear, your body and your mind and respect them.
  2. Tell others you trust about your primary plans, alternate plans and what time you are expected back.
  3. Being in the wilderness does not mean you are exempt from taking care of yourself.  Good hygiene and nutrition are still important.
  4. Be respectful of the landscape, wildlife and terrain you are traveling in.
  5.  In many situations, there are several ways to go about doing things.  Find something that works for you and have fun. 

The Backpacking School starts March 30.

Info: 879-5275, email jeffanddebharris@gmail.com

Do News Quiz and win tickets to Big Horn Show

Timely prizes are being offered to people who complete The Spokesman-Review weekly News Quiz dated March 11.

1) Two tickets to the first two rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in Spokane, and

2) Two tickets to the Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Show which starts today Thursday and runs through Sunday at Spokane County's Fair and Expo Center.

Simply take the quiz, and you're eligible to win drawings that will be held Friday.

The overall champ wins a $50 gift card to the Davenport hotel. Good luck to everyone!

Nordic skiers respond to Mount Spokane Survey

NORDIC SKIING — About 160 skiers responded to a survey posted on the Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation website last month.

Although the results haven't been fully compiled, club spokesman Brad Thiessen offered these observations of the trends:

What survey takers loved most about skiing at Mount Spokane:

  • The variety and length of the trails
  • Accessibility and proximity to Spokane
  • Friendliness and the sense of community on the hill
  • The beauty of the Mount Spokane trail area

The most common concerns:

  •  Desire for an improved and larger Selkirk Lodge
  • Better and more consistent grooming
  • The Sno-Park fee system
  • Toilets and a rest stop near the back of the trails

Riverside State Park Advisory Board seeks water sports representative

STATE PARKS — Volunteers are being sought to joine the advisory board for that supports Riverside State Park, a standout feature that flows through the city of Spokane. Currently there's a vacancy for a water sports representative.

“The State Park system depends heavily on volunteers to contribute time to preserve and enhance our parks,” said Ken Carmichael of the Riverside State Park Foundation, which was founded in 2001 along with the state park Advisory Board. “These two organizations work with each other and the park staff to further the goals of the park,” he said.

The Advisory Board consists of up to 15 interested citizens whose objectives are to provide advice to the Park Manager on any proposed park land classifications, new uses, programs and facilities, or modification or elimination of uses, programs and facilities.

Read on for more details.

Ban on two-abreast bicycling debated by Idaho Legislature

CYCLING — The mantra of less government control in Idaho apparently doesn't apply to bicyclists.

An Idaho representative wants to forbid bicyclists from riding two abreast as part of a bike-safety measure that would also require drivers to maintain a three-foot distance from cyclists when passing.

The Spokesman-Review reported that Rep. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian suggested adding the two-abreast ban to the bill before it was sent to the House for amendments on an 8-4 vote.

Its sponsor, Rep. Roy Lacey of Pocatello, hopes to make it safer for non-motorized transportation on Idaho’s roadways.

Lacey’s measure also covers pedestrians, joggers, wheelchairs and horses.

Not everybody was supportive.

House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke cited an existing law requiring motorists to exercise due care when passing.

But Kurt Holzer, a Boise attorney and cyclist, says this bill helps define just what “due care” means.

Friends of South Hill Bluffs gathering tonight

PUBLIC LANDS — Friends of the South Hill Bluff will hold a meeting tonight (March 14), 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephens Church, 57th & Hatch Road to discuss requirements for getting DNR costshare funding for Firewise Community projects.

Angel Spell, City of Spokane Director of Urban Forestry will be there to answer questions.

These meetings will determine the direction of the group in managing fire danger to the popular hiking and biking trails below High Drive as well as to the nearby neighborhoods.

Info: Diana Roberts, 477-2167.

 

 

Trail-cam mystery critter identified

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A snowshoe hare is caught in action by a trail cam set high in the Cabinet Mountains for a wolverine research project funded by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

See martens, bobcats, volunteer helpers — and even a wolverine — in the group's wolverine research Facebook photo album.

The hare in the photo above normally wouldn't be able to go eyeball to eyeball with the camera mounted up on the trunk of a tree, but winter winds drifted snow into a viewing platform.

Some readers viewed the mystery close-up photo (left) and guessed “rabbit.”  Close, but not correct.

Read on for the differences between “hares” and “rabbits.”

Trophy mounts measured at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — The Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show doesn't open until Thursday at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, but “Trophy Territory” big-game mounts already are being scored and judged and eventually will be awarded ribbons in numerous categories.

Several species and racks, in all shapes, sizes and counts are considered. More than 300 mounts were on display at last year’s show.

To enter a trophy for scoring, drive to the south entrance of the Fair and Expo Center and continue through the Yellow Gate to Bay 3 at the following times: Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon.

Info: Larry Carey, (509) 328-6429.
  

Federal court OKs wolf hunts, rejects appeal

HUNTING — A federal appeals court today rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months, according to a just-filed Associated Press report

The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring.

Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued to restore protections, said an appeal was under consideration but no decision had been made.

Read on for more details from the Associated Press.

Local butterflies detailed in free program tonight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane butterfly expert John Baumann will present a free program about butterflies of the Inland Northwest on Wednesday sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

The rogram is set for 7 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., off Upriver Drive.

Continue reading for detailed directions.

Beware of the not-so-subtle attack on public lands

THE LAND: As Will Rodgers put it, “They ain't making it no more.”

In his PBS documentary, National Parks: America's Best Idea, filmmaker Ken Burns vividly pointed out how a certain number of high-level naysayers have condemned the concept of preserving virtually every spread of now wildly popular public land from Arcadia to Yosemite.

