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Outdoors blog

Archive for January 2014

Letter-writing party to oppose Upper Lochsa plan

Several groups opposed to the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange are hosting a letter-writing party to Idaho's congressional delegation beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday (Feb 6) at the Garden Lounge in Moscow. The proposed exchange would trade 40,000 acres of commercial timberland owned by Western Pacific Timber in Idaho's upper Lochsa drainage for 18,000 acres of Forest Service land. The event is sponsored by Friends of the Clearwater, Friends of the Palouse Ranger District, Palouse-Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Palouse-Sierra Club.

 

In September, members of Idaho's congressional delegation sent Forest Service officials a letter, asking the agency to pause administrative work on the controversial exchange. Instead, U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador said that legislation might be a better way to achieve a land exchange that balances national interests in acquiring environmentally sensitive land “with the interest of Tribal and local governments and the people of Idaho.” 

Rower to challenge Pacific crossing record

BOATING — Daryl Farmer, 39, from West Sussex, England, is planning an attempt to set another world record by solo rowing 2,100 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii as a competitor in the first Great Pacific Race beginning in Monterey in June.

Fewer people have rowed solo across the Pacific Ocean than have walked on the moon.  The record for this route is held by Mick Bird, who rowed it single-handed in 1997 in 64 days.

About 15 boats and 38 competitors are signed up for the race, with crews from nine different countries including the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Canada, France and Ireland.

Farmer, rowing under the name of Rowing 4 Reefs has bagged a few other long-distance challenges, including the Marathon de Sables (150 miles across the Sahara) and the Jungle Marathon (140 miles through the Amazon rainforest). He's getting a sponsorship boost from Earthrace.
 
But in this effort he's rowing to raise funds for ocean conservation efforts, inspired by the wake of solo-rowers Roz Savage and James Cracknell.

Built from a special carbon/Kevlar foam sandwich construction, Farmer’s boat, ‘Bojangles’, was built with the Pacific in mind.  She is one of the strongest, most proven and sought-after ocean rowing boats in the world, already in the record books as the first and only rowing boat to successfully complete a crossing of the Pacific West to East with its crew of Mick Dawson and Chris Martin (Race Director, Great Pacific Race) in 2009.

Photographer offers 5 tips for better wildlife pictures

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Digital photography has made it possible to shoot photographs in such quantity that virtually anyone will bag a good one sooner or later.

But when it comes to wildlife, you'd better be ready for the action because it's often fleeting.

To add consistency to your wildlife photography, check out these five detailed tips for taking better wildlife photos from a man who's made his career with a camera. Here's a summary of his suggestions:

  1. Learn your camera
  2. Learn your subject
  3. Look for good light
  4. Your car as a blind
  5. Plan your photos

 

 

Trail Cam proves wildlife around when hikers aren’t

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In December, Parks Canada posted this time-lapse video from a trail camera in Waterton Lakes National Park spanning over a four-month period when the area was closed to hikers as a result of flood damage.

See how the animals took advantage of a human-free trail and used it for an easy travel route.

How many species do you count?  

Inslee to sit in on Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Before the panel's regularly scheduled weekend meeting, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet on Thursday with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to go over fish and wildlife policies.

Then the commissioners will convene Friday and Saturday for a long and varied agenda of fish and wildlife management topics at the Comfort Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1620 74th Ave. SW in Tumwater.

Volunteers sought for Washington fisheries advisory group

FISHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking volunteers to serve on a new advisory group for state fisheries.

Up to 15 applicants with knowledge of recreational inland fisheries for nonanadromous species such as trout, walleye, bass and panfish will be selected to serve on the Retailers and Manufacturers Advisory Group through 2015.

Members will meet quarterly to share ideas for increasing anglers’ interest in inland fisheries and provide feedback on policy and management.

Applicants should be decision makers such as CEO, general manager, president or marketing director at outdoors-oriented businesses.

Applications should be emailed to Kelly Cunningham by Friday, Feb. 14, at Kelly.Cunningham@dfw.wa.gov. Info needed:

  • Applicant’s name, address, phone number and email.
  • Relevant experience and reasons for wanting to serve.
  • Applicant’s effectiveness in marketing to anglers and potential anglers.

Questions:  360-902-2325.

Ladies get special treatment at two ski areas

WINTER SPORTS — Wednesdays and Fridays are “Ladies Days” at certain Inland Northwest ski resorts, with special deals and favors.

Check it out here.

How to deal with a wild turkey attack

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A hospital medical staff had a hoot overlooking this UPS driver's recent ordeal with a menacing wild turkey tom in Minnesota. 

Note to self: When sending important packages to turkey country, go with Fed-Ex.

10 tips for safer snowmobiling

WINTER SPORTS — An insurance company compiled this list of safety tips for snowmobilers based on data of what most often goes wrong. Heed these guidelines and you'll stay out of the wrong column of the insurance company's statistics.

  1. Be aware of the conditions and slow down at night. Check out the weather forecast prior to riding. Slow down at night, especially around frozen water and in the mountains.
  2. Be smart. Use the proper signals to identify your intentions to other drivers around you. Keep your speed in line with the conditions and with your level of experience.
  3. Be prepared. Always bring a first-aid kit and survival items such as a flashlight, knife, compass, flares, and a fire starting kit.
  4. Don't drink and drive. There is a misconception that alcohol will keep you warm. In reality, it increases your risk of hypothermia and also slows your reaction time and decreases your ability to make good decisions.
  5. Don't ride solo. Snowmobiling is more fun when you can enjoy the adventure with friends and family. If you decide to ride alone, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  6. Dress properly. Wear protective gear such as a safety-certified helmet, warm gloves, a windproof outer layer and boots.
  7. Know the laws and regulations. State laws and regulations may vary; therefore, you should check with the local Department of Natural Resources or law enforcement agencies to familiarize yourself with the rules in your area.
  8.  Know you're protected. Be sure you have proper insurance coverage to protect your vehicle and provide liability coverage in case someone gets injured or property is damaged during the use of your machine.
  9. Maintain your snowmobile. When you pull your sled out of storage, perform a thorough check to make sure that everything is working properly. Before each ride, it is important to follow a checklist in your owner's manual.
  10. Tread lightly and respect nature. Ride only in areas where it's permitted. Wait for enough snow to cover vegetation, avoid running over trees and shrubs and don't disturb wildlife around you.

Roskelley keynotes Riverside Park Foundation meeting

PUBLIC LANDS — John Roskelley, a Spokane mountaineer and former county commissioner, will be the keynote speaker at the first annual meeting of the Riverside State Park Foundation.

The public is invited to the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29,  at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division.

The foundation,  a nonprofit group that supports Riverside State Park, also will feature Chris Guidotti, park manager, and Lucinda Whaley, Washington State Parks and Recreation commissioner from Spokane, speaking about the status and future of Riverside and the state's century-old parks system.

 Riverside, which borders the city of Spokane, is Washington's largest state park with two rivers, several campgrounds, an equestrian area, ORV area, cultural sites, boating and paddling access, miles and miles of mixed use trails, plus wildlife and stunning scenery. Riverside rangers also manage the Little Spokane River Natural Area, Columbia Plateau Trail and the Centennial Trail, among other duties.

 

Now is a great time to join the Riverside State Park Foundation as it introduces its newly created membership packages. The Foundation is instrumental with the fundraising for Riverside State Park through project support, education, volunteerism and events. For more information about the Riverside State Park Foundation, visit .

Muir Project film refreshing look at adventure

BACKPACKING — Most of us have marveled at the Radical Reels-type films of hard-bodied and sometimes weak-thinking adventurers challenging themselves to the limits of life and death to climb mountains or plunge off waterfalls in kayaks or cliffs on skis… whatever.

That's why I find this flick, “Mile…Mile & a Half” produced by The Muir Project so refreshing. It's about people with average outdoor skills taking on the 25-day, 219-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra-Nevada Range of California.

It's truly refreshing, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.

Wilderness planes topic at Selway benefit

PUBLIC LANDS — Richard Holm, author of “Bound for the Backcountry,” will present a program on the history of aviation in Idaho’s backcountry to highlight the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation's eighth annual Winter Gathering and Fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 1, starting at 6 p.m. in the Orchid Room above Morgan's Alley, 301 Main Street in Lewiston.

The event is an open house, with wine and beer, dessert, speakers and a silent auction.

Holm is a pilot and author who has gathered oral histories and conducted interviews about Idaho’s remote airfields and fire lookouts. He grew up in McCall and has published two books: “Bound for the Backcountry—A History of Idaho’s Remote Airstrips” and “Points of Prominence—Fire Lookouts of the Payette National Forest.”
 
Live music will be performed by Sarah Swett of Moscow. 
A silent auction and raffle will be conducted during the evening with fishing and float trips; framed photographs, carvings, handknits and weavings by local artists; rafting, stock, fishing and backpack gear; trout and steelhead flies; theater tickets; meals at local
restaurants, and more.
 
The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation’s mission is to connect citizens and communities in the stewardship of the natural and cultural resources of the Selway- Bitterroot Wilderness, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and surrounding wildlands. 
The Foundation’s work focuses on trail maintenance, invasive weed eradication, monitoring, restoration, cabin hosting, education and other wildland stewardship projects. 

