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Outdoors blog

Archive for May 2013

Boating safety course fills Washington requirement

BOATING — Starting this year, all Washington residents age 50 and under must complete an approved boating safety course in order to operate water craft of 15 horsepower or more.

The Spokane Sail and Power Squadron is teaching an 8-hour ABC 3 boating safety course that satisfies the requirements June 8-9 at Cabela’s in Post Falls.

Materials for the course can be picked up in advance in Spokane at West Marine, 5306 E Sprague Ave.

Info: Bill Asbell, (208) 777-0220.

Oregon wolf dies of parvovirus

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first case of parvovirus in Oregon wolves has been documented by the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

The wolf known as OR19, found dead by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists on May 19, died of complications of canine parvovirus, according to the lab's preliminary report.

Here's the report from ODFW:

The highly contagious and often fatal disease is common among domestic dogs, and can spill over into wild canids such as coyotes, foxes, and wolves. Domestic dogs are normally vaccinated for the disease but wild animals are not. Parvovirus has been documented in wild canids in other areas of the country and most commonly occurs in pups. It is unknown at this time if other wolves in Oregon are affected with the virus, but biologists will continue to monitor for signs of the disease throughout the summer.

This is the first documented case of parvovirus in Oregon wolves, though outbreaks have been well documented in wolf populations throughout the western United States. In some areas it has caused short term declines in wolf populations by reducing the number of surviving pups. Long-term effects are less understood, but are generally not expected to threaten overall conservation of the species (though it may reduce the rate of population growth). 

Sprague trout, bass bending rods as free fishing day looms

 

FISHING — Reports of good catches of largemouth bass at Sprague Lake keep coming in, and some lunker rainbows also are showing to provide incentive for the June 8 Sprague Lake Trout Derby.

The photos posted here from Four Seasons Campground and Resort show a 5.3-pound rainbow caught off the resort dock and a 5.8-pound largemouth caught with a Rapala cast to shore from a boat over the holiday weekend.

Remember, the June 8 Sprague Lake derby falls on Free Fishing Weekend in Washington: No fishing licenses required.

Idaho has a single Free Fishing Day set for June 8.

Montana's Free Fishing Weekend is set for June 15-15, including Father's Day.

Extending spring chinook season priority in Idaho

FISHING — Here's the latest news for Idaho spring chinook anglers regarding the status of the season — just received via email from Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

The majority of anglers have repeatedly told us that the most important thing to them regarding the Chinook season is to extend the season as long as possible.  For this reason, we have decided to make some rules changes to the Chinook salmon rules on the Salmon River.  

Starting on Monday morning (June 3, 2013), between the Time Zone Bridge and Shorts Creek (Park Hole Area), no harvest of adults will be allowed.  You will still be allowed to harvest up to 4 Jacks (< 24 inches) daily in this reach of river. 

The area that will be closed to the harvest of adults includes the entire reach of the Salmon River from Time Zone Bridge to the posted sign at Shorts Creek.   This reach includes popular holes such as Race Creek, the Park Hole, the Post Office Hole, the Confluence, the Mill Hole, Shorts Creek and anything in between. 

Our hopes are that with these new rules we can extend the season for at least 2 more weekends.  Only time will tell just how long the season lasts. 

I know for some of you who like to fish the Park Hole area, you may not be happy with these changes.  Recognize, however, that with these rules it may provide a unique experience where you can fish in less crowded conditions in an area with high catch rates, and if you eventually want to catch an adult there are other areas you can go to fish. 

It is important to realize that if you catch one adult in another reach of river where adult harvest is allowed, you cannot have this fish in close possession and fish the Park Hole.    In other words, if you catch 1 adult (remember if you catch 2 adults you are done fishing for the day) and you want to fish the Park Hole do not bring that fish near the Park Hole where one could assume you caught it there.  Drop if off at camp, at your home, or someplace away from where you are fishing. 

The rules in all other areas in the Clearwater Region have not changed through this weekend.  

“There is no season limit on jacks,” he said.

Record: Mexican climber scales Everest twice — in two weeks

MOUNTAINEERING — David Liaño Gonzales, 33, from Mexico, became the first mountaineer to double summit on Mount Everest in the same season. He summited from the South Col route on May 11, got a good break in the weather and a helicopter ride to Katmandu where the traveled to the Tibetan side and scaled the peak with a Sherpa via the North Col on May 19.

Dawes Eddy of Spokane snapped this photo of Gonzales as he celebrated with a chocolate cake at advanced base camp.  

I'm writing Dawes' story for Sunday Outdoors.  

By the way,  Dawes is 70.

Hiker and dog highlight State of the Scotchmans gathering

 WILDERNESS — Long-distance hikers Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and his dog, Karluk, will make a keynote presentation highlighting the annual State of the Scotchman's gathering Friday to update the pubic on the campaign for winning wilderness designation for the Scotchman Peaks area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The gathering organized by the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will start at 5 p.m. Friday (May 31) at Eureka West, 513 Oak St. in the Old Granary District of Sandpoint.

This is a chance to catch up with wilderness advocates and get an update on the political state of the proposal, which has gotten a boost this year from the March release of the movie Grass routes: Changing the Conversation by Wildman Pictures.

“Exciting things are happening around the movie,” says Phil Hough, FSPW exec, “and more than ever before, it feels like the time is now for a bill for the Scotchmans.”

Eichardt's Pub, Grill and Coffee House will be provide no-host beer and wine at the event and Jupiter Jane's food bus will standing by to feed the hungry. Bring a folding chair for seating during LaRuffa's presentation.


Hough, LaRuffa and Karluk will lead a “doggy” hike on the new Star Peak Trail in Montana on Saturday (June 1) as part of the National Trails Day celebration nationwide.

Sign up for the hike by email: phil@scotchmanpeaks.org.

Pro angler offers bass tactics program in CdA

FISHING — Pro bass angler Shaw Grigsby of Florida will present a free family-friendly program on the latest bass fishing tactics Friday (May 31), 6 p.m., at Black Sheep Sporting Goods, 308 W. Seale Ave., in Coeur d'Alene.

Grigsby is in the Inland Northwest to film TV fishing programs.

Sign up for canoe, kayak and sea kayak classes

PADDLING – Registration is open for the excellent annual paddling classes taught by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club:

  • Flatwater canoeing for solo or tandem boats is June 5.
  • Moving water canoeing is July 13-14.
  • Sea kayaking for novice to advanced is July 17, 20 and 21.
  • Whitewater kayaking dates are not set.

Each class is $55 per person, except the flatwater canoeing class is a free pre-requisite for the moving water class.

Sign up: (509) 448-9214.

Sign up: Spring training for bird dogs

HUNTING — A clinic for owners of pointing dogs of all ages and abilities is set by the Spokane Bird Dog Association for 8 a.m.-noon on June 8 at the club's Espanola training grounds west of Medical Lake.

Pro trainer Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennels will present a clinic, after which participants can work their own dogs on pigeons and chukars provided by the club.

Cost: $20. Bring a lunch.

Preregister with Bill Colyar to assure enough birds are ordered, (509) 953-8682.

Wash. on verge of closing Snake River chinook fishing

FISHING — Anglers picked up enough spring chinook from the Snake River sections open to fishing in Washington over the holiday to prompt the closing of the season, which could be announced soon.

Here's the message from Glen Mendel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife southeast fisheries biologist:

We saw more interest in fishing the Clarkston area than we had documented in any of the previous weeks, and they caught a few fish there.  This fishery remained open after the lower Snake River fisheries closed because they had not caught much earlier, they were cut off early last year so we wanted to improve the sharing of the fishing opportunities, and because there were only about 30 fish left to harvest.  One day of either of the lower Snake River fisheries would likely have harvested more than 30 fish in just one day of fishing. 

The total Snake River harvest brings us very close to our targeted harvest level, so we are recommending closure of the Snake River fishery at Clarkston.  Therefore, we expect that it will be closed for spring Chinook harvest until next year (about late April).  Watch for the emergency regulation that verifies closure of this fishery.

Note: Steelhead fishing on the Snake River starts June 16 this year, earlier for retention than in the past.

Sign up: REI project boosts Little Spokane trail

TRAILS — The Spokane REI store is trying to round up a crew of several hundred volunteers for a brief but massive effort to reroute a portion of a popular Little Spokane River trail off private land.

Join the group!  These service projects are fun and satisfying.

In cooperation with Riverside State Park, the store’s annual family-friendly Service Day project is set for 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday (June 1), National Trails Day.

Helpers will redirect the Valley Trail downstream from Indian Painted Rocks onto state park land.

Individuals should preregister at the REI website.

Larger groups contact Carol Christensen at the store, 328-9900.

Finally! Farragut shooting range set to open Saturday

SHOOTING — After years of legal wrangling that closed the facility in 2006, the beefed up and controversial shooting range at Farragut State Park is scheduled to reopen on Saturday, according to a preliminary story just posted by S-R North Idaho reporter Scott Maben.

See more in the paper tomorrow; and expect more legal wrangling to come.

Clear Lake angler proves whopper trout still lurking

FISHING — This 14.5 rainbow was caught over the holiday weekend off the Sun Cove Resort (509-535-7310) fishing pier at Clear Lake by Mike — he prefers to go only by his first name — one of the regulars who “catch fish like crazy,” said resort owner Brent Roundtree.

The fish was 31 inches long, caught on on a plain nightcrawlers, 6 pound mono line with no weights.

“There are 4 friends that come every Sunday and sit on the left side of the dock,” Roundtree said. “They catch so many fish that it frustrates, and baffles, everyone else. The fish can be completely turned off for 10 other people on the same dock… and they will get their limit every time. They grew up around here and know how to catch em. Week after week they do this.”
  

Orcas, salmon, elk on commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An update on the status of the Colockum elk herd is among a wide range of topics on the agenda when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meets June 7-8 in Olympia.

The commission also will consider:

  • Cabezon sportfishing regulations.
  • Gian Pacific octopus recommendations.
  • Instream flows recommendations
  • Land transactions.
  • Resident killer whales and their relationship with salmon fisheries.
  • Wildlife rehabilitation regulations.
  • Online licensing changes.
  • Hoof disease in southwest Washington elk.

Info: Commission office in Olympia, (360) 902-2267, email commission@dfw.wa.gov.

Wolves moving, keeping biologists on alert

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolves are roaming, forming new packs, popping pups and generally keeping Washington and Oregon wildlife managers on full alert this spring.

A black male wolf caught last year from the Smackout Pack and collared in far northeastern Washington was reported recently 300 miles northwest of Oroville. (“Spread the wealth!” some folks are saying.)

This roamer known as WA-O17M is causing a rustle among DNA researchers who are having to bite their tongues a bit on the conventional theory that there's a distinct population of coastal gray wolves in British Columbia. The discussion is chronicled in this analysis by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

Meanwhile, Washington is beefing up its crew of wolf specialsts who are trying to locate and put radio collars on members of wolf packs they currently have no way of monitoring, including the new Wenatchee Pack.  They have not been successful at last report. And there's still no confirmation of a pack on the Washington side of the Blue Mountains.

OREGON wolf specialists also are going full steam, with better success at collaring wolves.  Recent developments include:

New policy on using lethal control on wolves depradating livestock, hammered out with cattlemen and environmental groups.

New pair of wolves in Mount Emily Unit, documented in early April in Union County. 

Minam Pack female collared on May 16. The 81-pound wolf is the first radio-collared wolf in this pack, which was discovered last year hanging out mostly within the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This marks the 20th radio-collared wolf in Oregon.

Cattle depredations by Imnaha pack on May 15. A yearling cow was confirmed by ODFW to have been killed, with two of the pack's collared wolves present. A calf was attacked but survived. These are the third and fourth confirmed wolf depredation incidents by the Imnaha Pack in 2013. 

Sheep depredation in northern Umatilla County on May 21 involving at least one member of the Umatilla Pack. ODFW confirmed six  sheep were depredated by wolves which resulted in four dead.  Evidence gathered showed a similar pattern of attack as the depredation events in 2012 in this same general area. 

Double the pleasure: 2 trumpeter swan pairs nesting at Turnbull

WILDLIFE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is in a family way this month with critters birthing and hatching young all over the place. (See list of 108 bird species documented at Turnbull in just two weeks at end of this post).

Fans of the late the trumpeter swan named Solo will revel in news that TWO trumpeter pairs are nesting at the refuge this year, up from one pair last year and no pairs for 22 years before 2009.

