ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Outdoors blog

Archive for February 2013

Yellowstone’s roads closing so plowing can begin

NATIONAL PARKS — The transition has begun at Yellowstone National Park. Pavement will soon be exposed.

Seasonal road closures in Yellowstone NP begin Friday
Over-snow travel season is drawing to a close in Yellowstone National Park, and on Friday, the East Entrance will close at 9 p.m., and on Sunday, over-snow travel into the park from Mammoth Hot Springs will close. Other closures will take effect next week. —Billings Gazette

Montana wolf seasons closing with higher harvest

PREDATORS — With Montana's wolf season coming to a close this evening, hunters and trappers have reported killing 223 wolves during the state’s third season and the first that allowed trapping.

That's an increase of 53 over last season's total.

The general rifle wolf season began Oct. 20; trapping opened Dec. 15. Both seasons will be closed Friday.

With expanded hunting options and recently modified regulations, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has made up ground in its pursuit of reducing the wolf population.
 
Hunters shot 131 wolves and trappers caught 92, according to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website this morning.
 
“Certainly it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ron Aasheim, FWP spokesman in Helena.
IDAHO, which allows hunters to shoot up to five wolves and trap up to five wolves, is in the middle of its second annual hunting season. Hunters and trappers have taken a combined 245 wolves so far in the 2012-2013 seasons (169 by hunters, 76 by trappers). The current season closes March 31.

Avalanche danger ranging to high in area mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Be careful out there winter snow goers.  The warm front with heavy wet snow is creating high avalanche danger in the region's mountains, as you'll see in this National Weather Service warning for the North Cascades issued Wednesday evening.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center  posts its weekly advisories on Fridays.

Whooo are the first love birds of the season?

WILDLIFE — At least one bird species in the Inland Northwest was way ahead of the crowd on the procreation front, as I mentioned in today's Outdoors column.

But birdwatcher reporting from Pend Oreille County Wednesday said they a raucus bunch of hungry nestlings proved that common ravens weren't far behind.

Idaho meeting focuses managing chinook rules

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game fishery personnel has set up meetings to present the latest information on this year’s chinook salmon runs and discuss stratgies for managing the runs in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

The meetings begin at 6 a.m. as follows:

  • Lewiston: Monday (March 4) at Idaho Fish and Game Office, 3316 16th St.
  • Orofino: Tuesday (March 5), IDFG Clearwater Hatchery, 118 Hatchery Roe Dr., located northwest of Ahsahka Bridge.
  • Riggins:  Wednesday (March 6 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time), Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge, 1010 S. Main St.

Comments also can be emailed to Joe DuPont, fisheries manager in Lewiston, joe.dupont@idfg.idaho.gov.

Video: Wash. wolverines trapped, tracked for research

WILDLIFE — Research underway in Washington, Oregon and Idaho seeks to understand more about a wilderness icon, North America's reclusive carnivore — the wolverine.

Last weekend we took a glimpse at how citizen scientists are helping Idaho Fish and Game monitor a range of carnivores including wolverines in the Idaho Panhandle.

KING 5 TV  this week has an excellent update (above) on wolverine research in the North Cascades, including footage of a a fiesty critter trapped, collared and released.

Red Ives cabin reservation deadline Thursday

FISHING — Procrastinators lose in the quest to bunk in a Forest Service cabin along the St. Joe River, float a prized Idaho wilderness river or backpack through certain prized wilderness areas.

This is the season for thinking ahead to summer adventures that require a special permit or reservations.

Reservations for most permits and rentals on national forests and parks area available through the National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS), (877) 444-6777 or recreation.gov/.

However, not every choice destination is onboard with the national online system.

Entering the lottery for reserving the Red Ives Cabin on the St. Joe River requires a letter of application to the ranger district.

  • Applications must be postmarked by Thursday Feb. 28!

Red Ives cabin reservations are assigned in a lottery drawing. Applications are accepted early January through Feb. 28. The application is available from Forest Service offices or online at www.fs.usda.gov/ipnf; click on the Red Ives Quick Link. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of March.

More than 500 applications were received for the 2012 season but only 50 applicants could be selected for reservations. Info: (208) 245-2531.

Salmon River eddy creates ice circle — nature’s merry-go-round

RIVERS — Photographer Gary Lane of Riggins, who does Salmon River rafting with Wapiti River Guides in Idaho, captured this image of a rare natural phenomenon that occurs in slow moving water in cold climates, such as January in the River of No Return Wilderness.

Ice circles are thin and circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. Generally they form in eddy currents. In fluid dynamics, an eddy is the swirling of a fluid and the reverse current created when the fluid flows past an obstacle or disturbance to the flow, such as a bay.

Some mystics have seized on the “power” of ice circles.  Some wackos connect them with UFOs.

See other instances of ice circles:

YouTube

Wikipedia

United Kingdom

Viewzone

Idaho may allow falconers to capture peregrines

FALCONRY — For the first time in more than 40 years, up to two falconers in Idaho may once again get limited opportunity to capture and keep a wild peregrine falcon — a species federally listed as endangered from 1970-1999.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department proposes to allow the capture of two juvenile peregrines from the wild for falconry purposes in 2013 and has developed a set of draft rules for public comment through March 11.

The American peregrine falcon has continued to rebound since being delisted to the extent that in 2004 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the capture of nestling peregrines from the wild for use in falconry.

In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service also allowed capture of post-fledging first-year peregrines – hatch year or “passage” birds.

States have the authority to manage the capture of up to 5 percent of annual production. Based on Fish and Game surveys, the most juvenile peregrines that could be taken from the wild in Idaho in any given year would be two birds.

Montana, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona also allow the capture of peregrine falcons.

The peregrine has been used in falconry for more than 3,000 years, beginning with nomads in central Asia. Captured wild migratory peregrines were used regularly by North American falconers from 1938 to 1970 when the species was added to the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants.

Until 2004, nearly all peregrines used for falconry in the United States were captive-bred from the offspring of birds captured before the Endangered Species Act was enacted.

The successful recovery program involved a collaboration of Boise’s Peregrine Fund along with state and federal wildlife agencies. Falconers provided the needed expertise through a technique called “hacking,” the release of a captive-bred bird from a special cage at the top of a tower or cliff ledge.

Plan to attend program on spur of the moment climbing

CLIMBING — Jess Roskelley of Spokane said Alaska climber John Frieh opened his eyes with his method of “Smash and Grab” climbing efforts (see the Sunday Outdoors story).

They'll be explaining it in a free mult-media program starting at 7 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 28) at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division St. 

Minor changes offered for North Idaho big-game hunting rules

HUNTING — The general season cow elk hunt is not proposed to return in the Idaho Panhandle this fall as Idaho Fish and Game managers stay fairly conservative with their recommendations for 2013 big game seasons.

Increases in controlled hunts for antlerless elk and deer are proposed, but for the most part seasons will stay the same as last year for mule deer, whitetails and elk.

Biologists will be on hand to explain the season proposals and gather public comment during an open-house meeting 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on March 7 at the Best Western Plus on the corner of Highway 95 and Appleway in Coeur d’Alene

Proposals for Idaho's 2013 big-game hunting seasons and an online comment form have been posted on the Fish and Game Department's Website.

Jim Hayden, IFG regional wildlife manager, said the elk seasons would resemble last year's hunts in North Idaho with minor tweeks to the controlled huntfor antlerless elk:

“The net result for next year's antlerless elk hunting would be no cow harvest in Units 4, 4A, 6, 7, and 9, lower than average harvest in Unit 1, and near average in Units 2, 3, and 5, where depredations are becoming a bit of a concern.”

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will set final big game hunting season rules at the quarterly meeting in Boise on March 18. 

Speak up, get on the list

As the old saying goes, the world is ruled by those who show up.

Two years ago, IDFG mailed out a questionnaire on hunting seasons in Unit 1 to a random selection of Unit 1 elk hunters.  The process provided a statistically valid cross-section of hunters’ opinions, and proved to be a tool IDFG jused in decision-making.  That effort is being expanded this year, and 1,000 hunters who purchased hunting licenses in the Panhandle Region will receive a survey in the mail.  Their comments will help make decisions for the 2013 seasons. 

It’s official: Methow steelheading opens Friday

FISHING — The Methow River in northcentral Washington will open to fishing for steelhead and whitefish on Friday (March 1), the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced moments ago.

The agency also noted that two sections of the Okanogan River will CLOSE for steelhead fishing on March 17.

Click continue reading for all the dates,  hours, rules and details about this fishery and other steelhead fisheries in the Upper Columbia region. 

Note that a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead endorsement is required in addition to a fishing license and steelhead card.

Slick advertising can’t make us forget Gulf oil spill

ENVIRONMENT — Working up to the high-stakes trial that began this week, British Petroleum has been spending a lot of time and money advertising that the oil spill from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster has been cleaned up and everything is cool. Yeah, sure.

Meanwhile, hundreds of coastal wetlands remain contaminated and every major storm stirs up more oil mats from the ocean bottom and spreads them out on Gulf beaches.

Wildlife and people took a terrible beating from this mess and it was relatively accessible compared with the oil development and potential disaster brewing in the Arctic Ocean.

This is serious business with profound potential impacts to life in the water and on the coastlines.

Golden eagle flying free without research “backpack”

WILDLIFE — This male golden eagle has worn a GPS “backpack” for eight years to provide information about home range size and habitat use in Eastern Washington, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Facebook page.

Now at least 13 years old, he was recently recaptured by the agency's raptor researcher who removed the equipment to let him spend the rest of his life flying “free.”

Local fly fishing school is a real catch

FLY FISHING — Read my Sunday Outdoors story for details on why the Spokane Fly Fishers 31st annual Fly Fishing School could be the best time investment an angler could make.

And the two club members in the photo above — Dan Ferguson, left, and Mike Berube — are examples of the mentors the students get to associate with: Priceless.

Learn from the Spokane Fly Fishers

What: 31st annual Fly Fishing School.

When: Thursday evenings, March 7-April 25, plus Saturday sessions on pontoon safety and casting.

