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Outdoors blog

Archive for January 2013

Idaho considers three-year hunting and fishing licenses

HUNTING/FISHING — Die-hard outdoorsmen would have the option of purchasing a three-year hunting or fishing license under a proposal that passed the Idaho Senate Resources and Environment Committee Wednesday, according to a story in the Lewiston Tribune.

The cost of the license would be three times the cost of an annual pass, so there’s no savings there. However, people would only pay one vendor service fee, which would save them $3.50 compared to the cost of buying a pass every year.

Sharon Kiefer with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said the agency has been investigating various opportunities to improve customer service. A survey of 9,500 hunters and anglers found relatively high interest in a three-year license option, particularly among sportsmen ages 18 to 24.

The bill will advance to the full Senate. If it passes the Legislature and is signed into law, the new licenses would become available July 1.

Environmental groups to sue feds over caribou habitat

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups have just released a notice that they plan to sue the federal government over its recent decision to cut more than 90 percent of the land originally proposed as critical habitat for the last woodland caribou in the Lower 48 states. 

A media release was issed by the Center for Biological Diversity. It lists The Lands Council based in Spokane as one of the five groups challenging the federal decision.

In November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a plan that slashed its previously recommended protected caribou habitat in Idaho and Washington from more than 375,000 acres of 30,000 acres. 

That decision came after an outcry from some politicians and snowmobile advocates, who complained that too much land was being set aside to help a small number of caribou.  Federal biologists said the outcry did not influence their decision.

While there are large herds in Canada, the woodland caribou in the U.S. is limited to a small corner of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington.

The animals face conflicts in Canada as well as in the U.S. with humans over road construction and snowmobile recreation.
  

Only portion of snowmobile route closed by logging

WINTER SPORTS — I'm reposting this notice of a closure to groomed snowmobiling routes on the Colville National Forest to emphasize a staffer's clarificaiton that only a portion of the routes are closed.

A portion of the popular Kings Lake groomed snowmobile route in Pend Oreille County is being closed for the rest of the 2013 season because of a logging operation.

The Colville National Forest and Stimson Lumber Co. announced the closure today as routes will be plowed to accommodate truck traffic.

The snowmobile route provides access to the north shore of Browns Lake.

“While this closure along with the two other we have in the valley this winter will be an impact to the groomed snowmobile routes the area has to offer, there are still a number of options for snowmobiling,” said Gayne Sears, district ranger. The Washington State Parks Sno-Park website features maps of the options.

The two other closures in place are:

  • Cee Cee Ah Creek Road, because of a large storm washout.
  • the National Forest portions of the Middle and East Branches Le Clerc Creek Roads, and the Hanlon Cutoff Road due to winter logging operations.

Details from Nan Berger, recreation staffer in Newport:

Only a portion of the entire route is closed. The national forest roads closed are as follows: 1920000 (CCA Road) from the jct. with 1920306 (approx. 10.0 mile mark) to its jct. with 1920306 (approx.. 12.0 mile mark); 5030000 (Browns Lake Road) from the jct. with County Road 3389 (Kings Lake) to its jct. with 5080000 (Sheepherder) at approx. 3.5 mile mark. 5080000 is closed from the jct. with 5030000 to east boundary of section 13 (T34NR44E) approx. 3 mile mark.

Info: Newport Ranger Station, (509) 447-7300, or the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500.

Fenton Roskelley, retired Chronicle outdoor writer, dies at 96

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 today (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.

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.

 

 

Boat Show has deal for getting mandatory boater safety card

BOATING — Starting this year, you'll need a boater safety education card in your pocket if you're a state resident age 50 or younger and you plan to drive most powerboats in Washington.

The Spokane National Boat Show, Feb. 1-9 at Spokane County Fair and Expo Center is offering a special deal to help families meet the state requirements.

  • Register in advance for a boater education course to be held at the Expo Center and you'll get free admission to the show. 

The Spokane Sail and Power Squadron is again teaching the ABC 3 course at the boat show. This year the state of Washington requires people 50 and under, operating water craft of 15hp or more, to have attended a certified 8-hour boating safety course.  

A certified course can be taken online on the Washington State Parks website, but you'll get a lot more out of the personal attention and materials you'll get at the boat show course, with sessions set for Feb. 4 through Feb. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

  • Preregister through Feb. 1 at West Marin, 5306 E. Sprague Ave. or at the squadron's clubhouse, 929 W. Jackson Ave.
  • Info: (208) 777-0220

This will be the 58th annual National Boat Show in Spokane, and at least four guides or tournament fishermen are scheduled to present fishing seminars.

Snowshoes and snow bikes featured at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The Snowshoe Stampede at Schweitzer Mountain will be pedaling a new option on Saturday (Feb. 2).

A snow bike division has been added to the event that welcomes all sorts of walkers, gabbers, goers — and now, fat bikers!

The event features a scenic course Schweitzer's nordic ski area trails with 3- and 5-mile options, plus a chance to win cool prizes.

Bikes must be purpose built with tires wider than 3.7 inches and pressure no greater than 10 psi.  Bike or ski helmets are required.  A few bikes are available for rent at the Source, (208) 255-3062.

Event fees are $10 entry and $10 trails pass (if you don’t already have a Nordic / Snowshoe season pass).  Register from noon to 1 p.m. at the Hermit’s Hollow tubing yurt.

Snowshoe races begin at 2 p.m.

Snow bike event starts at 3 p.m.  

Video: humorous commercial bears viewing

WILDLIFE — Bear with me on this….

The ability of computer generated animation to mix fantasy with reality is a bit alarming, but also quite humorous in the case of this creative Canadian ad for a clothes washing machine reveals.

Time to chime in on hunting regulation proposals

HUNTING — Just as the public comment period on proposed fishing regulations closes today, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced it's taking public comment through Feb. 15 on proposed changes to hunting regulations.

On the list is a proposal, championed for several years by Jim Sutton of Spokane, to allow lighted nocks on arrows used for archery big-game hunting seasons.

Other changes include:

  • Restoring antlerless elk opportunities for archery hunters in Yakima County, specifically in Game Management Units 352 (Nile) and 356 (Bumping).
  • Providing more landowner hunting permits in exchange for more more public access to private land.

  • Adjusting seasons for big game hunting.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission, will discuss the hunting proposals and hold a final round of public comments during a March 1-2 meeting in Moses Lake.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the rule changes April 12-13 in Olympia.

Idaho losing money as nonresident hunters stay home

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials met with state legislators today to let them know there's been no relief in the downturn of nonresident hunters buying hunting and fishing licenses.

That's significant because nonresidents pay most of the bills for the state's wildlife management, and they also contribute substantially to the local economy, especially in rural towns.

The reduction in nonresident hunting is hurting Montana, too.

I wrote about this issue in August, as Montana and Idaho wildlife officials looked at the grim numbers from the low sales non-resident licenses before the fall seasons.

A detailed update from today's hearing at the Idaho Legislature has been posted by S-R Boise Bureau reporter Betsy Russell.  

Golden eagles falling victim to snare traps

Jaime and Lisa Johnson: Last Few Months &emdash;

WILDLIFE — A sudden spike in golden eagles being caught in snare traps in Montana this week is setting off alarm bells.  The eagles feed often on road-killed and winter-killed deer this time of year and are susceptible to bait. 

  • The image above was photographed this week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who found the golden eagle and several others feasting on a dead  deer near Lincoln, Mont. Some of the birds were so full of meat they could barely fly, he said.

The  Missoulian story linked below does not look into the potential for eagles to become victims of the increased emphasis on trapping wolves in Montana, but that's a possibilitly if the new surge of wolf trappers in Montana and Idaho isn't properly trained.

One of the golden eagles snared in Montana had been working for science, packing around a radio transmitter for nearly three years. Raptor View Research Center in Missoula had been tracking the eagle, learning the bird had summered in the Brooks Range of Alaska before heading south for Montana each winter.

Loss of 3 golden eagles to snare traps in Montana worries raptor groups

While it's not uncommon for golden eagles to get caught in traps, the big birds usually get caught in leghold traps.  However, in the past few days, biologists have been alarmed to find three golden eagles have been caught in snare traps in Montana, killing two of the birds and injuring the third. — Missoulian

Three events coming up for perking up your winter

WINTER SPORTS — This is no time to be a couch potoato:

Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival at Gonzaga University, Wed Jan. 30 from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Learn more at ibackcountry.org.

Women's Souper Bowl ski and snowshoe event, this Sunday Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. at the Mt. Spokane Cross Country Ski Park. Details at souperbowlspokane.org.
Langlauf race coming up Sunday Feb.10 Enter now — early registration closes Feb. 6. Check it out at spokanelanglauf.org.

Fly Fishing films coming Feb. 5 to the Bing

Fall Run by Todd Moen from Todd Moen Creative on Vimeo.

FISHING — Thirteen action-packed fly fishing films are being packaged into a two-hour performance headed to Spokane in early February and to Sandpoint in April.

The 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour is booked at the Bing Crosby Theater on Feb. 5. Doors open at 6 p.m.; films at 7.

Click here for a list and trailers of most films edited into this year's road show.

See the Sunday Outdoors story about the film festival.