Solo was one of the original Turnbull trumpeters who lost his mate to a predator in the 1980s. He defended his territory at Turnbull through a 22-year drought without a suitable breeding partner before siring a family in 2009.  

The trumpeters are crowd pleasers because they're so visible. The nesting pairs are on Middle Pine and Cheever ponds. If all goes well and their cygnets hatch in June, the attentive parents will parade their families for all to see from the visitor paths all summer and into the fall.

Amateur photographer Carlene Hardt focused on the trumpeters for two years and recently published a nifty book of photos and trumpeter information, “A Swan and His Family.” The book, available at the Turnbull Refuge headquarters store, chronicles Solo's family life for several years.

Also worth checking out at the store is the booklet, “Discover Birds at Turnbull,” published after years of research by students at the former Discovery School.  The book has good information about a variety of Turnbull bird species with photos by local expert photographers.  

The book is a showcase for Turnbull's service in providing wildlife and nature education for up to 8,000 students who visit the refuge each year.

Meanwhile, don't forget all the other bird species found at the refuge.  Click “continue reading” for Tuesday's report report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist.

North Idaho botanical study needs survey volunteers

PUBLIC LANDS — OUTSURVEY – Forest Service botanical studies in Lake Pend Oreille’s Lightning Creek drainage are recruiting volunteers for summer surveys.

Helpers will monitor trails for noxious weeds and hike into alpine areas to survey whitebark pines.

Plant identification and survey training sessions are set for June 6-7 and June 12-14.

Volunteers are being coordinated through the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Interested? Fill out a short Application of Interest. Helpers will be recruited from these entries.

Read on for more details from the FSPW:

Pronghorns check out the digs in Asotin County

WILDLIFE — Although 91 pronghorns were imported from Nevada and released on the Yakama Indian Reservation in 2011 (see story), a few of the speedster species may have hoofed into Washington on their own from Oregon.

Two bucks and a doe were reported this month in northern Asotin County, according to a report by Paul Wik, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife southeast wildlife biologist.

“It is not known how long it has been since naturally recolonizing pronghorn have been seen in the state, but it has likely been a very long time,” he said on the agency's website.

It's also possible the trio are spinoffs from the pronghorns released in Yakima. Those animals have reproduced and ranged widely off the reservation, but details are hard to get from the tribe.

WDFW wildlife mangers say they've had informal talks with landowners about moving reintroducing pronghorns to Walla Walla County. 

Meantime, report any Washington pronghorn sightings by email to Wik, Paul.Wik@dfw.wa.gov, or state special species manager Rich Harris, Richard.Harris@dfw.wa.gov.

Outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson snapped the pronghorn buck image above near his home in Montana, where antelope still roam widely.

Spring chinook angling hot in Idaho

FISHING — Anglers had very good success rates for spring chinook in Idaho waters upstream from Lewiston last week with catch rates below 10/hrs a fish in the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers. 

Check out the following detailed Clearwater Region salmon update for the week of May 20-27, by Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game's regional fisheries manager in Lewiston: 

First, the majority of Chinook destined for release sites in the Clearwater Region appear to have mostly passed over Lower Granite Dam.  Some Chinook are stuck behind a couple of the dams.  Once these fish figure their way out, Idaho's harvest shares should go up some, but not a lot.  We are estimating that our harvest share for the Clearwater River will end up around 600 fish.  

Clearwater River drainage (only the harvest of Jacks are allowed):  The most Jacks were harvested in the Clearwater River near Dworshak Hatchery although the best catch rates (3 hrs/fish) occurred near Kooskia Hatchery in the Middle Fork Clearwater River (a lot of adults were caught and released there). We are very close to our harvest share of adults in the Clearwater River.  We still have some harvest share remaining so the fishery will remain open with the same rules this coming weekend as we had last week.  (Open Friday – Monday; Jacks only; Jack limit 4; same areas open to fishing).  Harvest this coming weekend and how much the harvest share changes will dictate how long the season will remain open.  

Salmon River area fishing was very good as well last week.  Early in the week most fish were being harvested downstream of Time Zone Bridge; however, by the weekend fishing picked up considerably in Park Hole (between Time Zone Bridge and Shorts Creek).  People are now reporting that fishing is good in both the Park Hole and  Little Salmon River.  With good flow conditions and a bunch of adults reaching the Riggins area, I expect fishing to be excellent this week.  It would not be unexpected if over 1,000 adults were harvested this week.  The only thing I could see that would slow down the fishery is if it rained like crazy and muddied up the river. 

Now is the time to fish the Rapid River run.  Due to the expected high harvest, we are currently having discussions on how to prolong this fishery and make sure we don’t go over our harvest share in the future.

Hells Canyon fishery was also very good with catch rates running at 7 hrs/fish.   Our anticipated harvest share for this fishery is 336 fish, and last week we estimated we harvested 132 adults bringing the total adult harvest to 183 fish.  I expect another good week of fishing at Hells Canyon Dam.

Enforcement officer takes helm of WDFW region

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Jim Brown, a sergeant in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife   enforcement program, has been named regional director for the agency’s North Central region based in Ephrata, according to an agency media release.

Brown, who has worked as a fish and wildlife enforcement officer since 1992, will begin his new job June 3, overseeing all WDFW work in Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties.

“Jim Brown is a problem solver, who knows how to bring people together to find common solutions,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. “He’s direct, organized and very knowledgeable about the region’s issues from the years he’s spent in law enforcement. I look forward to working with Jim in his new capacity as regional director.”

Brown, 48, succeeds Dennis Beich, who is retiring after serving as WDFW’s Region 2 director since 2000.

Through his experience as a law enforcement officer and supervisor, Brown has been involved in issues ranging from salmon management, habitat protection and hydropower mitigation to resolving public conflicts with cougars and bears. He has also played an active role in developing fish and wildlife policies and building partnerships with area tribes.

“Enforcement officers are on the front line of a lot of contentious issues,” Brown said. “But whether you’re in a board room or talking over the tailgate of a pickup, the important thing is to listen and look for ways to address people’s concerns. That’s a skill I can bring to this position.”

In his current position, Brown has been a member of the Okanogan County Dangerous Wildlife Task Force, a multi-agency Homeland Security planning team and a cooperative fisheries enforcement effort with the Colville Tribe on Lake Rufus Woods. He has received a number of awards for his job performance during his career at WDFW. 

Brown completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Washington State University in 2010, with coursework in public policy development and natural resource issues. He and his wife, Katherine, have two daughters.

Remorseful camper contributes to junk-food elk

CAMPING — Many families consider Memorial Day weekend the kickoff for the camping season. Unfortunately, it's also the start of some bad habits for wildlife attracted to the food and garbage campers make available.

Luring wildlife to camping areas with food creates pests that can bother or injure campers that follow. In some cases, especially with bears, a junk-food addict usually must to be killed for public safety.

Also, wildlife attracted to food are  more likely to be around roads where they can be hurt in vehicle collisions. 

But even with that knowledge already firmly in his camping routine, James Pelland was chagrined to find elk rustling through untended garbage at his camp over the weekend.   Here's his report and heads up to other campers.

“My family and I enjoy floating and camping up on the N.Fk CDA. Over the years we've seen plenty of deer, elk and moose.

“Around 5 a.m. Monday morning I woke to what sounded like something rummaging through our camp gear. I had gone to bed early and left it up to my wife and daughter, who were enjoying the campfire, to make sure our site was properly “secured” (food put away etc). I poked my head out of the tent and saw our small trash bag had been left hanging on a tree and the elk (not raccoons, not crows) in the attached picture were helping themselves to leftover pita chips and clam chowder. The yearling was using its nose to try to open our cooler!

“We feel sorry for furthering the habituation of these elk to people and people food, and feel sorry for the elk. The camp  hosts told us that the elk drink the soapy water from their cleaning pail.”

Then Pelland pointed out:

I remember a couple years ago a bear chewed on someone's ear through his tent near St. Regis… The camper got there at night and didn't notice that the previous folks had left a huge food mess. My buddy and I had driven right past that site the next day on our way to fishing… I always remember that story and don't need a bear chewing on my ear (or worse).

Dirt biker policy on where they ride: Don’t Ask, Don’t Know

OFF-ROADING — Some dirt bikers seem to have a “Don't Ask, Don't Know,” policy about riding on public and private lands.
 
At least a dozen motorcyclists in some sort of organized ride on Mica Peak Monday were riding on roads and off roads.
 
The were riding on private land, Inland Empire Paper Co. land and Spokane County Conservation Futures land — all closed to motor vehicles. The No Trespassing signs they rode past (see photo) were a clue to be ignored.
 
What's with this total disregard for land that belongs to someone else?

Hummers nesting in the yard; something to sing about

WILDLIFE — You're living well when hummingbirds chose your yard for their nursery.

This is the second consecutive year Bill Bender has had a nest off the back porch of his South Hill home.

The chicks are seven days old in this photo from the weekend.

Plan ahead for free forest access on June 8

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is June 8, Great Outdoors Day, with free access to national forest lands such as the Umatilla and Okanogan-Wenatche forest areas where the Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent is otherwise required. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Sprague Lake Trout Derby has $900 in prizes

FISHING — More than $900 in prizes is waiting for anglers who catch the biggest fish and luck out in the raffles at the 2013 Sprague Lake Trout Derby on June 8.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for kids under 17. No fishing license is required since it’s Washington’s Free Fishing Weekend.

Tickets will be available the day of the derby at the two resorts on the lake:

The Main Derby Station and weigh-in site will be situated just outside Sprague Lake Resort.

Both resorts offer camping, boat rentals, boat launching, docks and tackle.

More info: (509) 259-7060.

Rash of riders finishing 24 Hours mountain bike race

CYCLING — Jeremiah Alexander tends to his dirt-trail rash during the 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race, which concludes today at noon at Riverside State Park.

The event for solo and team cyclists is one of th biggest camping parties of the year, but as Alexander illustrates, it's the real deal.

At least two snowy owls clinging to Eastern Washington

UPDATED May 24, 2013

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While most snowy owls that migrated to the lower 48 states during winter are well on their way back to their arctic breeding grounds, at least one is still hanging out in Eastern Washington.

Last week, a snowy owl — standing out like a white beacon against the spring landscape — was reported by Inland Northwest birders in Whitman County.

Last month, Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet reported seeing a snowy owl just north of U.S. Highway 2 in Lincoln County.

On Monday (May 20), Nisbet, traveling again in Lincoln County, snapped the photo above of a snowy owl — possibly the same one — 8 miles west of Odessa on Hwy 28.

Today (May 24), Carl Lundblad of Moscow made a repeat sighting of a snowy owl in Whitman County. It was in a field well south of Campbell Road two-tenths of a mile west of Farmington Road just south of Tekoa.

Some birders speculate the late-to-migrate bird could be sick or injured rather than smitten with the scablands or Palouse.

Wildflowers beckon visitors to Mount Spokane State Park

PARKS — Most of the trails are open for hiking and biking at Mount Spokane State Park.  If that's not enough incentive, the photo of a Calypso orchid above indicates the wildflower are providing additional attractions.

“These little blooms seem to have been out for a week or more at Mount Spokane,” said birder Mike Miller, who  photographed the “fairy slipper” today.

June is prime time to see the calypsoes farther up the mountain as well as many other blooming flowers, including beargrass. 

Going to the Sun Road plowing opens route for bikes

NATIONAL PARKS — Now through the next couple of weeks or so will be prime time for bicyclists to explore portions of Glacier Park's Going to the Sun Highway.

While plowing is underway from both sides toward Logan Pass, motorized traffic is prohibited but bicycles are allowed.

Currently 29.0 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.
Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook.

Get updates here.

See photos of the brave equipment operators plowing the steep avalanche slopes toward Logan Pass.

Check road, trail conditions before you go

FORESTS — A trail closure notice just issued by the Colville National Forest is a reminder that roads, trails and campgrounds are subject to the whims of nature, even on a holiday weekend.  

Call ahead to forest offices to check on any last-minute closures that could foil your plans.

 

Upper North Fork Trail #507 will be closed to public use until a washed out bridge can be replaced, Colville Forest officials announced this morning. 

The #507 trail is a connector trail that connects the upper portion of the North Fork of Sullivan Creek to the #515 Crowell Ridge Trail in the Salmo Priest Wilderness.

Info: Sullivan Lake Ranger Station at (509) 446-7500.