Who: Organized by Spokane Fly Fishers club.

Where: St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy Ave., plus field sites.

Cost: $125 for nonmembers, includes membership.

Sign up: Mike Berube, (509) 999-8235; spokaneflyfishers.com.

Fishing, hunting, land additions on Wash. commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has a full agenda of wide ranging topics to cover at its meeting Friday in Moses Lake.

Among the 15 agenda items, the panel will take public comments on proposed changes to hunting rules, consider adopting sportfishing rules and vote on buying a 1600-acre addition to the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area in Asotin County.

The meeting will convene at 8 a.m. at the Moses Lake Civic Center, 401 S. Balsam St.

The commission will accept public comments on 17  proposed hunting rule changes, which would include allowing the use of illuminated arrow nocks for archery equipment and restoring antlerless elk opportunities for archery hunters in Yakima County Units 352 (Nile) and 356 (Bumping).

The commission won't vote on the proposed changes to hunting rules until its April 12-13 meeting in Olympia.

However, the commission will consider adopting nearly 70 sportfishing rules, including proposals that would allow the use of two fishing poles on 50 additional lakes throughout the state and liberalize limits for walleye, bass and catfish in the Columbia River system. 

The standout among three proposed land transactions is the plan to buy 1,614 acres of the 4-0 Ranch in Asotin County as phase two of a multi-year project to secure a total of nearly 12,000 acres of riparian habitat for steelhead and bull trout and terrestrial habitat for deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

Idaho seeks comments on big-game hunting seasons

HUNTING — As wildlife biologists try to wrap up winter surveys, the Idaho Fish and Game has scheduled  public meetings around the state to discuss proposals for 2013 big game seasons and rules.

Some of the proposals likely to emerge include:

  • Increased black bear season length and mountain lion bag limit and season length in the Panhandle.
  • Youth/disabled vet extra tag hunt on private lands in the Clearwater Region.
  • Reallocating A tags from nonresident to resident in Diamond Creek elk zone in the Southeast Region.
  • Reallocating capped Salmon elk zone from nonresident to resident in the Salmon Region.

Comments taken at the meetings will be summarized and presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at the March 19 meeting when big game seasons are set.

The Panhandle Region has scheduled an open house meeting, 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on March 7 at the Coeur d’Alene Inn, Best Western Plus on Appleway at US Highway 95 in Coeur d’Alene.

Clearwater Region meetings are as follows:

  • Grangeville: Senior Citizens Center, Feb. 26
  • Moscow: Latah County Fairground Exhibit Building, Feb. 27
  • Lewiston: IDFG Regional Office, March 5
  • Orofino: IDFG Clearwater Hatchery located NW of bridge in Ahsahka, March 6.

Weighted lottery could help luckless river permit applicants

RUNNING RIVERS — My wife and I and a dozen friends in our would-be rafting group feel your pain if you didn't draw a coveted permit to reserve a launch date for one of Idaho's four famous wilderness whitewater rivers.

We bombed, too.

The competition is stiff for the annual drawing to run the Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway or Hells Canyon of the Snake.  But it's funny how some groups never get drawn and others seem to luck out and draw a permit every year.

Everyone who applied this year has received a query from the Forest Service, which is considering a weighted lottery for river permits roughly similar to that used in most states for issuing hunting permits.  In other words, every time you apply and don't get selected, you gain chances that give you better odds in the next  year's drawing.

It' a good idea? If you have a stake in this, read these details from the Forest Service and email them your thoughts.

North Idaho outdoorsman Todd Hoffman said he's already replied the Salmon-Challis National Forest with these suggestions for a weighted lottery:

  1. Cap preference points to five.
  2. Limit trips to one per person per year.
  3. Allow pooling of applications and preference points.
  4. Set preference points to zero for any one who draws a permit or who participates in another permit holders trip.
  5. Release any unused commercial launches to private boaters.
  6. Create an online follow up lottery for cancellations.
  7. Implement smaller caps for trip sizes, but create more launches.

Robins flock in profusion near Walla Walla

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've seen flocks of American robins off and on around Spokane this winter, but nothing close to the locust-like congregations found earlier this month near Walla Walla.

Carl Kjellstrand sent these two photos from the Walla Walla area and noted that the robins dimmed the afternoon sunlight.

CRP offerings could be in high demand in May

PRIVATE LANDS — Hunters have a stake in the Conservation Reserve Program signup scheduled for May 20-June 14. The federal government expects the contracts to be highly competitive. The corresponding boost to wildlife habitat depends on the quality of the bids made by landowners.

Nationwide, 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP. The program is capped at 32 million acres. The signup will also cover acreage included in contracts that are expiring on Sept. 30.

Idaho has 622,570 acres enrolled in CRP, with 68,332 acres set to expire. The state has 2,722 farms enrolled in CRP, receiving more than $31.725 million in annual rental payments at an average of about $51 per acre.

Washington has 1,453,481 acres enrolled in CRP, with more than 253,600 acres set to expire. The state has 5,305 farms receiving more than $83.631 million in annual rental payments, averaging more than $57 per acre.

CRP contracts typically span 10 years and offer payments for growers to manage land for environmental and wildlife benefits rather than planting crops. Growers' contract offers are chosen based on scores derived from plans they offer to make enduring environmental improvements and benefit wildlife habitat, water quality, erosion control, farm soil health and air quality.

Interested landowners already are meeting with specialists from farm and fish and wildlife agencies to help groom their bids for maximum points.

Snowmobilers venturing out of bounds at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — A few snowmobilers continue to break rules and ride out of their approved zones and onto snowshoe trails and the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane.

It's not a new problem, as this story explains.

Snowshoers who have been finding tracks in several park areas off-limits to snowmobiles suggest people who encounter the problem should report their experience on Mount Spokane State Park's online visitor comment form.

Anglers divided on macks or kokes at Priest Lake

FISHING – As a divisive debate on managing nonnative lake trout with native cutthroats and popular kokanee at Priest Lake continues, Idaho Fish and Game officials will hold a public meeting Thursday (Feb. 28) in Priest River.

Biologists will present their evaluation of the fisheries and the results of opinion surveys starting at 7 p.m. at the Priest River Senior Center, 339 W. Jackson Center.

Agency researchers already have contracted with commercial boats to survey lake trout populations using gillnets this spring.

Lake trout, also called mackinaw, have dominated the Priest Lake fishery since they overpopulated the lake in the 1980s, collapsing the kokanee and bull trout populations, IFG biologists say. 

While the lake trout fishery has become popular with many anglers, other fishermen would prefer restoration of a kokanee, bull trout and cutthroat fishery, said Jim Fredericks, IFG regional fishery manager.

Bringing back kokanee and native fisheries would require gillnetting and angler incentives to significantly reduce the lake trout population, similar to what’s been done in recent years at Lake Pend Oreille.

Anglers are almost equally polarized in the debate, Fredericks said.

Lake trout are prolific, inexpensive to manage and provide a steady fishing opportunity, he said.

On the other hand, lake trout tend to dominate systems at the expense of other species, and they’re not as valuable to the recreation economy as kokanee, he said.

Palaniuk of Rathdrum 2nd in Bassmaster Classic

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk, 25, of Rathdrum entered the third and final day of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic today needing to make up a 7-pound deficit.  And he nearly did it!

Palaniuk, who has a BASS elite champion ranking, finished as the runner-up in the 43rd annual World Championship of bass fishing at Grand Lake O' the Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla.  

He caught a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 51 pounds 8 ounces, short of the 14 bass totaling 54 pounds 12 ounces ounces caught by 32-year-old winner Cliff Pace.

Pace, from Petal, Miss., earned $500,000.  Palaniuk won $45,000.

By the last day of fishing, the field of 53 anglers that qualified from international competition for the big event was narrowed to 25 anglers battling for the chance to be crowned the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champ.

Depite a disappointing performance in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, Palaniuk has been a hot item on the pro fishing circuits for three years, claiming a $100,000 top prize in April but still living out of the back of his pickup to save money. 

Palaniuk caught everyone's attention with his standout Bassmaster debut in 2011, finishing fourth and winning $30,000.

Bassmaster on TV

See Palaniuk in action during the 10 hours of Classic coverage set to air on ESPN2. The Bassmasters will present its Day One show at 9-10 a.m. ET, March 2 . Coverage of the final two days of Classic competition will air March 3 from 7-9 a.m. ET and 10 a.m.-noon ET. Fans can see Classic shows again on March 10 on ESPN2 from 5-9 a.m. ET. An hour-long Classic highlights program will air at 8 a.m. on April 7.

Locals present program on kayaking in France

ADVENTURE TRAVEL – A program on kayaking rivers in France will be featured Monday (Feb 25) at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Office at 6021 E. Mansfield, Spokane.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Club members Jim Nelson and Charlene Longworth will discuss their river adventures on Corsica, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Judge rules sea lions can be targeted in Columbia River

FISHERIES – A federal judge in Oregon last week ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not err when it reauthorized a program targeting sea lions for death in the Pacific Northwest.

The program intended to preserve endangered salmon by killing sea lions is within the bounds of the fisheries service and states as they try to balance the proection of sea lions with the protection of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, the court ruled, according to a story in the Oregonian.

The program was reauthorized last year, through June 2016.

The Humane Society of the United States sued, saying the program targeting sea lions is arbitrary. They say the animals consume, at most, 4 percent of the salmon coming through the Bonneville Dam. Commercial and sport fishers, by contrast, take nearly 17 percent, The Oregonian reported ( ).

However, the judge pointed out that fishery managers can scale back fishing when runs are low but can’t do the same for sea lions.

The states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho backed the plan, part of an effort to keep alive five runs of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act that pass Bonneville, the first dam they encounter on the Columbia River.

Idaho focuses on wilderness trail maintenance

WILDERNESS — Outfitters outraged about the disastrous condition of unmaintained trails in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness got a hearing Thursday in the Idaho Legislature.

Result: State lawmakers want U.S. Forest Service officials to make trail repair a priority in the vast backcountry for increased access and safety.  See the story.