See the Outdoors story about Fly Fishing Guide Hank Patterson, a spoof that's getting raves for fly fishing comedy videos

Tickets cost $15 on the tour's website, but are available in advance for $13 at:

The F3T also is coming to Sandpoint April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Panida Theater followed by a different show  — The International Fly Fishing Film Festival — on April 20.

All proceeds from both shows Sandpoint shows go to the Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Pend Oreille Water Festival (classroom and field trip event for all 5thgraders in Bonner County where they are taught about fisheries and water quality!)

Volunteers helping keep Idaho state parks open in lean times

PARKS — Idaho’s state parks are staying open thanks in part to thousands of volunteers, the state’s parks chief told lawmakers this morning.

See S-R reporter Betsy Russell's story on the hurdles Idaho parks are facing.

Comment closes Tuesday on Washington fishing rule proposals

FISHING —  An update on proposed changes to sportfishing rules will be presented by state fish managers to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Feb. 8-9 meeting in Olympia.  See the preliminary meeting agenda here.

Fishing rule proposals affecting Eastern Washington angling include:

  • Liberalizing limits for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the main stem and tributaries of the Snake and Columbia rivers, including Lake Roosevelt.
  • Changing regulations on motorized boats on the Yakima and lower Grande Ronde.
  • Prohibiting use of internal combustion motors at Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County.
  • Converting North Silver Lake in Spokane County to a year-round fishery for warmwater species.
  • Prohibiting trout fishing in Methow River stretches to protect steelhead.

Public comments on the proposals are being accepted on the agency’s website through Tuesday (Jan. 29).

The commisison is set to vote on the proposals at a March 1-2 meeting.

Washington outdoor recreation plan needs public input

OUTDOOR REC — If you enjoy the outdoors, you owe it to yourselff to participate in the online Washington State Outdoor Recreation Survey.

So far, about 800 comments have been filed on the easy to navigate Town Hall website

In addition to the survey, which can help channel planning and funding in the future, the site is asking the publicv to post their stories and photos showing how outdoor recreation impacts you and your family.  The information will be used in the final report.

  • In the last statewide survey conducted in in 2005-2006, WALKING was rated the most popular outdoor recreation activity in Washington.

The state’s outdoor recreation strategic plan, called the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), needs to be updated every 5 years to maintain the state's ability to receive federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The funding is used for grants to local communities to build parks and trails, and conserve wildlife habitat.

Pack rafting project seeks donations

RIVERS — Here's an appeal from Montana experts in the field of packrafting — a combination of rafting and backpacking:

We'll produce videos to help educate the public on safe, responsible backpacking, but we need a little help with funding. What do you get? Info on the equipment & techniques of packrafting so you can safely plan and execute your own packrafting adventures.

Check it out. 

Hunters, conservation groups swept up in gun controversy

SHOOTING — Hunters and wildlife conservation groups are finding it difficult to stay out of the nation's gun control controversies.

Even the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation felt pressure from the gun lobby to pull out of a huge sportsmen's show in the East when the show organizers prohibited exhibits by makers of AR-15 assault-style rifles.

The site of the Reed Exhibitions show in Pennsylvania is 250 miles from the site of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut.

Click here for a localized story on RMEF and the National Wild Turkey Federation by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Click “continue reading” to see an Outdoor Wire industry perspective posted Jan. 25, with insight into the troubles for small outdoor businesses caused by the sportsman show boycott.

Avalanche conditions changing with weather

WINTER SPORTS - Weather is causing changes in snow stability that backcountry skiiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers should be aware of when traveling in the mountains today and this weekend, according to the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's weekly report on mountain snow conditions.

“On easterly aspects we have a layer of buried surface hoar that is unstable and mostly isolated to sheltered slopes but it can be found from NE, E, to SE slopes with varying degrees of weakness,” said Kevin Davise, avalanche forecaster. “Due east seems to be where it is weakest.  Other slopes are mostly stable but as temps go up today watch for weak layers developing on any steep slope.”
  

Lake trout to be netted for study at Priest Lake

FISHING – Coinciding with a debate about future management of the Priest Lake mackinaw fishery, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is joining a comprehensive study of the lake trout population.

The University of Idaho College of Natural Resources and the Kalispel Tribe will help in estimating the number of lake trout in Priest Lake and identifying growth and survival rates and food habits. 

Large-scale commercial netting equipment will be used, similar to that being used in Lake Pend Oreille.  From March through May, deepwater trapnets and short-duration set gillnets will be used to capture, measure, and mark lake trout with an individually numbered tag. 

A portion of the fish will be killed for age and stomach analysis but many fish will be marked and released in the lake so more data can be obtained from the anglers who catch them.

Public meetings on managing Priest Lake mackinaw are planned for late February, IFG officials said.

 Read on for more details from an IDFG media release.

Snowmobile route near Browns Lake closed for logging

WINTER SPORTS — A portion of the popular Kings Lake groomed snowmobile route in Pend Oreille County is being closed for the rest of the 2013 season because of a logging operation.

The Colville National Forest and Stimson Lumber Co. announced the closure today as routes will be plowed to accommodate truck traffic.

The snowmobile route provides access to the north shore of Browns Lake.

“While this closure along with the two other we have in the valley this winter will be an impact to the groomed snowmobile routes the area has to offer, there are still a number of options for snowmobiling,” said Gayne Sears, district ranger. The Washington State Parks Sno-Park website features maps of the options. 

The two other closures in place are:

  • Cee Cee Ah Creek Road, because of a large storm washout.
  • the National Forest portions of the Middle and East Branches Le Clerc Creek Roads, and the Hanlon Cutoff Road due to winter logging operations.

Details from Nan Berger, recreation staffer in Newport:

Only a portion of the entire route is closed. The national forest roads closed are as follows: 1920000 (CCA Road) from the jct. with 1920306 (approx. 10.0 mile mark) to its jct. with 1920306 (approx.. 12.0 mile mark); 5030000 (Browns Lake Road) from the jct. with County Road 3389 (Kings Lake) to its jct. with 5080000 (Sheepherder) at approx. 3.5 mile mark. 5080000 is closed from the jct. with 5030000 to east boundary of section 13 (T34NR44E) approx. 3 mile mark.

Info: Newport Ranger Station, (509) 447-7300, or the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500. 

Paddle sports clubs reach out to disabled vets

WATER SPORTS – A program to create an environment of healthy adventure for healing active duty and veteran service members through paddle sports will be introduced in Spokane on Monday, Jan. 28.

The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club is teaming with Team River Runner, a national non-profit group, to open canoeing and kayaking opportunities for disabled vets, said Celene Olgeirsson, SCKC spokeswoman.

The program starts at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave., in Spokane Valley.

Info: 509-209-3066

Missoula’s Wave needs emergency fix

PADDLING — The artificial wave that has become a fixture in downtown Missoula and attracted kayakers from across the nation needs emergency repairs.

Brennan’s Wave was completed in 2006 and has served as a site for the U.S. Kayak Team’s Olympic Trial and the Montana Whitewater Championships, according to a story in the Missoulian.

Trent Baker, the spokesman for the nonprofit organization that funded the wave’s construction and oversees an endowment for its maintenance, says the wave has a giant crack in its middle chute.

The Missoulian reports runoff flows in the Clark Fork River likely caused the erosion.

Baker’s nonprofit has $20,000 to put toward fixing the crack but the repairs are expected to cost $50,000.

The group is seeking donations.

Researcher not surprised that grizzly checked out Missoula

WILDLIFE — New kid on the block in Montana …

Data from radio collar tracks Montana grizzly's trek near Missoula

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said he wasn't surprised to learn that a female grizzly bear had traveled on the fringe of Missoula in the fall of 2011, as his department has been predicting the big bruins would be expanding into the area for years. — Missoulian

Safari Club holding benefit banquet in Spokane

HUNTING – The Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International will hold its 31st annual benefit dinner and auction Feb. 9 at the Mirabeau Park  Hotel in Spokane Valley.

More info: (509) 993-3098.

Backcountry film festival benefits winter recreation

 

The Backcountry Film Festival’s road show of human-powered outdoor recreation films will be back for the third year at 7 p.m., Jan. 30, at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center.

The festival films also will be showing Feb. 8 in Coeur d'Alene and Feb. 22 in Bonners Ferry, sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

The seven featured films are the top 2012 picks by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and sponsored in Spokane by Gonzaga and local outdoor clubs as a fundraiser for efforts to maintain nonmotorized access to the region’s top winter backcountry. See a trailer here.

  • In addition, the short film FreeRider will be shown and the Spokane festival night, featuring Washington splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller during his quest to snowboard Washington’s 10 highest summits.

John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance said proceeds of the Spokane event at GU will be used for efforts to keep backcountry skiing on the front burner of public land planning at two important sites for muscle-powered recreation:

Read on for more details:

Groups skeptical of Kretz wolf relocation bill

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf supporters and even some cattleman's groups say an Eastern Washington lawmaker's bill aimed at moving wolves to the west side of the state is damaging their efforts to relocate wolves to the southern Cascade Mountains, according to a story in the Capital Press.

Avista begins drawdown of Lake Spokane

RIVERS – The annual drawdown of Lake Spokane, the Spokane River reservoir also known as Long Lake, has begun, Avista Utilities announced today in a media release.