Cantwell asks Obama to limit mining in Bristol Bay

FISHING — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is asking President Barack Obama to take action to restrict or prohibit the development of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The Associated Press reports that In a letter sent Thursday, Cantwell asked Obama to invoke a rarely used authority under the federal Clean Water Act to protect the region that is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The Democratic senator says thousands of jobs in Washington state are tied to Bristol Bay salmon fishing.

She, fishermen and others are rallying against the proposed Pebble Mine Thursday in Seattle.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report last week concluding that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses significant risks salmon.

Pebble Limited Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole says Cantwell’s request is unprecedented and has never been used before a resource project has filed for permits. He says “it flies in the face of due process.”

He also criticized the EPA document as a political report intended to harm the project’s ability to apply for permits. 

Some wives are partners in hunters’ financial woes

HUNTING — I'm getting few messages from wives of hunters after they read my outdoors column today, “Hunters need financial planning to cover expenses.”

They're pointing out that more and more women are going hunting, too. In fact, a survey last year found that about 11 percent of the hunting licenses sold across the country were sold to women.  Cool.

But the women giving me a buzz today are chuckling with me.

“Thanks for reminding me how much money we put into hunting this year,” said Robin, who says she hunts big game with and without her husband. “Problem is, I spent most of it.”

Seattle Boat Show calls audible; shortens run for Super Bowl

BOATING — Producers of the 2014 Seattle Boat Show have changed their play, and will close their big production next week a day early so  “exhibitors, event staff and showgoers can watch the (Super Bowl) with their friends and families.”

The event will close at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, which leaves boating enthusiasts with nine full days to visit the West Coast’s largest boat show.

The Seattle Boat Show opens at 11 a.m. Friday in the CenturyLink Field Event Center and on the water at south Lake Union.

As a bonus, the show has arranged with CenturyLink to allow field access to showgoers/Seahawks fans each day of the show except Jan. 29-30. The field will be open from noon until 2 p.m., letting the public wander the turf, sport their Seahawks gear, and get a feel for how big the place is.

See the story by the Everett Herald.

Latest spring chinook forecast looks promising

FISHING — The chart above was just released by Columbia River fisheries managers.  Get your tackle rigged.

Duck hunters can relate to this

HUNTING — Washington's duck hunting seasons end on Sunday, Jan. 26.  It's time to get nostalgic.

Fat-biking event to celebrate Ground Hog Day

WINTER SPORTS — The region's first bicycling event of the year will bring out fat bikes to celebrate Groundhog Day at St. Maries, Idaho.

The Groundhog Day Fat Bike Festival is technically called Murmelteirtagfettfahrradsfest, which the organizers enjoy pointing out is a German-named ride on an American holiday at a Mexican restaurant.

Here are the details:

What: A Fat Bike Cross Country Ride at the Christmas Hills Recreation Area trail system. 

When: Starting at noon on Sunday, Feb. 2.

Distance: Around 15 miles of snow-groomed trails with optional technical adventures.

Why: To celebrate the time-honored tradition of using an over-sized rodent to predict the coming of Spring.  Also, to throw a party after being cold and wet for four months.

Where:  Start and finish at St. Maries Golf Course/Casa de Oro parking lot, 900 Golf Course Rd. in St. Maries.

Cost:   $5 donation requested for mid-ride snacks and gas for the groomer. Sign up day of event. Any extra cash will be donated to the St. Maries Masonic Lodge Restoration Fund.

Says organizer Tom Miller: “The Christmas Hill trail system is multi-use and is open year-round for everyone to enjoy.  Come to St. Maries and give it a spin before the ride.” 

For current trail information or questions, contact Tom Miller at The Bike Shop at Hughes Ace,  (208) 245-6544 email tommillermn@hotmail.com.

A reason we visit the Pacific Coast

OCEANS — Jamie Dahlke emailed this photo from her visit to Westport to remind inlanders that we really must make time in the winter to visit the Pacific Coast, and stay through sunset.

Senators skeptical of IDFG wolf count numbers

PREDATORS — State senators questioned the accuracy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s report on the number of wolves in Idaho during a hearing today in Boise.

Officials say there were 683 wolves in the state at the end of 2012 and preliminary numbers for 2013 point to populations falling below 600.

Several members of the Resources and Environment Committee contesting Wednesday that wolf numbers are actually much higher, according to the Associated Pres.

Fish and Game agreed the count skewed low, calling the numbers a “minimum,” but said it accurately depicts population trends.

Officials say the numbers will inform control policies. That’s been a contentious issue in Idaho, pitting ranchers and hunters worried about effects on elk and livestock against wildlife activists who argue the species has a right to live and hunt in the woods without being killed. 

Washington also is working on pegging the number of wolves and packs in the state at the end of 2013.  Fish and Wildlife officials say they won't have the surveys and numbers crunched until early March.

Outdoor Retailer groups demo new winter gear

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Outdoor Retailer winter expo brings out the latest outdoor gear for a show in Salt Lake City. There's cool stuff to explore, and  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is speaking to the manufacturers and retailers on hand as the show opens today.  This is a big deal.

Read the story from the Salt Lake Tribune.

 

Idaho pondering changes in hunter fees, ages

HUNTING — Idaho is looking to raise resident hunting and fishing license fees for the first time since 2005, but the plan in the works from the Department of Fish & Game would give loyal hunters or anglers who buy a license every year a break: They could “lock in” their fees at 2013 rates by buying a license every year, continuously, reports Betsy Russell, the S-R's reporter in Boise. The fee-increase bill hasn’t  been introduced, but the piece letting Fish & Game discount licenses was introduced today in the House Resources Committee.

For more, see Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise.

Study: Wolves eat into ranch profits by making cattle nervous

PREDATORS — I guess the old line can be revised based on the latest research:  

Montana — where men are men, women are scarce and livestock is nervous, if there's a wolf pack in the neighborhood.

U. of Montana researchers track cost of wolf predation for ranchers
Wolves can impact a rancher's bottom line beyond sheep and cattle the predators actually kill, according to University of Montana researchers. Using livestock sales records from 18 ranches in Western Montana, as well as data on wolf-tracking and climate between 1995 and 2010, the team found that, in herds where wolves had killed livestock, the weight of the calves that year decreased some 22 pounds per calf.  With herds averaging 264 calves sold that year, the cost to the rancher in underweight calves was $6,679.

On the other hand,  the study also found that annual precipitation and temperature played a much larger role than wolves in affecting cattle weight.

But it all adds up.

Dogs leaving their mark on Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — The trend toward more dogs, linked to the growing popularity of snowshoeing, is getting easier to track at Mount Spokane State Park.

And sometimes you might track it into your car.

Snowshoer Warren D. Walker posted several photos of dog poop he observed while hiking the mountain on Monday, noting that there are plenty of similar photo opps and the trend is dramatic and disgusting.  

Part of the problem is people who violate the state park leash law while others neglect to bring bags to clean up after their pets. Says Walker:

It is a STATE PARK - not a DOG PARK:
Pictures from today - even one at the top of Mt Kit Carson.
I understand your love of animals - but it can not be that hard to pick up after your dog. We are in a State Park - a public place and on a trail used by many - so out of respect and courtesy for others using the trail please pick up after your dog.
Having a dog inside the State Park is a privilege - not a right.

Last day of chukar season: Saddest day in a bird dog’s year

HUNTING — Monday was a bittersweet day to be out with a bird dog. The last of Eastern Washington's upland bird hunting seasons — for chukar and quail — ended Monday afternoon.

My English setter, Scout, is lean, rock hard, tough footed and season hardened for finding birds in some of the most rugged and gravity-challening bird hunting terrain on the planet.

Now, the season of rest poses the challenge for hunter and dog to maintain the toughness for next fall.

Trail cam catches battling bald eagles

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sometimes trail cams are flat out lucky — as effective as a pro photographer at snapping the shutter at precisely the right moment to capture wildlife in action.

Here's a case in point.  The two photos, provided by a reader, show not only the dramatic incoming shot, but also the contact as two bald eagles, their talons entangled, tussle over the carcass of a dead horse near Sandpoint.

It's a tough life even at the top of the food chain. 

One point: Carcasses of any type provide good opportunities to mount trail cams for photos of predators and scavengers.  Wildlife managers might recommend a more controlled livestock carcass disposal method in wolf or grizzly country to prevent habituating the carnivores that could cause problems later on.  But a stock animal that dies a natural death during winter can be difficult to deal with because of snow and frozen ground. Scavengers take advantage.

Revised plan is status quo for Columbia salmon

FISHING — The federal government’s management plan for protecting salmon and steelhead populations imperiled by federal dams in the Columbia River basin differs little from its earlier version and continues to rely heavily on habitat improvement.

Click continue reading for a report by the Associated Press.

Fly Fishing Film Tour coming Feb. 4 to the Bing

FISHING — Savvy anglers will get their tickets early for what's likely to be another sellout crowd for the annual Fly Fishing Film Tour set to screen at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb.4, at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.