Court dismisses case on lead ammunition

SHOOTING — The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to ban ammunition containing lead components.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in August. The court today agreed with NSSF that EPA does not have the authority to regulate traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The environmental groups are considering an appeal of today’s ruling, according to The Center for Biological Diversity, noting the federal judge dismissed the case on technical grounds but did not rule on the substance of the claim, namely whether EPA should regulate lead ammunition under the toxics law. 

Read on for media releases on today's ruling from these two groups representing both sides of the issue:

Watch where you camp: Lake Roosevelt levels rising, rivers drop

 

RIVERS — The level of Lake Roosevelt rose to an elevation of nearly 1,271 feet today and lake levels are expected to continue rising up to a foot a day over the next week into the 1,277 range by May 31.

Holiday weekend campers should prepare for water to rise along the lake shores.

Elsewhere in the region, the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe rivers continue to drop after a short upward blip from the rain on Tuesday.

— Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

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

— Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Snake River chinook fishing should remain open for holiday

FISHING — Anglers should feel confident that the spring chinook season will remain open on the Clarkston designated area of the Snake River in Washington through the Memorial Day weekend, according to Glen Mendel, Fish and Wildlife's southeast Washington fisheries biologist.

Regarding yesterday's update on the fishery, he just released this clarification:

A clarification regarding the Clarkston fishery. After further internal discussions there are no efforts at this time to implement an emergency closure that I am aware of, so the fishery remains open until further notice as it was established earlier. I don’t anticipate any closure that will affect fishing there this Sunday and Monday, but always check the emergency regulations section of our agency website to make sure the situation has not changed.

Interior Secretary Jewell keynotes Ducks Unlimited convention

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will speak at the annual  Ducks Unlimited convention this week during a visit to Portland in her first West Coast trip since she was sworn in last month.

Today Jewell and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales are set to announce nearly two dozen conservation projects to help boost youth employment, the Department of the Interior says.

On Friday, she, Gov. John Kitzhaber and a representative from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will sign an agreement to speed the review and permitting of energy generation and power transmission projects in the Northwest.

Sometimes anglers can fib, sometimes not

FISHING — The fine art of fibbing is in a fisherman's DNA.

But when $50,000 is involved, even anglers have to bite the bullet at one annual fishing contest in the East.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports anglers in the Winni Derby will have to pass a lie detector test before they can claim a prize.  

Would you approve of a fishing contest in which all anglers weren't trusted? Honestly?

Even if you wouldn't cheat at a fishing derby, plenty of people would. Read here. And here. And the old lead weigh trick, here.

Snowy owls still clinging to Eastern Washington

UPDATED May 24, 2013

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While most snowy owls that migrated to the lower 48 states during winter are well on their way back to their arctic breeding grounds, at least one is still hanging out in Eastern Washington.

Last week, a snowy owl — standing out like a white beacon against the spring landscape — was reported by Inland Northwest birders in Whitman County.

Last month, Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet reported seeing a snowy owl just north of U.S. Highway 2 in Lincoln County.

On Monday (May 20), Nisbet, traveling again in Lincoln County, snapped the photo above of a snowy owl — possibly the same one — 8 miles west of Odessa on Hwy 28.

Today (May 24), Carl Lundblad of Moscow made a repeat sighting of a snowy owl in Whitman County. It was in a field well south of Campbell Road two-tenths of a mile west of Farmington Road just south of Tekoa. 

Some birders speculate the late-to-migrate bird could be sick or injured rather than smitten with the scablands.

Snake River springer fishing may close soon

FISHING — Anglers harvested 21 chinook in Washington's Snake River fishery area at Clarkston last week.  That leaves about 30 fish in the allocation for the Snake River.  

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are considering whether to continue the Clarkston fishery through this next weekend (May 26 & 27), said Glen Mendel, Snake River fisheries biologist.  

“At this time, it appears likely that the fishery will remain open, but should that change,” he said, noting the emergency rule would be posted online and by email.

The future of this season's spring chinook fishing season after Memorial Day in the Washington portion of the Snake River depends on decisions the Technical Advisory Committee is likely to make after re-evaluating run size on Tuesday (May 28).

 

WDFW to present Tucannon River steelhead options

FISHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers will present information and take public input on proposed Tucannon River steelhead management changes at a May 29 meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. at Dayton Elementary School (Park Street and 2nd Street) in Dayton.

New restrictions will apply to the steelhead fishery this fall and winter to comply with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requirements to protect wild steelhead that are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, said WDFW southeast district fish biologist Glen Mendel. 

“We’ve already made several changes in Tucannon steelhead hatchery production and management to protect this small wild steelhead population,” Mendel said, “but we can’t maintain the current fishery structure. We don’t want to close this fishery altogether so we’re trying to craft fishing rule options that help remove hatchery steelhead while still protecting wild steelhead.”

Biologisgts will present summaries of the Tucannon River steelhead harvest, natural population estimates, and management issues involved, and take comments on several options for a restricted fishery.  All options include a hatchery steelhead retention requirement to reduce hatchery fish on the spawning grounds. 

Options being considered to focus on removal of hatchery steelhead while minimizing catch-and-release and incidental mortality of wild steelhead, include: 

  • Option 1- Allow steelhead fishing Aug.1 – Dec. 31 when 40-50 percent of the hatchery fish and only 20 percent of the wild steelhead are present.  The river would be closed to fishing Jan. 1 – June 7 (when trout fishing opens). 
  • Option 2- Allow steelhead fishing Aug. 1 or Sept.1 through Feb. 28 when 55-62 percent of the hatchery fish have entered the Tucannon River and when only 36 percent of the wild steelhead are present.  The river would be closed to fishing March 1 – June 7 (when trout fishing opens). 

Information about these and other options will be posted online sometime after Friday.

Email input by June 7 to teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov  with a “Tucannon River” subject line.

Spokane in voting for Outside’s best active towns

Outside magazine online is asking readers to vote for the nation's “best active town,” and Spokane is one of the 10 candidates for the distinction.

The cover photo for the Spokane listing features cyclists on the Centennial Trail along the Spokane River, which is a good start to the city's numerous outdoor attractions.

But note that the survey so far doesn't even barely scratch the surface of options for running, cycling, mountain biking and even downhill mountain biking, rock climbing, conservation areas, trails, wildlife, paddling, fishing, etc. 

Other cities in the running include Waitsfield, Vt.; Bozeman, Mont.; Carbondale, Ill., Park City, Utah; Greenville, S.C.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Boston, Mass.

Idaho clarifies Clearwater chinook season changes

FISHING — Here's an update to with more and clearer details regarding my earlier post on Idaho's decision to close fishing for adult spring chinook salmon in the Clearwater River.  This was just released from Idaho Fish and Game's Lewiston office.

Tuesday, May 21, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game closed the lower Clearwater River from the Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge in Lewiston to the Cherrylane Bridge to all salmon fishing.  The other sections of the Clearwater previously open to salmon fishing will remain open for harvest of jack salmon four days per week, Friday through Monday. 

Sections of the Clearwater River basin that remain open to jacks-only harvest include:

  • The mainstem Clearwater:  From Lenore Bridge to Greer Bridge
  • The North Fork Clearwater River:  From the mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam excluding the perimeter of the Dworshak National Hatchery at Ahsahka.  Fishing from any watercraft is prohibited.
  • The Middle Fork Clearwater:  From the mouth of the South Fork Clearwater River upstream to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers.
  • The South Fork Clearwater:  From its mouth upstream to the confluence of the American and Red rivers.

Anglers are not be allowed to retain adult Chinook salmon anywhere in the Clearwater basin, but can continue to retain four adipose fin-clipped  salmon less than 24 inches total length (jacks), per day.  Jack salmon count against the daily limit but need not be recorded on the salmon permit. There is no season limit for jacks.

Jacks are salmon that return after one year in the ocean.  They are relatively abundant this year, are not necessary in the brood stock and are all available for harvest.  Managers estimate that over 2000 jacks returning to hatcheries in the Clearwater River will be available for harvest by sport anglers.

Fishery managers had consistently predicted that a relatively small number of adult hatchery Chinook salmon would return to the Clearwater River in 2013 and that over 50 percent would be needed to fill the hatchery brood stock quota.  With the support of the public, managers structured a conservative fishery framework that allowed fishing four days per week with a daily limit of one adult Chinook salmon per day.  The hatchery fish available for harvest are shared with Tribal fishers, resulting in less than 25 percent of the hatchery adults available for the sport fishery.  Excellent fishing conditions and a pulse of fish moving through the lower Clearwater River resulted in the sport fishery achieving the harvest objective more quickly than expected.

Salmon fisheries on the Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers remain unchanged at this time.

  • See Idaho Fish and Game's updates on seasons and limits here.
  • See an interactive map of river segments open to Chinook fishing.

Spring chinook, steelhead fishing to reopen on lower Columbia River

 

FISHING — The sport fishery for hatchery spring chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead will reopen Saturday (May 25) on the lower Columbia River as fish mangers get a better bead on the run and more fish become available in the season quota.

The fishery is scheduled to run through June 15 from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line near the mouth of the river to the deadline below Bonneville Dam under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. For boat anglers, the upriver boundary is Beacon Rock.

Anglers may retain one adult hatchery chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.

Read on for more details.

Clearwater chinook fishing too hot; adult harvest curtailed

FISHING — Good conditions and a surge of fish into Idaho's Clearwater River provided excellent fishing for spring chinook over the weekend, as predicted.

But the turnout was so heavy and the fishing was so good, anglers virtually caught their entire meager allotment of this year's spotty run in one swoop.

Idaho Fish and Game has closed the river to fishing for adult spring chinook after anglers caught about 540 mature salmon over four days. The estimated season harvest share is about 640 fish.

The good news is that when the season on the Clearwater reopens on Friday (May 24) anglers will continue to have good fishing for a big run of about 4,000 jacks.

Read on for details and more explanation from Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

Paddlers carefully eye Priest River flows

RIVERS – The best time to float the Priest River comes and goes, but the next couple of weeks will be worth checking out.

At its extremes – up to 10,500 cubic feet per second and down to 165 cfs – the river is basically too high for safe passage except for experts or too low to float without dragging a vessel over the rocks.

  • Ideal flows for experienced canoeists are in the range of 1,200-4,500 cfs (recorded at the gauge near Priest River, Idaho).

During summer through early fall, when most people would be lured to portions of the river downstream from Priest Lake, the water generally is too low to float without bouncing and scraping along the rocks.

However, inexperienced paddlers running inflatable boats can have a safer, enjoyable float at flows in the 600-1,000 cfs range in the Eight Mile Rapids stretch from McAbee Falls downstream.  (See description below.)

Prime times for experienced paddlers farther upstream are:

  • Spring runoff period of May and early June, but be especially ready for cold water and alert for new log jams or strainers.
  • Early October, a glorious, fall-color period when mosquitoes are gone and flows pick up to the 1,200 cfs range as water is allowed to flow over Outlet Dam to lower Priest Lake to winter levels.

Read on for more details and notes on flows from Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club diaries.

Inslee signs wolf management bill

PREDATORS — Gov. Jay Inslee today signed legislation that will provide state wildlife managers more resources to prevent wolf-livestock conflict and expand criteria for compensation to livestock owners for wolf-related losses.

Senate Bill 5193, requested by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and prime-sponsored by Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, was supported by a cross-section of interest groups.
“Washington state is committed to wolf recovery, but sustainable recovery requires that we address the legitimate needs of farmers, ranchers and other residents of the communities that are on the front line of wolf recovery,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “This bill does that.”
As signed by the Governor, the new law:
  • Increases the state's personalized license plate fee by $10, effective Oct. 1, with the proceeds to support WDFW's efforts to monitor wolf recovery and prevent wolf-livestock conflict in collaboration with farmers, ranchers and local governments, and to compensate livestock owners. The Department of Licensing estimates the fee will raise more than $1.5 million during the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
  • Allows WDFW to compensate livestock owners for their losses at the current market value of the animals.
  • Permits compensation regardless of whether livestock owners were raising the animals for commercial purposes.
  • Revises other elements of state law to make it more consistent with the state's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan as adopted by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission in December 2011.
 As of March, there were 10 confirmed packs and two suspected packs, plus two packs with dens in Oregon and British Columbia whose members range into the state. Most of the confirmed packs are found in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
The public can help the state manage wolves by reporting mere sightings as well as suspected attacks on livestock on the WDFW hotline, (877) 933-9847
Or use the state's wolf observation website to report wolf sightings or suspected attacks.