And the naysayers are still around, emerging most recently and noticeably in the Republic presidential campaign.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have tried to pander to a certain anti-government crowd by scorning the concept of public land — apparently oblivious to the public outrage that doused the Sagebrush Rebellion led by the Reagan Administration's short-lived Interior Secretary James Watt.

Last month, Romney said told a gathering in Nevada, “I don’t know what the purpose is” of the great American public land legacy — a domain that includes 190 million acres of national forests, 52 million acres of national parks, and more than 500 million acres of open range, wildlife refuges and other turf under management of the Interior Department.

That campaign swing was largely overlooked by the national press, but not by New York Times Western correspondent Timothy Egan, who takes them on and clearly explains the value of public lands in this op-ed piece

Check it out.

Also see this post about Political “Sportsmen” Stabbing Theodore Roosevelt In the Back.

Sage advice for hikers in tick country

HIKING — The ticks are out in the scablands around the region, and they're thirsty.

Spokane hiker, writer and photographer Aaron Theisen offers this observation from his vast experience: 

“Never go to a dinner party directly from an early-spring hike, unless you want to entertain guests with the old 'watch a tick crawl out of my shirt collar' trick.”

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.
  

Mystery critter mugs on wolverine study trail cam

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can you ID the critter, above, in this close encounter last week with one of the wolverine research project trail cams in the Cabinet Mountains?

The camera is one of about 40 installed by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Answer coming later…

It's easier to identify the marten, left, that provided this cool action image for a trail cam posted on a bait station at high elevations in the wolverine research project.

Some of the responses on my Facebook Page regarding the mystery critter above are close, but NOBODY in that thread is correct, yet.

Hints:

The camera is in a tree up off the ground.

—The mountains have had some snow and wind.

—Bigfoot has NEVER been caught on camera.

—Some critters resemble others but have significant differences….

Answer and photo proof coming tomorrow from Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 7-10

SNOWMOBILING — As fate would have it, the real adventure began 70 miles from any assistance behind the racers in the Iditarod sled dog race. As the temperature plunged to minus 32 degrees — nearly 60 degrees colder than the day they started out following the Iditarod Trail — snowmobilers Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane faced some arctic cruelness:

  • The starter on Bob's snowmobile was falling apart.
  • A clunking noise was developing in Josh's snowmobile.
  • A friend died in McGrath and the town had to unite to dig a grave in the frozen ground.
  • Fuel was $7.15 a gallon in McGrath.
  • Bob and Josh had to drive over a dead moose in the trail.
  • And then Josh's snowmobile developed problems that threatened to end the 1,000-mile expedition.

Click “continue reading” to see how the two ingenious adventurers saved their butts by hooking on to something a fisherman left behind in a remote BLM cabin.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Idaho posts 2011 wolf report; 169 killed so far in 2012

PREDATORS — Idaho has posted its 2011 annual summary of wolf monitoring.

Although much of this was reported last week, here are some compilations and updates:

  • Idaho wolf numbers are down for the second consecutive year.
  • At the end of 2011, 746 wolves were documented in 101 Idaho wolf packs, down from a high of 856 wolves at the end of 2009. At the end of 2010, the population estimate was 777 wolves.
  • 24 documented border packs were counted for Montana, Wyoming and Washington that established territories overlapping the Idaho state boundary and spent some time in Idaho.
  • Of the 63 packs known to have reproduced in Idaho, 40 packs qualified as breeding pairs by the end of the year.
  • 10 previously unknown packs were documented during 2011, but the overall net increase was only six packs in the state, with four other packs removed during the year.
  • 296 wolves were confirmed killed in Idaho during 2011. Of known wolf mortalities, hunter and trapper harvest accounted for 200 deaths, and agency control and legal landowner take in response to wolf-livestock depredation accounted for 63 deaths.
  • 18 wolf deaths were attributed to other human causes, including illegal take. The cause of 12 wolf mortalities could not be determined and were listed as unknown, and 3 wolves were known to have died of natural causes.
  • Livestock losses to wolves included 71 cattle, 121 sheep, three horses, six dogs and two domestic bison. Probably wolf kills included 19 cattle, 26 sheep, one horse and one dog.

In addition, since the beginning of this year, 145 wolves have been killed in Idaho by hunters and trappers, 14 were killed in a Lolo Zone aerial control action, nine have been taken in other Wildlife Service control actions around the state and one died of parvovirus.

That brings the 2012 toll on Idaho wolves to 169 as of Monday.

  • Idaho's 2011-2012 hunting and trapping seasons in MOST remaining open areas including the Panhandle end March 31.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northern Rocky Mountain wolf progress report includes reports from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Seminar to cover Columbia River salmon fishing

FISHING — Michael Cordon and Benita Galland of Adventure Guide Service will present a free seminar on fishing for Columbia River salmon Thursday, 6:30 p.m., as the 2012 Spring Fishing Seminar Series continues at Mark's Marine in Hayden.

Last week in the series, Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers detailed tactics for catching chinook in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Here's the lineup for the rest the free seminars:

·         March 22: Bass & Panfishing – “The how-to for local lakes”

          By: Jim Grassi of Let’s Go Fishing.  TV host and radio personality      
         and Tony McCalmant VP of the Panhandle Bass Club    

·         March 29: Lowrance HDS & Structure Scan-
“Tips, Tricks, and how to find fish”

        By: Steve Binyon, the Mark’s Marine Electronics Guru.