Save a couple bucks by buying your tickets for  $13 at these area fly shops:

 

4th of July Pass nordic trails groomed

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have some decent opportunities this week at Fourth of July Pass.  Here's today's grooming report from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

Glen Truscott and I groomed a good deal of the Area today.  The Inner Loop has some good stretches of snow now packed with track set, but there are icy spots in a few places and a bare patch on the Swoop.  The good snow is up the Twisted Klister  (Snowshoeing) and Skywalker - Moonrunner (FSR 614) (skking) especially  above Skateaway on this latter route their is a foot plus of snow with only a few thin places out to Rose Saddle.  Unfortunately, somebody circumvented the berm IDT built at the bottom and drove the length of the road to Rose Creek Saddle and a ways down Skateaway where the gate was opened.. Glenn and I did our best to reduce the ruts but it will take either a snowfall, not predicted until next week at the earliest or grooming with the scarifier that will redistribute the snow.  We will attempt to get this done next Friday (1/24).  Grooming is in place along the route and tracks set,.  The gate is now closed so no additional damage is anticipated. This snow above Skateway is better than any I saw at Palouse Divide this weekend.

Mount Spokane skiers rise above it all

WINTER SPORTS — Pity everyone who has no way out from the gloom of the lowlands.

A few folks are choosing to rise above the persistent fog by heading to their favorite ski resort.

John Stucke joined Caroline Woodwell got up early enough to be the first skiers at Mount Spokane nordic ski area this morning, early enough to ski perfectly groomed, untracked trails and catch the sunrise from the Shadow Mountain trail.

Good way to start the day.

Schelly details trek in Black Sea region, Eastern Europe

NOTE DATE:  The date for this program was incorrect in today's version of the story in print.

OUTTRAVEL – Jane Schelly, a globetrotting Spokane teacher and backpacker, will present a free program on her summer outdoor travels in the Black Sea Region of Eastern Europe Monday, Jan. 27, at  7 p.m., at the Spokane REI store.

Schelly traveled through the mountains of Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey –  “a blend of being tourist of culture, people, nature and cosmopolitan areas,” she says.

Flash flood ordeal recounted by paddlers

NOTE DATE:  The date for this program was incorrect in today's print version of the announcement.

PADDLING – Four Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club members who survived a close call with a  freak flash flood event while kayaking the Green River of Utah will present a free slide and video program on the trip Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley (go north on Fancher Road from Trent and turn right just before the tracks).

Debbie Pierce, Lisa Helmbrecht, Marlene Landis and Susan Luchesi were trapped on a quickly disappearing sand bar out of reach of rescue-attempting park rangers until the flood formed a temporary dam that gave them a short window for escape.

Spring chinook will double the pleasure at Drano Lake

FISHING — Here's the latest forecast for a niche of the Columbia River spring chinook run popular with anglers:

 

Dead hawk owl to live on in WSU collection

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The northern hawk owl that thrilled hundreds of birders as it ranged south to hang out around Moscow this winter was killed in a vehicle collision Thursday but will live on as an exhibit at Washington State University.  

Judging from the emails, the first bird of its species known to have visited the Palouse made a personal impact on people who enjoyed its willingness to be observed and photographed for six weeks around town.

Here's the report from Terry Gray, the Moscow birder who monitored the hawk owl and made daily reports on its whereabouts to visiting birders. Gray ultimately took the mortally injured bird to university veterinarians who tried to save it.

 The Northern Hawk Owl turned out to be a male.  The bird is now at the
Washington State University Charles R. Conner Museum and will join two more
Northern Hawk Owls in their collection.
 
I want to thank everyone for you kind thoughts and words.  I really
appreciate them and feel honored to have kept all in the loop on what was
happening with our feathered friend.   I had a tough experience today when a
couple knocked on my door from New Mexico asking for directions to see the
owl and I had to tell them that they were a day late!

Tribes angling to get authority to middle of Lake Roosevelt

FISHING — Here we go again.

A reader called Thursday and said he was told the Colville and Spokane tribes were trying to get authority to govern — and possibly to require tribal fishing licenses for non-tribal anglers — out to the middle of the Columbia River along Lake Roosevelt where it borders their reservations.

This would fly in the face of the Cassidy Court Decision that settled this dispute in the 1990s.

Today I've confirmed that the Tribes have been meeting with officials from several federal agencies including the National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Dan Foster, supervisor of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, responded to my query this morning: 

Both the Spokane Tribe of Indians and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have requested a delegation of authority from the Department of Interior to enforce tribal fishing regulations on areas within their reservations included in Lake Roosevelt. The request is under consideration by the department.

Northern hawk owl visiting Moscow reported dead

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sad news:  the northern hawk owl that's been attracting birders from far and wide to the Moscow, Idaho, area has been reported dead.

The rare visitor from the arctic has been hunting and hanging out in the area since it was spotted Dec. 3 near a Moscow shopping mall by raptor expert Erik Stauber, a retired wildlife veterinary professor from Washington State University.

Moscow birder Terry Gray, who's been watching and photographing the bird almost daily just reported the news.

The hawk owl, a bird of boreal forests in Alaska and Canada, became a sensation because of its willingness to stay in the same area and be photographed by many, many birders after Gray posted photos and began giving daily reports on where the bird could be seen.

Northern hawk owls have been recorded and documented farther south in Idaho (Hailey and in eastern Idaho)  and several had been recorded for Moscow and Pullman around 20 years ago, says birder Charles Swift.

But the bird is a rare or maybe once-in-a-lifetime bird for many enthusiasts in this region.

Birders had expressed concern about the bird's lack of fear for powerlines and vehicle traffic as it hunted for mice and voles in the wild patches along the town's edges and roadways.  The bird was found injured but alive on a road where it had been hunting. Apparently it was struck by a vehicle.  It was taken to WSU veterinarians but did not survive.

Click Continue reading for more details about the bird and from WSU News. (Note the error in reporting that this is the first documented sighting of a hawk owl near Moscow):

 

Wife carrying race a hit at Lookout Pass Winter Carnival

WINTER SPORTS — The 8th annual Wife Carrying Contest will be a feature attraction Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Lookout Pass Winter Carnival.

Info: 208 774-1301.

Question: What about the cases of couples in which the wife is tougher than the husband?  Can we switch roles?

Montana Supreme Court upholds public access to waterways

PUBLIC ACCESS — A landowner’s claims that he can keep the public out of a portion of the Ruby River don’t hold water, the state Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision upholding Montana’s stream-access laws, the Associated Press reports.

The 5-2 decision favored the group Public Lands Access Association Inc. in its legal dispute with James Cox Kennedy, who owns about 10 miles along the river in Madison County.

The group said Kennedy built fences along county roads and bridges next to his land that prevented the public from using rights of way to reach the Ruby River.

Kennedy argued that the state’s 1985 Stream Access Law allowing access to streams within the high-water mark and a 2009 law allowing access from bridges are an “unconstitutional taking of his vested property rights.”

Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press.

Wash. Congressman breaks ranks to support conservation funding

CONSERVATION — If we're handing out medals for bravery this week, save one for Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., who broke ranks with House Republican leaders on Wednesday to save the vital Land and Water Conservation Fund

Reichert was among a small number of GOP lawmakers, along with House Democrats, who saved the LWCF from elimination on a 216-212 vote, says environmental reporter Joel Connelly on seattlepi.com.

The funding has been a critical force in conservation across the country, with 48 years of examples in Washington state including state parks projects, salmon recovery, farmland preservation, endangered species protection and cleaning up mine claims in the North Cascades National Park.

 

Minor fluctuations in Roosevelt levels expected

BOATING — The elevation of Lake Roosevelt was 1278 feet Wednesday and is expected to range from 1270 to 1278 through mid-February as the dam operates primarily for providing power, the Bureau of Reclamation reports.

Although local snowpacks are thin, the status of the Columbia  Basin, which ranges well into Canada, is bright for Columbia River hydropower and fish. Says the Bureau:

The January Water Supply Forecasts have been issued. Currently the inflow forecast for Lake Roosevelt is 95% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 97% of average.

The following are flood control elevations forecast for Lake Roosevelt but subject change:

  • January 31 - 1290 feet
  • February 31 - 1290 feet
  • March 31 - 1276.8 feet
  • April 31 - 1243.2 feet

Daily lake level forecast by phone: (800) 824-4916.

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

Ice sailors get wild, sketchy ride on Sprague Lake

WINTER SPORTS — Take this as an ice fishing report or an ice sailing report.  Either way, Sprague Lake is pretty much off limits until the next good freeze.

Dave Farmer of Revival Lighting has been bummed to have such great ice conditions recently with little wind to power his ice sailing rig. When the winds arrived last weekend, the ice was on its way out.  But Farmer let it rip anyway.

Read on for more photos and his narrative of last week's action. Soak in the feeling of the speed and the thrill, knowing that one unlucky move could put him on the wrong side of the ice.

States react to hunters scouting with drones

HUNTING — My recent post on states reacting to the possibility of hunters using camera-toting drones for scouting caught the attention of Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott, who checked the regulations of regional wildlife agencies.

Both Washington and Idaho have regulations banning the use of aircraft for scouting, but managers indicated to Walgamott they may have to tighten the wording to specifically deal with drones, a relatively new form of putting the eyes of remote cameras on the landscape.