Starting today, operators expect to lower the reservoir up to one foot a day for two or three weeks until it reaches its winter elevation of 13-14 feet below maximum summer elevation of 1,536 feet.

Under the right weather conditions, which include sustained periods of single-digit temperatures and little or no snow on the exposed lakebed, the drawdown is expected to help control Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic weeds found in Lake Spokane. The drawdown also allows property owners to complete state and locally permitted repair and construction projects along the lake shoreline.

The lower winter elevation will be maintained until runoff conditions begin. Water levels can change with weather conditions in the upper Spokane River drainage.

For updates on changes at Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and Coeur d’ Alene Lake, check the Avista website or call: Washington (509) 495-8043; Idaho, call (208) 769-1357.

Two new fly tying classes at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — Two more fly tying classes have been added to the already busy schedule of instruction being offered by Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley, (509) 924-9998.

Preregistration required.

NW Top Producing Nymphs

  • What: Learn some of the best nymph patterns for the region
  • When: Jan. 30
  • Cost: $40.
  • Instructor: Wayne Jordan

Beyond the Basics Fly Tying

  • What: Learn more advanced patterns and techniques
  • When: Feb. 11-12,  6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $50.
  • Instructor: Mark Poirier

Sled dog racing hits full stride this week

WINTER SPORTS — Sled dog racing hits high gear in the Inland Northwest starting this week — and skiers should note that skijoring is a category insome sled dog racing events nowadays.

The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race starts today (Jan. 23) and runs through Jan. 26 in the Wallowa Mountains based out of Joseph, Ore. Known for its challenging elevation gain, the event includes a full-scale 200-mile race for teams of 12 dogs — a Yukon Quest qualifying race. Also scheduled is a 100-mile race for 8-dog teams, a new 62-mile, 2-day mid-distance “pot” race.

The Cascade Quest Sled Dog Race runs Feb. 1-3 based out of Lake Wenatchee. It includes four events: an 8-12 dog 100-mile stage race, a 6-dog 75-mile stage race, a 2 to 6-dog 24-mile recreation-class race and a purebred race. 

The Priest Lake Sled Dog Races run Feb. 1-3, based at the Priest Lake Airstrip, with a range of events including skijoring for skiers with their dogs. See the video above for a description of all the events.

Backcountry film fest benefits winter recreation

The Backcountry Film Festival’s road show of human-powered outdoor recreation films will be back for the third year at 7 p.m., Jan. 30, at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center.

The festival films also will be showing Feb. 8 in Coeur d'Alene and Feb. 22 in Bonners Ferry, sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

The seven featured films are the top 2012 picks by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and sponsored in Spokane by Gonzaga and local outdoor clubs as a fundraiser for efforts to maintain nonmotorized access to the region’s top winter backcountry.  See a trailer here.

  • In addition, the short film FreeRider will be shown and the Spokane festival night, featuring Washington splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller during his quest to snowboard Washington’s 10 highest summits.

John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance said proceeds of the Spokane event at GU will be used for efforts to keep backcountry skiing on the front burner of public land planning at two important sites for muscle-powered recreation:

Read on for more details:

Idaho lawmakers want ultimate public handout: federal land

PUBLIC LANDS — In another example of their self-centered approach to the outdoors and the world, Idaho lawmakers are suggesting they are going to waste state time and money making a stab and taking over federal lands within Idaho's borders.

You're not expecting public support on this, are you?

Click “continue reading” to see the Associated Press report on Monday's Statehouse meeting in Boise.

Skijorers back their dogs at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS —  Learn to ski with dog power in a skijoring clinic Sunday (Jan. 27), 2 p.m., at Mount Spokane State Park.

The Mt. Spokane Skijor Group will teach basic skills and etiquette for the trails that are open to skijorers at designated times twice a week.

Cost: $10, due by Thursday (Jan. 24).

Preregister: Diana Roberts, email dianaroberts21@comcast.net or call (509)570-8242.

Idaho tax checkoff supports non-game wildlife

WILDLIFE  – Idaho residents have a rare chance to support the state’s wildlife when they file state income tax returns.

Check the square to donate any amount of your refund to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. State wildlife management for fish and animals is funded by license sales to hunters and anglers. No general taxes go to wildlife programs for fish, game or nongame.

The only two ways to support animals that are not hunted, fished or trapped is by donating on your Idaho income tax form or buying an Idaho wildlife license plate.

Women step out into winter at Souper Bowl on Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS – Sign-up is under way for an annual event known for encouraging women to take an adventurous yet enjoyable step into winter.

The Women’s Souper Bowl VIII – which includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities, treats, prizes and lunch – is set for 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Feb. 3 based out of Selkirk Lodge at Mount Spokane.

Activities end in time to avoid conflict with TV’s “other” Super Bowl.

Events are open to women of all ages and athletic ability. Free snowshoe rentals and lessons are available on site; discounted cross-country ski rentals available in advance.

New this year:

• An adventurous guided snowshoe trek from the hairpin turn back to the lodge.

• Round-trip shuttles on buses sponsored by REI. Buses will pick up and return at Global Credit Union offices in downtown and in Spokane Valley, with stops at Mt. Spokane High School. Cost: $5.

Back by popular demand are the Poker Ski and the Flamingo Road snowshoe trek, both on the nordic trails from Selkirk Lodge.

Tickets: A $30 minimum suggested donation is requested for the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant for registrations received by Friday. A $10 additional fee will be requested for late registrations.

Organizers say 280 women came out for last year’s event, enabling volunteers to raise $12,872 for the Free Restaurant.

Preregister: souperbowlspokane.org.

Well owl be! Planning pays off for photographer

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Some wildlife photos happen spontaneously, the product of being ready to capture a surprising moment. 

Other great photos are the product of planning, such as this great horned owl image by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson:

We knew where this guy was, so we packed up the camera gear, tripod, light stands, lights, Radio controls and did a 5 mile hike in 8 inches of snow to get to where he was roosting.
 
A three second burst of images and it was all over….

Putting the icing on the chukar hunting season

HUNTING — I wrapped up the chukar hunting season today scrambling around the slippery slopes of the Snake River canyon with my buddy Jim Kujala and my trusty English setter, Scout.

The dog was pretty iced up from finding birds in the morning frost with temperatures in the teens, but by noon we found some sun breaking through the fog for a lunch break.

We packed away some chukars for the dinner table and great memories of another season.

Tip of the hat to six-year old bird dogs.  They don't get any better than that.

Photographer finds ice framing Palouse Falls

STATE PARKS — Palouse Falls State Park is worth a trip any time of year. But Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin braved temperatures in the teens for a visit this week and likes what he saw.

“Palouse Falls probably gets most of its visits in the spring with the big runoff but I headed out Friday and with all the ice I found it arguably more beautiful than in the spring,” he said, commenting on the photo above.

All ski trails groomed at Fourth of July Pass

WINTER SPORTS — Skiing conditions are great at Fourth of July Pass sport trails for the holiday weekend. All nordic trails have been groomed and are in especially prime condition for skaters.

Here's today's report from Panhandle Nordic Club president Geoff Harvey:

Skip Truscortt and I groomed today, concentrating on Skywalker above Skateaway, Moonrunner and thye Eagle Run. With last Thursday 's groom of lower Skywalker, Havin. Fun, the Swoop, High Road, Elderberry to the benches and Skateway alomost all groomed runs are groomed. Havin Fun, The Swoop, High Road, Skateaway, Skywalker and Moonrunner are all groomed for skating. With this inversion holding until Wednesday now is the time to get out there skaters.
 
Idaho Park-n-Ski permits are required.

Washington’s wolf population pegged at 51-101 animals

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Readers of reports on Wednesday's gray wolf management presentation by a panel of experts in Spokane have noticed a discrepancy in the reporting of the number of wolves estimated to be in Washington going into 2013.

The range is 51-101, according to Donny Martorello, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department carnivore manager. 

In her report, Jessica Robinson of Northwest Public Radio chose to publish the “minimum” estimate of 51 wolves that Washington Fish and Wildlife Department field staffers have actually counted.

My report on Wednesday's presentations noted the agency estimates there are “up to 100” wolves in the state, zeroing in on the maximum number of 101 wolves in Washington based modeling techniques that compensate for the fact that human eyes never see all the game in the field.

State biologists say wolves are coming and going from state boundaries all the time, so a specific number isn't possible. 
 
One thing's for sure: Wolves are mating now, and the number of wolves in Washington will increase this spring.

TV catches fish footage at Spokane Hatchery

FISHING — KHQ-TV paid a visit to the Spokane Fish Hatchery this week to produce this segment on winter operations that are vital to the region's anglers.

The cameraman was a bit late for the peak December spawning action described in this story by North Central High School student volunteer.

Here's a story about the “egg sucking” that goes into removing the dead eggs from the trays, as hatchery manager Ace Trump mentions in the TV video.

Idaho lawmakers wince at rare female bid for Fish and Game Commission

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The notion of diversity on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission is chilling the statehouse, as Eye-on-Boise blogger Betsy Russell reports.

Snowmobiling allowed in one area of Selkirks — unless caribou sighted

WINTER SPORTS — Snowmobiling restrictions have been eased in a state lands portion of caribou habitat in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains — as long as no caribou activity is detected in the area. 