·         April 5: Trolling Lake Pend Orielle

              By Donnie and Sue Halk of Frisky Jenny Flies & Lake Charters

              (160+ people turn out at this one last year so please RSVP,  aaron@marksmarineinc.com)

·         April 12: Walleye Tips and Techniques

Cougar’s rampage on llamas stumps wildlife experts

PREDATORS — Wildlife Services agents dispatched a 175-pound mountain lion near Helena, Mont., recently after the cat killed at least six llamas and left them uneaten.  Sport-killing behavior is rare for cougars, and officials don't have an easy answer.

Read the Helena Independent Record report

3 dozen people address commission on hunt rules

HUNTING — More than three-dozen people testified, mostly on new hunting rules proposed for the 2012-14 seasons, during the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting last Friday and Saturday in Moses Lake.

Hunters have passionate feelings on both sides of many of the proposals. Audio transcrips of the meeting should be posted soon on this portion of the commission's website.

Those proposals range from a measure allowing waterfowl hunters to use electronic decoys

The commission is scheduled to take action on more than a dozen proposals at a public meeting April 13-14 in Olympia.

Washington's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan also was discussed.

To help keep the public involved, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has set up an online reporting tool to record observations of wolf activity.

In otherwords, when people see a wolf, or identify wolf tracks or hear a wolf howl, they're requested to file a wolf observation report at the agency's website/

Livestock owners suspecting wolf harassment of their animals would continue to call (877) 933-9847. 

Posted on the Fish and Wildlife commission's website is a draft Statement on Wolves in Washington to guide the state agency's implementation of the state’s wolf plan.

Idaho sportsmen against landowner big-game tag bills

HUNTING — Idaho sportsmen's opposition may have swayed the close vote to stop a bill to give landowners big-game tags they could sell. But another vote on a similar bill is brewing.

Senate Bill 1282, sponsored by Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, would allow private landowners to receive and sell “special incentive tags” for deer, elk and antelope if they first negotiate public access agreements with the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The bill languished in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee for weeks but was given new life — and likely a vote this week — when a similar piece of legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, died on the Senate floor, the Lewiston Tribune reports. 

The vote was close: 17-17, with the decision to fail the effort made by the tiebreaker.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission chose to support Brackett's bill even thought it formally opposed Siddoway’s version, report's Tribune outdoor writer Eric Barker.

Read on for details from Barker's story.

Wolf numbers stabilize in Yellowstone; elk dramatically reduced

WILDLIFE — Yellowstone National Park officials say the park’s wolf population has stabilized at about 100 wolves over the last two years.

The Billings Gazette reports that represents about a 60 percent reduction from 2007 wolf numbers as elk populations have also declined.

In December, Yellowstone officials said the herd numbered just more than 4,600, a drop from their peak of 19,000 decades.   Most people agree that 19,000 elk was too many for the area.  The current elk population, however, is cause for concern to many hunting groups outside the park.

The largest Yellowstone wolf pack last year was the 19-member Molly Pack that usually stays in the Pelican Valley in the park’s interior.

But officials say a lack of snowfall made it harder to kill bison so the pack migrated to the Lamar Valley.

That forced competition with wolf packs already in the area, and officials say six wolves with radio collars have been killed in pack rivalries.

Officials estimate about 25,000 visitors to the park last year saw wolves, mainly in the Slough Creek and Lamar Valley regions.

Local birder welcomes return of wood ducks

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Area birdwatcher Ron Dexter, who lives in the Mount Spokane foothills, has the welcome mat out for colorful migrants that return each year for his hospitality.  Ron posted this delightful update this morning:

Each spring, we look forward to the arrival of Wood Ducks on our ponds. The first pair arrived about 10 days ago, then a few more every couple days. Yesterday, I counted 17. They are very flighty and try to sneak in to our duck feeding area twice a day. Our regular pond birds are Mallards of course. We fed approximately 40 through the winter. We have 4 domestic ducks. A spring fed water supply keeps an open space in the ice for them to bathe, etc. Two pair of Canada Geese arrived about 2 weeks ago to fight over the nesting platforms.
 
The Wood Ducks, however are our favorites. They checkout all of the nest boxes and eventually each will lay 10 or 11 eggs. Sometimes two will lay eggs in the same box. I have counted as many as 22 eggs in one box. 19 of those were hatched by one Wood Duck. The eggs all hatch within a 24 hr period and when the coast is clear she calls the kids out of the nest box. Believe it or not, they jump to the water or ground below no matter the distance. They actually spread their arms and legs like a sky diver and bounce like a cork when they hit the ground. Within a few hours, mama duck  takes the young on a quarter mile hike through tall grasses down to the creek.
 
Last year one mama got quite used to us and kept her young on the pond for 2 weeks which we throughlly enjoyed. She hides them in the cattails most of the time, but the brave or naughty ones dart our and around the pond looking for something to eat.      Ahhhh, spring is arriving

Snowshoers getting snubbed at Mt. Spokane ski area

WINTER SPORTS — Signs have been poking up on Mount Spokane warning snowshoers they're no longer going to be tolerated hiking popular routes up to the mountain summit.

Indeed, the signs let snowshoers, hikers, backcountry skiers and others who want to access the summit of Mt. Spokane that they're not allowed to go up through the downhill skiing concession area.

This rule has been enforced against snowmobiles for many years. But now it's getting personal with one of the newest and fastest growing state park user groups.

Local snowhoer Chris Bachman contacted Randy Kline, Washington State Parks environmental program manager in Olympia, and asked him who is responsible for the signs and why.