The YouTube video above shows the artistic potential of using drones while it also clearly indicates the likelihood for wildlife harassment.  Every minute a moose has to spend checking out an annoying aircraft during winter is a minute the animal is not nibbling on browse or resting or whatever else its been naturally programmed to do for survival. 

Big bore defense: handgun designed for your backpack?

SHOOTING — It's being touted as the perfect gun to carry in your backpack with the necessary stopping power to fend off attacks by pigs and bears.

Smith & Wesson on Monday touted its new .460-caliber revolver as an ideal firearm for your backpack in the backcountry.

Officials with the Springfield, Mass.-based company let selected members of the media fire the Performance Center Model .460 at a range in Boulder City, Nev., as part of the opening day of the annual SHOT Show.  

It has not been reported if there were any survivors.

The SHOT Show, the country’s largest gun show, is underway in Las Vegas.

According to S&W:

Revolvers have long been replaced by high-capacity semi-auto for self defense, but they still make nice companions if you like camping where the critters are big enough to eat you.

The five-shooter features a three-inch barrel, high-visibility sights and a synthetic stock with a shock absorber on the rear of the handle. Chambered for the massive .460 round, it packs a wallop.   Cost: $1,200.

By the way, research has shown that firearms are much less likely to be effective in fending off a bear attack than a large can of bear spray. Cost: $50.

Lottery winner’s first purchase: Lifetime membership to Elk Foundation

CONSERVATION — A Spokane man who won a big lottery jackpot put wildlife on the top of his list of benefactors from the windfall.

Kelly Cruz, 53, a local carpenter, scored a win in the Lucky for Life scratch ticket and will receive $1,000 a week for life.

That's a bit short of the mega millions jackpots we hear about every few months, but still a nice security blanket for anyone to win and still enough to give a man a shot at opening his wallet to a worthy cause.

According to today's story in The Spokesman-Review:

“With the money, he plans to buy a lifetime membership in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and probably will give to more causes. But he doesn’t plan to move or make major changes in his life. 

The Missoula-based RMEF, which has about 200,000 members, raises money and recruits volunteers to improve habitat for a wide range of wildlife, especially elk, across the country.  A lifetime membership will set Cruz back for a week and a half of lottery winnings — a noble share to the cause.

Since it was founded in 1984, RMEF has: 

  • Protected and enhanced more than 6.4 million acres
  • Opened and/or secured for public access for hunting and other outdoor recreation more than 667,000 acres

The group also has organized more than 8,500 projects for permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration, conservation education and hunting heritage.

Ethics issue: Hunters using drones to track game

HUNTING — I'm sure some hunters will be outraged that wildlife managers are taking a hard look at the trend of hunters using drones to find game.  But really?

Drones are one of the fastest growing tech products on the market. The technology offers a significant advantage for hunters, says a report in CBS Denver.

Drones allow hunters to get up close to their target without having to spend hours and miles tracking them.

“We think it gives the hunter an unfair advantage,” said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers spokesman Tim Brass.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has proposed new bans on drones to game managers across the West.

“As the technology progresses you’re ow able to locate animals without having to walk and work for them. That effort and skill makes hunting what it is,” said Brass.

What do you think?

After all, Illinois passed a law that prevents groups like PETA from using drones to harass hunters.

 

Tough kids ski the elements at Telemark clinic

WINTER SPORTS — The weather served up a bitter pill last weekend for the youth Telemark Turn clinic at 49 Degrees North, with high winds, power outages and crusty snow.  But the few kids that toughed it out had a blast learning the age-old free-heel turning technique with the help of kid-size rental equipment.

Tele Ned Ryerson, who drove up from Colorado, put on the the clinic and provided the gear.

Here's the report from Susan McBurney, one of the parents who has helped promote the Tele Ned opportunity the past two years:

Well, the kids tele clinic was …. interesting.  Cancelled on Saturday due to an absolutely wild weather day up on the mountain — pouring rain, power outage, super high winds (I'm sure you saw that a cell tower got blown over up on Chewelah Peak).  We finally got up on the mountain around 1 pm and skied some of the worst conditions ever.  A crust to kill, chunks of crap everywhere.  Survival skiing.  Ha!

The grooming staff worked wonders, though, and Sunday was decent, as long as you stayed on the groomers.  A few pix attached. 

Small turnout in the end, just four kids.  But it was a gas.  Kids had a great time, and they left begging for more.  49 definitely took a hit on the clinic this year, but we are hoping they'll be willing to host again next year.  Mt. Spokane is interested as well, I think, so it may be that Ned comes out over two weekends.  We'll see.  

Comment requested on proposed wildlife land acquisitions

PUBLIC LANDS — More than 700 acres along the Kettle River in Ferry County is among 13 proposed land acquisition areas for fish, wildlife and related recreation the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering in the next three years. 

The agency has posted details of the properties on its website and is asking the public to comment on the proposals.

The proposed acquisitions — general and specific — include a 150-acre addition to the Reardan Audubon Lake for migratory birds and bird watching and 3,750 acres for the fourth phase of the the 4-0 ranch acquisitions along the Grande Ronde River to boost everything from steelhead to elk as well as public access. 

The parcels also include 2,200 acres in Okanogan County geared to habitat for sharptailed grouse and hunting for other species.

Most of the individual projects are described within their “geographic envelope” – the general area that includes the parcels being considered for acquisition.  An envelope is used for planning purposes only.  Should the department desire to acquire a particular parcel. WDFW will contact the landowner to determine his or her interest before initiating any acquisition proposal.  The department develops acquisition agreements only with willing property owners.

WDFW will not use operating budget funds for these land acquisitions. Instead, the department will seek state and federal grants for most of the proposed acquisitions. Potential grant sources include the State of Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and federal grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (also known as “Section 6” funds) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Fish and Wildlife officials plan to refer to public comments as they present the proposals at the state’s annual Land Acquisition Coordinating Forum in March. The statewide forum brings together state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, tribes, landowners and other citizens to share ideas about state land actions for habitat and recreation purposes. 

Time to reserve forest cabins, lookouts for summer

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

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

Click here for details on an exception to the national reservation system: the lottery for reserving the Red Ives Cabin, a modernized drive-up facility on the St. Joe River. Applications are due by the end of February.

  • Quartz Mountain Lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is a hot local item with a premium price of $88 a night for a room with a view. Reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance for the June 15-Oct. 15 season. Make reservations by phone at (888) 226-7688. 

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

Read on for specific information regarding cabins and lookouts in the Idaho Panhandle and Clearwater national forests, including Kelly Creek areas.

Outdoor writer has wolf wish for 2014

PREDATORS — Roger Phillips, outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman, lists his four top wishes for 2014.

  1. More snow.
  2. More ammo.
  3. Non-government groups take the lead.
  4. No more wolves in the news.

Says the Boise-based writer:

Let’s all take a time out about wolves.

If you’re still howling mad about wolves existing in Idaho, you sound more like a wackjob than a skilled debater.

And if you love to hear the sound of an actual howling wolf, you’re more likely to hear one if you stop shouting.


Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/01/02/2952836/four-wishes-for-2014-more-snow.html#storylink=cpy

 

Killing collared wolves has drawbacks

PREDATORS — Should states that hunt wolves consider protecting wolves wearing radio or GPS collars attached by researchers?

Idaho rewrites the definition of what constitutes a breeding pair of wolves
Because so many radio-collared wolves have been killed in Idaho, the state is having trouble keeping track of packs and thus, breeding pairs, so the state has changed the definition set forth in the 2009 delisting rule from the federal government that says a breeding pair is “… an adult male and an adult female wolf that have produced at least 2 pups that survived until December 31 of the year of their birth, during the previous breeding season,” to “… two adult wolves, regardless of sex, and two pups, regardless of their relation to those specific adult wolves, as a “breeding pair.” A column by Ken Cole, a fifth generation Idahoan, and Western Watershed Project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator.
—The Wildlife News

Idaho making edgy decisions this week on wolves, elk

WILDLIFE — Who will Idaho wildlife managers irk this week as they try to manage wolves and elk throughout the state?

Idaho Fish, Game walks narrow path to balance elk, wolves
Wolves and elk have complicated the work of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, charged with balancing those populations, and on Thursday, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission will vote on a plan to hire a hunter to remove two wolf packs in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and a public meeting on the proposal is set for Wednesday in Boise.
—Idaho Statesman

Elk Foundation co-found featured at Great Outdoor Event in CdA

HUNTING — Charlie Decker, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, will be the featured speaker at the annual Great Outdoors Day event, Saturday, Jan. 18, which runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Lake City Community Church, 6000 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene. 

Decker, a third-generation logger, has been instrumental in raising the Foundation from a regional organization to an international profile.

RMEF, with broke the 200,000 milestone for membership last month, helps to educate people and perpetuate hunting opportunities now and for generations to come.

Other things included for the $5 admission charge is a lunch of moose chili and cornbread, raffles and prizes, including a firearm raffled by the NRA.

Phil Cooper from the Idaho Fish and Game Department will give a demonstration on scoring antlers.

Local vendors will display outdoor related items. 

Tickets are available in advance at Black Sheep Sporting Goods or call Lake City Community Church, (208) 676-0632 and ask for Deb.