Newberg joins Elk Foundation board despite outfitters’ plea

HUNTING — Despite an effort and even a hint of extortion by some Montana outfitters to have him barred, television host Randy Newberg’s appointment to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s board was announced on Wednesday.

“Our position is pretty simple,” David Allen, RMEF’s CEO, told the Billings Gazette. “We feel we have room for all types of hunters and nonhunters.
 
Some outfitters don't like Newberg because his Sportsman Channel show features do-it-yourself hunting at the expense of guided hunts.  See details and links in this previous post.
 
“We are not going to get into hunter versus hunter debates because that’s nonproductive for all of us,” Allen added. “One person on a 24-member board does not have an undue influence on strategy.”
 
Click here for the story by Brett French of the Billing Gazette.

Spring black bear hunt applications due Feb. 28

HUNTING — Hunters have until Feb. 28 to apply for black bear spring hunting permits in Washington. 

A drawing will be held in mid-March for 383 permits in western Washington and 314 permits for hunts east of the Cascades. Permit winners will receive their permit in the mail by March 31. Applicants also can check drawing results online.
 
More information on hunts scheduled on both sides of the state is available on page 63 in the 2012 Big Game Hunting Rules pamphlet.
 
Any legal weapon used during the modern firearm, archery or muzzleloader seasons can be used for spring black bear hunts.Bait or hounds are not allowed for bear hunting.

Where should line be drawn on big-game auction tags?

HUNTING — I'm getting reaction — mostly positive — on today's outdoors column regarding the record $480,000 auction bid for a Montana bighorn sheep hunting tag.

Some readers are concerned that in the pursuit of funding, more tags will be reserved for the rich and the average hunter will be marginalized.

Others say offering a few special tags that bring in big bucks for wildlife conservation is worth it for everyone.

May pike derby part of pike control on Pend Oreille River

FISHING — Northern pike gillnetting that started last spring on the Pend Oreille River will be continued this year in the effort to keep the pike population roughly 90 percent lower than it was at this point last year in Box Canyon Reservoir area.

Starting in early March, crews from the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department will use gillnets to remove the invasive species from the reservoir and will work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor the results.

  • Sportsmen will be rewarded for contributing to the pike control effort with big cash prizes offered in a northern pike fishing derby May 17-19, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.  Info: (509) 447-7290. Two of the Pikepalooza events were held last year.

“Northern pike are voracious predators that pose a significant threat to native fish species,” said Bruce Bolding, WDFW warmwater fish program manager. “They can cause a great deal of ecological and economic damage.”

Click “continue reading” for more details from the WDFW media release posted this morning.

Trumpeter swans flocking to Turnbull

WILDLIFE — Just a few years ago we were amazed to see a single Trumpeter swan return Solo year after year, decade after decade at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

That old bird left his mark.  After finally mating and producing a few broods, trumpeter swans have taken hold at the refuge south of Cheney.  With the ice gone, we can expect another year of pleasant viewing from the walking trails near the headquarters.

At least three of the five cygnets hatched at Turnbull last year survived through fall.

Carlene Hardt already has been enjoying them.

I was out at Turnbull on Saturday and I counted 15 Trumpeter Swans on Middle Pine Pond! There were 11 adults and 4 cygnets. Maybe the family from last year was part of it? They sure were vocal and active.

Methow River steelhead fishing could open in March

FISHING — Washington fisheries managers are still working through the red tape surrounding the endangered stocks, but they're fairly confident they'll be able to open a fishing season for hatchery-marked steelhead in the Methow River starting in the first week of March.

The official word should be out by the end of this week or Monday, said Jeff Korth, Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager in Ephrata. 

The likely bet would be a season opening March 1 and running about two or three weeks, he said.

Wenatchee sportsman show debuts this weekend

OUTDOORS — The new Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen's Show, featuring hunting and fishing exhibitors, debuts in Wenatchee'sTown Toyota Center Friday through Sunday, promoted by Shuyler Productions.

The Shuylers also oranized the Tri-Cities Sportsman Show Jan. 18-20 and The Central Washington Sportsman Show  Feb. 15-17.

The Shuylers attempted to establish a fishing-only show in Spokane a few years go, but abandoned the effort after two years.

Video: This fishing method is a blast

FISHING (sort of) — A lot of jokes have been made regarding fishing with dynamite.

But just in case you're actually thinking about trying the method to put a mess of fish in the boat, watch this video first!

Spokane benefit raises $6,500 for Wild Steelhead Coalition

FISHING — A benefit auction and film showing Tuesday night in Spokane netted $6,500 for the Wild Steelhead Coalition, says Josh Mills, organizer and fly fishing blogger.

About 260 people, up from 149 in last year's debut event, paid $5 each to get into the event at the Lincoln Center, where they could have a drink, bid on prizes ranging from flies to guided steelhead trips and watch the fine and funny fly fishing video, Low and Clear.

Mills, who recruited his entire family to help put on the event, said this effort was a payback for his indelible memory of catching his first wild steelhead.

Elk near Fairfield being chased by dog

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Wolves and cougars aren't the only critters posing a threat to the region's elk herds.

Tom and Jane Smith of Spokane Valley were driving southbound on Highway 27 toward Fairfield Tueday around 1 p.m. when Tom reports, “I saw the largest herd of elk I've ever sighted.” 

Just north of the Elder Road turnoff, we saw a herd of between 20 and 30 animals—several bulls—being chased by a dog.  They were headed east toward Highway 27 then turned back west.  We lost them in the hills. 

Great to see (not the dog, but the elk).

Wash. lawmakers pass wolf bills out of committee

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two of several gray wolf-related bills being considered in the 2013 Washington Legislature have passed out of committee and could be considred by the Senate.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has this update on the status of the bills.

Idaho lawmakers want say in endangered species efforts

WILDLIFE —  A bill giving Idaho more decision-making power over endangered species is headed to the full Senate for a vote.

The Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Monday voted in favor of Senate Bill 1061, legislation that would give the state final say on whether an endangered plant or animal is reintroduced into the state. Current law already requires the legislature to approve reintroducing rare species.

Sen. Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson) said the measure will help state to manage wildlife.

But Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) questioned whether the bill would have any teeth when matched against federal authority. She says the state could ultimately lose money arguing the question with the federal government in the courts.

Brackett said he thought those questions could instead be resolved through an administrative appeals process.

Outfitters liken Salmon River trails to disaster area

WILDERNESS — Horse packers fed up with the lack of trail maintenance and the frequency of wildfire in Idaho’s largest wilderness area are asking legislators to declare it a natural resource disaster area.  The Idaho Legislature is likely to discuss a resolution on this issue on Thursday, reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

House Joint Memorial No. 1 seeks disaster status for the pristine Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. Sponsored by Rep. Lenore Barrett of Challis and Rep. Marcus Gibbs of Grace — and authored by the Salmon Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Idaho — the resolution represents a shot across the bow of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the 2.3 million-acre area in the mountainous heart of the state.

Click “continue reading” for more details from Barkers report.

Fishing, hunting rules and land purchase on panel’s agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — New sport fishing rules, a major land acquisition in Asotin County, spring bear seasons, and hunting season proposals are on the agenda for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting March 1 in Moses Lake.

The meeting, to be held at the Moses Lake Civic Center, 401 S Balsam in Moses Lake, will begin at 8 a.m. with a public input session.

Specific March 1 commission agenda topics include:

  • Director’s report.
  • Sportfishing rule proposals.
  • Land transactions.
  • Wildlife crossing project on Interstate 90.
  • Hunting seasons and regulations for spring bear, small game, and special permit seasons for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, elk and deer.
  • Importation of dead nonresident wildlife.
  • Lighted nocks for archery equipment.

The land transaction discussions include Phase 2 of multi-year effort to acquire 12,000 acres of the wildlife-friendly 4-O Land and Livestock property along the Grande Ronde River in the Grouse Flat Unit of the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area.

In January 2012, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife made the initial purchase of 2,200 acres in the Mountain View area.

The second-phase purchase, if approved by the commission, would include spending just over $3 million for 1,613 acres adjoining the Phase 1 property to be managed as additions to the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area, which is under the umbrella of the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area.

  • Click on the document attached below for details and maps on the 4-0 Ranch acquisition phases.

Documents:

Thaw melts plans for Hauser Lake ice fishing event

FISHING — Thinning ice has caused the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to cancel the Take Me Fishing ice fishing event planned for Saturday, (Feb. 23) at Hauser Lake, officials announced Tuesday evening.

Located in Idaho almost within a long fishing cast of Washington; Hauser Lake is a popular fishery for yellow perch, bluegills, crappie and other species. The lake normally produces excellent fishing in both the summer and winter.
 
However, this winter has not been kind to northern Idaho ice fishing anglers. There were only about three weeks of good, solid ice present on Hauser and some of the other lowland lakes.
 
Only two anglers were on the entire 550 acre lake on Tuesday morning. They were fishing on the north side of the lake, precariously near open water.
 
“While two individual anglers may be able to get on and off the ice successfully, IDFG cannot sponsor an ice fishing event that could attract several hundred people when the ice is thin,” said IFG spokesman Phil Cooper.
 
IDFG plans will have to hold off until next winter to redo the event, which allows anglers to borrow gear and fish without a fishing license during specified hours.  About 550 people showed up for last year's event, and ate a ton of free hot dogs to boot.
 
Ice conditions can change every day with fluctuating temperatures and changing water levels. Because of that, anglers must be very careful before venturing out on the ice. Ice that is at least 4” thick is safe if it is clear. Anything less or with bubbles embedded in it can be weak and dangerous.
 
Anglers looking for late season ice fishing opportunities could look at Upper Twin and Lower Twin lakes which tend to hold ice longer than most area waters. As of President’s Day there was solid ice on both. However, the channel between the lakes thins out early.
 
Some of the Boundary County lakes may have safe ice.

Montana House votes down “cutting corners” public land access bill

PUBLIC LANDS — Led by Republicans, the Montana House has rejected a plan to give hunters and others access at “corner crossings” to public land that is intermingled with private land in a checkerboard pattern.