Below is Kline’s reply. Note that if the ski area's planned expansion on the backside of the mountain goes through, even more access will be lost to the non-downhil public.

Greetings Chris,
 
As I understand it, hiking up the mountain on groomed trails in the concession area at Mount Spokane is not currently permitted – in speaking to the park manager, this is a State Parks decision related to safety and risk management. Snowshoe folks and backcountry nordic skiers currently use an alternate route that is outside the improved concession area that gets them up to Vista House. However, the proposed expansion area will occur within a portion of the area currently used by snowshoe folks and nordic backcountry skiers so – if they will not be allowed on groomed trails - we should begin looking at alternative means to accommodate these users in their desire to get up to Vista House. Thank you for the letting me know that this is an issue of concern .
 
Randy Kline, Environmental Program Manager
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, WA 98501
PO Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504
Phone: 360.902.8632

Video: Amber Lake trout alive and well

FISHING — Fly fisher Dustin Bise shares these few seconds of action to show anglers what they're missing if they haven't been out to sample the early season at Amber Lake near Cheney.

Free admission to state parks March 18-19

PUBLIC LANDS — This weekend will be a freebie at Washington state parks, which will be offering free admission four times this year.

The first set of free days will be March 18-19 in honor of the park system’s 99th birthday on March 19.

Other scheduled “free” days are June 9, Sept. 29 and Nov. 10-12.

On these days, the Discover Pass will not be required to visit a state park. But the Discover Pass still will be required to access lands managed by the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife on the free park days.

The cost for the Discover Pass is $10 a day or $30 a year (some transaction fees might be charged).

Ticks rise to occasion of warmer weather

HIKING — What a difference a couple of warm days can make.

Neither my dog nor I picked up ticks in Wednesday's cold temperatures while hikng BLM's Lakeview Ranch near Odessa.

On Friday, after a couple warmer nights and days, a friend harvested a bumper crop of ticks while hiking and fly fishing at Crab Creek.

Be prepared, sage-country early-season hikers!

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 1-6, plus links for entire trip

SNOWMOBILING — Snowmobiler Bob Jones, 72, of Kettle Falls was in Alaska this winter, once again following the annual Iditarod sled dog race with his son-in-law, Josh Rindal, who works at Fairchild Air Force Base.

We followed Jones's diary of ups and downs from the arduous trip on the Iditarod Trail as he reached several personal milestones:

  • — His 100th Alaska visit.
  • — A total of more than 20,000 miles following the 950- to 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

Here's a wrapup story about Jones and his love-hate relationship with snowmobiles, but read on to follow his journey day by day.

Jones, a colorful guy with a gift for gab, is a familiar face in the remote villages along the race’s two routes since he began following the event by snowmobile in 1995.

“The first year, eight snowmobiles followed the route, and my Washington group had four,” he said. “One year, I was the only one doing the whole thing.”

He tows a trailer with gear for camping in bitter cold. Sometimes he stays in roadhouses.

“The villagers all know me and like me because I only stay a day, have a good time and leave,” he said.

Live the arctic life with with Jones by clicking “continue reading” for the first six days of diary posts from the Iditarod Trail, followed by links for Bob's take on the rest of the trip.

Also, click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Avalanche advisory: dangers lurk under tempting powder

WINTER SPORTS — Despite the recent sunshine, good powder snow is lingering on north aspects in the region's mountains. Skiers, boarders and snowmobilers heading out to enjoy the late winter snow must be wary of several factors, says Kevin Davis, Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center director.

“Be aware of generating some good sized sluffs and a weak layer 6-12 inches deep from Sundays snowfall,” he said in the avalanche advisory just posted this morning. 

“Exposed faces have firmer surface snow due to wind and sun.  Watch your terrain selection as the sun heats up steep sunny slopes today as this could create some stability problems as the surface layers heat up. 

“Deep surface hoar layer still showing signs of weakness and I think we’ll have to deal with this one for the rest of the winter. 

“Spring conditions could reveal some climax avalanches as the pack starts to go isothermal.  New snow comes in with wind starting Saturday night.”

Read on for the detailed report on snow conditions throughout the region, were avalanche warnings are moderate to considerable. 

Hunters post a sign of the times

CONSERVATION — Behind the words on the sign is a tradition of hunters and anglers paying billions of dollars in license fees, federal duck stamp fees and excise taxes on their hunting and fishing equipment to fund wildlife conservation efforts.

Most other recreation groups contribute little or nothing in comparison.

Bears beginning to emerge from winter dens

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Wildlife officials say they are getting reports of grizzly bear sightings at lower elevations east of Yellowstone National Park.

In response, the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forests have placed food storage regulations into effect.

Adult male grizzly bears typically start to show activity this time of year.

Females with cubs don’t generally emerge until late April or early May.

Aurora offers best night of year for night skiing in Methow

SKY WATCHING — The Northern lights put on a great show over Washington's Methow Valley last night, and the nordic ski trail operators where on the job to see the spectacle.

“Our groomer Ed got this incredible shot last night,” says the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association Facebook page.

“Last night was pretty epic,” the groomer operator said. “I didn't drive off the trail looking at the sky, but it would have been a fair excuse. Photo was taken on View Ridge Trail about 12:30 a.m. Unfortunately I didn't have my tripod so this is hand held… braced against a shut off Pisten Bully! It is a 1.6 second shot.”

Read more about the unusual solar storm bombarding the night sky today and continuing tonight.

Otter puts Idaho wolf management in perspective

Quotable

“I hear from environmental groups all over the United States when we started our very successful wolf hunt, that, 'Why was I killing all those wolves, and how beautiful they are.'