Fishery responding to treatment at Lake Pend Oreille

FISHING – Although there’s still work to be done, Lake Pend Oreille's troubled traditional fisheries continued their revival with a huge rebound in 2013.

  • On Wednesday, Feb. 19th , Idaho Fish and Game will present the most current information about the status of the Pend Oreille fishery and management efforts in the annual “State of the Lake” meeting, 6 p.m. at the Ponderay Events Center.

Midwinter surveys found more that more than 1.2 million mature kokanee survived to spawn – one of the highest spawner returns in 40 years and about four times greater than in 2012.

Andy Dux, Idaho Fish and Game research biologist for Lake Pend Oreille, said nearly 200,000 kokanee were handled and 11.4 million eggs were collected at the Sullivan Springs trap compared with only about 5,000 kokanee handled in 2007 and again in 2008 with around 500,000 eggs taken those years for the Cabinet Gorge Fish Hatchery.

Strong numbers of younger fish surveyed this winter indicate another strong group of spawners this fall, he said.

Anglers in 2013 enjoyed the first kokanee fishing season at Lake Pend Oreille since 1999.  

The fishery has steadily improved in recent years following intensive efforts to reduce predation on kokanee.  Lake trout have been dramatically reduced through netting operations and bounties that encouraged anglers to take both lake trout and big rainbows.

The the kokanee rebounding, the incentives for killing big rainbows were removed to begin restoring the lake’s prized trophy fishery while management continues to aggressively target non-native lake trout with a bounty and netting.

The challenge will be to develop a long-term program for keeping lake trout numbers down, Dux said.

Contributing to the increase in kokanee was an unexplained degrease in the mysis shrimp, he said. The 2012 density of the shrimp, which compete with kokanee for food, was about 95 percent lower than the long-term average.

“Time will tell how long it takes for mysids to rebound and how much kokanee have benefitted from the reduced decline, but the timing couldn’t be better,” said Jim Fredericks, department regional fisheries manager.

BLM to fight fire with fire at Fishtrap Lake

PUBLIC LANDS —  Slow-moving fires are planned for about 1,150 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management scablands southwest of Spokane near Fishtrap Lake starting this week to boost wildlife habitat and reduce the chance of intense wild fires during summer and fall.

The Spokane District will be conducting prescribed fires in the Fishtrap area of Spokane and Lincoln Counties, approximately 8.5 miles northeast of Sprague during the period from Wednesday, Jan. 15, through Feb. 28, depending on weather.

Smoke may be visible on active ignition days and for several days following, officials said, noting these burns are part of BLM's region-wide fire control program. A program of prescribed burns can help reduce the intensity and damage cause by natural fires, such as those that have burned in Lincoln County in recent years (photo above).

Says BLM:

Prescribed fire is used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increase public and firefighter safety. It also helps meet a variety of resource management objectives: reducing hazardous fuels (surface or ladder fuels), and restoring habitats and ecosystems. To restore fire to its natural role in forests and rangelands, trained experts employ low intensity prescribed fire in the spring and fall, when weather conditions minimize escape and allow for controlled burning.

Special rules apply to angling through the ice

FISHING — Following is a fishing regulations tip for the season from the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

ASK IDAHO FISH AND GAME: ICE FISHING RULES

Q. Are there special rules for ice fishing?
A. Yes. Ice fishing rules are slightly different than general fishing for public safety and general crowding. Fishing is allowed only through a hole up to 10 inches in diameter. This reduces the risk of someone falling through holes. The only exception is on Bear Lake in Southeast Idaho where anglers can dip-net cisco through any size hole. There are no restrictions on the number of holes, but an angler can fish with up to five poles or lines at a time, and up to five hooks per line. All lines must be attended by the angler. The two-pole permit is not valid for ice fishing. Anglers also should check the 2013-2015 Fishing Seasons and Rules book for regional restrictions.

Montana ski resorts smothered in powder

WINTER SPORTS — While much of the West suffers for lack of snow, Montana is flush with powder.

An AP news story today notes that the state has an above-normal snowpack already this year — good news for river runners planning their spring.

But for now, it's the industry adding a big exclamation mark to the mountain snow conditions with a media release, including the powder-hound photos above, all snapped in the past 10 days.

“Big Sky Country is enjoying some of the best ski conditions in the lower 48!,” Montana Tourism points out. 

“The rest of MT's 15 ski areas have enjoyed consistent storm cycles since October. With more pow on the way — we're in a meteorological heaven,” said Molly Ambrogi-Yanson, Tourism spokeswoman.

Record bullhead confirmed from Potholes Reservoir

FISHING — The number of record-setting fish caught in Washington during 2013 just increased last week as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed a new bullhead record.

Yellow bullhead, 2.06 pounds, measuring 14.5 inches long and 10 inches in girth, caught  Sept. 8, 2013, by Monica Beckley of Roy, Wash., in Potholes Reservoir.

Would Sawtooths benefit from national monument status?

PUBLIC LANDS — A group that's been a watchdog over the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho is wary of elevating the national status of the area.

Sawtooth Society wary about proposed Idaho national monument
The Sawtooth Society has been involved with Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho since 1997, and a new push to put those lands, as well as others into a new Boulder-White Clouds National Monument has the group calling for an all-inclusive examination of just what creating a monument would mean for those lands and the communities adjacent to them.
—Twin Falls Times-News

Tough hunting for Snake Canyon chukars

HUNTING — Eastern Washington's pheasant season ended Sunday in a weekend of winds gusting to 70 mph at the top of the 49 Degrees North ski area where they toppled a cell phone tower. 

I figured I had a better shot at chukars in the Snake River canyon where I could loop into bowls out of the wind.  

Indeed, I found some pleasant hunting interspersed with high-wind exposure as I hiked around basalt bands on the ridges.

But I was surprised that in 4.5 hours of covering a lot of ground, my English setter, Scout,  found only two coveys of chukars. The dog locked up solid 80 yards away from the first cover as the strong winds telegraphed their scent to his nose. But the covey flushed wild as I approached, caught the wind, and appeared to be setting wings for a wind-assisted flight to Montana.

The other covey cooperated in making my hunt successful.

But that was it.  I covered some great private land where I've hunted with permission numerous times and never have found fewer than three coveys. 

So now I'm wondering: Should I have been hunting the highest slopes that were open to the high winds?  Is that where the chukars were hanging out?

The hunting season for partridge and quail runs through Jan. 20.

Fire lookouts a high prize for winter trekkers

WINTER SPORTS — Looking for a winter trek to a somewhat cozy room with a view:

Here's a photo my daughter emailed to me from her recent backcountry ski trek to Winchester Lookout near Bellingham.  That's Mount Baker in the background.  Not a bad backdrop, even if you didn't have the additional eye candy featuring miles and miles of the North Cascades.

Avalanche eduation scholarship will honor Sandpoint man

WINTER SPORTS — Friends of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center are sponsoring an avalanche education scholarship in memory of Doug Abromeit, a Sandpoint native who was instrumental in starting the National Avalanche Center.  Abromeit died last fall.

” We will send one student a year to a Level 1 avalanche class under the Doug Abromeit Avalanche Scholarship,” said Kevin Davis of the IPAC based in Sandpoint.  ”Doug was born and raised in Sandpoint and his family still resides here.  Doug retired from the Forest Service in 2011, last stationed in Ketchum, Idaho.”

The scholarship will be introduded at a special public program on Friday (Jan. 17), 4:30 p.m., at the Caribou Room in the Day Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.  Several presenters will highlight Abromeit’s contributions to avalanche education, the history of avalanche control in the USA, and development of the National Avalanche Center and the Idaho Panhandle center.

Skiers to explore Mount Spokane under the stars

WINTER SPORTS — Gather your skis, skins and headlamp for and evening of food, climbing and downhilling under the stars at Mount Spokane on Jan. 24. 

Mountain Gear is sponsoring Nachtspektakel (pronounced knocked-shpeck-tockle), a traditional European-style ski event that bonds people through the sport of ski touring.  

Pre-registered skiers will:

  • Sign in at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park's Lodge 2 by 5:45 p.m.  
  • The group skins up and begins the uphill tour at 6.
  • At the summit, they'll enjoy drinks and appetizers at the historic Mount Spokane Vista House.
  • Everyone enjoys the downhill run under the resort's lighted slopes back to the base of the mountain by 9 p.m.
  • Enjoy drinks and dinner at Lodge 2 with Mountain Gear hosts.

Click “continue reading” for more details and link for pre-registration.

More fly tying classes set at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — Slots are still open for some of the fly tying classes set for the second half of January at Silver Bow Fly Shop , 13210 E Indiana, in Spokane Valley.  Pre-register: (509) 924-9998

Beyond the Basics Fly Tying

  • What:  Learn flies and techniques that will advance your skills
  • Date:  Jan 13/14 6pm-8:30pm
  • Cost:  $50. Includes tools/materials for use.

Steelhead Tube Fly Tying

  • What:  Learn how to tie effective tube flies for steelhead 
  • Date:  Jan 20 6pm-8:30pm
  • Cost:  $65. Includes tools/materials for use. Tube adapter included.

Streamer Fly Tying 

  • What:  Learn how to tie streamers for catching big trout
  • Date:  Jan 21 6pm-8:30pm
  • Cost:  $40. Includes tools/materials for use.