The measure was championed by sportsmen and House Democrats to ensure public access to more than 800,000 acres of landlocked public parcels in the state.

Hunters and advocacy groups packed the chamber in support of the measure, seeking access to patches of government land that meet at corners. Supporters of House Bill 235 said denying access at such corners ensures that mega-land owners like Ted Turner can lock up blocks of public land.

“This law would no longer criminalize a Montana sportsman from jumping from one corner of public land to another corner of public land,” said Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula. “We are talking about hopscotch, folks, leaping from one corner of public property without touching any private land.”

Republican critics argued that there is no way to cross at the corners without trespassing, even if a person knows exactly where the property lines intersect. They argued that a person's hips and shoulders would cross the airspace at the intersection of the four corners while hopping between parcels.

In Washington, a hunter would be legal in crossing a corner if he didn't stray onto private lands, state Fish and Wildlife police say.

“As far as I'm aware, where four sections come together at a single point, no Washington officer would cite a person who went right over the corner. It seems like Montana is cutting hairs pretty close to cite somebody for trespassing in that instance.”

Capt. Dan Rahn, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 1 enforcement coordinator.

Montana outfitters threaten Elk Foundation over board nominee

BIG-GAME — Some Montana outfitters are threatening to withdraw support from the the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation if the conservation group doesn't withdraw its nomination of national hunting TV show host Randy Newberg to its board of directors.

The outfitters contend Newberg's Sportsman Channel show, On Your Own Adventures, favors do-it-yourself hunters and puts down the services of guides.

In an email from Montana Outfitters and Guides Association to all of the RMEF board members, management and other state outfitter associations, director Mac Minard stated on Wednesday that “Outfitters from several states have expressed concern …” because Newberg “…is affiliated with, and often represents one or more organizations that some perceive to be anti-outfitting/landowner often presenting the western Outfitting Industry in a negative light.”

Minard’s email goes on to say, “(Montana based outfitters) have indicated they may withdraw donations to RMEF if the appointment goes through.”

  • Newberg is outraged by the charges and posted this thread of comments on his Hunt Talk blog site.
  • Billings Gazette outdoor writer posted a story on the flap, noting that the story may be updated later today.

My two cents: I'm very surprised the MOGA would take this stand against a hunter and outdoorsman who is top notch in his line of work. If anything else, a little diversity on the RMEF board would make the organization stronger. Mostly, I see this as another regrettable fracture in the ranks of sportsmen.

Read on for more details from the Gazette story:

Washington wolf packs detailed

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Although Idaho won't be releasing its 2012 year-end gray wolf surveys report until March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department released its federally required report last week, as we reported.

The details are posted on the agency's gray wolf webpage, but Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine has compiled this easy-to-read rundown of all the known wolf packs in Washington with updated info.

Roosevelt lake levels on downward trend

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1278.4 feet today in a drop that was predicted to be around 1 foot in a 24 hour period.

The elevation of Lake Roosevelt is expected to drop by about 1/2 foot per day over the next week. It is antipated the elevation will be about 1274 by the end of next week, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. 

Currently, Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet the minimum tailwater requirement of 13.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum.

The flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt have changed based on the February water supply forecast. January turned out to be a dry month and currently the forecast does not call for significant precipitation into the near future. The water inflow forecast from January - July into Lake Roosevelt is 89% of average.

The flood control levels are the maximum elevation for Lake Roosevelt. Other factors such as power demand or supplying water downstream for fish can result in elevations under the flood control elevations.

The flood control elevations are as follows:

  • Feb. 28 - 1290 feet
  • March 31 - 1282.3 feet
  • April 30 - 1260.8 feet

These elevations can and probably will change with the March water supply forecast.

This is only a prediction and can change due to weather events, power demand or other unforeseen power emergencies.

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

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

Tonight: Low and Clear film showing to benefit wild steelhead

FISHING — A zippy film, Low and Clear, — see trailer above — will show in Spokane for a benefit evening to boost the Wild Steelhead Coalition tonight (Feb. 19) at Lincoln Center in Spokane.   

Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 7.

Yes, the film is about steelheading — and more. It debuted in Spokane during the Fly Fishing Film Tour a couple years ago.

The event is organized by Josh Mills of the Chucking Line and Chasing Tail blog and the Silver Bow Fly Shop.  Mills says 170 wild steelhead supporters showed up for last year's benefit.

Numerous guided fly ishing trips and other prizes are up for auction and raffles.

Pine grosbeaks go for the meat

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane Valley birders Marlene and Bob Cashen carefully watched a new bird on their block over the weekend to make this observation.

Saturday, February 16th, we had six female Pine Grosbeaks in our yard in Veradale — definitely a new yard bird for us.  They were not actually eating berries but rather were extracting and eating the seeds from within the berries and discarding the pulp.  In the picture you can see how the berries have been opened up and the seeds removed. 

How to spot a loser on morning after Valentine’s Day

Fellow anglers:  It's OK to go fishing on Valentine's Day.

But I don't care how good the bite is, be sure to make it home in time for your dinner reservation with your sweetie.

Questions?  Call Ralph. He has lot's of insight and time on his hands this week.

Record run up upriver brights forecast for Columbia River

FISHING — Plan now for plenty of free time this fall to get on board with a potential record run of fall chinook salmon forecast for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.

The preliminary forecast released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  last week predicts the largest run of of the BIG upriver brights bound for the Hanford Reach since records have been kept.

The forecast is for 432,500 upriver brights, which would top the record of 420,700 that actually came up the river in 1987.

Last year, 353,500 upriver brights were forecast in February, but the actual return were 298,000.

Snake River wild chinook are forecast for a big increase this year.  Last year 15,100 were forecast and 16,700 showed up.  This year, however, the forecast calls for 31,600 wild chinook.

The total forecast of 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook to lower and upper river fisheries is greater than the 10-year average actual return (547,900) and would be the highest return since 2004 if the forecast  holds.

Animal tracks topic at sportsman’s breakfast

Idaho Fish and Game Department

COEUR d’ALENE SPORTSMEN’S

 BREAKFAST

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2013

Breakfast, $7.50 includes tax and gratuity

Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr.

Coeur d’Alene, ID ~ Time – 6:30 AM

Beth Paragamian, Wildlife Education Specialist, will give a presentation on animal tracks.

Stop in for breakfast, have a cup of coffee, and visit with IDFG staff and other sportsmen.

Questions?  Nancy @ 769-1414

Video: National parks a hit for Valentines

PUBLIC LANDS — If your recent Valentine's Day didn't go as well as you'd hoped, maybe you need a change of scenery.

When the National Park Service posted an online request for videos and photos of proposals in parks across the country, it had no shortages of replies, as you'll see in the video above.

Brown or bull trout? Who cares if the beer is cold

FLY FISHING — A story in the Sunday S-R Travel Section might have caught your attention, with a headline that combined fly fishing with beer tasting.

But look closer in the print edition at the photo of the fish that's labeled a brown trout and you may conclude that it's a bull trout. If you do, I agree. Note the lack of black spots in the dorsal fin. 

Brown trout have black spots in the dorsal; bull trout do not.

The cream-colored leading edge of the pectoral fins also indicates a difference between bull trout and brown trout, too… but what other fish have those fin highlights?

Check out this poster from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for tips on distinguishing bull trout, brown trout, brook trout and lake trout.  

Good information to know, especially since bull trout (formerly called Dolly Varden) are a protected species in most waters.

Photographer documents wolf roaming in Chelan County

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  An outdoorsman who knew how to use a good camera captured sharp images of a tagged gray wolf on Feb. 11 that had wandered into Chelan County.

Craig Monette of Chelan the photos to Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists who were able to read the number on the ear tags and ID the wolf as originating from Kittitas County.   He also presented the photos to the Wenatchee World, saying, “I think people should know wolves are out there.”

“They were absolutely incredible photos,” said David Volson, a wildlife biologist for Fish and Wildlife in Wenatchee. Volson said a blowup of the photos allowed him to read the number on the tag in the wolf’s ear and positively identify it as a young female that was caught and tagged last fall in the Teanaway Valley.

Two packs have been documented along the east slopes of the Cascades, he said, the Teanaway Wolf Pack in northern Kittitas County and the Lookout Wolf Pack in western Okanogan County.

The wolf Monette photographed is probably about 2 years old and out looking for a new home, Volson told the Wenatchee World.

“We know wolves are dispersers,” he said. At about 2 years of age, some will travel 50 to 75 miles or more looking for new territory. Volson said biologists recently tracked one wolf from the Teanaway who was fitted with a remote collar all the way to Canada, nearly 300 miles. He thinks this wolf may be following a similar route.

Record $480K bid for Montana bighorn tag

HUNTING — An anonymous hunter has paid an all-time record $480,000 for a special permit offered by the state of Montana to hunt a wild mountain sheep with liberal rules on dates and areas.

The winning bids for tags offered by Montana and other states, tribes and provinces were made in four auctions at the annual convention of the Wild Sheep Foundation held at Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Reno, Nev.

Wild sheep tags are auctioned at the convention to raise money for wildlife conservation.  And this was a banner year, where some 40 tags raised a record $3.2 million.

The 2013 Wild Sheep Foundation Convention and Sporting Expo set six records for the highest amounts bid on auction for special permits. Other records were set for overall attendance and funds raised for wildlife and other  programs.

The Montana bighorn sheep tag bid of $480,000 shattered the state's record of $300,000 set in 2012.

  • The bid also surpassed the foundation's previous all-time record bid of $405,000 for a bighorn sheep tag, set in 1999 for the Alberta’s Minister’s Special License.

The British Columbia permit sold for $275,000, topping the province's record of $250,000 set last year.

The Oregon Rocky Mountain bighorn permit brought $135,000 bettering the $130,000 record set in 2011.

WASHINGTON'S bighorn tag sold for $64,000, down from the record $100,000 set in 1994 before a pneumonia epidemic nearly wiped out the state's trophy herds near the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. 

IDAHO'S bighorn tag sold for $150,00, down from a record bid of $180,000 in 2005.