Sounds like a guarantee of sorts.

See the announcement posted this week on Pecky Cox's blog, As the Lake Churns:

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has revised the closure criteria for the Restricted Winter Access Unit (RWUA) located on State endowment trust land in Abandon Creek. This area will now be treated similarly to other preferred caribou habitat located near Temple Mountain, Standard Lakes, Eddy Peak and Horton Ridge. A closure will be implemented only after there has been a confirmed caribou sighting in the Selkirk Crest near the preferred habitat. Since there hasn’t been a caribou sighting since 2004, the Abandon Creek area will be open to motorized use this winter unless a caribou is sighted within 2.7 miles of the RWUA perimeter or upon recommendation of Idaho Fish and Game.

Previously, confirmed sightings south of B.C. Highway 3 (i.e. Snowy Top) triggered a closure in the Abandon Creek area. The change in criteria for the Abandon Creek area is reflective of IDL’s review of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat designation for caribou, and it has now been 8 years since the last confirmed caribou sighting (2004) on State endowment trust land in Abandon Creek.

Man saves girlfriend from Utah avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — Read the story of a couple that beat the odds of disaster.

Also, read the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's weekly forecast when it's posted on Friday before heading into the winter backcountry.

Silver Bow sponsoring Hooks & Hops event for fly fishers

FISHING — The 4th annual Hooks & Hops event for thirsty fly fishers looking for inspiration during winter is set for Wednesday (Jan. 23),  6 p.m-9 p.m. at Black Diamond Sports Bar & Pool Hall, 9614 E. Sprague Ave., sponsored by Silver Bow Fly Shop.

Shop operators bill the night as a chance to give back to their customers, with a free beer, prizes, live music, free appetizers and fishing films. The bar also serves dinner for those who want to settle in.

Avalanche film romances the fury

WINTER SPORTS — This film, “Ode to Avalanche,” will be awesome to some winter recreationists and frightening to others.

Either way, I hope it at least prompts you to check in with a regional avalanche forecast — such as the weekly bulletin by the Idaho Panhandle Avalance Center — before heading into the winter backcountry.

Update: Read this new enlightening Elk Mountain avalanche report on an slide that buried a skier near Marias Pass in Glacier National Park.   It was close to being much, much worse.

Ice fishing conditions as good as they get

FISHING — Anglers who thrive on cutting a hole in the ice to drop a line were in a golden moment today.

The ice was a half-foot thick at Silver and Sprague Lakes today as I cruised around; winds were calm and the sunshine was brilliant, making temps in the teens quite pleasant.

One angler at Sprague said he wished the ice was not quite so thick because it was wearing him out augering holes as he tried to find fish.

The fishing wasn't exactly fast and furious at the two lakes I checked on my way out and back from quail hunting.  Anglers at Silver Lake had a few perch. I checked four of the six anglers on Sprague Lake at 2:30 p.m. and they had no fish.

“But what the hay,” one angler said. “It's great to be out here.”

Are flying snowmobiles the next big thing?

WINTER SPORTS — James Bond survived an aerial attack from flying snowmobiles — but could the winter recreation public?

Photographer details golden eagle at mealtime

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson came across the king of the Big Skies feasting on roadkill this week.  He has some keen observations:

Did a really nice hike today. We ran into this guy along the way. This is a Golden Eagle. Goldies are often confused with young Bald Eagles.

When young, Bald eagles are also brownish. Two easy ways to determine a Golden Eagle (other than size – Goldens are larger) is the Donald Trump hairdo (notice on the neck) and the long pants.

Goldies have feathers right down to their toes. Bald Eagles wear Capri pants (shins are showing).

Another fun thing with these guys, when they gorge themselves (like this one did), they actually eat too much and can't fly. When disturbed, they scamper along the ground until they find a log or stump to sit on.

Montana cougar hunter loses three dogs to wolves

PREDATORS — A 20-year-old Stevensville hunter thought he'd done everything right before he let his three mountain lion dogs go on a set of fresh tracks Sunday afternoon.

He'd been hunting with others in the Ninemile drainage north of Missoula since Sept. 3. In all that time, they had not seen any sign of wolves in the area.  He saw no wolf tracks in the snow heading up to his hunting area last weekend.

This day wasn’t any different than the rest of the season — until his GPS unit indicated his dogs had stopped.

Read the chilling story in the Ravalli Republic.

Idaho may pay trappers to target wolves

PREDATORS — Idaho wildlife officials are considering paying private trappers to kill wolves roaming in specific hunting zones, such as the St. Joe River drainage, where wolves have had a significant impact on elk populations.

“There are certain individuals who have built up some pretty good skills,” Jeff Gould, a Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife bureau manager, said in a report by the Idaho Statesman.

The agency is looking for ways to reduce Idaho’s wolf population, estimated at more than 500 at the end of the season last year. Hunters and trappers have had some success statewide killing wolves, but Gould says the agency wants to minimize wolf impacts in the Lolo, Selway and St. Joe hunting zones.

The agency is also considering partnering with select trappers on an initiative to fit more wolves with radio collars. Working with trappers is likely to be less expensive than collaring trips using helicopters and staff. Gould said the agency recently spent about $40,000 over three days to fit collars on 14 wolves near Lowman in central Idaho.

Spokane men jailed for illegal fish netting at Banks Lake

POACHING — Two Spokane men were arrested last week at Banks Lake after a nighttime patrol of five Washington Fish and Wildlfie police caught them illegally gillnetting about 50 whitefish.

Maxim Andriyenko, 28, and Vladimir Lebedinski, 33, both of Spokane, were booked into the Grant County Jail, according to a report by the Columbia Basin Herald. The other suspect was a 16-year-old boy. A 14-foot boat was seized.

Police said the men are likely part of a “poaching community.”  This is not news to anglers who frequent Banks and other regional lakes, but it's good news that some members of this “poaching community” are getting nailed.

The officers reported the suspects argued throughout the search, never admitting to any wrongdoing. Police said one suspect, a convicted felon, allegedly threatened to cut off the fingers of one officer.

North Fork Clearwater River mining challenged

FISHING — Idaho fly fishers and conservation groups are stepping up to back the Clearwater National Forest in challenging the rash of placer mining claims being filed for the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

A stream known for its native bull trout and westslope cutthroats is being seen as a honey-hole for miners with suction dredges.  At least 36 mining claims have been filed along a 30-mile stretch of the river.

Tell that to your egg-sucking leech.

Kudos to the Kelly Creek Fly Casters and the Friends of the Clearwater for joining the cause. The Forest Service will need all the help it can get.  

A relatively small number of miners have legal rights to dredge for gold — and screw with the attraction for thousands of recreationists — based on the Mining Rights Restoration Act of 1955 and the archaic Mining Act of 1872.

But at least the laws give the Forest Service the ability ask for a hearing before the Interior Board of Land Appeals to determine if placer mining will interfere with other uses.

If you were on the North Fork last summer and saw the “keep away from private property” signs along riverside claims, you got just a surface hint of what could come.

Upper Columbia salmon hatchery previewed

FISHING — The BPA-funded upper Columbia River salmon hatchery being built near Bridgeport and managed under the direction of the Colville Confederated Tribes is scheduled to go online in May.

The Seattle Times posted this update on the project, which should greatly enhance salmon fishing potential in the Columbia and Okanogan rivers.

Pro-wolf groups unite, calling management a ‘killing spree’

PREDATORS — The lone gray wolf roaming California is on good behavior, eating deer, and getting a lot of good press for his species. 

If the wolf were ever to find a mate and produce pups, it would have more mouths to feed, and that would be the start of the issues for management.

But pro-wolf groups in the Pacific Northwest are turning their backs on reasonable needs for managing — that often means killing — wolves.

The San Francisco news story below is one-sided, reporting the numbers of wolves killed in Idaho and Montana without pointing out that despite the management, wolf numbers increased and are still considered far above the levels set for recovery in the plans drawn up for their reintroduction to the Northern Rockies.

Groups in Pacific Northwest press for laws to protect wolves

Concerned about wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, 25 wildlife conservation groups in Washington, Oregon and California have created the Pacific Wolf Coalition to prevent the removal of federal endangered species protection for wolves in those states. — San Francisco Chronicle

Upgrades approved for Rainier’s Camp Muir

The National Parks Service has approved long-awaited upgrades to Mount Rainier’s Camp Muir – one of the main stops for the thousands of people who climb the mountain.

Pacific West Region director Chris Lehnertz determined that upgrading the high camp would have no impact on the park, giving the green light to replace the camp’s nonhistoric structures.

Mount Rainier National Park superintendent Randy King said the project will cost about $700,000 and take three to five years to complete, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

Camp Muir is the highest backcountry camp, located at an elevation of 10,080 feet.

Gillnetting to end in Columbia by 2017

FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to phase out gillnet fishing on the main stem of the Columbia River, relegating the primary commercial fishing tool to tributaries and bays.

Under the new policy adopted Saturday, the use of gillnets will be phased out by 2017 in nontribal fisheries on the Columbia Basin below Bonneville Dam. The policy also includes commitments to increase the number of stocked fish in areas off the main Columbia River channel to offset reductions to commercial fishing opportunities.