South Sherman Road washout forces detour to Barnaby Buttes

PUBLIC LANDS — The South Sherman Road (FSR 2020000) has suffered an impassible washout on the west or upper end of the road, the Colville National Forest reports today. 

The temporary closure will be from milepost 11.65 to milepost 11.85 (just off of U.S. Highway 20 near the top close to Sherman Pass between Kettle Falls and Republic).

Access to Barnaby Buttes Trailhead and the South Fork of Sherman Creek is still possible from the lower access point on Highway 20.  Forest crews are anticipating being able to repair the washout this summer. 

Info: Three Rivers Ranger District, (509) 738-7700.

Route of the Hiawatha bike trail opens Saturday

TRAILS — The Route of The Hiawatha rail-trail near Lookout Pass is set to open for the 2013 summer season on Saturday (May 25).

The 15-mile route for mountain biking or hiking follows the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad grade between the old town site of Taft, Mont., (off Interstate 90) and the North Fork of the St. Joe River near Avery, Idaho.

Top attractions include seven trestles towering up to 230 feet over the creeks and forest and 10 tunnels, including the 1.7-mile St. Paul Pass Tunnel at the Montana-Idaho border.

The gentle 1.6 percent  average grade drops 1,000 feet  over the 15 miles length with shuttle buses available to transport trial users and their bikes back to the top.

Trail passes, shuttle tickets and mountain bike rentals are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area conveniently located off I-90 at the top of the pass on the Idaho/Montana border 12 miles east of Wallace, Idaho.

Basic trail passes cost $6 for kids and $10 for adults. Season passes and group rates area available, as well as shuttle bus service from Lookout Pass, lunch options and guided tours. 

The trail will be open daily, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. PDT, through Sept. 29.

Biking the Hiawatha is one of the Inland Northwest's top memorable adventures you can organize for an active outing with summer out-of-town guests.

Special big-game hunting tag application due Wednesday

HUNTING — Wednesday (May 22) is the deadline to apply for Washington's special big-game hunting permits for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons.

Apply online.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing in late June.

Update your email and mailing address in the system when purchasing your special permit applications and licenses. Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned because of invalid addresses, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

Idaho's first controlled hunt application period ended April 30.  The second CH application period for leftover tags is June 15-25.

Montana's main deer and elk special permit application period ended March 15.  Applications for antelope and secondary elk and deer permits is June 1.

Feds delay decision on wolf de-listing

PREDATORS — Federal wildlife officials are postponing a much-anticipated decision on whether to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states.

In a court filing Monday in Billings, Mont., government attorneys say “a recent unexpected delay” is indefinitely holding up action on the predators. No further explanation was offered.

Gray wolves are under protection as an endangered species and have recovered dramatically from widespread extermination in recent decades.

More than 6,000 of the animals now roam the continental U.S. Most live in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, where protections already have been lifted.

The protections are still in effect for most of Washington.

A draft proposal to lift protections elsewhere drew strong objections when it was revealed last month.

Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress argue that the wolf's recovery is incomplete because the animal occupies just a fraction of its historical range.

State and federal wildlife biologists and groups respresenting agriculture and hunting interests say wolves have recovered dramatically fast and must be managed to control the impact they have on livestock and big game herds in certain areas.

Enviros, EPA, NRA face off in court over lead ammo

SHOOTING — This court case — stemming in part from secondary deaths to creatures such as  California condors that die after ingesting lead bullet fragments from wounded game — is worth watching.

Local note: The Loon Lake Loon Association is among the plaintiffs. The association was instrumental in getting fishing restrictions on lead weights and lures in more than a dozen northern Washington lakes where loons nest.

What: A federal court will hear arguments this week in a lawsuit filed by conservation groups against the Environmental Protection Agency for its refusal to address toxic lead in hunting ammunition that poisons and kills eagles, endangered condors and other wildlife as well as threatening human health. The court hearing will focus on motions to dismiss the lawsuit by the EPA, National Rifle Association and other gun groups; and whether the EPA has the authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate toxic lead in ammunition.

When: Thursday, May 23, 2 p.m.

Where: U.S. District Court, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., in Courtroom 24A before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan

Background: In 2012, 100 organizations in 35 states formally petitioned the EPA to use the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate the toxic components of hunting ammunition, including the lead bullets and shot projectiles that cause lead poisoning of wildlife.

When the EPA refused to evaluate the petition, the Trumpeter Swan Society, Cascades Raptor Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Loon Lake Loon Association, Preserve Our Wildlife, Tennessee Ornithological Society and Western Nebraska Resources Council filed a lawsuit in 2012.

The National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International and Association of Battery Recyclers intervened in the case, claiming the EPA does not have authority to regulate lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

After approving the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976, the U.S. House of Representatives said in a report about the history and intent of the Act that it “does not exclude from regulation under the bill chemical components of ammunition which could be hazardous because of their chemical properties.” The EPA has already declared that lead is a toxic substance and taken steps to remove it from other products and uses.

Spokane climbers challenge Mount Everest

MOUNTAINEERING — Two climbers with Spokane connections had their moment on Mount Everest, elev. 29,035 feet, last weekend with mixed results.

Dawes Eddy, 70, who climbed the world's highest peak in 2009, made his way to around 24,000 feet on Sunday (May 19) before turning back for unspecified reasons.  

Did you note — Dawes is 70!

“He did say 'everything is good'  and hopes I can get him a flight out of Kathmandu on the 22nd which would put him back in Spokane around the 24th,” said his wife, Mary Kay.  

Aaron Mainer,32, a graduate of Mead High School, was one of two guides with International Mountain Guides leading the U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Team to the top of the world's highest peak on Saturday (May 18).

Mainer, who lives in Enumclaw and regularly guides on Mount Rainier, is one of five IMG guides with 25 clients on this year's Everest expedition. The Seven Summits quest (tallest peak on each continent) also has taken him to the top of Aconcagua in Chile, Denali in Alaska, and Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
 
He is the son of Stacey and Mike Mainer of Spokane.
 
Here's a post about Aaron from the IMG website:
As a native of Washington State, Aaron was introduced to the outdoors at an early age by his parents, who often took him and his younger sister skiing, backpacking, and boating. He attended the University of Puget Sound, where he graduated with a degree in International Political Economy. Since he started working with IMG in 2006, he has guided well over 100 trips on Mount Rainier and along the way done several trips to Alaska, Antarctica and South America. His passion is for ski mountaineering and he has numerous first and second descents in Washington and Alaska. One of his favorite things to do is ski on Mount Rainier, where he has skied over a dozen different routes from the summit, including most recently a first descent of Cryogenesis. (Check out the video.) Aaron is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Ski Mountaineering Guide. He lives in Enumclaw, WA, but does not like horses

Spokane County seeks Antoine Peak access addition

PUBLIC LANDS — A proposal to purchase a 9.5-acre addition to an access site for the 1,066-acre Antoine Peak Conservation Area is on the agenda for today's Spokane County Commission meeting.

Antoine Peak is the mountain north of East Valley High School and east of Forker Road in Spokane Valley.

The Spokane County Parks, Recreation, and Golf Department will ask permission to spend $300,000 in county Conservation Futures funds to purchase the site owned by the Johnson Family Trust. The family has been allowing the public to use some of the property since the county secured the land in three phases concluding in 2011.

Public use is growing in the area, which is part of the voter-approved conservation program to protect wildlife habitat and open spaces for passive public recreation.

The property the family is offering to the county — before listing it for sale to the public — includes the existing public parking area on the east side of the mountain along with a 2,800 square foot residence with detached garage.  The site is critical to the county because it's the only place available near the trailhead for public parking.

The residence could be used as a park ranger or maintenance worker residence. Acquiring the subject property would also allow Spokane County Parks to expand the existing lot as needed to handle increasing use.

Another parking site is being researched on the west side of the peak.

Challenge yourself: Idaho Adventure Sports Week June 2-9

ADVENTURE SPORTS — Fitness junkies who enjoy trail running, mountain biking, paddling and other outdoors sports will love the big event coming up based out of Farragut State Park.

Adventure Sports Week Idaho features 14 different races and clinics over eight days, June 2 - 9. Racers are traveling from long distances to join locals at this event, said North Idaho organizer David Adlard.

Trail runs include a June 2 Beaches 2 Boulders with 5k, 10k and 9 mile fun runs and the
June 8 Deepwater  half marathon, marathon, 50 k and 52 mile races.

Mountain bikers can zero in on the Mad Dash races, 4 or 6hours, on June 2.

Adventure races set for June 8-9 combine a variety of sports and skills on June 8-9.

Kids are offered their own adventure race, plus a clinic on orienteering and adventure racing.
  
The week includes prizes, barbecue and other treats.

Plus, “Farragut is beautiful,” Adlard said.
  
Info: (208) 664-0135.

Walk-run benefits Bay Trail at Sandpoint

TRAIL – Introduce yourself to the developing Pend Oreille Bay Trail near Sandpoint with a running OR walking benefit on June 1, National Trails Day.

Pre-register online by May 28 for the 5K and 10K events, which include t-shirts and prizes. The route starts and finishes at Trinity at City Beach and goes along the lakeshore and Sand Creek.

The event will benefit Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, a group working to link a natural waterfront trail from City Beach to Black Rock and Ponder Point along the lake’s northwest shore.

Info: (208) 946-7586 or email friends@pobtrail.org.

Lookout Pass Ski Patrol tops — again

WINTER SPORTS — The Lookout Pass Ski Patrol has been named the 2012-2013 “Outstanding Patrol of the Year” for the Inland Empire Region by from the National Ski Patrol – for the third consecutive season.

“These dedicated men and women provide an outstanding service for our skiing guests and we greatly appreciate their commitment and contribution to Lookout Pass,” said Phil Edholm, ski area president.

Other ski patrols in the National Ski Patrol's Inland Empire region include:

Mount Spokane, Silver Mountain, 49 Degrees North, Echo Valley, Loup Loup, Mission Ridge, Cottonwood Butte, Snowhaven, Bald Mountain and Ski Bluewood.

Fishing derby Sunday at Williams Lake

FISHING — A charity fishing derby with hundreds of dollars in prizes is set for Sunday (May 19) based out of Klink's Williams Lake Resort south of Cheney.

Divisions for adults and youths.

Prizes include full weekend packages a the resort.

Cost: $10 per angler.

Info:  (509) 235-2391.

Lake Roosevelt levels spike higher, rivers dropping

RIVERS — The level of Lake Roosevelt rose to an elevation of about 1264 feet today and lake levels are expected to continue rising over the next week into the 1272-1276 range.

Lake inflows began increasing a week ago as the spring runoff began from the Columbia River's headwaters (see chart).

However, note that flows of southern tributaries were already subsiding. The Coeur d'Alene River has been dropping rapidly this week (see chart).

St. Joe River flows also are plummeting (see chart).

Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

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

Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Wolves in hot water after sheep-killing spree

PREDATORS — There's a little less  love for wolves in central Idaho this week.

Idaho issues 2 kill permits on wolves near Carey after 31 sheep killed
Between May 10 and May 12, John Peavey, the owner of the Flat Top Ranch near Carey, Idaho, lost 13 ewes and 18 lambs to wolves. Idaho Wildlife Services has issued a kill permit for up to two wolves.
—Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley)

Study: Elk rebounding in Bitterroot Valley

WILDLIFE — Elk numbers in Montana's Bitterroot Valley are up this year mostly because of better calf survival, according to reseachers.

This year’s aerial spring count found 7,373 elk in the five hunting districts that encircle the Bitterroot Valley. That's the fourth highest number of elk spotted by biologists in the 48-year history of the annual spring survey.

Range conditions and more emphasis on controlling wolves, cougars and bears played a roll in the increase, biologists say.

Read the story in the Ravalli Republic.

Look down, hikers, and count your lucky stars

WILDFLOWERS — Shooting stars are among the most delicate and fascinating wildflowers, sprouting about 5 inches tall at different elevations, in damp to not-so-damp wild areas, from early spring well into summer. 

They're also very difficult to photograph, although you wouldn't know it by this image snapped Thursday by Montana Outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Elk Foundation waives fee for tag auctions; challenges other groups

HUNTING – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says it’s waiving fees for auctioning state-sponsored big-game hunting tags and is challenging other groups to do the same to increase funding for wildlife conservation.

The Missoula-based foundation announced last week that it will return 100 percent of the revenue it generates from the auction of state special big game permits through its national events and programs to the individual states.

Large groups that organize tag auctions or raffles generally take a percentage of the profits for their efforts and return the rest to state wildlife agencies for managing big-game species such as elk, deer and bighorn sheep.