Although this year's bids for Idaho and Washington tags didn't set records, the wildlife managers for those states said they were very pleased with the bids.

The Wild Sheep Foundation, which keeps an overall average of 7 percent of the bid prices for its worldwide programs, has pledged millions of dollars to research to help fight diseases affecting wild sheep in the Snake River region of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $90 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia.

The tag auctions began in 1980 with the Wyoming Governor's Tag.

These and other efforts have resulted in a four-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-70s lows of  about 17,000 to about 70,000 today, foundation officials say.

Click “continue reading” for more details and milestones set at the 2013 convention:

Wolf numbers doubled in 2012, Washington report confirms

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Although the unofficial estimates have been out for weeks, the Washington Fish and Wildlife today confirmed that the number of confirmed gray wolves and wolf packs in the state nearly doubled during the past year.

Based on field reports and aerial monitoring for the annual report, the 2012 survey confirms the presence of at least 51 wolves in nine wolf packs with a total of five successful breeding pairs. The previous year’s survey documented 27 wolves, five wolf packs and three breeding pairs.

A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.

“The survey shows that our state’s wolf population is growing quickly,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director. “That growth appears to be the result of both natural reproduction and the continuing in-migration of wolves from Canada and neighboring states.”

Pamplin said the actual number of wolves in Washington state is likely much higher than the number confirmed by the survey, noting that field biologists currently suspect the existence of two additional packs.

In addition, lone wolves often go uncounted and those that range into Washington but den in other states are not included in WDFW’s survey, he said.

Considering those factors, and applying an estimate of the average pack size in other western states, there could easily be as many as 100 wolves in Washington, Pamplin said.

“The survey is the baseline we use to monitor wolves’ progress toward recovery,” he said. “While we’ve stepped up our monitoring efforts significantly over the past year, we recognize that it does not account for every wolf within our state’s borders.”

One of the nine packs represented in the survey is the Wedge pack, which now has two confirmed members in northeastern Washington. Last summer, WDFW eliminated seven members of the pack to end a series of attacks on an area rancher’s cattle that left six calves dead and 10 other animals injured. 

Pamplin said wildlife biologists do not know whether the two wolves living near the U.S.-Canada border in Stevens County are members of the original Wedge pack or whether they are new arrivals from inside or outside the state.

“Either way, we were confident that wolves would repopulate that area,” he said. “We really hope to prevent the kind of situation we faced with the Wedge pack last summer by working with ranchers to use non-lethal methods to protect their livestock.”

The gray wolf is currently listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state. Once common, wolves were essentially eliminated in most western states during the past century because they preyed on livestock.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf-recovery regions. Four pairs are required in Eastern Washington, four pairs in the North Cascades, four pairs in South Cascades/Northwest Coast and three pairs in any recovery region.

Reports of possible wolf sightings can be made to WDFW’s wildlife reporting line, (877) 933-9847.

Wind River salmon-steelhead fishing changes detailed

FISHING — Rule changes for salmon and steelhead fishing, including a two-week late-March closure, will take effect next month on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River fishery. 

Click “continue reading” for the details posted today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Lincoln County deer masacre prompts $5,000 reward

POACHING — Up to $5,000 in rewards is being offered for a tip that leads to the conviction of the culprits in the latest spree poaching case in Eastern Washington.

Five white-tailed deer, including two bucks and three does, were discovered in the Grand Coulee area of Lincoln County on Saturday with only the backstrap and hindquarters removed. The deer were shot and left to rot just a few feet from each other, and appeared to be fairly fresh kills.

This is the sixth multiple-deer poaching incident documented in Eastern Washington this winter, including two incidents in Spokane County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this spree killing and the Human Society of the United States has pledged another $2,500.

Information can be submitted anonymously:

1. Contact Officer Wood in Lincoln County, (509) 892-1001.
2. Call the state Poaching Hotline, (877) 933-9847.
3. Email the tip to reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov.
4. Text the information to TIP411 (847411).

Avalanche forecast: Slopes stable, but watch for changes

WINTER SPORTS — Backcountry snowgoers have been finding great conditions here and there, an reasonably safe slopes.

“Look for sheltered areas to have the lightest surface snow,” says Kevin Davis in today's avalanche conditions report from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center

“Exposed slopes were firm from wind and sun.  Some shears in the upper 1-2 feet of pack but nothing pulling out with energy that concerned us.  You will want to be concerned when the new snow comes in, possibly wet, heavy, and windloaded.  Bad combo.  Know your lee aspects.”

Wolf-livestock conflicts spark East Side meetings

WILDLIFE —  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has scheduled three public meetings in northeast Washington this month to discuss wolf-livestock conflict management.

The meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. as follows:

  • Feb. 26 in Cusick at the Cusick Community Center, 107 1st Ave.
  • Feb. 27 in Colville at the Colville Ag Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave.
  • Feb. 28 in Okanogan at the Okanogan Public Utilities District office meeting room, 1331 2nd Ave. N.

With calving season underway, the meetings will give livestock owners a chance to talk directly with WDFW wildlife managers about wolves and their impacts on ranching operations, said Stephanie Simek, WDFW wildlife-conflict manager.

“We plan to discuss the various types of landowner assistance that we have available and the specific needs of individual producers,” Simek said. “Producers will have time to ask questions and offer comments.”

The meetings will include a brief presentation on the current status of wolf packs in Washington.

Simek said the department has funding available to support cost-sharing agreements for preventative measures that can help minimize problems with wolves. Those practices include reducing attractants by disposing of livestock carcasses, installing special fencing, using protected areas for calving and lambing, and using range riders to haze wolves away from livestock.

Sixteen livestock producers have signed cooperative cost-share agreements to date, Simek said.

WDFW also provides direct technical assistance to ranchers, pays compensation for confirmed livestock losses – and under certain conditions – issues permits to kill predatory animals.

The gray wolf is listed and protected as state endangered throughout Washington and federally endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.

BLM seeks hosts for North Idaho campgrounds

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking for camp hosts for two campgrounds in its Coeur d’Alene District, in the Idaho Panhandle.

Mica Bay Boaters Park, about 10 minutes south of Coeur d’Alene, is a boat-in recreation site that offers 15 campsites, a picnic pavilion, fishing docks and a swim area. RVcamping is available for the camp host, but no one else. Here, the camp host performs minor maintenance such as lawn mowing and weed trimming with tools provided by the BLM. The host also monitors visitor use and provides information to users about the site and surrounding area. The work schedule for this opportunity is Thursday through Sunday, as well as one additional floating day during the week.

  • Info: John Mottern, Mica Bay Boater Park ranger, (208) 769-5002.

Hammer Creek Recreation Site offers 12 campsites along the Lower Salmon River south of Grangeville. A popular camping, picnicking and swimming destination, it’s also a common put-in site for rafters floating the river. Here, the camp host makes visitor contacts, provides area information and assists with minor maintenance such as painting, cleaning and weed trimming. The BLM is seeking a host that would live on-site from mid-June through Thanksgiving.

  • Info: Joe O’Neill, Hammer Creek Recreation Site outdoor recreation planner, (208) 962-3683.

 Click here for general information on both sites.

Readers say there’ a sixth stage of hunter development

HUNTING — Reaction to my outdoors column about hunting being a form of tough love has included several readers suggesting there's a sixth stage of hunter development:  The Non-Killing Stage.

This would be the stage in which a hunter no longer has the energy, enthusiasm or heart to kill an animal. I would argue this is not a last stage of being a hunter but rather the first stage of being a nonhunter. 

But as one reader said, ” Haven't you ever looked at the dead mallard you just shot and asked yourself, 'Why the hell did I do that?'”

My answer: No.

I'm pretty careful about aiming my rifle or pointing my shotgun ONLY at creatures I fully intend to kill.

However, I almost always feel a sense of sadness that the creature is dead. This is a trait found only in human predators, not in any other predator found on the planet.

I don't find elation in killing.

On the other hand, to start eating a whitetail buck without killing it first would be cruel.

It’s official: Clearwater, Nez Perce forests to merge

PUBLIC LANDS — In the making for several years, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to consolidate the Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests into one administrative office and create a new headquarters for the merger in the small, timber town of Kamiah.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the decision Monday, culminating more than eight years of study and planning. Agency officials say the merger could save up to $2 million annually by combining administrative positions and ending duplication of services between the two forests.

Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said despite the new headquarters in Kamiah, the agency would continue to have a presence in Grangeville and Orofino, cities that once served as home bases for the two forests. In Grangeville, he said there could be 50 to 60 people continuing to work out of that office, the Lewiston Tribune reported .

Read on for more details.

Wyoming lawmakers approve silencers for all hunting

HUNTING — Wyoming hunters could use sound suppressors on firearms for all types of hunting under a bill that cleared the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

The House stripped an amendment it had adopted earlier this week that would have allowed silencers for hunting predators and small game but not for big game species such as elk and deer. It passed the final bill 44-14.

The measure earlier cleared the Senate and now heads to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration.

State wildlife enforcement officers had opposed the measure.

Montana law expands wolf hunting

PREDATORS — A wolf management bill that was fast-tacked through the Montana Legislature was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Steve Bullock.

Bullock said the law will allow hunters to purchase up to three wolf licenses and lowers the price of a nonresident wolf license from $350 to $50. He said the measure also will strengthen state wildlife officials’ efforts to manage Montana’s recovered and growing wolf population.

See the story in the Missoulian.

Endangered Columbian whitetails moved from Cathlamet

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of moving about 50 Columbian white-tailed deer from a refuge near Cathlamet where they could drown because an old dike is expected to fail.

If they didn’t drown the deer — the western-most subspecies of white-tailed deer — might die of hypothermia of starvation, setting back efforts to restore the animals, a state endangered species.

The Daily News reports the deer are being moved from the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge to another federal preserve near Ridgefield.

Work began in January and 11 deer had been moved as of Tuesday. Wildlife agents are taking special care while darting or netting the deer to avoid stress that could kill them.

Columbian white-tailed deer are native to parts of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon.