Oregon adopted similar rules in December.

Recreational fishers say gillnets are harmful to the recovery of endangered salmon. But commercial fishers say it’ll be impossible for them to earn a living by fishing only in the limited areas where they’ll be allowed to use gillnets.

Sullivan Bridge river access focus of meeting Wednesday

RIVERS — Proposals for providing public access to the Spokane River under the new Sullivan Road Bridge project will be revealed 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 16) in Council Chambers at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., Suite 101.

The updated Public Access Plan provisions of Spokane Valley's Shoreline Master Program also include details regarding Shelley Lake.

Public access to the river at Sullivan Road is critical to paddlers, including kayakers, canoeists and rafters as well as anglers.

Copies of the Public Access Plan section of the SMP are available on the city website at www.spokanevalley.org by selecting the Planning & Zoning link on the home page, and then the Long Range Planning link.

To sign up for email updates, contact LBarlow@spokanevalley.org or call (509) 720-5335.

A bird dog is ready to hunt in any weather

HUNTING — It was cold and dreary Saturday and my friends all had excuses for not going chukar hunting.

But my English setter was more than ready.  With temps in the teens, the footing was good and a dusting of snow helped in the search for birds.

It's good to have a friend willing to go any time, any day … especially a friend who runs his butt off finding birds and lets you do all the shooting!

Some cougar hunting seasons closing

HUNTING — Cougar hunts in several areas of the state will close at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 15 after harvest guidelines for the animals were reached in those areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday. 

Game Management Units that will close include 105, 108, 111, 117, 121, 145, 149, 154, 157, 162, 163, 166, 175, 178, 328, 329, 335, 642, 648, and 651. 

Those GMUs are located in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Garfield, Asotin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Kittitas, Chelan, Grays Harbor, Mason and Thurston counties.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said this season’s cougar hunts are the first under a new management plan, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission early last year. 

The new plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, said Ware. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to allow for hunting opportunities elsewhere.

“The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations,” Ware said. “Going into this season we expected to have to close some areas, but even with these closures most of the state remains open for hunters.”

Other areas of the state could close early during the late-season cougar hunt that's generally sent for Jan. 1 through March 31.

Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW’s website or call the cougar hunting hotline (1-866-364-4868) to check which areas of the state remain open.

Colville Fish Hatchery sale to county approved

FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today approved the sale of the state’s Colville Fish Hatchery to Stevens County, which plans to use it as an educational and vocational learning center.

The commission approved a proposal to sell the 95-year-old trout hatchery for its appraised value of $150,000 during a public meeting in Olympia.

“This is really a win-win for the department and Stevens County,” said Commissioner Gary Douvia, who lives in Colville and helped to champion the sale. “While the hatchery may be past its prime, it’s still a real asset for the community.”

Dan Budd, WDFW real estate manager, said the state acquired the trout hatchery from Stevens County in 1933 and operated it for nearly 80 years. WDFW closed the facility last June and moved most of the fish production to the Spokane Hatchery to cut costs in response to state budget reductions, he said.

Douvia said the county plans to create a non-profit organization to work with area schools to operate the facility and use it as a learning center. Students will learn hatchery-management skills at an on-site classroom affiliated with the Spokane-based NEWTECH Skill Center and supported by local Stevens County school districts.

“The last time I checked, 22 students had signed up – and the program isn’t even up and running yet,” Douvia said.

Trout produced by the students will provide additional fish for local lakes and boost the local economy, he said. In addition, the terms of contract allow WDFW to credit Stevens County for the value of those fish toward the amount owed for the hatchery.

The current 19.4-acre property includes water rights and a small house. The Colville Confederated Tribes provided operational funding for the hatchery from 2010 through 2012, before it was closed last June.

Big-game topic at Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting

HUNTING — Seasons for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats will be set when the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets Jan. 16 and 17 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

Other routine items on the agenda include a budget preview, big game briefing and the appointment of winter feeding advisory committee members.

Commissioners also will hear updates on legislative activity and an elk management plan, in addition to Chinook salmon forecasts for spring and summer, Chinook returning to the Snake River and potential for 2013 seasons in the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake river drainages.

They will consider a staff proposal to redirect $50,000 of animal damage control funds from coyote control in eastern Idaho to wolf control within elk management zones that are performing below management objectives.

Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore will present the 2012 Director’s Report to the Commission.

Clean Water Act exemption for logging roads appealed

WATER QUALITY — Should runoff from logging roads be considered pollution and subject to permitting requirements?

The question has been the basis of a long-standing court battle that continues this week despite a recent court decision in favor of the timber industry.

Certainly the matter is of interest to fishermen, who know that erosion from roads can have major impacts on fish spawning and holding habitat.

The Capital Press has this story on the latest appeal.

Chuck Heath, Palin’s father, to talk about hunting, fishing in Alaska

HUNTING/FISHING — Chuck Heath, father of Sarah Palin, will be speaking with his lifelong friend, Chuck Moe of Spokane, on Alaskan fishing and hunting on Jan. 19 at the Lake City Community Church, 6000 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d'Alene.

The fund-raising events includes raffles and prizes, a demo on scoring antlers and local outdoor sports vendors, as well as a meal of moose chili and cornbread.

The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at Michael D’s, Owl Café, Black Sheep, Wholesale Sports and Hoffman Boots.

Info: (208) 676-0632.

Idaho allows first-timers to bypass hunter ed

HUNTING — To encourage potential new hunters to take to the field, Idaho Fish and Game’s new Hunting Passport offers novice hunters the opportunity to hunt for one year before completing a hunter education course.

A Hunting Passport is a special authorization that allows anyone who has never held a hunting license in any state, resident and nonresident, age 8 and older, to take wildlife only when they are accompanied by a mentor and participating in the Mentored Hunting Program.

The minimum age to hold a Hunting Passport is 8. There is no maximum age. Passport holders must be 12 years old to hunt big game, 10 to hunt turkey and sandhill crane and 8 to hunt most other game birds and small game.

Passport holders must purchase general season tags, appropriate permits and validations.  All hunting rules, seasons and weapon restrictions also apply.

The Hunting Passport expires December 31 of the year it was issued, and only one can be purchased in a lifetime. To continue hunting after the passport expires, the hunter must complete a hunter education course and buy a license.

Anyone 18 or older who holds a valid Idaho hunting license can serve as a mentor. No certification is required, but people may not mentor more than two people at the same time.

Hunting Passports cost $1.75 and are available at license vendors and Fish and Game regional offices.

Montana debates trapping of threatened wolverines

THREATENED SPECIES — Montana is taking a controversial stand on trapping of wolverines.

Montana FWP says it will oppose federal protection of wolverines

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to propose listing the wolverine as a threatened species next week, a decision that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said they'll oppose because the state has a healthy population of the elusive member of the weasel family.

Court upholds Montana allowing bison to roam free outside Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — Montana's decision to let migrating bison roam freely across 70,000 acres outside Yellowstone National Park was upheld by a court ruling Monday that dismissed a pair of lawsuits filed by ranchers to challenge the policy.

The judge sided with state officials and conservation groups that have sought to ease restrictions on bison movements.

Thousands of bison flood out of Yellowstone during severe winters. In the past, the animals were subject to mass slaughters over fears they could spread the disease brucellosis to livestock.

The slaughters were blocked by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer. But when hundreds of bison were allowed to return to the Gardiner Basin, local officials said they posed a threat to safety and destroyed private property.

In his ruling, Phillips acknowledged the plaintiffs' struggles with bison, but said those were an unavoidable consequence of living in Montana with its abundant wildlife.

Ski resorts host newcomers with sweet deals

WINTER SPORTS — January is national “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month,” and most of Idaho's 18 winter resorts are offering incentives for newcomers to try out their snow sports.

In addition, the Bring a Friend program offers incentives to skiers and boarders who introduce novice skiers to professional ski lessons.

North Idaho highlights include:

Free Ski School at Lookout Pass for youths ages 6-17. Free lessons are offered every Saturday morning Jan. 12t- March 16 for those who register by Jan. 26.   

Lesson discounts for youth and adult skiers at Schweitzer and Silver Mountain.  New skiers and snowboarders can get lessons for $39-$49 in January.

EZ 1-2-3 packages — including 3 lessons, 3 rentals, and 3 lift tickets — cost $99 from Lookout Pass, $129 from Silver Mountain and Schweitzer. 

Indian Creek boat ramp revamped on Middle Fork Salmon

RIVER RUNNING — Whitewater boaters are putting in their names before the Jan. 31 deadline for drawing dates to run Idaho's famous wilderness whitewater rivers, including the Selway, Hells Canyon of the Snake, Salmon and Middle Fork Salmon.

Of course, rivers change on their own each year from natural forces, but Middle Fork rafters will see nifty improvement.

The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation partnered with the U.S. Forest Service in September to recronstruct the Middle Fork's Indian Creek boat ramp.The previous ramp constructed in 2006 fell victim to exposure and wood rot after supporting countless rafts on the 75-foot descent from the public air strip to the river.

More than 10,000 people float the iconic Middle Fork each year, and a large number of those users choose to fly into Indian Creek and use the boat ramp to launch when the water is either high or low. The ramp is also an integral component for outfitters who fly clients in for trips.