“These tags were intended to benefit wildlife conservation and hunting access, not the organizations selling them,” said David Allen, RMEF president.

RMEF recently auctioned a special elk permit offered by Arizona for $385,000 at its national convention.

 The RMEF convention generates $700,000 to $1 million each year in the auction sale of special tags/permits from state game and fish agencies.

Similar high-bid auctions are organized by groups such as the Wild Sheep Foundation and Safari Club International.

Allen also called for groups and sportsmen to follow the auction funds to make sure they’re used for the intended purpose of managing target species.

He said wildlife conservation groups should allow complete transparency of all their financial information including the publishing of their audited financials from each fiscal year.

Wildlife areas topic at CdA Sportsmen’s Breakfast

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department regional habitat biologists will discuss southern Panhandle wildlife management areas at the monthly informal Coeur d'Alene Sportsmen's Breakfast, 6:30 a.m., Tuesday (May 21) at Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr.

Cost: $7.50 for breakfast, tax and gratuity

May16: Another great day at Cutthroat Creek

FISHING — Rain, moose, bushwhacking, scattered yellow stoneflies, a half-hour hatch of March Browns, 47-degree water, one hook imbeddd in thumb requiring cord-jerk extraction (worked slick) and more cutthroats than you could shake a (fishing) stick at….  

It was another great day at Cutthroat Creek, where the trout are handsome, the anglers smell strong and the fishing is always above average.

Idaho expands chinook fishing on Clearwater

FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission today  (May 16) expanded Chinook salmon fishing to include additional reaches of the Clearwater main stem and South Fork Clearwater rivers.

The Clearwater River main stem is open from the Camas Prairie railroad bridge at Lewiston upstream to the Cherry Lane Bridge and from the Lenore Bridge upstream to the Highway 11 Greer Bridge. The South Fork Clearwater Riveris open from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the American and Red rivers.

Fish and Game asked commissioners to delay a decision on Chinook fisheries in the upper Salmon and South Fork Salmon rivers to early June when fish managers will have a better idea of how many fish are heading for those waters.

“The fishing should be good tomorrow (Friday) as the river is clearing, flows are dropping, and lots of fish are passing over Lower Granite Dam,” said Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.   

Read on for details on all the areas open for spring chinook:

PikePalooza continues suppression effort on Pend Oreille River

FISHING – PikePalooza is offering more than $5,000 in cash and prizes for anglers who catch northern pike in various categories during the Friday-Sunday (May 17-19) event on the Pend Oreille River.

The event on the Box Canyon stretch of the river is sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.

Info: kalispeltribe.com/northern-pike.

The derby is part of the program to reduce numbers of the non-native species from the river.

This year, the tribe has removed around 6,000 northern pike using gillnets in the second year of a pike suppression and monitoring operation.

“The majority of these fish are age 3 or less,” said Jason Olson, the tribe’s fish conservation manager.

Pike suppression resumed last week after fish managers surveyed the river and found the spring netting had not reduced pike numbers to their target numbers, especially in the north end of the reservoir.  

The highest number caught in nets last week were a dozen in South Everett and Tiger sloughs, the tribe reported.

This spring's post-suppression survey involved a total of 197 that caught a total of 410 northern pike in a week.

However, for the first time in years of surveys and two seasons of suppression, no large pike were caught in the Box Canyon stretch survey, the tribe reports.

24 Hours mountain bike event gears up at Riverside State Park

MOUNTAIN BIKING — The annual 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race is gearing up for another extravaganza of solo and team efforts supported by one of the biggest campouts of friends and dirtbaggers of the season May 25-26 at Riverside State Park.

The Seven Mile airtrip area of the park fills on the eve of the race with hundreds of bikes along with tents, RV’s, trailers and cyclists from around the country.  The event begins with a La Mans start at noon May 25. Riders complete as many 15-mile dirt-trail laps before the event  24 hours later.

Read on for details from the sponsor, Round and Round Productions.

Oregon town still struggling with geese in parks

WILDLIFE — An infestation of Canada geese has been converting  portions of Bend, Ore., parks into latrines for years. Frustrated parks staff and health officials raised the ire of animal rights activists when they killed about a hundred geese a few years ago — probably some of the same folks who at turkey at Thanksgiving.

So the battle continues.  Read on how everything from vegetable oil to kayaks is being used to control the problem.

Mega resort proposed for Canadian Rockies

MOUNTAINS — A resort developement proposed along the edge of Canmore, Alberta, would be the largest in the history of the Canadian Rockers, according to a story in the Calgary Herald.

It’s the anchor of a proposal by PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. to develop the community with a total of 2,549 residential units, 1,000 resort accommodation units and two hotels with 250 rooms each, as well as other businesses, on 1,110 acres — about 80 per cent of the remaining developable land in the mountain town.

The proposal could add 10,000 people to Canmore’s population.

Kaninaskis Country — gateway to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Banff National Park and home to dozens of smaller parks — could be getting crowded.

Springer fishing closed in 2 of 3 Snake River zones

FISHING — Salmon fishing on the Snake River has been closed in the lower two spring chinook fishery zones near Ice Harbor and Little Goose, but will remain open in the Clarkston area.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department issued the notice today at 4:20 p.m.

The closure affects Zones A and B:

Zone A)  Below Ice Harbor: Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge at Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam;

Zone B)  Below Little Goose:  Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility).

Fishing will still be allowed in Zone C: Open May 19 and 20, and then open two days per week (Sunday and Monday) until further notice.

Zone C)  Clarkston:  Snake River from the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road with the Wawawai River Road on the Whitman County shore upriver approximately 12 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Read on for more details.

Idaho spring chinook bite coming on

FISHING — The long-term news is not great, but in the short term anglers should be prepared this weekend to take advantage of spring chinook streaming into Idaho waters.

  • Fish have already started showing up at most Idaho salmon hatcheries. 
  • A couple adult chinook were caught all the way upstream at Hells Canyon Dam last week.
  • PIT-tag arrays indicate fish are beginning to move into the South Fork Clearwater River.  
  • Jacks, which are coming in big numbers, have started hitting the Clearwater River.

Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager just posted an update on all the details. In addition to the above details, he gives the sobering news that last week's surge of salmon hundreds of miles downstream into the mouth of the Columbia has pooped out. 

As the Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners prepare to set chinook seasons during a Thursday meeting in Coeur d'Alene, read on for some of the data they'll be working with, as summarized by DuPont:

Franklin County resists federal protection for wildflower

NATURE — Franklin County is considering legal action into the federal government's steps to apply endangered species protections to rare wildflowers found in areas such as the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.

Franklin County commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to hire outside lawyers to look into suing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over its pending endangered classification of the yellow-flowering White Bluffs bladderpod, which grows only in a small area along the Columbia River in the county.

The plan calls for designating 2,861 acres of land in Franklin County as critical habitat for the colorful plant that’s part of the cabbage family. Most of that is federal land managed by the Hanford Reach National Monument, but 419 acres is on private land owned by people who say they are concerned.

Read the latest story from the Tri-Cities Herald.

Will red ribbons deter wolves from livestock?

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some pro-wolf groups say hanging red ribbons on fences around pastures will protect cattle from wolf attacks. 

The theory is getting another test this spring in the Wenatchee area, site of the most recently documented new wolf pack in Washington.

Question: Does this mean the end of the open range?

Let's just say there could possibly mean a BIG MARKET for red ribbon in the West.

See the KING 5 TV report and video.

Surprising predator gets some blame for killing Yellowstone Park elk calves

WILDLIFE — Which predator gets the blame for poor survival of elk calves in Yellowstone National Park?

A. Gray wolf.

B. Grizzly bear.

C. Lake trout.

Answer:  All of the above.

Check out the Billings Gazette story on the latest suprising research — which shouldn't be all that surprising to wildlife enthusiasts who understand the complex ways nature is connected.

Icicle River opening to spring chinook fishing

FISHING — Starting Saturday, anglers will be able to catch fin-clipped spring chinook in the Icicle River, according to season announcement just issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Read on for all the details.

Every bird dog owner needs a skunk kit

HUNTING DOGS — It's easy to be prepared for the unexpected but inevitable day your hunting dog is sprayed by a skunk.

And you should ALWAYS be ready. Even at home, as I experienced this week when my dog was sprayed in the backyard just before I was to leave for work.

Since an Eastern Washington University chemistry professor tipped me off to the formula in the 1980s, I've kept a skunk kit in my pickup and in my bird hunting gear basket. I've given the kits as holiday gifts to my hunting buddies.

(See my dog, Scout, above, looking at the kit as though he knows it's his only ticket back into the house.)

I once took a midnight call from a friend who was in Montana with his daughter and dog. They were in a pickle. They were camping with his wife's new SUV and she'd warned them they'd better take care of it in her absence. But their dog got sprayed by a skunk 300 miles from Spokane and father-daughter needed the recipe or they'd be in the dog house with the dog.

I gave them the recipe and two days later I found a thank you note and a bottle of wine on my door step.

THE RECIPE is simple: One quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap.

THE KIT makes it easy to apply. Buy a small Tupperware-type container just big enough to hold two quart bottles of hydrogen peroxide, two plastic zipper bags with measured amounts of baking soda and a small plastic bottle with dish soap.

(I like this “double” recipe approach just in case two dogs get too friendly with a skunk at one time. You don't have to make choice on which dog “gets lost” on the way home.)

Also in the container, include one or two pairs of Latex or rubber gloves, a wash rag and a small drying towel. You're set.

Should your dog get sprayed, you can remove the skunk odor in the field (if you have rinse water) without stinking up your rig.

Mix the ingredients at the time they are needed, NOT BEFORE. Wash the dog with all of the solution. Having the washcloth helps you keep it out of the dog's eyes.

Rinse thoroughly. You may want to do a second wash with dog shampoo, but a thorough rinse seems to work fine and prevents the peroxide from changing the color of your dog's fur.

Done. Whew!

By the way, when I came to work Monday and mentioned that my dog had been sprayed by a skunk, a colleague came over with her wallet and pulled out the de-skunking recipe I'd published in the S-R Outdoors section years ago. “It saved me once, and I wanted to make sure I always had it just in case,” she said.

Wenatchee River Festival a whitewater bonanza

RIVER SPORTS — The 2013 Wenatchee River Festival, set for June 8 based out of Cashmere, Wash., is among the region's few paddling events that brings a wide-ranging paddling community together.

Organizers of the event that's been around in one way or another for a quarter century encourage participation of all river lovers, whether you kayak, raft, or ride the waves on a board, the festival offers a little something for everyone.

This year the festival has added a few new events, as well as brought back activities that were enjoyed in previous years, including clinics, demos and other events). Proceeds from the Silent Auction go to support American Whitewater. Activities include:

Clinics

  1. Yoga
  2. Downriver Kayak Clinic taught by Wet Planet
  3. Playboat kayak clinic instructed by Jean Luc Robichaux
  4. SUP clinic instructed by Leavenworth Mountain Sports
  5. Whitewater rescue instructed by Wave Trek

 

Races and competitions

  1. Rodeo Competition
  2. Washington Kayak Club's Downriver Kayak Race
  3. Raft Down River Race
  4. Leavenworth Mountain Sport's SUP Downriver
  5. Flip-n-Recovery Event
  6. Throw-rope competition throughout the day

 Other activities

  • Demos given by CrossFit Cashmere and Wave Trek 
  • Silent Auction and Raffle, BBQ and live music
  • Displays featuring festival sponsors, vendors and community groups

Snake spring chinook fishing decent; seasons iffy

SALMON — Fishing for spring chinook on the selected open stretches of the Snake River in Washington was good this week, except that Monday afternoon the weather changed and blew a lot of folks off the water, reports Glen Mendel, state Snake River fisheries biologist.

Anglers must check the rules carefully and stay tuned.

The Snake River has taken most of its harvest allocation, Mendel said in an email a few minutes ago.

The lower two zones (Ice Harbor and Little Goose) of the Snake River will close, so they will NOT be open during the next Friday and Saturday or Sunday and Monday (May 17 & 18, and 19 & 20). 

The Clarkston area will remain open for another two day period on May 19 and 20, so they will have an opportunity to take the remaining salmon available in the Snake River allocation.

Department staff are in the process to get approval for the emergency closure regulation and provide a public announcement out within the next day or so.

 More from Mendel:

The Technical Advisory Committee met Monday morning and reduced the Columbia River upriver spring Chinook adult run prediction to 107,500 (down from 141,400 pre-season prediction).  They will meet again next Monday to look reconsider the run estimate. 