Backcountry Film Fest coming to Spokane, CdA

2013 Winter Wildlands Alliance Back Country Film Festival Trailer from Backcountry Film Festival on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is coming to Spokane and Coeur d'Alene courtesy of several local outdoor groups

The lineup featuring all or portions of 10 films tapped by the Alliance committee will be screened:

  • Friday Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Eagles Club, 209 Sherman Ave. in Coeur d'Alene. Tickets $7.
  • Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Community College Lair Auditorium. (Park free in the P1 lot. See campus map here.) Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 Spokane Mountaineers, $10 students (with student I.D.). Purchase tickets in advance (recommended) here.

The films spotlight a wide range of outdoor pursuits. This year the features include a trek in Mongolia in search of wolverines, the story of how a small community fought to save its local ski area, a poor man’s alternative to heli-skiing, and “Valhalla” – which was edited down in the Banff World Tour to its nude skiing scene. 

The festival highlights the efforts of the Winter Wildlands Alliance and other grassroots groups’ efforts to preserve and conserve winter landscapes for quiet users.

Read on for the list of films on this year's tour.

Sandpoint’s Sunday nordic ski event nixed by rain

WINTER SPORTS — The weather gods aren't smiling on nordic skiers today.  Here's the latest from Sandpoint.

Sorry for the late notice. We were TRYING to be optimistic but…
DARN RAIN!! THE W3 WESTERN WINTER WARM-UP IS CANCELLED FOR TOMORROW, SUNDAY, JANUARY 12 @ The Western Pleasure Guest Ranch
The 5K & 10K Nordic Race is tentatively reshcheduled for January 26, 2014

Please stay tuned for notices on the Sandpoint Nordic events web page.
APOLOGIES to all who planned to ski this event, hopefully there will be another chance in a couple of weeks.
 

Radio: Idaho official explains wilderness wolf trapping

PREDATORS — Idaho officials are still confronting public concern over efforts to curb predation, including eliminating two wolf packs, in order to bring back once-prized wilderness elk herds from extreme low levels.

Public Radio sat down with and Idaho Fish and Game official for this report.

Idaho FWP official discusses decision to remove wolves in wilderness
Mike Keckler, chief of communications for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game  talks  with Sally Mauk of Montana Public Radio about the state's decision to send a hired hunter into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to remove two wolf packs. Part 1 of a 2-part series.
—Montana Public Radio

Weather may give pheasants edge for season’s end

HUNTING — The Eastern Washington pheasant hunting season closes Sunday.  With the weekend forecast calling for winds gusting to 48 mph, I'm guessing the birds will be running like lighting and flying the speed of sound.

Good luck.

Gophers may be source of mysterious mima mounds

LAND FORMS — A modern pest may be the answer to an ancient geological land form, according to a California geology professor who says he’s solved one of the enduring geological mysteries of the Pacific Northwest.

Emmanuel “Manny” Gabet, a geomorphologist at San Jose State University, says prehistoric generations of pocket gophers created the vast fields of Mima mounds found in south Puget Sound, Eastern Washington  and in other locations around the world.

Hikers on the Pine Lakes loop trail at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge often have scratched their heads and wondered who made the forms that look somewhat like a bunch of baseball pitchers mounds scattered across the scablands. 

Gabet’s findings, aided by two co-researchers, were presented in December at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The conclusions have been reported by dozens of media outlets around the world, including the BBC, The Economist, Der Spiegel, Popular Science and public radio.

Not so fast, say local geologists and wildlife researchers.

“Any time a scientist says, ‘I solved the mystery of .’ almost every normal scientist starts rolling their eyes,” University of Puget Sound geology professor Barry Goldstein told The Olympian newspaper. “It’s not the style most of us are accustomed to. It almost always means what you’re going to get is something pretty simplistic.

“Things are usually more complicated than that.”

Read on for the rest of the story filed by the Associated Press.

Video: winter trolling for Lake Roosevelt trout

FISHING — Anglers new to winter trolling for trout at Lake Roosevelt should take five-minutes to view a video produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Chris Donley, the agency's inland fisheries manager and a Spokane County native, offers general guidelines to help anglers zero in on what's left of the 750,000 net pen rainbows that are released in the lake each summer. 

Main points: 

  • Most winter rainbows are in the top 10 feet of the water column.
  • Troll far back behind boats —150-300 feet — or use side planers to put lures in front of fish displaced by movement of the boat.
  • Experiment with a variety of flies and lures, such as Apex and Rapala, and use a flasher to attract fish.
  • The keys to success generally are speed (he mentions trolling at 2 mph), depth and color.

Montana joins Idaho, Utah in hunt for federal lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Idaho is about halfway through its two-year investigation on whether it should try to take over federal lands within the state. Opinions vary dramatically on how much it would cost the state if it was able to pull this off. State residents also have polarized opinions.

Now Montana is looking into the possibility.

Control of federal lands focus of Montana hearing
In 2013, the Montana Legislature ordered the Environmental Quality Council to study federal land management, and on Wednesday, the panel heard from Ken Ivory, a Utah state legislator who sponsored legislation to require the federal government to transfer lands to state control, and Tim France, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, as well as state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, who said surveys on the issue were sent to Montana counties where the federal government owned 15 percent or more of the land.
Great Falls Tribune

Oregon, however, is taking a different tact of trying to work WITH federal forest managers:

State forestry leaders in Oregon know they alone can’t change the way federal forests are managed. But they joined Gov. John Kitzhaber Wednesday in outlining the changes they’d like to see as Congress considers several bills that would change forest management, according to a story by Northwest Public Radio.

Bald eagles drifting away from Lake CdA gathering

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is thinning out at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay area where the national symbols gather each year to feast on spawning kokanee.

After peaking at 217 two weeks ago, the number of eagles counted today by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo dropped to 53 — that's  51 adults and 2 juveniles.  

The eagles came later than normal this year and stayed in large numbers longer than in the past, perhaps because many of them had been taking advantage of the revived kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille.  

  • See more on the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene eagle gatherings.

“Chances are the number of eagles (at Lake Coeur d'Alene) is slightly higher than my count reflects today,” Hugo said, noting that she spotted at least 20 soaring eagles but does not include flying birds in her surveys. 

“Having said that, the numbers should continue to decline rapidly from here,” she said, adding that no more surveys would be conducted until the birds should begin returning again in November.

 “It was another good year with a few surprises in the numbers!  We might have to find someone to monitor Lake Pend Oreille next year!”  

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

A foot of new snow blankets Lookout Pass ski area; more to come

WINTER SPORTS — Great report just posted from Lookout Pass:

…With all the snow this week and more to come, it seems like Lookout Pass is the place to be. We received over 12 inches in the last 48 hours and the forecast is predicting snow everyday until Saturday night!

Time to get your skis and boards waxed at our ski shop and tear up the entire mountain. Get your lift tickets in advance here and get your lessons scheduled here.

The resort's Winter Carnival is set for Jan. 19.

Tribes keep fishing jurisdiction a hot potato on Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — My column today regarding the murky jurisdictional differences sport fishermen must navigate on and around Lake Roosevelt is just a glimpse at years of posturing that's likely to go on for many more years.   That's the way it is with boundary disputes between sovereign nations, only in the case of a U.S. citizen challenging the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe, the citizens pay the cost of both the prosecution and the defense, since the U.S. Attorney would be called in to defend the tribe.

This is part of the reason it's hard to move forward.

A few notes:

  • When camping or fishing FROM SHORE on the Colville or Spokane Indian reservation lands along Lake Roosevelt, tribal permits and licenses are required.  No state or federal agencies dispute that.
  • The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Tribe recently renewed their five-year agreement to allow non-tribal anglers to fish without a tribal fishing license in the designated area along the net pens on Lake Rufus Woods.  The agreement calls for allowing this privilege in three areas along the reservation side of Rufus Woods, but state funding has allowed development of only the one site so far, said WDFW Police  Capt. Chris Anderson.
  • Attatched to this blog is the “5 Party Agreement” the Indian Tribes refer to when they say they have jurisdiction to the middle of Lake Roosevelt, regardless of what the federal court ruled in the Cassidy Decision.
  • Click here for my story explaining the Spokane Tribe's contention that a tribal fishing license is required for fishing in the Sanpoil Arm of Lake Roosevelt, even from a boat below the 1,310 elevation line.

Connie Williamson of Grand Coulee was one of the anglers first ticketed by tribal officers for fishing without a Colville tribal fishing license on Geezer Beach. She says she has a tribal because she fishes on the reservation lands and respects the tribe's authority to manage its fish and wildlife on the reservation. But she fished while carrying just a state fishing license on Geezer Beach to  press the point that that land belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the tribe should have no authority on that land.

When she went to Colville tribal court for her hearing, the charges were dropped. She, too, could not progress to a resolution in the dispute.

Read on for portions of the responses she's received as she's pursued the issue to higher levels:


Documents:

Oregon state parks consider ban on outdoor smoking

PARKS — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is holding four meetings this week for the public to comment on plans to ban outdoor smoking at state parks.  

The Statesman Journal reports the proposed ban would stop smoking on hiking trails, picnic areas, waysides and common areas of state campgrounds. People could still smoke in their cars, RVs or tents.   
 