“You respond back to them and say, 'When was the last time you came to Idaho and spent some money to look at a wolf?'”

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, testifying before Congress on the need for the federal government to provide more funding to states for wolf management.
- Idaho Statesman

Latest map updates where wolf packs roam

ENDANGERED SPECIES — This map, included in the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on wolf populations in the Northern Rockies, shows current territories of the packs in Washington and Oregon, where wolves are still protected.

Washington has five documented packs and 27 wolves going into the pupping season.

Oregon has five documented packs and 29 wolves.

See this blog post for more details just released regarding wolves throughout the Northern Rockies.

294 coyotes killed in Northeast Washington derby

PREDATORS —  Northeast Washington businesses and hunters once again took aim at coyotes this winter to spread a little wealth and help beleaguered white-tailed deer a little more breathing room.

Participating hunters checked in 294 coyotes during the winter Coyote Derby covering Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.  The number is up from 227 taken during the derby last year.

The derby, organized by the Northeast Washington Wildlife Group, is sponsored by Clark's All Sports of Colville, Lake Roosevelt Walleye Club, Stevens and Spokane Counties Cattlemen's Association, Double Eagle Pawn, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, according to a story with more details by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Montana seeks ideas for more effective wolf hunt

PREDATORS — Montana’s wildlife commission is soliciting ideas to make next season’s wolf hunt more effective.  

The Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission invited county commissioners from across Montana to participate in a work session in Helena to discuss what additional measures can be taken to fill the wolf quota during the next hunt. 

FWP had aimed to reduce Montana’s wolf population to 425 animals with the 2011 hunt. But only 165 wolves were killed out of a quota of 220, and the population actually increased by 15 percent. 

FWP officials say no option is off the table for discussion but commissioners will not vote on any proposals until May.

Some actions, such as trapping, would require a change in state law. 

Idaho added trapping as a harvest option this season.  

Aldo Leopold’s daughter coming to MAC for showing of Green Fire documentary

CONSERVATION — Estelle Leopold is scheduled to be in Spokane on Saturday at the Museum of Arts and Culture for a screening of a dumentary about her father and renoun conservationist, Aldo Leopold.

Enjoy a book signing with the Leopold, who's written a book about her family, and enjoy beer and wine for the viewing of Green Fire.

WhenSaturday (March 10) from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Cost: $5-$7.

Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, sold out last year at the Riverfront IMAX Theater.

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

Sage-country hike near Odessa picturesque, tick-free

HIKING — I made some footprints on the BLM's Pacific Lake/Lakeview Ranch near Odessa on Wednesday. The 40-degree day was perfect for hiking this dry country studded with magnificent basalt rock formations.

The area's signature end-to-end hike is featured in my guidebook, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.

Downside to hiking this week: The wildflowers are not yet blooming.

Upside: The tick's aren't active.

Be on lookout for northern lights tonight

SKY WATCHING — A big solar flare — perhaps the biggest in five years — combined with a chance for clear skies over much of the region, could offer up a rare chance to see the northern lights in the few hours before dawn on Thursday and maybe Thursday night.

Also, there' a chance your GPS unit may not perform accurately tomorrow, scientists say.

See the New York Post story.

Here is a forecasting tool that updates every 2 minutes!

Wolves increase across Northern Rockies despite controls, report says

PREDATORS — Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2011 annual report on gray wolf populations in the Northern Rockies.

Going into 2011, wolves had increased by more than 120 across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and portions of Eastern Washington and Oregon and a small portion of northcentral Utah.

The wolves increased despite extended seasons for hunting in Montana, plus hunting and trapping in Idaho.

The increase is despite 166 wolves killed by officials in relation to livestock predation.

Here are some of the numbers from the 2011 report, compiled by cooperating federal, state and tribal agencies:

  • The NRM population increased to 1,774 wolves and 109 breeding pairs, up from 1,651 wolves in 244 packs, and 111 breeding pairs reported after 2010.
  • Private and state agencies paid $309,553 in compensation for wolf-damage to livestock.
  • Confirmed cattle depredations were essentially the same in 2011 with 193 cattle losses compared to 199 cattle killed by wolves in 2010.
  • Confirmed sheep depredations declined from 245 sheep killed in 2010 to 162 sheep killed by wolves.
  • 166 “problem” wolves were lethally removed by agency control, which includes legal take in defense of property by private citizens.
  • Montana's toll included 64 wolves killed by agency control, 121 wolves killed by hunters.
  • Idaho's toll: 63 wolves killed by agency control, 200 wolves by hunters.
  • Wyoming's toll: 36 wolves killed by agency control.
  • Oregon's toll:, 2 wolves by agency control.
  • No wolves were removed in Washington or Utah.

“The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population is biologically recovered, having exceeded recovery goals for 101 consecutive years. In addition, the population fully occupies nearly all suitable habitat,” federal officials said in the report.

2 cars per Discover Pass bill goes to governor

PUBLIC LANDS — It's a wish coming true for Washington State Parks visitors.

The Washington state Legislature has passed a bill allowing one Discover Pass to be shared among two vehicles.

House Bill 2373 passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 60-37, with most Republicans voting in opposition. Having earlier passed the Senate, it goes next to the governor.

The Discover Pass is a $30 annual state parks parking pass created by the Legislature last year to raise funds to keep parks open as well as contributing to state wildlife lands. Bill supporters say allowing two cars per pass will make it more affordable and may encourage more people to buy it.