Now that the in-season run update has occurred, the remaining commercial and sport harvest that is available to the lower Columbia River under the original buffered run prediction can be taken.  Therefore, the area below Bonneville is proposed to reopen for harvest.  Those fisheries had closed in April below Bonneville, and early May (for zone 6 from Bonneville to the Oregon State line upstream of McNary Dam), and they had left part of their harvest allocations on the table to ensure that they did not affect the Snake River fisheries or overshoot their allocations if the run came in short of the 30% buffered run prediction. 

For example, below Bonneville sport had left nearly 30% of their harvest allocation untaken, so now they are going back to get that portion. 

Some anglers in the past have been upset that the Snake River closes and the lower river reopens, but each zone (below Bonneville, Bonneville to Oregon line, and the lower Snake River) of the mainstem Columbia River and lower Snake are allocated a certain percentage of the ESA impacts and harvest.  As long as the total non-tribal harvest or ESA impacts remain within the limits agreed to with other fishery managers for the determined run size, each zone is allowed to try to harvest their allocation, even if that means reopening after other areas have closed.

Rabid bat flies into Kootenai County home

WILDLIFE — A rabid bat flew into a Kootenai County home. Residents couldn't verify whether anyone was bitten, so they're undergoing rabies treatment.

Read the story from S-R reporter Betsy Russell.

Wildlife officers clamp down on Grande Ronde frat party

PUBLIC LANDS — Two Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers followed a tip to find a large college party underway recently on state wildlife lands along the Grand Ronde River at the bottom of Shumaker Grade. 

In the past, these gatherings have resulted in large amounts of litter, destruction of habitat, illegal burning, etc.,” reported Capt. Dan Rahn. The photo one of the officers snapped (above) indicates the 160 students already were getting a good start on trashing Snyder Bar. 

The area is a popular staging and camping area for anglers launching or taking out boats for floating the Grande Ronde.

The party was an annual event organized by a University of Idaho fraternity, according to the officers' report.

“After locating the frat president, the officers issued numerous citations for No Vehicle Access Permits and MIC,” Rahn said.  “They were warned for not having required group permits and advised these gatherings would not be allowed in the future.  They agreed to have all of the litter cleaned up by morning or they would be subject to litter citations and they agreed to not return in the future.  There were a total of 13 kegs of beer on site and the purchasers were identified.  Possible charges of Furnishing to Minor will be forwarded to the Prosecutor.”

Kayakers bagging big halibut on Washington Coast

FISHING — Men paddling kayaks are putting to shame the myth that you need a big boat, diesel fumes and and a big run from a port to catch a halibut.

Check out this story by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine about a Seattle angler who landed a 'but of more than 80 pounds from his 14-foot kayak.

Off-roaders busted for mucking up trails

OFF-ROADING — While turkey hunting on private timber company land last week I was appalled, again, at how many illigal ATV trails were pioneered by goons who think they have a right to have their way with someone else's property.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police say the practice is all to common, and law-abiding off-roaders are losing access to public and private lands because of these law breakers who go off roads without permisson.

Here's a sad report posted Monday by the WDFW enforcementd division regarding officers patroling Department of Natural Resources land in Western Washington near Amboy.

…Illegal ATV trails that eventually become wide enough for a full-size truck are popping up all over DNR and PacifiCorp lands. Due to the increase in this illegal and destructive activity, Officers Chamberlin and Moats planned an emphasis patrol recently to address the problem. So when they drove past five jacked-up trucks parked at the Chelatchie Prairie store, the Officers made deliberate eye contact with the group, hoping to dissuade them from using any nearby land as their own personal 4x4 playground…. so much for that tactic.

Officers Moats and Chamberlin retrieved their own ATVs and headed into the area shortly after. And who did they find? You guessed it – the same five vehicles deep in DNR land, and deep in the mud, as two of the trucks were nearly stuck in one area of the unauthorized ‘trail.’

Seven subjects were cited for trespass and ORV violations in this one incident.

Decisions on spring chinook fishing coming today

FISHING — Washington and Oregon officials will meet today to consider reopening sport and commercial fishing for spring chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River.

The Columbia River Compact will begin at 11 a.m. to consider gillnet fishing between Bonneville Dam and the coast. A joint state sport hearing will follow the compact session.

The science is murky, the issues tricky and the user groups are diverse and eager to get their slice of the pie, however small it is this year.

Click “continue reading” for insight from Outdoor writer Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

Mount Spokane trails ‘almost’ snow free

TRAILS — After five months, hikers can finally leave their snowshoes home when heading up to hit the trail at Mount Spokane State Park.

The Spokane Mountaineers report there's still some snow on portions of the trail system, but hiking boots alone are sufficient.  Expect some mud, though.

A group from the club was on the mountain last weekend volunteering to remove the signs marking the winter downhill ski area boundary.

Forest Service biologist to lead nature hike

HIKING — Join a Colville National Forest wildlife biologist on his annual naturalist’s tour of the Elk Creek Trail near Sullivan Lake on May 18. 

Mike Borysewicz, a veteran wildlife biologist at the Sullivan Lake District, will show participants an old prescribed burn heavily used by elk, a cascading waterfall and a wildflower meadow on this delightful two-mile-long loop trail. 

Meet at the Elk Creek Trailhead with shoes, clothing and a pack with lunch and water.

When: Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. 

Where: Elk Creek Trail Head.  Five miles northeast of Metaline Falls. Drive east from Highway 31 on County Road 9345 (toward Sullivan Lake).  The Trail Head is located at the Mill Pond historic site northwest of Sullivan Lake.

Info: Mike Borysewicz, Sullivan Lake Ranger District, Wildlife Biologist, (509) 446-7500

Fish and Game panel meeting in CdA

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Spring chinook salmon seasons are on the agenda for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting Wednesday and Thursday (May 15 and 16) in Coeur d’Alene.

A public hearing, open to comments on any Fish and Game business topic, will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Best Western Plus, 506 West Appleway Ave.

Agenda items include setting a summer season for Chinook salmon, consideration of the fiscal 2015 budget direction and a management plan for westslope cutthroat trout, election of commission chairman and vice-chairman, and a briefing on nonbiological rules for game animals.

Commissioners also will hear a presentation on controlled hunt drawing odds and will consider a position statement on grizzly bears.

BPA paid $644 million for fish-wildlife in 2012

RIVERS — In Fiscal Year 2012, the Bonneville Power Administration reported $644.1 million in total costs for its federally mandated actions to mitigate the impacts Columbia River Basin hydroelectric development has had on fish and wildlife.

The costs are listed an annual report released last week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

The Northwest Power passed by Congress in 1980 requires BPA, which markets power generated at federal dams in the region, to fund the NPCC programs undertaken by state and federal agencies and some tribes.

Bonneville estimates the grand total expended since 1978, when the costs began, through 2012, is about $13 billion, not including $2.27 billion in capital investments for fish hatcheries and fish passage facilities at dams.

Read on for a summary of the 2012 costs, compiled by the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Roosevelt kokanee looks like chinook, tastes foul

FISHING — Lake Roosevelt trout and kokanee have a well deserved reputation for being excellent table fare.

That's why a fishing buddy was so surprised to prepare a bright 18-inch unmarked salmon he caught a on the reservoir and find it to be on the dog-food-tasting side of edible.

“I had a salmon fillet last night and it was horrible,” he said. “Any salmon I get in the future that has a black mouth will be returned to the water or used as eagle bait for pictures.”

Indeed, it had black on the inside of its mouth including “most” of the gum line, which suggests chinook salmon, possibly down the Spokane Arm from Lake Coeur d'Alene. On the other hand, it looked much like a kokanee for the lack of large black spots on its back and tail.

My friend took a head and fins of the fish to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager John Whalen for examination. Whalen thought they were chinook, possibly from Canada, and possibly with a genetic glitch in order to have the black gumline but no spots.

Either way, they're not the fish you want to serve to somebody you want to impress.

Wildflowers blooming at Steamboat; snakes, too

HIKING — A Spokane couple returning from a camping-hiking trip to Steamboat Rock State Park this weekend have several recommendations for folks who want to follow their footsteps:

1. Go now. The wildflowers are beautiful, with the balsamroot on the downward swing but bitterroots are just ready to bloom.

2. Keep the tent screen zipped closed.  They found two rattlesnakes in camp, one huddled against their tent and one under their cooler.

3. Use hiking poles and if you hike with a dog, keep it on leash.  They encountered two more rattlers on the trail while hiking to nearby Northrup Canyon. One was on the aggressive side, which is rare. But they felt more comfortable after they gathered up hiking sticks to thwart any advances. With their dog on leash, they had no problem.

Little Goose Dam closing to traffic

FISHING – Little Goose Lock and Dam at Snake River Mile 70.3 near Starbuck, Wash., will be closed to public vehicle traffic across the top of the dam May 15 -July 13, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced.

Bad news for some anglers.

Construction will force the temporary traffic-crossing closure.

Travelers can call 1-888-DAM-INFO (1-888-326-4636) for current dam-crossing information at all three of Walla Walla District’s dams that allow public traffic to cross the Snake River: Lower Monumental, near Kahlotus, Wash.; Little Goose, near Starbuck, Wash.; and Lower Granite, near Pomeroy, Wash.

Info: Walla Walla District’s recreation website.

Floods, Flowers, Feathers Festival May 18 at Turnbull Refuge

OUTDOORS – Experts in wildlife, wildflowers and geology will combine their talents for a festival of nature walks, youth activities and educational information on Saturday (May 18) at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The second annual “Floods, Flowers, and Feathers Festival” – completely free, including no entry fee into the refuge – will include nature hikes dealing with topics such as Ice Age Floods and Channeled Scablands, spring birds, wildflower and insects.

The refuge is 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.  Drive to the refuge headquarters.

Info: Turnbull Refuge, (509) 235-4723. 

Mothers Day lesson learned

GOING OUT — Warning to dads:  Don't expected to get off cheap if you take your lady out for a Mother's Day meal AFTER a day of hiking.

Roosevelt lake levels heading higher

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt was at an elevation of about 1254 feet today. Lake levels are expected to begin rising over the next week into the 1260 - 1265 range.

Inflows into the lake have begun to increase as the spring runoff is beginning.

The Bureau of Reclamation predicts the spring runoff to begin this weekend, and the weather forecast for a heat wave moving in seems to confirm that.

Until the runoff begins lake levels are expected remain fairly steady.

The drawdown is not nearly as severe as last year, as the chart shows.

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

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

Spring chinook jack count near record pace

FISHING — On Tuesday, anglers got a heads up from an Idaho fisheries manager that jack counts were the highlight of this year's spring chinook run.

He wasn't kidding.

Washington Fish and Wildlif Department fisheries manager Joe Hymer in Vancouver points out that through May 9 the total of 18,032 spring chinook jacks counted at Bonneville Dam is only 97 fish off the record count for the same day logged in 2009.

That year ar record of nearly 82,000 jacks were counted through June 15 (the end of the spring Chinook count at the dam). 

So we're on a possible record pace.

Jacks are good eating… and the future for adult returns is bright.

Heat wave puts the buzz on turkey hunters

HUNTING — Before last weekend, I had no trouble sitting still waiting for a gobbler to work its way in to a call.

But Wednesday it was taken by surprise with the hatch of mosquitoes triggered by the recent warm spell.

I didn't have repellent. 

Sitting still required more effort, looking down my shotgun barrel with the blurred silhouette of a skeeter rump on my nose.

Free wheel-building program from bicyclists

BICYCLING — The Art of Wheel Building will be discussed in a free program on Monday (May 13), 6:30 p.m., Riverview Retirement Center Community Building, 1801 E. Upriver Dr., in Spokane.

The program will be presented by Matthew Larsen, who builds custom wheels for each rider's size, riding style, and function. Learn about custom wheel building with this hands-on look at improving your ride with today's fine hubs, rim materials, disk brakes and spokes.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Bicycle Club.

Yakima River sections opening to spring chinook fishing

FISHING – Two sections of the Yakima River will open next week to fishing for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced.

Starting Wednesday (May 15), the lower Yakima River will open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook from the Interstate 182 Bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser.

On Saturday (May 18), the upper Yakima River will open from the Interstate 82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam.

John Easterbrooks, regional WDFW fish program manager, said the lower river is expected to remain open through June 30, while fishing in the upper section will likely continue through July 15.