Violators would face fines between $60 and $110.  
 
The parks commission will take up the rule at its February meeting. The ban wouldn’t take effect until 2015.  
 
Smoking is already banned in parks in 56 cities and counties across Oregon. 

Northern lights expected to put on show tonight

SKY WATCHING — If the weather clears up and gives us a break, the solar system is poised to deliver a light show tonight.

See the story about the prime conditions for northern lights.

Best views would be from high areas away from town lights if cloud cover is gone.

Starfish dieoff captured in videos

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Oregonian has compiled three videos that help underscore the concern marine biologists have for the massive die-off of Pacific starfish detected in 2013.

See the story and the videos.

Dump! Area ski resorts welcome the storm

WINTER SPORTS — After a long drought, Mt. Spokane and 49 Degrees North are reporting 6-7 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours!

More to come.

 

Silver Mountain revives good ol’ days of Jackass: tickets $12

WINTER SPORTS — In a half-century flashback to the prices charged by the former Jackass ski area, Silver Mountain Resort will offer $12 lift tickets on Friday, Jan. 10.

Silver Mountain's  “Jackass Day”, celebrates the resort's 45th anniversary with discounts and events on and off the mountain.

The retro lift ticket price of $12 recalls the era when Silver Mountain (then known as Jackass Ski Bowl), was first opened. People are encouraged to bring out their retro ski gear to wear while skiing and boarding.

Moguls, the on-mountain restaurant, will be hosting a party including cake and trivia. The cheap lift tickets bring record-breaking amounts of people from around the area.  It's a party!

Read on for details about other events.

Photographers suspected of endangering wolves with bait

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Wildlife photographers have a code of ethics, which apparently was ignored in the case of someone trying to get a photo of wolves in Canada

Photographers suspected of baiting wolves in Alberta national park
A Banff National Park warden who discovered wolves from the Bow Valley Park dining on a turkey carcass and other leftovers said he questioned wildlife photographers taking photos of the wolves about the food cache, but they denied knowing where the food came from, although they did acknowledge that the food was attracting the wolves and they did not report it to park personnel.
— Calgary Herald

A fed predator is often a dead predator, to expand the adage.

Another case in point: The first Yellowstone wolf that had to be killed for public safety likely lost its natural wariness of humans after getting food from visitors, most likely photographers.

 

Avalanche report: danger not apparent to victims

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche that killed a snowmobiler riding in the Gallatin Mountains on New Year’s Day – the first Montana avalanche death in more than a year – was somewhat of an anomaly, according to an expert that spoke with the Billings Gazette.

“Most avalanches happen when people are on the slope,” said Doug Chabot, of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. That can happen when a snowmobiler is riding across a hill or uphill, or when a skier or snowboarder is carving turns downhill.

But the avalanche that killed 46-year-old Burton Kenneth Gibson of Bozeman and partially buried another rider was what’s called a remote trigger avalanche – when a slide is caused by collapsing of the snowpack from what may look like a relatively flat or safe area.

The story by outdoor reporter Brett French is instructive to snow goers.

“When there’s a weak layer in the snowpack, in order to get an avalanche we need that weak layer to collapse,” Chabot said.

He said the unstable snowpack found in the mountains of southwest and south-central Montana right now is like a book resting atop potato chips.

For more detailed information:

Illegal riders?

The snowmobiler killed in an avalanche on New Year’s Day, and his companions, were riding in an area of the Gallatin National Forest that is closed to winter motorized use.

“The area they were in, Onion Basin up Portal Creek, is closed to snowmobiles,” said Mariah Lueschen, a spokesperson for the forest.

Onion Basin is in the 155,000-acre Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area.

Study launched on northeast Wash. moose

WILDLIFE — State Fish and Wildlife biologists put GPS tracking collars on 28 northeastern Washington moose in December for a long-term study on the largest member of the deer family.

Other states, including Minnesota and Montana, have launched studies to understand why moose are declining in much of their range.

Rich Harris, Washington’s special species manager, said moose still appear to be expanding range and possibly their numbers in Washington.

All moose captured so far, using tranquillizer guns fired from a helicopter, were adult or yearling cows.

Elk management on Idaho commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider the state Fish and Game Department's revised elk management plan when it meets Jan. 15-16 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

A public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. January 15, in the Trophy Room of the headquarters building at 600 S. Walnut St.

Routine agenda items include season setting for upland game, furbearers and turkey; a big game briefing; appointment of Winter Feeding Advisory Committee members; JFAC budget preview.

Poor visibility postpones CdA eagle survey

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekly survey of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene was postponed today because of poor visibility caused by the incoming storm.

Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologists, said she saw enough eagles to believe that the eagle numbers are still high.  In last week's survey she counted 217.

She said she'll try again on Wednesday to do the survey.

But  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson hit it right on Monday, coming before the storm and finding plenty of action for good, sharp photos, as you can see above.

Idaho’s wilderness wolf control challenged in court

PREDATORS — Conservation groups announced today that they are suing federal and state officials over Idaho’s plan to track and kill wolves from two packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The lawsuit, filed by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch in Pocatello’s U.S. District Court on Monday, asks the judge to stop the plan immediately to give the case time to work through the courts. The environmental groups are joined by Ralph Maughan, a former Idaho State University professor, conservationist and long-time wolf recovery advocate from Pocatello.

See the rest of the story as it stands from the Associated Press.

Teen snowboarder fined for chasing moose

WILDLIFE — After a video showing a snowboarder chasing a moose down a ski run on Montana's Big Mountain went viral, the Flathead National Forest tracked down the snowboarder and fined him $255 for harassing wildlife, and forest officials issued warnings to other recreationists to leave wildlife alone.

See the Kalispell Daily Interlake story.

Nordic skiing events coming up around Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Several special nordic skiing activities are gearing up this week, according to Spokane Nordic. Time to dig in:

Hands-on Waxing Clinic

Friday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. — A two-hour class on base prep to finish waxing on your own gear at Fitness Fanatics in Spokane Valley. $35 a person/set of skis. Pre-register, (509) 922-6080.

Kids' Telemark clinic this weekend

Jan. 11-12 at 49 Degrees North — This is a rare treat for kids ages 6-14, who will be fitted with junior nordic downhill gear from Tele Ned's van.

Cross-Country Skiing Basics Class

Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. — Session at the Spokane REI store covers fundamental differences between backcountry, telemarking, and touring ski styles, plus clothing choices and where to get started. Pre-register here.

Coming up Jan. 19: WinterFest, presented by Spokane Nordic.  

Here's what to think about now:

Register for Donut Dash

The Donut Dash Sprint Race during WinterFest Jan. 19th is geared to all ages and abilities. Enter the lighthearted or competitive bracket. Learn more and register.

> Backcountry Clinic and Free lessons

A few spots are still available for the FREE Backcountry Ski Clinic at WinterFest. There are also free lessons slots available throughout the morning.

> Sign up for soup and cider

Two “folk ski” routes to free soup and cider at the Nova Hut will be featured on Jan. 19. Learn more and register.

 

Marine scientists ‘tag’ along with Puget Sound orca

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How far do wintering killer whales cruise in a day in the Puget Sound region:

  1. 10-50 miles
  2. 75-100 miles
  3. 125-200 miles
  4. 300 miles or more
Since Dec. 26, an orca known as L-87 has been covering 75 to 100 miles a day according to a satellite tag attached to the whale.

“It's exciting this time of year because of what we are going to learn,” said Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle.

Each year of satellite tagging is filling in more gaps about the winter movements of southern resident killer whales, while also raising new questions about why some travel as far south as Northern California and others may not, he said.

Read on for the Associated Press detailing why scientists are giddy with curiosity.

Video: See birder bag Big Year record, 750 species

WILDLIFE WATCHING — 2013 wasn't just a big year, it was the biggest year in the community of hard-corder birders.

The video (above) features Neil Hayward on Dec. 28, 2013, as he entered the birding record books by identifying his 750th bird of the year. The video captures the contagious excitement as Hayward puts his camera to the trophy species, a great skua, off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Although birding at this level is hard-core, life-consuming and VERY expensive, USA Today reports that about 85 million Americans enjoy observing, photographing or feeding wild birds.

Birding ranks 15th on a list of the most popular outdoor activities, just below bicycling and beach bumming, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment by the USDA's Forest Service.

About 18 million are serious enough to take trips exclusively to commune with other birders or count birds by sight or sound, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

Some designate Big Days — Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Team Sapsucker set a continental record of identifying 294 on April 25 — or Biggest Weeks, and a few die-hard birders embark on what they call Big Years, competitions to spot as many species as they can within a certain territory.

Members of the Spokane Audubon Society and Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society have been pooling their sightings to log their Big Year efforts.

 

Otter plans $2 million in wolf control for Idaho

PREDATORS — Let's see, according to the S-R's Eye on Boise reporter Betsy Russell, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in the past few days has suggested cutting teacher pay by $21 million, starting $15 million in water projects across the state and beefing up wolf control by $2 million.  Just sayin'.

Idaho livestock growers also are chipping in to make up for federal cutbacks in wolf control.