According to the Associated Press, opponents objected to a provision in the bill expanding an optional $5 vehicle registration fee to mopeds, off-road vehicles, buses and trucks, saying the fee’s opt-out nature may fool people into contributing the money against their wishes.

Ice almost gone from Coffeepot Lake

FISHING — A thin crust of ice still covered the boat launch area at Coffeepot Lake on Wednesday evening, but that didn't stop a fly fisher from launching his aluminum pram to fish the fingers of open water at the east end of the lake.

Coffeepot Lake, on BLM land west of Harrington, Wash., is a selective fishery, which means bait fishing is prohibited. The lake holds nice rainbow trout plus too many perch.

The main part of the lake was ice-free Wednesday.

The entire lake should be free of ice in the next day or two.

Sign up: Pend Oreille Valley Tundra Swan Day

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organized outings and access to experts are among the benefits of visiting festivals celebrating the arrival of migrating birds.

Tundra Swan Day in the Pend Oreille Valley, set for March 17, is a good example of locals sharing a wildlife spectacle in their backyard

Based near Usk in the Kalispell Tribe's Wellness Center, the day includes a tour to see tundra swans gathering at Calispell Lake, plus lunch and short presentations by several speakers on topics ranging from swans to wolverine research in the area.

Preregister for the tour here. Cost: $10 adults, $5 youths under 13, includes lunch.
Info: (509) 447-5286.
  

Snowboarders dress up for Playboy

WINTER SPORTS — The current playboy is one for the shredder.

No longer your daddy's magazine, the March issue of the bunny pub features Burton snowboard pros Danny Davis, John Jackson and Mark Sollors.

See more on their Playboy debut in this ESPN online story.

Time to start thinking about new fish, hunt licenses

HUNTING/FISHING — Washington sportsmen will need new 2012-2013 hunting and fishing licenses starting April 1.
 
Remember, even if you buy a new license, you still must have your 2011-2012 license in your pocket while hunting or fishing through March 31.
 
Spring chinook salmon are moving into the lower Columbia River, dozens of eastside lakes opened for trout fishing March 1 and a series of morning razor-clam digs is tentatively scheduled to run through early April.
 
A spring wild turkey season for hunters under age 16 is scheduled April 7-8 prior to the start of the general spring turkey hunt April 15.
 
The cost of some licenses will be higher than those purchased at this time last year. The new rates, which took effect last September, represent the first general increase in recreational license fees in more than a decade.
 
Fishing licenses, hunting licences and the Discover Pass are all available online, by phone (866-246-9453) and from license dealers around the state.

Legislature, chinook season covered at sportsmen’s breakfast

FISHING/HUNTING — Speakers will provide updates on Idaho Legislature activity of interest to hunters and anglers, as well as an update on the spring chinook salmon forecast at the monthly Sportsman's Breakfast in Lewiston on March 6.

Other presentations will cover big game issues and enforcement highlights.

The Clearwater Region of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will provide coffee and doughnuts.

The meeting begins at 6:30 a.m. at the Fish and Game office, at 3316 16th Street in Lewiston.

The meeting is open to anyone interested in wildlife and is designed to stimulate informal discussion about local wildlife issues. 

 Info: (208) 799-5010.

Ultra-runner, Bliss, sets program on Death Valley-Mount Whitney run

ENDURANCE – Spokane ultra marathon runner Lisa Bliss will present a program on her solo epic of running unsupported through Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney on Thursday, 7 p.m., at REI.

She finished the grueling 146 miles from the lowest point in the lower 48 states to the highest in 89 hours, 38 minutes.

Bliss is the only woman and the second person to do the run unsupported. She's been honored in the Badwater UltraMarathon Hall of Fame.

Beyond her passion for marathoning, Bliss dedicated the run to raise money for Crosswalk Youth Shelter, a center run by Volunteers of American for homeless teens in Spokane.

The presentation is free, but go online to pre-register to reserve a seat.

15th annual Sandhill Crane Festival set at Othello

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Another great assortment of field trips and programs is being organized for the 15th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, March 23-25 based from Othello, Wash., and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

The festival highlights the spring migration of large, lanky and gorgeous sandhill cranes that pass through the Eastern Washington gleaning food from the region's agricultural fields and resting on the protected refuge lands.

The Northwest Profiles TV segement above, produced by KSPS-TV, is a nice introduction to the festivals.

Check out the schedule of events that should be posted soon on the festival website, and sign up for events and field trips early. 

Timberline Lodge celebrating 75 years at Mount Hood

MOUNTAINS — The historic Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood turns 75 years old in this year.

Built during the Great Depression as a key part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal-WPA projects, the lodge has served FDR’s intention – as “a place to play for generations of Americans in the days to come.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Timberline will hold several promotions and special events throughout the year. Notable happenings include an ode to skiing and snowboarding during “Heritage Week” in April and a free concert and heritage fair.

It’s Nordic Nirvana at area xc ski areas

Put away that garden seed catalog. Cross-country ski areas are enjoying the season’s best snow conditions.

Mount Spokane: New snow has accumulated every day this week with temperatures largely in the teens and 20s. XCers in most of the world would die for these conditions.

Tauber Angus Ranch: “We had 14 inches of new snow earlier this week and I’m wondering how to get word out to people that the skiing is fantastic,” said Cassie Tauber, operations manager of the working cattle ranch. Family members who love to ski groom miles of trails about 12 miles north of Sandpoint.

“Our trails are more gentle than a lot of areas, great for families, and we have a yurt,” she said.

Info: (208) 263-6400.

4th of July Pass: Enough snow has accumulated for gates to be closed, barring vehicles, and for groomers to pack miles of trails.