The Columbian white-tailed deer was federally listed as endangered in 1968, at which time only a small population was known to survive on islands and a small area of mainland in Washington along the lower Columbia River. In 1978, a small population of Columbian white-tailed deer was identified in Douglas County, in Southwest Oregon, and subsequently listed as endangered. A recovery plan was published in 1983. Since then, the Douglas County population has rebounded and was delisted in July 2003.

Will art prevail in state fisheries logo choice?

FISHING — Holy heresy! The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is considering the image of a bass for a logo in its statewide “Fish Washington” campaign.

Actually, that decision already has been made. Instead of taking a stand, the state fisheries managers chose to  have logos featuring both trout and bass.

But the public gets to chime in through February on the graphic technicalities of the logos.

Click here to vote and help choose a pair of new logos that will identify Fish Washington on the web and in other applications.

Tips sought on deer poaching in Dalton Gardens

POACHING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking information on the illegal shooting of three deer within the boundaries of Dalton Gardens, a small community in Kootenai County just north of Coeur d’Alene. 

The incidents occurred between Thursday, February 7 and Saturday February 9.

A buck, a doe and a fawn whitetail deer were each found dead, each shot with a small caliber bullet.  The three carcasses were found at two different locations within Dalton Gardens.  The deer were all left to waste.

The deer season in northern Idaho is currently closed, so the shooting of a deer is a violation of state wildlife laws. 

Discharging a firearm within the city limits of Dalton Gardens is also illegal.

Anyone with information regarding these incidents should contact the Idaho Fish and Game Department at 769-1414; or, the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline, at 1 800 632-5999. 

Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a CAP reward if the information provided leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Editorial points to success of Wildlife & Recreation Program

CONSERVATION — If you use parks, trails or public open spaces in Spokane County, you have been a beneficiary of the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program. (Click on this link and check out the more than impressive projects list under “campaigns.”)

It's a state program worth funding, as today's S-R editorial points out.

Wildlife officers played key role in Dorner case

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Equipped with four-wheel drive vehicles and their knowledge of the woods in rugged terrain, California Fish and Wildlife police were key to cornering Christopher Dorner, the state's most-wanted killer Tuesday.

Wildlife enforcement officers routinely deal with a well-armed clientelle. But this case involved a wild shootout.

Read the story from the LA Times.

River rafters have to be cool with rejection

RIVERS — My group of river-running hopefuls are feeling left out after all of us received “unsuccessful” notices from the annual lottery for summer floating permits on Salmon River through Idaho's River of No Return Wilderness.

The Forest Service permits for the Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway and Hells Canyon of the Snake are highly prized. Although it's disappointing not to draw a permit, nobody would want to go back to the chaos and degradation these most-popular rivers would suffer without regulation and daily group quotas. 

Here's the observation from another unlucky permit applicant from the Northwest Whitewater group:

For those of us who put in for the 4 Rivers Lottery & got skunked once again, I weep with you…
 
For what it's worth, the reason we don't score lottery launch dates isn't bad luck or poor karma. In the case of the Middle Fork, for example, those of us who never draw are victims of the immutable statistical fact that we are among nearly 10,000 applicants each year competing for each season's only 387 available launch permits.
 
[How to even the odds: talk all your boating buds into NOT putting in for permits anymore 'cause it's pointless (LOL)].

Schweitzer ski area among first to be Google-mapped

MAPPING — Google Maps, which changed the world of giving directions with it's online map selections, has stretched its street view capability to the ski slopes.  

Schweitzer Mountain Resort is represented among  38 new maps generated by Google featuring “slope views” of every run and lift.

Power up Google Maps on your Android device or iPhone, and the mountain information you need is right there. Blue, green and black runs are shown as solid colored lines and ski lifts are red dotted lines. 

The tech innovator recently made digital waves in the outdoors with their “street view” take on Grand Canyon hiking trails by offering 9,500 panoramic images to armchair hikers.

Wyoming wildlife enforcement opposes silencers for hunting

HUNTING — What are the chances that Wyoming legislators will listen to wildlife enforcement professionals and landowners and keep rifle sound supressors off-limits for hunting?

“The suppressors themselves might not be a total fair chase issue, but when you're talking about extremely long range rifles now, and special high powered scopes, and range finders, and now you throw suppressors in, you're starting to get into a situation where, are you hunting or are you just killing?. And we feel that suppressors are just another step in the wrong direction for that. And we feel it's an issue for the future of hunting.”

Roger A. Bredehoft, lobbyist for the Wyoming Game Wardens Association, speaking against legislation that would allow hunters to use silencers on their rifles. - Casper Star-Tribune

Idaho research helicopter targets elk, moose, wolves

WILDLIFE — Helicopters are getting ready to fly for a wide-ranging wildlife research effort in Idaho's Clearwater region.

Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife biologists are gearing up for helicopter surveys and radio collaring elk, moose and wolves in Big Game Management Unit 10. In the next week or two, they are planning to place collars on 20 calves and 15 adult elk; 20 calves and 7 adult moose; and 10-15 wolves.
 
This effort is part of a continuing research project on causes and consequences of ungulate mortality. Results from this study will be used to make wildlife management decisions related to wolf-ungulate populations in Idaho, said Jen Bruns, IFG spokeswoman in Lewiston.

Groups seek grant for Avery-Elk City ATV route

PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Fish and Game Department is joining Framing Our Community and the Dust Devils ATV Club in applying for a grant from Idaho Parks and Recreation to build an all terrain vehicle trailhead, shelter and restroom on the edge of the Nez Perce National Forest.

Fish and Game, the Idaho, Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Nez Perce Tribe are partners of Framing Our Community, an economic development group dedicated to creating jobs, improving forest and watershed conditions and increasing educational opportunities in the Elk City area.

The economic development group and ATV club envision the trailhead to be a starting point for motorized recreation in the area and a part of the proposed Clearwater Basin Collaborative North – South motorized route between Avery and Elk City.

It will include an information kiosk that will help distribute information to trail users. The two groups are seeking the grant to fund the project and have pledged to donate their labor and funds.

Info: Joyce Dearstyne, Framing Our Community, (208-) 842-2939.

King of the soft hackle speaks to Fly Fishers Wednesday

FLY FISHING — Davy Wotton, a fly-fishing entrepreneur and professional since the 1960s, will present a program of the history, development and fishing of the soft hackle fly in a program sponsored by the Spokane Fly Fishers Wednesday, 7 p.m. at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.

Fly tiers have dubbed him, pardon the pun, the king of the soft hackle. He's widely known for the SLF Dubbing Blend Series.

Wotton, who hails from Great Britain where he's has a wide ranging career in the sport, lives in the USA. He's currently the managing director of the American International School of Fly Fishing.

Wildlife enthusiast to tell birders why he’s a hunter

HUNTING – “I hunt therefore I am (what)?”

Everyone might have a different word to fill in the blank in that phrase: condemnable, capable, cold-hearted, complete….

Fill in he blank as you see fit, but not before you give me a shot at explaining why an animal lover and wildlife conservationist would chose to be a hunter.

I’ll be giving a program on the topic Wednesday (Feb. 13) for the Spokane Audubon Society’s open meeting, 7:30 p.m., at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

  • Click here for directions to the meeting location.

Sportsmen are among the most ardent year-round wildlife watchers and they contribute generously to wildlife conservation.

Moreover, animals are delicious.

But those are just a few of many reasons I hunt.

Idaho Senate rejects female F&G commissioner

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — For the first time since 1974, the Idaho Senate has rejected the governor’s nominee for a slot on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, voting 19-16 against confirming Joan Hurlock, only the second woman ever to serve on the panel.

Read the report from today's session from S-R Boise reporter Betsy Russell.

Gun right backers don’t have to slack on safety

SHOOTING — It's interesting if not disturbing that the discussion over guns has prompted some people among their group of circled wagons to excuse poor gun handling.

See the comments to my post regarding the photo (above) snapped at Friday's gun rights rally in Olympia.

In my experience at the Spokane Gun Club or Spokane Rifle Club, somebody would quickly step forward to correct a person for poor muzzle control. What's wrong with doing same in the media?

This woman does not know where that gun is pointing because it's behind her and out of her control. Bolt is closed. End of point.

This obervation caused some commentors to cast aspersions from their narrowly defined and propagandized vision of the media, whatever “the media” are.

But back to the point: 

Being a gun rights advocate doesn't mean you should slack off on offering reminders and enforcing points of safe gun handling with others around you, whether it's at home, in a hunting situation or at a 2nd Amendment rally. 

Idaho surveys indicate no change in elk seasons

HUNTING — Winter elk surveys are being hindered in the Idaho Panhandle by poor visibility and flying conditions. 

But Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager, says he has enough information to at least predict there's little hope that elk calf survival has increased enough to improve hunting seasons that were scaled back last year.

Click continue reading to see Hayden's detailed update on the ratios of elk calves per 100 cows in Idaho Panhandle game management units.

Langlauf 10K a nordic race for all kinds

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Langlauf cross-country ski race at Mount Spokane has equal parts of waxing anxiety, sweat, cheering, food — and a lot of hope for placing high in an age group or winning one of the many drawings for thousands of dollars worth of prizes. 

It's a colorful event that attracts participants spaning 80 years of age.

Check it out in this gallery of photos I shot today while skiing the race with 244 other participants.

Should firearms safety be a requirement for gun owners?

SHOOTING — The Spokesman-Review photo above from Friday's gun rights rally in Olympia shows an appalling lack of muzzle control, with a firearm being carried in an unsafe manner.

That lady would be booted out of my elk camp, or forced to eat my cooking as punishment.

It's a reminder that under our current system, the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms is not backed up by a requirement for responsibility or safety.

I see signs here of a poorly regulated militia.

Avalanche hazard generally low in area mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Snow conditions are “mostly stable” in the region's mountains going into the weekend and  the weather forecast calls for improving stability from the slight weak layers discussed in this week's avalanche advisory by the Idaho Panhandle Avalance Center.

Montana fast-tracks bill to expand wolf hunting

PREDATORS — A proposal to narrow wildlife management options and expand the state's wolf hunt is being fast-tracked through the Montana Legislature for the governor's, according to the Associated Press.