The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation recruited ten volunteers from Idaho, Montana and Colorado to replace the ramp in its entirety, effectively installing a new boat ramp. The work consisted of manually deconstructing and hauling the old ramp to an off-site location, then reinstalling each new step and slide log by hand.

About12,000 pounds of timber was moved by hand during the demolition and reinstallation.

Read on for more details.

Superintendent named for Lake Roosevelt, Ice Age Floods parks

PUBLIC LANDS — Dan Foster, a 20-year National Park Service employee, has been named superintendent for Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

Foster is replacing Debbie Bird, who retired after serving as Lake Roosevelt superintendent since 2002.

Foster will leave his current position as superintendent at Niobrara National Scenic River in Nebraska and report in February for his new assignment at Grand Coulee, Wash.

Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz said Foster has experience working with neighboring communities, multiple agencies, tribal governments, military branches, and the public. 

Foster’s National Park Service resume includes positions as a resource management specialist at Bryce Canyon National Park, and chief of resource management at Nez Perce National Historical Park and Wind Cave National Park.  He has been superintendent at Niobrara National Scenic River since 2008. 

Prior to federal service, Foster was a wildlife biologist and geologist for the Utah Department of Natural Resources for eleven years.

Foster received a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife and range management from Brigham Young University.  He and his wife Trena have three children.  Among other pursuits, Foster says he is an ardent fly fisherman.

The parks that Foster will oversee are close in proximity, but quite different in nature.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area consists largely of a portion of the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River with relatively small land areas adjacent to the lake. It encompasses varied resources, ranging from historic Fort Spokane to numerous native fish and other wildlife, and even submerged cultural resources beneath the lake’s surface. The park was established in 1946 after the completion of the dam, and receives over a million visitors a year.

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail was created less than a decade ago, and highlights the significant geologic features of the massive floods that scoured the landscape of the interior Columbia Basin at the end of the last ice age. Since multiple agencies and organizations will continue to manage the lands where these features are found, the trail will provide a way to unify the story of how the larger landscape ties those features together.

Washington to hold wolf management public meetings

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington wildlife managers are putting together a road show of experts to help the public understand the options for dealing with the expanding number of gray wolves spreading into the state.

The recovery and management of gray wolves in Washington and other western states will be the topic of three public meetings this month hosted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The only Eastern Washington meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 16 at the Center Place Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

The agency says a panel of experts will discuss efforts to recover Washington’s gray wolf population, the latest information from population surveys in Washington and gray wolf management strategies used in other states.

“Wolves are a high-profile species that attract considerable public interest from people who often have opposing views,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “This is a great opportunity for people interested in gray wolves to hear from experts about the recovery of the species throughout the West.”

Speakers will include Mike Jimenez, Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Wyoming; Carter Niemeyer, retired wolf specialist with the USFWS and the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services; and Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore section manager.

Lorna Smith, executive director of Western Wildlife Outreach, an independent wild carnivore education organization based in the state of Washington, will moderate the meetings.

Each meeting will include an opportunity for the public to submit questions to the presenters about wolf recovery and management. 

Other scheduled public meetings are:

  • Jan. 17 – Office Building #2, at 14thAve. and Jefferson St., Olympia, 2:30-5 p.m.
  • Jan. 18 – Magnuson Park’s Garden Room, 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, 6-8 p.m.

Virtually absent from Washington for more than 70 years, gray wolves have dispersed into the eastern portion of the state and the North Cascades from adjacent populations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and British Columbia.

WDFW has confirmed the presence of eight wolf packs in Washington and there's significant evidence of unconfirmed packs near Kettle Falls in northeastern Washington, in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington and in the North Cascades, as well as transient wolves.

Gray wolves are listed as endangered under state law throughout Washington, and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan establishes a goal of 15 breeding pairs of wolves distributed among three regions of the state for three years – or 18 pairs in one year – before the state can delist gray wolves as an endangered species.

Cattlemen say wolf management based on emotion, not science

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association says Washington has crafted much of its wolf management policy based on social pressure, not on data.

In a media release, the association said the answers or lack of answers to public records requests indicate the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lacks the information to properly manage the predator.

“Over the last several months, we have submitted a number of formal requests to WDFW regarding specific data related to the wolf,” said SCCA President Scott Nieslen. “The responses we received show that WDFW has no information on the number of prey animals available for the wolves, they have limited information about the wolf population and have no ability to predict how wolves will affect local communities.”
 
Actually, the WDFW hasn't been hiding its lack of information on big-game herds — the prey base for wolves, as you can see in the sidebar to this report I filed in September.
 
Questions the association has asked include:
  • “What is the current ungulate prey base in Eastern Washington?”
  • “What is the current predator population?”
  • “What are the anticipated prey needs for the eight wolf packs in Eastern Washington?”
  • “What are the scientific studies on predator and prey relationships?”
WDFW presented some information on cougar populations at a SCCA meeting in December in Colville.
However, questions about the wolf and its impacts on the current predator/prey populations or any data related to ungulate populations in the region could not be answered, the media release said.
 
“The WDFW also affirmed their inability to answer the questions in formal public records requests from SCCA,” the release said.
 
Indeed, the agency has scheduled three public meetings in the state, including a Jan. 16 meeting in Spokane, featuring experts who will help answer questions the public has about Washington's wolf management policies.
 
“We felt it was very important to remove the emotions and politics from the wolf issue and start talking about nuts and bolts,” said Nielsen. 
 
“We know that we already have too many wolves in the area and we need to see proactive management of the animal.”
 
He noted that the Colville Confederated Tribes already have approved an open hunting season to remove 9 wolves on the reservation’s 1.4 million acres.
 
“We don’t have to look any further than our own backyard to see other groups taking proactive actions designed to protect deer and elk populations. We should be doing the same,” said Nielsen.
 
Wolves in northeastern Washington should no longer be treated as though they need special protections, the group says.
 
“The recovery of the wolf on a regional level has already been asserted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that declared the wolf as 'fully recovered' in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region in a status review in 2012.
 
SCCA presented WDFW a formal request on Dec. 9 that the wolf be delisted in the Eastern Washington Region.

Watching birds eat piques curious minds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — There's a difference between seeing wildlife and observing them.  Here's a thought just posted by Moscow birder Terry Gray:

I have been spending some time over the past years watching birds that eat fruit or which some think eat fruit and do not!

Example:  American Robin and both Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings pick a berry or small crabapple from the tree and swallow it whole.  There is some documentation that states that a Pine Grosbeak is a Fruit Eater.  I disagree! 

Whenever we have had the Pine Grosbeak in town I have made a point to watch them carefully eat.  The DO take the berry or small crabapple from the tree BUT they do not swallow it.  They pulverize it with their bill and tongue and spit out the pulp and swallow the small seeds that was in the fruit.  To me that means that the bird is not eating the fruit but eating the product of the fruit, the seed. 

I personally do not think that people pay enough attention to detail when making statements and even writing up articles about what they have observed because they have not observed the total picture before making their statements or writing their articles.

Just an observation about the way bird watchers do or do not watch birds very accurately!

Good Birding!

Best things about hunting dogs revisited

BIRD DOGGING — A Facebook friend recently sent me several poignant quotations regarding dogs, which made me think fondly back over the German shorthairs, Brittanys and English setters I've been privileged to own, know, love and hunt.

But honestly, I couldn't help but make a few reality checks after thinking about these Dog Wisdoms for a moment.  I've added my two cents from decades of experience in bold face.

*Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Indeed, the tail wagging may be a devious attempt to delay you from discovering the chewed up bamboo fly rod.  - Ann Landers

*If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went, unless it's into the barnyard to roll in cow pies.  - Will Rogers


*There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face, and that's a good thing because a psychiatrist is much more likely than a puppy to have been licking something icky before it licked you. - Ben Williams


*A neutered dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. - Robert Benchley

*If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise and you clearly aren't a chukar hunter. - Unknown

Court upholds Idaho Roadless Rule

PUBLIC LANDS — The 9thCircuit Court ruled 3-0 this morning in favor of Idaho and against a challenge some conservation groups have made to the state's roadless rule, which helps designate where motorized vehicle use can be allowed on public lands not otherwise protected.

The Idaho Roadless Rule was formalized in 2006 in a collaborative process with other conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited, and public hearings that created management plans for various tracts within the 9.3 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the state.

It was a good-faith effort.

Here's the reaction from Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, who spearheaded the adoption of the rule while he was governor of Idaho.

Click “continue reading” for the reaction from Idaho Conservation League officials who were pleased with the court decision.

Montana ranchers bar hunting to protest public land buy

HUNTING — About 30 Montana farmers and rangers say they won't allow public  hunting on their land in protest of the state's purchase of a ranch along the Milk River.

Last month, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission OK’d the purchase of 2,992 acres of the Milk River Ranch from Aageson Grain and Cattle for $4.7 million. The agency says the land has great wildlife values, 10 miles of river shoreline, huge areas of intact native prairie and is an important wildlife corridor.

But the landowners have a lot of gripes, from the price paid to simple anger over the government owning land.

See the latest from the Great Falls Tribune.

New Year rules, programs for Idaho hunters, anglers

HUNTING/FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game put out the following notice of new rules affection hunters and anglers in 2012.