“I welcome a good late winter and early spring ski season, if only to make up for the deficit we suffered in December and most of January,” said Geoff Harvey, Panhandle Nordic Club.

Methow Valley: “So much snow, so much fun,” says the email from the Methow Valley Sports Trail Association. The area near Winthrop is bustling this weekend with a winter triathlon hot-air balloon festival.

Idaho Fish and Game proposing reduction in elk harvest

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game wildlife managers have posted their proposals for Panhandle big-game hunting and will be taking comment public meetings starting Saturday.

Of special interest to most hunters are the proposals to reduce elk harvest in some areas.

Click continue reading to see the proposals and the explanation from Jim Hayden, Panhandle Region wildlife manager.

Silver Valley hunting meeting moved to Kellogg

HUNTING —  The site and time for the Silver Valley public meeting on big-game hunting seasons has been changed:

  • Saturday, March 3, in Kellogg, 7:30 a.m. at the Steelworkers Hall, 110 Hill St.

Are you game for 24 Hours at Schweitzer?

SKIING — Downhill skiing marathoners are conditioning their legs or gathering teams for the fourth annual “24 Hours of Schweitzer” March 30-31 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort — a fundraiser for a good cause.

Also known as “24 Hours for Hank,” the event seeks participants to rack up the vertical for bragging rights and cystinosis research.

24 Hours of Schweitzer is a team relay beginning at 8:30 a.m. March 30, running continuously through 8:30 a.m. on March 31.

Participants will ski as many runs as possible in 24 hours for prizes, bragging rights — an a cure for cystinosis, a rare and fatal disease that affects only 500 people nationwide. This all-day and -night fundraiser honors Hank Sturgis of Sandpoint, a 5 year old who has been diagnosed with cystinosis.

Skiers, telemarkers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities are welcome to participate as solo racers or as teams of three or four. Following the event is an awards party and auction that is open to the public.

Read on for details.

Avalanche advisory: Mountains loaded with powder

WINTER SPORTS — Wonderful deep powder is calling all backcountry snow worshipers today, and the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center is recommending that you go and get after it — but consider staying on the lower angle slopes!

The best snow avalanche technicians found during the weekly Thursday survey was in the valley bottom where it was deep and light, said Kevin Davis, center director. 

“Yesterday was the first time I have ever gotten 2 percent water content snow on the scale.  Once up into the mountains we found scoured snow surfaces on exposed areas and, although we couldn't get to them, I imagine the wind-loaded areas are deep.  Snow was excellent in the trees.

“Don't be blinded by the incredible powder because there is a persistent weak layer that is now buried 4 feet deep with a firm slab on top.  This weak layer was the one responsible for widespread and large avalanches across our forecast region for the past two weeks.  It is more difficult to trigger now but if it does go it could lead to massive and destructive avalanches.” 

Read on for the complete region avalanche report.

Top 10 boat names in past year revealed

BOATING — Wet Dream is out, Dream Weaver is in.  Popular names for boats are changing with the times, according to the 22nd annual survey of the most popular boat names by Boat Owners Association of the United States.

“A boat name reflects the life and loves of the owner,” says Occoless Trotter of the BoatUS Boat Graphics department in Alexandria, Virginia, which helps boaters design their own boat names. “But, it’s hard to sum it all up with just a few words.”

The boat owners group has been tallying the Top Ten Boat Names List for more than two decades.

This year's list of Top Ten Boat Names follows:

  1. Seas the Day
  2. Nauti Buoy
  3. Aquaholic
  4. Dream Weaver
  5. Pegasus
  6. Serenity Now
  7. Second Wind
  8. Liquid Asset
  9. Miss Behavin'
  10. Blew ByYou

Chilly opening day had fishing hot spots in Columbia Basin

FISHING — Fishing season opened today in a select group of lakes, mostly in Central Washington. While success rates weren't good everywhere, some lakes — notably Upper Caliche, Martha, Burke and Quincy Lakes — were the best in recently years, said Chad Jackson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist for the Columbia Basin.

The quality waters — Lenice, Nunnally, Lenore and Dusty Lakes saw very low effort and poor catch rates early in the day, he said. 

Although air temperatures were 28-32 degrees, skies were mostly sunny with mild winds and good to excellent harvest rates in many waters.

The cold weather appeared to be the factor in reducing angler effort 50-70 percent from recent years.

Read on for Jackson's detailed report by water.

PETA admits killing 95 percent of its shelter animals

ANIMALS — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an out-there animal rights and anti-hunting group, acknowledged Wednesday that it euthanized 95 percent of the animals at a shelter at its Virginia headquarters last year.

PETA also indicated it would like to kill the messanger.

Read the USA Today story here.

Remember, this is the group that stormed the Westminster Dog Show last year to oppose people who own purebred dogs.

Idaho hunting proposals would up wolf bag limit to 5

HUNTING – The numbers resemble the parameters for wild turkey hunts — but it’s the 2012 Idaho Panhandle wolf hunting and trapping proposals that have just been released by Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene:

Hunting

  • Bag limit, five wolves (up from two last year).
  • Season on public land, Aug. 30 – March 31 (same as last year).
  • Season on private land, July 1 – March 31.

Trapping

  • Bag limit, five wolves (up from three last year).
  • Season, Nov. 15 – March 31 (same as last year).
  • No trapping in Units 2 and 3 (same as last year).

The proposals will be discussed at public meetings starting this weekend to discuss a range of big game hunting proposals, including proposals for elk.

The new proposals would focus more pressure on wolves that are moving in near people on private lands, Hayden said.