“Springers are running late this year, but they’re finally moving into the Yakima River,” said Easterbrooks, noting that state and tribal fishery managers are predicting a return of approximately 3,000 adult hatchery chinook to the Yakima River.

Read on for more perspective and details from WDFW.

State leaders oppose plan to protect wolverines

ENDANGERED SPECIES — While 25 environmental groups quickly applauded a federal proposal to protect wolverines under the Endangered Species Act last week, officials from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have declared the effort unnecessary.

“There is no evidence suggesting that wolverines will not adapt sufficiently to diminished late spring snow pack (assuming there is any) to maintain viability,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead wrote in a letter sent Monday to federal officials.

Read on for the story from the Associated Press.

Swan deaths: annual spring disgrace continues along CdA River

ENVIRONMENT – I received the following email from a reader this morning:

Last Sunday my wife and I were riding our bikes on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's between Rose Lake and Harrison. Along the way, we saw what appeared to be a significant number of dead swans. I probably know the answer, but is it the heavy metals in the area that are the cause of their demise?

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a paved rail trail over a corridor used for a century to transport the produce of mining prosperity and its toxic aftermath. One of the benefits of the conversion to a recreational trail is that it  exposes more eyes to the issue of heavy metals pollution still lingering in the Silver Valley.

The saddest indicators are the carcasess of 150 or so tundra swans that die slow, agonizing deaths in our backyard during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.

It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it.

Read on.

Beat the rush: hunter education classes have openings

HUNTING — Spring and summer are the best times to get youths enrolled in hunter education courses that are pre-requisites for obtaining a hunting license.

Idaho reports openings are available in upcoming classes, unlike fall, when procrastinators vie for limited space in crowded classes.

Check on available classes in your areas online:

Free breakfast to kick off Bike to Work Week

BICYCLING — Bicycle commuting — and all of its benefits in terms of health, environment and money savings — will be celebrated in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene with activities during Bike to Work Week, May 13-18.

  • Pre-register to get the most out of each city's offerings.

Spokane's Bike to Work Week riders will kick off with what's become a traditional free pancake breakfast Monday (May 13) in Riverfront Park, 7 a.m. at  Riverfront Park.  Riders can log their mileage online for neat comparisons, enjoy “energizer stations” supported by local businesses on Wednesday (May 15), and enjoy a wrap-up celebration with prizes and refreshments at NoLi Brewery on Friday (May 17).

Coeur d'Alene's Bike to Work Week starts with a kickk-off ride from Silver Lake Mall to the Coeur d'Alene Library for coffee and doughnuts.

Read on for other events through the week in Coeur d'Alene including safety classes, moonlight ride, movies, beer tasging, repair clinic, scavenger hunt and more.

Charm of hummers, raft of ducks: can you name that flock?

BIRDING — “I haven't seen any hummingbirds up here, yet, but I did find out what to call a group of them when they do arrive: a 'charm' of hummingbirds,” said Janis Woolbright of Woodland, Idaho, in an Inland Northwest Birders post last week.

“We don't have to resort to saying group or flock for all our different species,” she said, noting some of the chucklers in the bunch, such as a conspiracy of ravens.

Lists of collective nouns for birds and other wildlife are posted every now and then, but this one by the Palomar (Calif.) Audubon Society is one of the best organized.
 
But there's still room for expanding the list. 
 
I looked it over closely, and I saw no reference to the term that's been used frequently in headlines but which needs to be coined officially here and now: a blizzard of snow geese.

Parkinson’s group draws winner for bamboo fly rod-walking stick

FLY FISHING — The Parkinson's Resource Center of Spokane has announced the winner of its drawing for an ellegant bamboo fly rod that fits into a handcrafted walking-stick case with leather work. See the item here.

A ticket purchased by Katherine Kelley of Spokane Valley was drawn to win the handsome rod and case hand-maded by Sweetgrass Rods of Twin Bridges, Montana. Kelley's husband, Tom, has Parkinson's and was at the drawing conducted during the Tremble Clefs performance at the Arc in downtown Spokane this morning.

A total of 182 tickets were sold to folks in 15 states plus Canada, said Walt Jakubowski, who promoted the raffle to fly fishing events in the region.

  

Idaho spring chinook run offers more optimism

FISHING — Things are looking somewhat better, according to a just-posted report on the run of spring chinook salmon headed for Idaho waters.

Here's what Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game's regional fisheries manager in Lewiston, has to say:

I would say that things are looking better this week than last.  For the Clearwater River drainage, it looks like our harvest share will be somewhere between 300 and 1,000 adult fish (see last two columns in the table below).  If this trend continues it may allow us to expand the area we have open to fishing.  The Commission will be meeting next week on May 16 and will likely make a decision on this.  For the Riggins area fishery, it looks like the harvest share will end up somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 adult fish. 

The exciting news is the Jacks are starting to pour over Bonneville Dam like we have never seen before.  In my glance over past year’s data, it looks like the only year when we had more Jacks over by this date was 2000, and that was a really early run year.  If this continues, the Jacks should provide an excellent fishery especially seeing they tend to be easier to catch than the adults.  The Commission may also look at Jack limits during their meeting next week as well. 

To date, the only place we have documented harvest of Chinook salmon is in the lower Clearwater River.  Based on our creel surveys, we estimated that 6 adults were harvested since the season started.  In the future I will also provide a table that shows how many fish were harvested in different reaches so you all can follow along to see where the fishing is good and how close we may be to closing down harvest in various reaches. 

Right now decent numbers of Chinook salmon are starting to come over Lower Granite Dam so I suspect fishing will get much better during the next four day stretch on the Clearwater River assuming the river stays fishable.  The rivers are all supposed to rise due to these warm temperatures we are experiencing.  We have already collected one Chinook salmon at the Rapid River trap so I suspect some fish will be caught over the next week in the Riggins area assuming the river remain fishable.

Fish should also start showing up at Hells Canyon Dam and I expect a few will be caught there over the next week as well.  As a reminder, the Cleawater River drainage is only open to Chinook fishing 4 days a week (Friday through Monday) whereas the Riggins area and Hells Canyon fisheries are open 7 days a week. 

Camera collars let biologists tag along with bears

WILDLIFE — Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are getting a peek into what city bears do all day.

Six bears were equipped with rugged video cameras attached to collars around their necks, which are allowing biologists to get a good idea of how the four black and two brown bears spent their time last summer.

See the story and video clips.

Homeowners need to be ‘bear aware’

WILDLIFE — The region's black bears are out of their winter dens and on the move, looking for food sources that might help them regain weight lost during hibernation.

Homeowners can avoid problem encounters with bears by being aware.

High calorie human foods are a major attractant, particularly if they are easy to obtain, such as out of a bird feeder or garbage can.

Idaho Fish and Game officials urge homeowners who live rural and suburban settings to take small precaution that can make a big difference in safety and to the welfare of the bears.  Whether it's a black bear or a grizzly, a bear lured into a yard or campground by food or garbage is likely to be killed for public safety.

“All bears are opportunists; their whole life revolves around food,”  Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said. “They remember every single location where they receive a food reward, and if they get one from your residence, or your neighbor’s residence, they will be back for more.”

The result is always the same – a dead bear.

Read on for easy solutions for homeowners living near prime bear country.

Bald eagles raising young over Lake CdA, throughout region

UPDATED 12:30 p.m. with info from Idaho Fish and Game.

WILDLIFE — May is family time for bald eagles, which have been steadily gaining a greater foothold in the Inland Northwest as they're considered one of the shining examples of Endangered Species Act recoveries.

This bald eagle family was photographed at Lake Coeur d'Alene over the weekend by Larry Krumpelman and posted on the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society website.

Idaho will conduct a bald eagle nesting survey next year, the first since 2008, when more than 50 breeding territories were documented in the Panhandle from Lake Coeur d'Alene and northward.  Surely there's that many or more.

Spokane County alone has 15-20 active nests, said Howard Ferguson, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department area wildlife biologist.

The bald eagle, one of the first species to receive protections under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, was been removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 2007. After decades of conservation efforts, the bald eagle exhibited a dramatic recovery, from a low of barely 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963, to more than 10,000 nesting pairs.

Nesting bald eagles can be resiliant.  

A bald eagle nest surveyed near Post Falls Dam blew down during an early July 2008 windstorm. The nest was home to 3 chicks at or very close to fledging. All chicks were observed after the windstorm and presumed to have successfully fledged.

The eagle pair rebuilt their nest in the same tree in December 2008, according to the IFG survey report.

Wednesday night mountain bike series starts May 8

BICYCLING — The 2013 Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Racing Series kicks off May 8 at Riverside State Park.

It's the most current in a long, long list of bicycle rides, events and races scheduled through October.

See the complete list for events throughout Northwest in The Spokesman-Review's  2013 Bicycling Events Calendar

Fishing limits removed from Idaho reservoir set to be drained

FISHING — Fishing without limits — the new privilege at one Idaho reservoir —  is inviting for anglers who want to stack a lot of good eating away in the freezer. 

It's a good deal for anglers who can't count, too.

The Idaho Department of Fish & Game today issued a  May 7-Sept. 30 “salvage order” for Little Camas Reservoir in Elmore County, and the possibilities are endless.

Check out the blog post by S-R Boise reporter Betsy Russell:

Fish & Game: Go catch all the fish you want at Little Camas Reservoir before it's drained

BLM may close popular climbing area to protect artifacts

PUBLIC LANDS — The federal Bureau of Land Management may permanently close a popular climbing site in southeastern Idaho, over opposition from local rock climbers who argue the plan is too restrictive and was pushed through without stakeholder input.

The Associated Press resports the 400-acre area known as Castle Rocks has been closed off and on to climbers since 2003, and may close permanently sometime this summer. Agency officials say they hope make a decision this month, depending how much feedback they receive from the public.

Mike Courtney, BLM field manager in Burley, said both the Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute tribes consider the land sacred and are worried cultural resources could be destroyed if climbing continues. BLM surveys have determined the region contains important archaeological resources and artifacts, including spearheads dating back thousands of years.

Read on for more details.

Fish and Wildlife panel thanks Douvia for service

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — In a somewhat rare sentiment, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has issued a letter thanking a departing commissioner for his service.

Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls served on the nine-member citizen panel since 2006.  His term expired on Jan. 1 and Gov. Jay Inslee chose not to reappoint him.  Three other commisisoners whose terms have expired also are likely to be replaced, possibly this month.

Over the years, quite a few of the commissioners, who serve without pay beyond travel expenses, have come and gone without much recognition.

Read on for the complete letter of thanks dated today. It's not signed, however the commission office staff says the letter is a collective effort by the commisison members.

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors, expert says

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors

FLORA – Pollination and other services provided to native plants by insects will be explored in a free program by Nan Vance, retired Forest Service research plant scientist, 7 p.m., May 9 at Gladdish Community Center in, Pullman WA. 

Info: (208) 874-3205.

Idaho plans bluegill fishing clinic for kids

FISHING – Kids ages 5-15 can sign up for 60 spots on boats driven by volunteers taking part in a youth bluegill fishing clinic, June 2 at Hauser Lake.

Idaho Fish and Game is teaming with the Panhandle Bass Anglers to give each student (plus a parent or guardian) a four-hour intro to the sport.

Experienced anglers are volunteering their boats, time, and expertise. Participants will be served lunch.

Pre-register by calling IFG, (208) 769-1414.

Respectfulness required during state wolf update meeting, club says

PREDATORS – An update on gray wolf status in Washington will be presented by the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s top wildlife managers in Spokane this week.

Nate Pamplin, the state’s assistant wildlife director, will be joined by Dave Ware, wildlife program manager, and Richard Harris, special species specialist in a presentation on Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council auditorium, 6116 N. Market.

In an apparent reference to the rudeness exhibited at two agency wolf presentations in Colville this year, wildlife council officers posted this notice in the club's May newsletter meeting announcement:

“Please be respectful with your questions and keep on track with them. Anyone who is disruptive, badgering or just (making) rude or un-tasteful comments will be asked to leave, period.”

Spring chinook anglers could find Clearwater holes crowded

FISHING — Getting the best spot on the most productive holes has often beena challenge and a cause to rise early for spring chinook anglers headed to Idaho's Clearwater River.

This year the competition for good fishing spots could be even more keen, says Eric Barker, outdoors editor for the Lewiston Tribune.

Read on for his detailed story about the spring chinook season that opened this weekend as springers are just beginning to surge from the Columbia toward Idaho waters.