Several new rules, including a mentored hunting program and changes to fishing rules, take effect January 1; all of them are subject of legislative review.

A new mentored hunting program will allow a person 8 and older to participate in a mentored hunt program without being required to hold a hunter education certificate.

A Hunting Passport is a special authorization that allows the person to take wildlife only when they are accompanied by a mentor and participating in the Mentored Hunting Program. They may participate in the program only for one year, and the Hunting Passport expires December 31 of the year it was issued.

A person with a Hunting Passport at least 8 years old may hunt small game and most upland game birds, but a person must be at least 10 to hunt turkey or sandhill crane and at least 12 to hunt big game.

The mentor must be at least 18 and must possess a valid Idaho hunting license, and he or she may mentor no more than two others at a time.

For anglers, the state has shifted to a three-year cycle, which means new rules in 2013 will be effective through 2015. 

In addition, the limit on trout will go down to two per day in some streams and urban ponds in the Clearwater, Southwest, Southeast and Upper Snake regions on January 1.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted the rule in November. The goal is to increase opportunity for more anglers to catch stocked fish and to reduce the boom and bust cycle with the stocking program.

Affected waters are Big Elk Creek, Crooked Creek and Red River in the Clearwater Region.

In the Upper Snake Region the limit is removed on rainbow trout and hybrid trout in the South Fork Snake River tributaries. The limit on brown trout is two, with none under 16 inches. In Henrys Lake Outlet, the 400 yard section from the USGS gauge to the Henrys Lake Dam opens to fishing.

 

Area skiers tops in U.S. Nordic Skiing Championships

Four Eastern Washington were in top form in the U.S. National Cross Country Skiing Championship races this week at the former Olympic course at Soldier Hollow, Utah.

  • Erik Bjornsen, 22, of Winthrop finished first in the men's 15-kilometer freestyle.
  • His sister, Sadie Bjornsen, 24, finished second in the women's 10k freestyle and second in the classic sprint.
  • Torin Koos of Wenatchee won the men's classic sprint, his seventh U.S. nordic title.
  • Annie Pokorny, 20, of Spokane finished fourth in the women's 10k freestyle.

Pokorny, who developed her skills as a teenager with the Spokane Junior Nordic Ski Team, left Lewis and Clark High School to complete her senior year in Sun Valley where she trained with national-class junior skiers. She's skiing collegiately at Middlebury College and has a shot at being named to a U.S. international team.

Sadie Bjornsen, Koos and Pokorny all have the distinction of winning top female or male titles as teenagers at the annual 10K Spokane Langlauf at Mount Spokane.

Fewer fish to follow record sockeye year

FISHERIES — A record 515,700 sockeye salmon was counted this year at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

The run count — the most since counting began at Bonneville Dam in 1938 — far exceeded the agency's preseason forecast of 462,000 fish.

The record run translated into a record 3,400 sockeye caught by sport anglers during the summer season in river reaches below the dam. 

So many fish reached the Upper Columbia, the Brewster pool region was covered with boats as anglers fished for their generous daily limits of six sockeye and six chinook.

For 2013, a total of 180,500 sockeye are predicted to return to the Columbia River basin, less than half of last year's forecast.

Downsized salmon runs predicted for Wind River, Drano Lake

Weak returns of spring chinook salmon are predicted for the Wind River and Drano Lake in Skamania County, a not-surprising forecast given the low return expected to the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam, reports Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is forecasting a return of 3,000 spring chinook to the Wind River, 4,500 to Drano Lake and 2,200 to the Klickitat River.

Those numbers compare to 5,400 in the Wind, 8,800 at Drano and 2,100 in the Klickitat in 2012.

Given that Carson National Fish Hatchery needs about 1,500 spring chinook for spawning, it is possible there will be angling restrictions at Wind River in 2013, Thomas writes.

Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, said the two-pole rule, allowed during part of the 2012 fishery, is almost certainly gone. The angling area, expanded in 2012, might return to its former size, certain days of the week might be closed or the daily bag limit reduced.

Read on for more details from the Columbian's report.

Shorter Idaho chinook fishing season in the forecast

SALMON FISHING — Chances for a long chinook salmon fishing season with liberal limits next spring are looking slim in the Snake and Clearwater rivers, reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Fisheries managers from state, tribal and federal agencies are predicting 141,400 spring chinook bound for tributaries above Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River will return at least as far as the mouth of the Columbia. That includes 58,200 chinook bound for the Snake River and its tributaries like the Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

If the forecast proves accurate, it would be the lowest return since 2007 when only 86,000 upriver spring chinook returned to the Columbia and similar to 2006 when the mouth of the Columbia saw a return of 132,600 spring and summer chinook. The Snake River component of the 2006 run was 53,200. Fishing in Idaho was limited to four days a week that year and the harvest quota was about 800 fish for the Clearwater River and around 1,330 on the lower Salmon River.

Read on for more details from Barker's report.

Advanced photo technology frames Mount Everest in shocking detail

MOUNTAINS — After seeing this stunning display of photo technology, I'll never be able to squat in the woods without wondering if somebody's taking my picture from a perch a mile away. 

Click the link below and zoom in, for example, on the amazing detail of the sprawling Mount Everest Base Camp.

 2B-pixel photo lets you explore Mount Everest online

Exploring the pinnacles and crevices of Mount Everest is now possible without ever climbing it, thanks to a 2 billion pixel photograph that filmmaker and climate-change activist David Breashears released online. He took 400 images of the world's highest mountain in the spring, combining them to create a panorama that lets viewers zoom in on everything from a camper washing his face at the base to the mountain's icefall. “I find things I've never noticed before, especially on how climate change is affecting the mountain,” said Breashears, whose GlacierWorks site shows how climate change is affecting the Himalayas. The Guardian (London)

Bald eagle numbers dropping at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Although plenty of bald eagles are still hanging around, the annual congregation at Lake Coeur d'Alene peaked around Dec.19 and numbers are declining.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 157 bald eagles Thursday in cold, clear weather in the Wolf Lodge area where the eagles gather from November into January to feed on spawning kokanee.

That's down from 183 bald eagles counted Dec. 28during BLM's weekly survey.

This season's high count was 260 bald eagles surveyed on Dec. 19. The count was 204 eagles on Dec. 13, 121 eagles on Dec. 5and 100 eagles counted on Nov. 27.

A record 273 bald eagles was countedat Lake Coeur d'Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.

Hugo said she counted 31 immature bald eagles Thursday and126 adults, which have the white heads. Snow in the trees around the lake help camouflage adult eagles, making them more difficult to see – and easier to miss — than on a day with no snow in the trees.

January full of fly-tying classes at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — The cold of January is prime time for cozying up to a vise to learn how to tie flies.

Click “continue reading” for the timely January fly-tying class schedule — for beginner and advanced tiers — from Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley.

Birders tally 238 species in Spokane County Big Year

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Unless there's a stray report still to come in, Inland Northwest Birders and Spokane Audubon tallied 238 species in their 2012 Spokane County “Big Year” effort to spot as many types of birds as possible.

Following are highlights compiled by Tim O'Brien of Cheney:

Black Scoter found by Jim Acton on West Medical Lake - October 25.

Gyrfalcon found by Terry Little on the West Plains - January 5.

Northern Hawk-owl found by the McKanns on the West Plains - January 7.

Red-breasted Sapsucker found by Becky Goldner near Mount Spokane - December 10.

American Three-toed Woodpecker found by Warren Walker on Mount Spokane - December 13.

Black and White Warbler found by Terry Little on Holcomb Road - September 3.

Tennessee Warbler found by Lindell Hagin at their residence by the Little Spokane - August 16.

Purple Finch by Terry Little at Peone Prairie - November 22.

Hoary Redpoll by Greg Falco near Cheney - November 23.

BIG MISSES: quite a few shorebirds such as Black-bellied Plover and Semipalmated Plover.  Great Egret.  Well, you can't find them all!

O'Brien said he's already started compiling reports for the 2013 Spokane County Big Year as well as documenting first found dates and locations for all species.

“2013 looks promising with a lot of winter birds around including snowy owl, common redpoll and pine grosbeak,” O'Brien said.  Contact: kertim7179@yahoo.com

RECORD SPOKANE COUNTY BIG  YEARS

247 species in 2006 — cumulative list from everyone all birders making sightings in the county during the year.
 
230 species in 2006 — single birder record by Craig Corder.

Idaho Park-n-Ski free day promotes N. Idaho events

WINTER SPORTS — Special events, such as guided snowshoe hike and ski touring, are planned for Saturday's Park-n-Ski day at winter hot spots such as Priest Lake State Park and Fourth of July Pass while fees are being waived for parking.

A winter fat-biking demostration is being planned by Greasy Fingers Bikes at the Indian Creek Unit of Priest Lake State Park from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.   Info: (208) 443-2200.

The 20th annual Best Hand Fun Ski/Snowshoe is being sponsored with prizes and trail grooming by the Panhandle Nordic Club at Fourth of July Pass from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Look for updates here.  The Idaho Parks and Recreation Department website appears to be down. I'll be looking for more infor about activities at Farragut State Park.