The increase in bag limit will remove restrictions of some of the more successful wolf hunters and trappers.

”While relatively few reach the current bag limit regardless, this change will keep our most successful hunters and trappers afield, Hayden said. 

Read on for the schedule of public meetings in the Panhandle.

Mont. wolves increase 15 percent despite hunting

HUNTING — I'll bet wildlife mangers are wishing prey species such as elk and deer were this resilliant.

Despite months of open hunting, Montana's grey wolf population increased by about 15 percent in 2011.

A report issued by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said the state has at least 653 wolves, with 130 verified packs and 39 breeding pairs, well above the state's wolf plan objectives of a minimum of 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves.

Here's the story from the Associated Press and Missoulian, along with links to related stories.

  

Forest Service responds to court decision on access fees

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service has just released the following  statement regarding a federal court decision on fees charged for access to some national forest trailheads.

A recent article that appeared in news outlets around the country misportrayed a recent court decision that has the Forest Service currently reevaluating portions of its recreational fee system.

Visitors to national forests should continue expect to pay the established recreation fees that are currently in place. The U.S. Forest Service has charged user fees since 1965 and, since the mid-1990s, more than 90 percent of those fees have been used for improvements to the areas where the fees have been collected.

The Forest Service began a review of all recreation fees two years ago, and in January made preliminary proposals on their future status. Under these proposals, 26 national forest areas will still require visitor fees, down from the current 90 areas nationwide. However, no final decision can or will be made until the proposals are reviewed by the local Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, which will be meeting throughout 2012.

All Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public and include opportunities for public comment.

Update: Legislators inflict hunter discrimination on CA official

HUNTING — The flap continues in California over the Fish and Game Commission president who came to Idaho for a legally guided cougar hunt.

His home-state anti-hunting creeps are wailing for him to resign since cougars can't be hunted in California. Forty state legislators sent him a letter saying he should quit.

Do they send letters to residents who go to other states and enjoy things that are prohibited in California?  Can California officials go to Nevada and enjoy a casino?  Can they go to Montana and drive a rental car that doesn't have California pollution equipment?

Can they come to Eastern Washington and enjoy driving a highway without a traffic jam?

Read the latest on this state-endorsed hunter discrimination here.

See this story for comments from the Idaho outfitter who encouraged the cougar hunt.

Geoduck winning protection; next — state bird?

SHELLFISH — Just kidding with the headline. I know the difference between clams and waterfowl.

But for a long time, it seems, ducks have had more protection than the great goeduck of Washington's beaches.

Numbers of the largest, oldest and most bizarre-looking wild clam species in the state have been going downhill, says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Geoduck poaching is particularly damaging because the species grows slowly over a long period,” said WDFW director Phil Anderson.

The delicacy is the largest burrow clam species in the world and has been recorded as living as long as 146 years.

WDFW and the Department of Natural Resources announced this week in a joint statement that they will undertake new efforts aimed at “preventing poaching, evaluating environmental factors that may be contributing to the decline, seeking legislative budget support for additional field enforcement and reviewing harvest regulations.”

The key may be whether they get the $500,000 they're requesting for increased enforcement.

The goeduck can grow up to two pounds by the time it is five years old.  The ones that live into their 100s can reach 10 pounds and fetch $160 per pound on the retail market.
  

I-90 motorists willing to report critter sightings for research

WILDLIFE — Motorists see a lot of wildlife — dead and alive — while driving I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, and they're willing to share their sightings.

In the first-year of a motorist based wildlife monitoring program, nearly 7,000 visits were logged into the Wildlife Watch website by interested parties and 240 instances of live and dead animals were reported between North Bend and Easton.

The goal is to learn where wildlife crosses the highway so methods might be used to prevent collisions with the animals and the 28,000 vehicles traveling over the Pass each day.

The majority of live animals sighted were deer and elk, with black bears, coyotes, and numerous other species also reported.

The program was launched in November 2010 by the Western Transportation Institute, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, and other partners.

The Washington Department of Transportation’s I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project plans to help enhance driver safety and reconnect north-south wildlife corridors by constructing 24 wildlife crossing structures along a 15-mile stretch of highway between Hyak and Easton.

The photo at left is a visualization of an overpass planned for I-90 neer Keechelus Dam on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass. The photo above is I-90 in its current condition.

Meetings set to explain Idaho hunting season options

HUNTING — With concern for elk herds still high on the list of issues, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has scheduled four public meetings in the Idaho Panhandle to discuss 2012 big-game hunting seasons for deer, bear, lion, wolves and elk.

In some cases, the wildlife managers will be recommending more liberal hunting for bears, cougars and wolves and more restrictive hunting for elk to help bring back herds.

Morning meetings:
  • Saturday, March 3, in Pinehurst,  7 a.m. at the Lions Club, 106 Church St.
  • Saturday, March 3, in St. Maries, 8 a.m., at the Elks Lodge, 628 Main St.
(Coffee will be provided free, and breakfast will be available for those who want to purchase it.)
 
Evening meetings
  • Thursday, March 8, in Sandpoint, 7 p.m., at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, Lehman Building.
  • Friday, March 9, in Coeur d’Alene, 7 p.m., at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.
In addition to the four local public meetings, the public will soon be able to view proposals and post comments on the IDFG website.
 
Read on for insights in the big-game situation by Jim Hayden, IDFG Panhandle Region wildlife manager.

What’s your image of a road cyclist?

BICYCLING — March means bicyclists soon will be blooming in profusion.  Here's an instructive poster to check out from Big Thigh Country.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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