The Montana Senate on Thursday suspended its rules so it could take initial and final votes on the same day on the measure that already had overwhelmingly cleared the House.

Here's more info from the AP:

House Bill 73 lets the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks increase the number of wolves one hunter can take, allows for electronic calls and removes a requirement to wear hunter orange outside general deer and elk season.

  • The measure also prohibits the state wildlife agency from banning wolf hunts in areas around national parks. Its swift passage would allow the changes to take effect during the hunting season that's currently under way.

The department last month abandoned efforts to shut down gray wolf hunting and trapping in an area north of Yellowstone National Park after wolves popular with the park visitors and five radio-collared wolves important to wolf research were killed.

Lawmakers wanted to make sure such a regional closure doesn't come up again.

Gov. Steve Bullock has indicated support for the legislation, noting it had been backed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“The department did support it, and at the end of the day we need to base these decisions on science, not on politics, and allowing more than one, three wolves to be taken, it fits in with the science,” he said.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks said it already has prepared rule changes that will allow the legislation to immediately impact what remains of the wolf hunting season ending Feb. 28.

Hunters and trappers so far this season have killed fewer than 200 wolves. Wildlife officials are hoping to reduce the animals' population from an estimated 650 wolves to around 450. The goal is to reduce wolf attacks on livestock and help some elk herds that have been in decline due to wolf attacks.

Wildlife advocates have argued the state is being too aggressive against a species only recently restored to the Northern Rockies after it was widely exterminated last century. But no one spoke against the expanded wolf hunt on the Senate floor.

“These creatures are hard to hunt, and we need to allow our wolf hunters the best chance of getting into them while the season is still ongoing,” said Sen.Larry Jent, D-Bozeman.

Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, said the “big kumbaya” around the bill concerned him because he argued it doesn't go far enough to limit wolf numbers. He said the FWP is going to have to start allowing snare trapping of the wolves, a controversial practice the wildlife commission banned with its trapping regulations.

“While this bill will do some things, it is not the big answer,” Thomas said. “If you really want to get after this, you have to authorize snaring.”

Wyoming lawmakers trade shots at silencers for hunting rifles

SHOOTING — A tip of the hat to a Wyoming newspaper editorial for standing up in the volatile world of firearms debate to call for reasonable limits that would help wildlife enforcement.

Hunters don't need silencers on their guns in Wyoming

The Wyoming House's decision to kill a bill that would have allowed hunters to use sound supressors on their guns seemed like the right decision, but the Senate has reworked to legislation to make it even worse. —Casper Star-Tribune

IN MONTANA, however, the state House of Representatives Tuesday voted 68-32 to allow the use of rifle silencers while hunting wolves after the end of the general elk and deer season.

Supporters said ownership of silencers is highly regulated by the federal government, ensuring against abuse, and argued they would make for a quieter hunting experience. Opponents unsuccessfully argued that landowners should be able to hear where shots are being fired from.

Record mackinaw handled like a baby

FISHING — Getting a record fish weighed and verified isn't as easy as one might think.  Certified scales are rare. Fish quickly begin loosing ounces after they are killed. 

Phil Coylar of Wenatchee got some great advice as he came to the dock at Lake Chelan with a mackinaw he knew was a state-record candidate on Monday: Head for the local hospital, a fishing guide told him.

Luckily the hospital staff was as excited about his fish as he was.

Click continue reading for the story from the Wenatchee World.

Requiem for Bam Bam, park’s head-butting bighorn

WILDLIFE — Bam Bam, the bighorn sheep whose penchant for butting cars made him an international star, died of natural causes in Wyoming last week.  He was believed to be 12.

Bam Bam was the last of the Wheatland-area Sinks Canyon State Park bighorn herd, surviving a plague of pneumonia that wiped out the park’s sheep population in the middle of the last decade. Friends said he loved a scratch on the ear, Doritos and a good head butt.

I don't post this to support anyone's notion that feeding wildlife is a good idea.  It's lucky no one was hurt by this ram.  But I like the rest of the story as described nicely here by Benjamin Storrow in the Star-Tribune.

Bobcat finds backyard squirrels appetizing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Newcastle, Wash., man got a rare daylight view of a bobcat and her kitten in action this week — through his kitchen window.

J.D. Hammerly was able to snap photos of the bobcat squirrel hunting spree in his backyard.

Newcastle is in Western Washington bettween Issaquah and Mercer Island.

Wide-ranging wolverine opened researchers’ eyes

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list the wolverine as a threatened species is generating more insight into the elusive carnivore.  Even in modern times, wildlife biologists are just documenting the life-history suggested in this quote of the day:

“We put a GPS collar on him and released him there in the Tetons, and he just disappeared. Eventually, he came back to the Tetons and dropped his collar, and we found it. He went down to Pocatello, Idaho, and back to the Tetons in three weeks. It really opened our eyes to how these animals can travel unbelievable distances in a short amount of time.”

—Bob Inman,a carnivore biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, about the travels of a male wolverine radio-collared during a decadelong study of the species in Wyoming and Montana.
- Jackson Hole News & Guide

Steelhead fishing opens Friday on Wenatchee, Icicle rivers

FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced steelhead fishing will open on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers on Friday along with fishing for whitefish on the Wenatchee.  Following are details from the just-issued WDFW announcement.

Actions:Open the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers on Feb. 8 to fishing for steelhead.  In addition, the Wenatchee River will open Feb. 8 to fishing for whitefish. 

Species affected: Steelhead and whitefish.

Fishing area locations and effective dates:

Areas that will open to fishing for steelhead one hour before sunrise on Feb. 8 until further notice include:

  • Wenatchee River:From the mouth to 400 feet below Tumwater Dam, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.

Areas that will open to fishing for whitefish one hour before sunrise on Feb. 8 until further notice include:

  • Wenatchee River:From the mouth to the Highway 2 bridge at Leavenworth.

Reason for changes: Recent analyses of the ongoing steelhead fisheries in portions of the upper Columbia River have revealed sufficient impacts to natural origin steelhead still remain under the NOAA-issued ESA section 10 permit. Re-opening steelhead fisheries in both the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers will help to reduce the proportion of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds, where their offspring may compete with natural origin juvenile salmon. Opening these areas to steelhead angling also allows whitefish angling opportunity. 

Areas that will continue to be closed for steelhead and whitefish angling until further notice include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River: From Wells Dam to the Highway 173 bridge at Brewster.
  • Entiat River: Upstream from the Alternate Highway 97 Bridge near the mouth of the Entiat River to 800 feet downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery.
  • Methow River:From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.

General rules for all locations open to steelhead fishing:

  • Mandatory retention of adipose fin-clipped steelhead, daily limit two (2) hatchery steelhead, 20 inch minimum size.  Hatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location.  
  • Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • Night closure and selective gear rules remain in effect.
  • Whitefish anglers must follow selective gear rules in areas open to steelhead fishing, no bait is allowed

Other angler information:

Anglers should be aware that fishing rules are subject to change and that rivers can close at any time due to impacts on natural origin steelhead.  Adhering to the mandatory retention of adipose clipped steelhead is vital in allowing the fishery to continue and to provide the maximum benefit to natural origin fish.  

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.

Quail Unlimited closes shop on long conservation history

CONSERVATTION — Quail Unlimited president Bill Bowles has announced on QU website that the nation's oldest quail advocacy group has folded .

Mismanagement in the national conservation group's operations has been charged for several years.

Bowles advised members to turn their allegiance to Quail Forever and related organization, Pheasants Forever, to continue the fundamental work of advocacy for upland bird habitat preservation and restoration.

That's a good recommendation.  Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever have a 4-star Charity Navigator rating.

Obama nominates REI’s CEO for Secretary of Interior

PUBLIC LANDS — Sally Jewell, Recreational Equipment Inc. Chief Executive Sally Jewell is being nominated by President Obama to lead the Interior Department in his second term.

Jewell, 56, has served as the Washington-state-based outdoor retailer's CEO since 2005. She started her career as a petroleum engineer working in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Colorado for Mobil Oil Corp. She then moved to the banking industry, before joining the REI board in 1996 and becoming chief operations officer four years later.

She has been credited with expanding the Washington state-based retailer's Internet operations and contributing company resources to environmental stewardship.

Jewell was on the Avista Corp. board of directors from May 1997 through May 2003.

If confirmed by the Senate, she will replace current Secretary Ken Salazar, who plans to step down to return to Colorado.

REACTION

-Tim Wigley, president, Western Energy Alliance, which represents the oil and natural gas industry in the West.

Her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation's energy portfolio.

-Chris Wood, president and CEO, Trout Unlimited

Sally Jewell would make a great Secretary of Interior. Her background suggests that she would bring needed balance to energy development on public lands. Her stewardship of REI demonstrates that she understands the interests of anglers and hunters and would serve as an aggressive advocate within the White House for protecting fish and game habitat and hunting and angling opportunity. She is a practical, no-nonsense leader who would bring a sense of purpose to implementing the oil and gas reforms that have remained largely on the shelf. She is a strong pick.

-Sen. Patty Murray:

President Obama has chosen an accomplished leader as the next Secretary of Interior. I have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Sally Jewell, who has proven to be an effective CEO in the business community, and will bring that skill set to the Cabinet. She understands the tremendous asset that our public lands are, particularly to the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation based economy. Additionally, American families could have no greater advocate for their continued use, enjoyment and protection of our National Parks and natural treasures. I look forward to working with Sally and President Obama as they shape and implement policies at the Department of Interior.

 -Jim Lyon, National Wildlife Federation senior vice president for conservation programs:

        Sally Jewell is a business leader who knows that conserving America’s natural resources is fundamentally linked to a healthy and strong economy. Outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion to America’s economy and delivers $49 billion in tax revenue annually, but faces a critical challenge as Washington considers even more cuts to conservation programs on top of steep cuts already made. Hunters, anglers, hikers, kayakers, bird watchers and all who value and cherish the outdoors and wildlife will benefit from her first hand understanding of Americans’ passion for protecting our natural treasures.