 

Winter treks led by Scotchman Peaks group

WINTER SPORTS — Tracking critters with a naturalist, studying winter ecology and a ladies-only snowshoe trek into an ancient cedar grove are among a dozen outings the public can join in a winter trip series led by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

The annual outing series in the proposed wilderness area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille starts Sunday with a snowshoe walk up the Lightning Creek Road to the Regal Creek Trail.

Some of the trips are easy, some are quite challenging.

Pre-registration is required.

Volunteers to be trained for wolverine research

WILDLIFE — A training workshop will be held Saturday in Sandpoint for volunteers planning to help wildlife researchers monitor wolverines, lynx and fishers in North Idaho this winter.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the Idaho Conservation League and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE) once again are forming the core of the effort to put up bait, tend motion-activated cameras and harvest hair left by visiting critters for DNA sampling.

More than 140 volunteers helped last year in the effort overseen by Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers.

On Saturday, volunteers will be trained in some new proceedures from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Forest Service Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario St.

Since much of the work requires volunteers to ski or shoeshoe into the backcountry, an optional avalanche awareness presentation is included.

Info: (208) 265-9565

Kent man attacked by coyotes in his backyard

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Predators can be a problem in suburban areas, especially if they are encouraged to be bold by people who leave out pet food or purposely feed them.  The consequences of trying to “tame” wildlife can impact everyone in the neighborhood. 

For example, check out this KOMO TV report from Western Washington:

Kent man attacked by coyotes in his own backyard

Furthermore:

Biologist says wolves likely killed deer within Montana town's limits

A Confederated Salish Kootenai tribal biologist said the report of two wolves in Polson was likely correct after measuring tracks he found around a partially eaten mule deer carcass near the sightings in the Montana community. — Missoulian

Burned bear cub recovering, may be released

WILDLIFE — An orphaned black bear cub burned in a wildfire last summer is recovering and may be released in June, an Idaho wildlife sanctuary official said.

The 4-month-old bear nicknamed “Boo Boo” was discovered by a fisherman in a tree along the Salmon River in August days after the 312-square-mile Mustang wildfire complex passed through the area.

The cub had second-degree burns on all four paws and was malnourished when U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game workers rescued him.

After spending a few weeks at the Idaho Humane Society, the cub has been rehabilitating since September in the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall. He lives in a 2-acre forested enclosure with five other orphaned cubs.

Snowdon board member Diane Evans-Mack said Boo Boo is on the road to a full recovery, according to the Ravalli Republic.

“You wouldn’t even be able to notice that his paws were ever burnt now,” she said. “We don’t see him every day, but even when we saw him in September, two weeks after the fire, we noticed just looking at the paws that they were much better. They were still a little bit sensitive, but he was climbing trees and running around.”

The sanctuary tracks the bears’ activity with cameras. Some of the pictures on the sanctuary’s website show Boo Boo and another of the bears playfully wrestling with each other at night.

Evans-Mack said the plan is to release Boo Boo into the wild in June, and he may be collared so the sanctuary can keep track of him.

“We are going to end up holding Boo Boo through the winter, and we’ll wait until the spring bear hunting season is over because he would be a little too naive to be out there,” she said.

The cub’s diet consists of fruit, greens and dry dog food.

“Dog food is actually something that helps him put on a lot of weight,” Evans-Mack explained. “We have interns that go in and use dry dog food, and that puts a lot of fat on the bears. We get donations from local markets of fruits and some greenery that they would discard anyway. We give them salmon sometimes. ”

Fewer moose permits proposed in Idaho

HUNTING — Fewer numbers of moose in Idaho have prompted proposals for fewer moose hunting permits as the Idaho Fish and Game Department takes comments on changing moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat seasons and rules for 2013-2014.

Proposed changes in moose tags are in response to decreased success rates in past years and fewer moose. However, Fish and Game biologists are proposing an increase in tags and new hunts where moose are doing better.

Proposed changes are posted on the Fish and Game website for review and comment.

The proposals will be submitted along with public comments to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for consideration and action during the annual meeting Jan. 17.

Comments may be entered online or by email to idfginfo@idfg.idaho.gov.

Read on for more details.

Guidelines seek reduction in bird deaths caused by powerlines

WILDLIFE — Countless birds, large and small, are killed in collisions with powerlines that crisscross the country.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working with the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee on guidelines utilities, compiled in an updated booklet called, Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines: State of the Art in 2012

This manual, originally published in 1994, identifies best practices and provides specific guidance to help electric utilities and cooperatives, federal power administrations, wildlife agencies and other stakeholders reduce bird collisions with power lines.

Rafters make party of chilly New Year river trip

RIVER SPORTS — Members of Northwest Whitewater call their New Year Day tradition on the Spokane River the “Only Fools Float the River on the First,” event —  and they had no shortage of numb skulls aboard this year. 

The 20th annual Fools Float on Tuesday included 19 boats and 32 people braving temps that ranged around 23 degrees, reports organizer Paul Delaney.

Outdoor milestones reached in 2012

My annual review of the year outdoors published Sunday chronicled a wide range of outdoor stories from 2012.

Here are a few milestones that were reached.

2012 Highlights from the field

ANNIVERSARIES

  • 125, birth of Aldo Leopold, father of wildlife management.
  • 100, L.L. Bean, Maine.
  • 75, Bonneville Dam.
  • 75, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, raises funds for fish and wildlife conservation programs through excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition.
  • 75, Ducks Unlimited.
  • 75, Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood.
  • 40, Clean Water Act.
  • 20, The Guide Shop, Orofino.
  • 20, Friends of Spokane River Centennial Trail.

TRANSITIONS

  • Resigned: Mike Aho, 52, founder of Spokane Parks’ outdoor rec program.
  • Retired: Kaye Turner, 60, Friends of Spokane River Centennial Trail executive director.
  • Defunct: Northwest Maps, founded in 1985.
  • Bought out: Forest Capital Partners sells 1.88 million-acre timberland portfolio to Hancock Timber and Molpus Woodlands, including 276,000 acres in Idaho and 264,000 acres in Washington.
  • Re-named: Dishman Hills Conservation Area, Spokane County’s new name for Iller Creek, Rocks of Sharon, Glenrose and other nearby Conservation Futures acquisitions.
  • Renamed: Dishman Hills Conservancy, formerly Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, founded in 1966.
    Introduced: Perch found in Curlew Lake.


 MILESTONES

First wolf killed by Washington wildlife managers in response to livestock depredation.

First wolf pack eliminated by Washington wildlife managers.

New wolf packs confirmed in Washington, including two on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Rattlesnake bite in Dishman Hills Natural Area sends teen to hospital.

Idaho Wildlife Summit convenes in Boise and statewide on the Internet tackles issue of insufficient funding for wildlife management.

Constitutional amendment establishing rights to hunt, fish and trap approved by Idaho voters.

Stevens Creek Road parking site completed, ending public access issues for Rocks of Sharon conservation area.

Fat bikes allowed on some Methow Valley groomed nordic ski trails in trend being considered for other cross-country areas.

Pooches need passes on Methow Valley groomed ski trails this season.

Pheasant hunt in Washington set for seniors.

Mount Spokane ski area expansion proposal advances to permitting stage.

Military personnel in Oregon buy controlled deer, elk tags over-the-counter.

Antlerless elk hunting not allowed in Idaho Panhandle general elk seasons for first time in history; predation by wolves, cougars and bears cited as a major factor. Similarly, Washington, general-season elk hunters restricted to shooting only antlered bull elk throughout Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

Milltown Superfund site cleanup officially ends for $100 million Clark Fork River restoration project upstream from Missoula.

Avery Creek Cabin, a Forest Service accommodation near North Fork Coeur d'Alene River, becomes available for rent at www.reserveusa.com.

Elyse Saugstad becomes the first person reported to have survived a Northwest avalanche by deploying an airbag in a tragic event that killed three companions near Stevens Pass.

Waterfowl record of 48.6 million ducks estimated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on North American breeding areas; Washington sets state record, too.

Boater safety education cards required for Washington boat operators 40 years old or younger in phased-in program. Requirement extends to boat drivers age 50 and under in 2013.
  

Tie one on with a fly tier at Steelhead Grill

FISHING — Hall of fame fly tier John Newbury of Chewelah will be tying flies and displaying artistic prints of his fly patterns during a First Friday Event, 5 p.m.-10 p.m., at the Steelhead Bar & Grill, 218 N. Howard St., in Spokane.

Heron has a plan for catching fish; What’s next, PowerBait?

Get Adobe Flash player

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Anglers take note: Patience and a good choice in bait reward this fishing bird with a good meal.  

This short video is worth watching.

Sign up for kids telemark clinics, gear rentals at 49 Degrees North

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING – A rare chance for kids ages 6-14 to learn telemark skiing will debut at the annual Winterfest events Jan. 12-13 at 49 Degrees North Ski Area's nordic center.

The first Kids Telemark Ski Clinic will feature a van loaded with youth-size cross-country downhill boots, skis and bindings will be available for half-day and full-day lessons.

Colorado kid-skiing educator Ned “Tele Ned” Ryerson will bring the van and conduct the clinics. Cost, $49 for half day and $69 for full day, includes rentals and lessons. Discounted lift tickets available for non-season pass holders.

Pre-register at 49 Degrees North, (509) 935-6649, extension 610.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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