  

Youth sporting clays championships underway at Double Barrel

SHOOTING —  The Washington Scholastic Clay Target Program Championships kicked off Friday for a three-day run at Double Barrel Ranch Sporting Clays near Spokane.

More that 100 shooters from around the state participated in a round of sporting clays, the first of three shooting events taking place this weekend (May 3-5).

The WASTCP is a statewide nonprofit organization initiated originally in 2010 by Colville, Washington sportsmen, and is dedicated to introducing and coaching school-age youths in the supervised activity of clay target sports. The Program’s mission is to promote and perpetuate opportunities for young student athletes to safely and enjoyably participate and compete in high quality, team-based clays shooting sports led by trained adult coaches.

Read on for more details about this weekend's events and the 30 youth teams competing at Double Barrel as reported by Bob Dunn, a master sporting clays shooter from Spokane:

Canada geese sign off for the evening; Landers, too

WATERFOWL — I'm thankful for today and looking forward to tomorrow, just as these goslings appeared to be saying at last light on Thursday, photographed by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Capsized canoeists rescued on Pend Oreille River

PADDLING — Canoeists were rescued from Lake Pend Oreille after their boat — filled with three people and a dog — capsized in high winds that blasted Bonner County on Sunday evening, according to the Bonner County Bee.

One person in the canoe managed to swim safely to shore, said Bonner County Sheriff’s Lt.  Ror Lakewold.

The other two paddlers clung to pilings supporting the U S  Highway 95 Long Bridge, the Bee reported.

A cyclist heard or saw them and called it in, said Lakewold. The call came in about 5 p.m.

All three went to Bonner General Hospital to be checked for hypothermia and were later released, according to Lakewold.

Perhaps this should be emphasized:  They all were wearing life jackets, according to the sheriff's report.

Feds yank permit for St. Joe River jet boat races

RIVERS — Organizers of the St. Maries - St. Joe River Jet Boat Race have announced on their Facebook page that the U.S. Coast Guard would not authorize their permit to hold the “Race the Joe” jet boat races May 17-19.

A caller from the area said the permit requires that there be no environmental damage.  “But every goose and duck and bird is nesting or raising their young and there are three bald eagle nests in that stretch of river so it's amazing the were able to get away with a race last  year,” the woman said. 

 The race is hosted by the St. Maries Chamber of Commerce and Epic Motorsports Consulting Group, L.L.C.

This devastating decision comes after almost a year’s worth of volunteer time, effort and commitment, as well as the approval from the City of St. Maries, Benewah and Shoshone County authorities.

“We are asking for everyone’s help to try and reverse the Coast Guard’s decision and authorize this permit,” Race the Joe spokesperson Kyla Sawyer said.

“Without this permit our race is not in compliance with our insurance and sanctioning from the American Power Boat Association and we cannot hold a race without insurance. After receiving approval from all local authorities for the race we are stunned by the Coast Guard’s decision.”
  

Birding workshop, family activities set for Migratory Bird Week

OUTDO – National Migratory Bird Week events organized by area Audubon Society chapters are for the birds––and people who want to learn more about them.

A three-day Learn-to-Bird Workshop starts Monday and continues Wednesday and Friday, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College Science Building, Room 28/119.  A field trip will follow on Saturday.

Info: Gary Blevins, 533-3661, email GaryB@spokanefalls.eduor Kim Thorburn 465-3025, email kthorburn@msn.com.

Events set for Saturday include:

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge tree and native plant restoration work party, 9 a.m.-noon, followed by a group potluck. Meet at refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

Info: (509) 235-4723.

Lake Coeur d’Alene family birding fair at Blackwell Island Boat Launch, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., includes adult and family activities such as migration obstacle course, scavenger hunt, bird feeder projects, feather painting, 'bird friendly” coffee, guided bird walks, Bird Bingo and live owls.

Directions: From Coeur d’Alene, drive south on Highway 95. Cross the Spokane River and turn right to Blackwell Island.Info: Coeur d’Alene Audubon, (208) 769-5048.

Anglers have plenty of fishing options in Washington

FISHING — Get an update on fishing action in the Inland Northwest with our weekly Hunting-Fishing Report by Alan Liere.

Also, click “continue reading” to check out the wide range of fishing updates from saltwater to freshwater in the latest Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Weekender Report.

Cayuse Pass snow cleared; open for season

MOUNTAIN PASSES —  The Washington Department of Transportation Department has reopened Cayuse Pass, giving motorists access to the east entrance of Mount Rainier National Park

Workers had been clearing snow up to 12 feet deep off Highway 123 for more than two months. 

DOT said nearby Chinook Pass on Highway 410 should be reopened by Memorial Day weekend. 

Both passes are closed in the winter by avalanche danger.

Idaho Fish and Game employee injured in ATV accident

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An Idaho Fish and Game employee was injured Thursday in an ATV accident along the lower Salmon River below Eagle Creek.

Mark Parks, 57, of Lewiston, was working by himself spraying weeds with an ATV-mounted tank sprayer when the ATV rolled over on him, reports Mike Demick at the agency's regional office in Lewiston.

Parks used his emergency satellite transmitter to call for help.

A Lewiston-area medical evacuation helicopter, based at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical center, was dispatched in response. Parks was transported to Lewiston and eventually flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Hospital in Spokane for treatment of multiple broken bones. 

 He remains hospitalized in stable condition, Demick said.

Lake Roosevelt drawdown levels off as spring runoff poised to begin

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt is at an elevation of about 1256 feet today, and it's expected to remain in the range of 1255.0 - 1258.5 for the next week.

The Bureau of Reclamation predicts the spring runoff to begin this weekend, and the weather forecast for a heat wave moving in seems to confirm that.

Until the runoff begins lake levels are expected remain fairly steady.

The drawdown is not nearly as severe as last year, as the chart shows.

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

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

Fish and Game panel to meet in Coeur d’Alene May 15-15

FISHING – Setting a summer chinook salmon fishing season is on agenda for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting  May 15 and 16 in Coeur d’Alene.

A public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday May 15. This session is open for comment on any Fish and Game Department related topic.

Although the full agenda has not been set, routine agenda items for the May 16 session include consideration of the fiscal 2015 budget direction, election of commission chairman and vice-chairman, and a briefing on nonbiological rules for game animals.

Jet boat races set on St. Joe River

OUTBLAST – What's being billed as the first annual Race the Joe jet boat event is set for May 17-19 based out of St. Maries, Idaho.

Read on for details from the St. Maries Chamber of Commerce.

Landers offers tip of the hat to Day Hikers

TRAILS — A humble thanks to the 200 people who packed into Mountain Gear tonight for my program about the great sport of  Day Hiking.

I said to heck with the Camelbak and had a beer afterward! 

I detailed many of the virtues of taking a hike in this Sunday Outdoors story.

The program was based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

I'll look forward to emails with questions and feedback about the presentation as well as questions you may have as after sampling the routes detailed in the book.

Even more, I'll look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Rich

Tonight: free Day Hiking program by trail guide author Rich Landers

TRAILS —  Join me to discuss the pleasures of Day Hiking - and a few places to enjoy them - during a free slide program tonight (May 2), 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear retail store in Spokane.

The program is based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

Be ready to take the Day Hiker's Quiz.

Buy, sell at Spokane Fly Fishing Gear Swap

FLY FISHING — It's time for anglers to inventory their equipment needs and surpluses in preparation for the annual Fly Fishing Gear Swap, May 18 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley.

The first step to the success of the swap relies on anglers bringing in their used gear to sell, said Sean Visintainer, Silver Bow owner.

“So we need you to rummage through your closets, garage, your fishing buddies gear, etc. and bring fly fishing equipment to sell that you no longer want! Obviously it needs to be in good working order and be worthy of reselling (I WILL and DO turn away gear that has no resale value). But I know lots of you have gear that you don't use so please bring it down… the week before the sale.”

Read on for detals on selling and buying gear, and note a few changes from last year.

25 groups call for protecting wolverines

WILDLIFE — The Lands Council based in Spokane joined 24 other environmental groups today in calling for the federal government to protect wolverines under provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA primarily because of habitat fragmentation and losses from climate change. Wolverines, the rarest carnivore in the lower 48 states, depend on late spring snow for travel and protection of denning sites.

A list of the environmental groups and their common comments are posted here.

 Additional threats to the species include an exceptionally small and vulnerable population size in the Lower 48 – where the entire population is no more than 250-300 individuals – and mortality from trapping, which is legal on a limited basis in states such as Montana.

Today the Western Environmental Law Center organize and presented the comments for the groups. “We are supportive of the Service’s long-overdue proposal to protect wolverine under the ESA,” said Matthew Bishop, attorney and lead author of the comments.  Bishop is in the Helena field office of the WELC, wich is based in Eugene.

Calling it “a huge step in the right direction, Bishop said, “the proposed rule does not go far enough to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the species.  The groups say the wolverine should be given the more protective “endangered” status.

USGS minimizes budget cut impacts on river gauges

 RIVERS — Whitewater river runners, anglers and other groups and agencies in Idaho and Washington that rely on streamflow gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey are breathing a sigh of relief.

USGS had announced that as of today (May 1) operation of “up to 375 streamgages nationwide would be discontinued due to budget cuts as a result of the $85 billion across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. Additional streamgages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS streamgages.”

But agency managers worked out ways to keep the immediate closures down to three in Idaho and none in Washington.  One closure of note to anglers: 13337500 South Fork Clearwater River near Elk City.

Click “continue reading” below for the explanations I received to my queries.

Streamgages are used nationwide to predict and address drought and flood conditions by monitoring water availability. The USGS and over 850 Federal, State, and local agencies cooperatively fund the USGS streamgaging network, which consists of more than 8,000 streamgages.

Mack a big treat at Loon Lake on opening day

FISHING — Chris Larson, known to some as the “Fishing Queen,” caught this mackinaw, estimated at 16-17 pounds, at Loon Lake on Saturday, opening day of the lowland lake fishing season.

“It was something watching her reel to no avail as we were blown across the lake for 30 minutes,” said Jeff Colliton. “Leaded line and a lure that was questionable did the trick.  I have tried to fish for Mack's a couple times but really did not know what I was doing.  My family had a couple cabins on Loon when I was growing up and I always heard the stories of these guys but this is the first I have seen up close and personal.

“By the way, I almost knocked it off with my first pass of the net. 

 Footnote on Larson: “She has already filled both her turkey tags for the spring, too.”

Clark Fork opens to floaters past Milltown Dam site

RIVERS — Montana Lieutenant Governor John Walsh will join other state officials today to celebrate the opening of a stretch of the Clark Fork River near Milltown that will be open for water traffic for the first time in more than a century.

What: Opening of 2.5 mile stretch of Clark Fork River to water traffic

When: Today (May 1) @ 10:45 a.m.

Where: Turah Fishing Access Site, eight miles east of Missoula on I-90 to Exit 113 (Turah), south then east for 2 miles.

Federal and local officials gathered in September to mark the end of a $100 million cleanup and restoration at Milltown Superfund site on the Clark Fork River upstream from Missoula.

Removal of the century-old dam and toxic mining sediments in an unprecedented scope was funded by a settlement with Atlantic Richfield Co.

Removing the dam eventually will be a boon to Clark Fork River native fisheries, state biologists say, but Missoula fly-fishing guides say aquatic insect hatches down from the dam site continue to be depressed.

The first advisory group meetings paving the way for the project were held in 1989 after arsenic was found in Milltown’s drinking water.

The Superfund work began in 2006 when crews began rerouting the river to drain the reservoir and expose the sediment contaminated by toxic waste flowing down the Clark Fork River from Butte-area mines.

In 2007, trains began hauling tons of sediment to holding ponds at Opportunity.

Milltown Dam was breached in 2008 and completely removed the following year. Since then, bulldozers scraped away the waste, dug new river channels and re-contoured the flood plain.

A state park is being developed at the site.

Spokane’s Downtown “Duck Man” a shining star of spring memories

WILDLIFE — Among the urban wildlife spectacles that stand out in Spokane's history, it's tough to beat the Duck Man's help in usering a brood of ducklings from their nest at Sterling Savings Bank to the water in Riverfront Park.

Joel Armstrong made some good catches in the May 16, 2009 episode  as he helped the mallard mother parade her 12 ducklings down the Lilac Parade route — just shortly before the parade started.

Video of the event rightly made national news, above.

Kudos to the bank, which stepped up and turned the event into a windfall for waterfowl at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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Rich Landers 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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