-Mike Nussman, American Sportfishing Association president and CEO:

From an industry perspective, Sally Jewell understands the important role that our public waters and lands have in supporting the nation’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy. Given its responsibility for managing approximately one-fifth of the nation’s lands and waters, the Department of the Interior has a significant role in providing recreational fishing opportunities and conserving the nation’s fisheries resources.

Reeling in the action from Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Bing

Blackwater Devil's Gold (Official Trailer) from Castaway Films on Vimeo.

FISHING — Incredible fishing sequences and photography was so common in Tuesday night's Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Bing Crosby Theater — we came to expect nothing less.  Here are my top picks in several categories:

Best action:  Blackwater Devil's Gold, fishing in Bolivia for golden dorado, one of the wildest of freshwater fish (see short trailer above, or 7-minute clip here).

Best story: Hit 'em again Doc, featuring Dr. Robert Franklin, 85, an angler with Parkinson's, and his guide.

Best fishing sequence:  Fall Run, a Pacific Northwest steelheading film with an “over the top” action footage of landing a fish in a canyon where the sun don't shine.

Best line: The intriguing thing about steelheading is that … you have to be cool with not catching them.

Pending state record mackinaw landed at Lake Chelan

FISHING — A 35-pound, 10-ounce pending state record lake trout was caught Monday in Lake Chelan by Phil Colyar of Wenatchee, according to a report on Northwestern Outdoors Radio.

The current official state record mackinaw also was caught in Lake Chelan — a 35-pound, 7-ounce fish caught in 2001.

Colyar, a Spokane native, told The Spokesman-Review this morning that he cut his teeth on fishing at Spokane County lakes before moving to an angler's paradise, where he takes full advantage of the upper Columbia salmon and steelhead runs and Lake Chelan's underrated lake trout fishery.

Fast facts:

The fish: 35 pound, 10 ounce lake trout (or Mackinaw).
 
Tale of the tape: 44.5 inches long, 28-inch girth.
 
The angler: Phil Colyar, 56, of Wenatchee. Colyar moved to Wenatchee in 1983 from his native Spokane, where he was graduated from Shadle Park High School. (His wife, Carrie, was a graduate of Mead High School.) The Colyars own a jewelry store in Wenatchee.
 
Date Caught / Location: Feb. 4, 2013 at Lake Chelan, near the Yacht Club.
 
Tactics: Trolling a newly bought U20 MPPT (Purple and Pink) Flatfish. Depth: 270 feet.
 
Other Gear: Lamiglas 8 1/2 foot rod, Abu Garcia Level Wind Reel, Maxima 18-pound line.

Goat Fire caused by shooters aiming at exploding targets

PUBLIC LANDS — Target shooters aiming at exploding targets last fall ignited the Goat Fire that burned 7,400 acres from Sept. 15 through early November and made life hell for Wenatchee region residents, according to a U.S. Forest Service report released today.

No arrests have been made, but the investigation continues.

Read on for the media release from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Survivalist compound proposed in North Idaho

SURVIVAL — The Citadel, a 2,000 to 3,000-acre enclosed survivalist compound proposed for the St. Maries, Idaho, area is not really an outdoors story, other than in its potential to change the complexion of hunting and fishing in the St. Joe River region.

But it's an ugly sign of the times to which everyone should be acquainted.

See today's AP story by Nicholas K. Geranios.

Lawsuit filed in 2012 student kayaking death on Rock Lake

WATER SPORTS — A city parks instructor manual appears to ban city-sponsored kayak trips in the kind of weather that led to a chaotic and deadly excursion organized by Gonzaga University and sponsored by the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, according to a lawsuit filed Monday. 

Christopher Gormley, 18, died from hypothermia after his kayak tipped in the frigid waters of Rock Lake on a notably windy day during the spring break trip on April 1, 2012.

Mountain lions keep wildlife police busy

PREDATORS — Along with citizen complaints about moose, coyotes and other creatures, Washington Fish and Wildlife police were busy responding to a number of cougar-related issues last week. Here are just a few examples from the weekly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokane Region report:

— A cougar roamed Ione during daylight hours, with no fear of people or passing cars. The responding officer called a houndsman who dispatched the cougar, which was examined. It was extremely thing and appeared to be blind. The carcass is at WSU for necropsy.

—Another cougar was sighted near Tiger. The officer called in houndsmen who chased the cougar away from homes in the area. It appeared to be healthy.

— Two officers responded to a complaint and confirmed a cougar had killed a goat. Again a houndsman was called to assist with killing the cougar.

— A reported wolf attack on livestock guard dogs in Whitman County was more likely the work of a cougar, officers said. But the report was a week after the attacks and evidence was inconclusive

Here's the best one — poachers trying to get their cougar mounted as a trophy.

An officer making a routine check on the books of an area taxidermist's ledger grew suspicious of the entry by a man who brought in a large tom. The cougar had been shot in Columbia County in November. On a hunch, the officer wrote down the name of the hunter and decided to look into the details of his hunt.

He verified the cougar was harvested on the same day the cougar tag was bought. Two officers then contacted the subject and got a load of baloney for a while. The man held to his story that he was just a lucky guy to have bought his cougar tag and then shot a cougar just 20 minutes or so later!

But pretty the officers were chiseling away to the truth. The subject later confessed to killing the cougar before he bought his tag, using his friend’s rifle. The subject later stated his friend was paying for the taxidermy work on the cougar because he wanted the cougar in his house.

The officers smelled more problems.

The dug a little more and were able to learn that the original subject friend who shot the cougar without a tag — and he was from Oregon. So he got the original subject to go by a tag and illegally put it on the dead cougar.

The officers bagged a two-fer by pursuing this case.

Outdoor writer Fenton Roskelley memorial set for Thursday

UPDATED with details about memorial service.

OUTDOOR WRITING — Fenton S. Roskelley, who covered the outdoors for the Spokane Chronicle and The Spokesman-Review for 63 years, died Wednesday (Jan. 30) at the age of 96 with his family at his bedside, said his son, John Roskelley in Spokane.

Fenton was a 1938 University of Idaho graduate in journalism, a World War II veteran, and a fly fisher to the core. He was the editor for the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club's book, Flies of the Northwest.

Said John:

He earned a place on that list Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation by taking care of his family, never missing a day of work, and by serving in Europe when his country asked him to do so. Fenton was 96, but still writing, taking photos of birds, and using facebook.

Fenton was preceeded in death by his wife, Violet, whom he married in 1945. The couple was featured in a “Love Story” column in 2007 after 62 years of marriage.

See the S-R story on Fenton after he'd written his last column for the paper 10 years ago.

See the S-R news obituary, Feb. 2, 2013..

A memorial service for Fenton Roskelley is set for 11 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 7) at Ball & Dodd Funeral Home, 5100 W. Wellesley Ave.

Burial will follow in the Eastern Washington Veterans Cemetery, just a few long casts from West Medical Lake, a trout fishery Roskelley covered every year for decades.

Feds propose endangered status for wolverine

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposal listing the wolverine in the lower 48 states as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The agency announced its proposal today, a dozen years after environmental groups began petitioning to study and protect the elusive carnivore of high, wild places. Twice in those years, the feds have recommended against listing the wolverine as threatened.

Wolverines are threated by their small population size and disturbance to their habitat by climate change.

Agency officials say the proposed rule would not affect recreation, timber harvest or other activities if wolverines are listed as threatened.

The Cascades have been identified as good wolverine habitat, as well as portions of the Bitterroots in Idaho and Montana and the Glacier Park region, to name a few places.

Federal researchers have been studying Washington’s wolverines since 2005. They’re tracking seven females and four males that inhabit the North Cascades transboundary region, and have located two natal den sites.

Wolverines are rare, wide-ranging alpine carnivores. As the largest land dwelling member of the weasel family, wolverines were once widespread across the contiguous United States and now are constrained to remote wilderness regions of the Cascade and Rocky Mountains where heavy snowpack persists well into spring. Female wolverines require deep snow for their dens, digging eight or more feet into the snow to provide warmth and shelter for their kits. But wolverines may lose up to two-thirds of suitable habitat by the end of this century. Researchers estimate that the extent of areas in the western U.S. with persistent spring snowpack is likely to recede 33% by 2045 and 63% by 2099 as a result of climate change.

See the PBS Nature documentary, Chasing the phantom

Lake Roosevelt water levels temporarily rising

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1274.85 at midnight last night and is expected to 
slowly rise over the next week.

The Bureau of Reclamation anticipates the elevation for the end of next week will be in the 1277 - 1279 range.

Currently, Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and also the minimum tailwater requirement of 13.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum.

The flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt have been issued based on the January water supply forecast. These levels are the maximum elevation for Lake Roosevelt. Other factors such as power demand can result in elevations under the flood control elevations.

The flood control elevations are as follows:

  • January 31 - 1290 feet

  • February 28 - 1290 feet

  • March 31 - 1266.4 feet

  • April 30 - 1235.7 feet

     These elevations can and probably will change with the February water supply forecast.

  • This is only a prediction and can change due to weather events, power demand or other unforeseen power emergencies.

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

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

    Erbesfield offspring is another climbing legend — at age 11

    CLIMBING — When I watched Robyn Erbesfield's chiseled body defy gravity at Wild Walls for a profile story I wrote in 1996, I should have assumed that any children she might eventually produce would have the genetics to become a good climber.

    I underestimated her.

    Brooke Raboutou, 11, born to climbing world champions Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou, is setting records adults couldn't reach in their dreams.

    Her mom says rock climbing walls have been part of their homes just like the oven and dish washer.

    Brooke began her training around the time she could walk, according to her profile at Team ABC Boulder.

    The video above show this little person is nothing short of amazing.

    Get blog updates by email

    About this blog

    News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

    Follow Rich on Twitter

    Send Rich an email

    Latest comments »

    Read all the posts from recent conversations on Outdoors blog.

    Search this blog
    Subscribe to this blog
    ADVERTISEMENT
    Advertise Here