Idaho winter-spring steelhead seasons underway

FISHING — Although it's a misnomer, Idaho's “spring” steelhead fishing season opened Jan. 1, continuing the season that started in the fall with a few twists.

Most important, you need a new fishing license.

While we're on that topic, be aware of the differences among the states.

  • Idaho's 2013 fishing license expired Dec. 31.
  • Montana's 2013-14 license expires Feb. 28.
  • Washington's 2013-14 license expires March 31.

 Meantime, Idaho's “spring” steelhead season is open on the:

  • Salmon River from its mouth to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir, near the town of Stanley.
  • Little Salmon River from its mouth to the U.S. Highway 95 Bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
  • Snake River from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers upstream to Oxbow Dam.
  • Clearwater River mainstem and Middle Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Clear Creek.
  • North Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Dworshak Dam.
  • South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to the confluence of American and Red Rivers.
  • Boise River from its mouth to the Barber Dam.

The season runs through April 30 in most areas, except:

  • On the Salmon River from Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek, about a quarter mile upstream of the Middle Fork, the season ends March 31.
  • On the Little Salmon River, the season runs through May 15.
  • On the Snake River from Hells Canyon Dam to Oxbow Dam, the season runs through May 31.
  • On the Boise River upstream to Barber Dam, the season ends May 31.

 

The steelhead limits for the spring 2014 season on the Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon are three hatchery-marked fish per day and nine in possession. The limits in the Clearwater drainage are one fish per day and two in possession. In addition, in the North Fork Clearwater River and the Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino Bridge only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length may be kept.

The statewide limit for the spring season is 20 steelhead. Once limits are reached, the angler must stop fishing, even catch-and-release.

See more details in the 2013-15 Fishing Regulations pamphlet on the Idaho Fish and Game Website.

2013 was a year of records for fish

FISHING — In my Dec. 29 package of stories looking back at 2013 from the outdoors perspective, fish and fishing were riddled through everything, even beyond the one story focused on fishing highlights.

It was a year to remember — one we'll be referring to again and again as we compare future numbers to records set in 2013.

The end of year fish counts weren't official when I filed my 2013 in review story on Dec. 29. But Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has this list of record numbers to remember in his just-posted look back at 2013 outdoors.

2013 COLUMBIA FALL CHINOOK RUN BY THE NUMBERS

1,200,000-plus Estimated fall Chinook run size at the mouth of the river

952,944 Final passage at Bonneville Dam

253,575 Sept. 7-11 king count at the dam, a period which included the first, second, third, sixth and seventh largest single-day tallies back to 1938

63,870 Record daily fall Chinook count at Bonneville, set Sept. 9

30,306 Record daily fall Chinook count at McNary Dam, set Sept. 22

29,307 Aug. 1-Sept. 22 king catch in Columbia between Buoy 10 and Bonneville, 1,000 more than old record

23,332 Estimated upriver bright catch in the Hanford Reach, 10,000 more than old record

Not a lot of individual fish set records in 2013, but those that did were impressive, especially the lunker mackinaw landed by a former Spokanite and handled like a baby for official weighing on a hospital emergency room scale used for infants:

2013 RECORD FISH*

WASHINGTON

Lake Trout, 35.63 pounds, Phil Colyar, Lake Chelan. Lake whitefish, 6.81 pounds, Tony Martin, Lake Rufus Woods.

• Saltwater records: Dolphinfish (dorado), 16.27 pounds; Pacific Hake, 4.06 pounds; Opah, 28.18 pounds.

IDAHO

Tiger musky, 44 pounds 4 ounces, Edward Kalinowski, Little Payette Lake.

*Idaho’s largest rainbow was landed below Dworshak Dam, but the 28-pound, 9-ounce fish isn’t an official record. Nez Perce member Tui Moliga legally caught lunker under tribal rules. But N. Fork Clearwater was closed to nontribal harvest of rainbows over 20”, so it didn’t qualify for record status. 

Wolf bias is in eyes of beholder

PREDATORS — In my recent package of stories and lists reviewing the year 2013 from the outdoors perspective, I focused one short review on notable 2013 news items regarding the gray wolf, which drums up all sorts of issues, emotions and controversy where ever it roams.

I focused on news, updates and milestones related to the species in 2013.

But a reader named Michelle emailed this comment on my review:

In your article about the year in review for wolves you picked some interesting things to focus on. What about mentioning the wolves that were hounded in Wisconsin? Or the pups killed in Idaho? Or the fact that people are purposely torturing wolves to death, and posting the evidence online? Instead you talk about a man who didn't know how to respond when a wolf chased his bike, perhaps you didn't know, but those types of encounters are not the norm, but when they do happen people have much better luck when they stand their ground, running from a predator is not smart. It would be nice if a newspaper was more objective.

The objective observer likely would note that my short review was a more objective summary of how wolves occurred in the news than the angles suggested by the reader criticizing my lack of objectivity.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

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.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, a fee-free day at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Rare visitor looks like owl, eats like hawk

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The hawk owl that's been luring birders to the Moscow, Idaho, area for more than a month continues to deliver for photographers eager to document a rare visitor to the region.

Spokane-area birder Ron Dexter offered this recent photo with interesting details from his observation of the northern Canada bird's hunting behavior:

It was hunting from a powerline on the north side of White Ave. A small creek runs along that side of the road. The banks are covered with weeds and grass and provide raptors a hunting ground for mice and voles.
 
The first two attacks from the owl came up empty except for claws full of weeds. Finally, it sprang from the power line and dove into the grass along the road only 20 feet from me and grabbed a vole. Then it flew into a nearby tree. It would pin the rodent to a tree limb and chomp at it with its beak, then pick it up and fly to another tree where it ate it. It did not swallow the meal whole like most owls do, but ripped off pieces. Hawk Owls hunt in the daytime and eat like hawks, thus the name.

Learn winter camping basics in free program

WINTER SPORTS — Basics of Winter Camping, a free program presented by an REI staffer, will be presented at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Spokane store, 1125 N. Monroe.   

Pre-register to reserve a seat.

Vehicles sliding off icy national forest roads

PUBLIC LANDS — Several vehicles have slid off icy roads in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests causing officials to consider locking gates on a few roads until conditions change.  Here's the media release just posted by the IPNF:

Despite the lack of snow at lower elevations many forest roads throughout north Idaho are coated in a thick layer of ice resulting in multiple slide-offs and accidents. Forest Service officials are urging members of the public to avoid traveling on icy forest roads, but if travel cannot be avoided, tire chains and low speeds are strongly advised.

The weather’s recent freeze/thaw cycle has melted snow on hillsides during the day, which is re-freezing across forest roads at night. During the weekend of January 4, 2014 multiple accidents were reported due to vehicles sliding off forest roads. Some of the most common areas for accidents were along the Bunco Road and Nettleton Gulch where even emergency vehicles and tow trucks responding to slide-offs slid off the road.

Forest officials are monitoring the situation and may temporarily close gates in areas where large amounts of ice are present or areas with a significant number of vehicle accidents. Before traveling into the forest members of the public are encouraged to check weather forecasts and local conditions. During winter months chains and other safety equipment should always be carried, and travelers should be prepared to turn back based on conditions. For more information on road conditions on your national forest, please contact your local Forest Service office

Regional trails plan unveiled Tuesday at REI

TRAILS — An update to the 2008 Spokane County Regional Trails Plan will help integrate routes for walkers, runners, skaters, cyclists and equestrians into planning and development as the population grows, officials say.

The draft plan, up for county approval this month, identifies 677 miles of routes ranging from single tracks to the 12-foot-wide Centennial Trail, said Parks Department planner Paul Knowles.

The plan will help the county preserve and maintain existing trails while identifying links for an interconnected network of user-friendly trails, he said.

But don't take our word for it: check it out for yourself:

  • See maps, ask questions and comment on updates to the Spokane County Regional Trail Plan at an open house meeting Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.
  • See the Regional Trail Plan documents on the County Parks website.

The county Planning Commission is set to review the draft plan on Jan. 16.

Outdoor groups in the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition helped fund the trail planning, map trails and propose possible links and expansion throughout the region.

The new Centennial Trail segment through Kendall Yards is indicates the benefits that can be achieved through trail planning Knowles said. The proposed Dream Trail running north-south completely through the Dishman Hills is another goal.

The plan could facilitate public access from Five Mile Prairie to the Little Spokane River.

Read on for more information about the plan.

Fly fishing program targets Upper Columbia rainbows

FLY FISHING — “Wild Rainbows of the Upper Columbia,”  a free program sponsored by the Spokane Fly Fishers will be presented at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy. Canadian angler Kelly Laatsch, of St. Mary Angler Fly Shop in Cranbrook, will share his expertise.

Vote due on Sanpoil walleye limit increase

FISHING — A proposal to increase the daily bag limit for walleye on the Sanpoil River Arm of Lake Roosevelt from 8 fish to 16 is on the agenda for a possible vote during the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Jan. 10-11 at the Comfort Inn Hotel Conference Center, 1620 74th Ave. SW in Tumwater.

The proposal is part of a plan with the Colville Tribe to reduce predation on outmigrating kokanee and native redband rainbow trout.

Taking the high route for chukars

HUNTING — I started low along the Snake River and climbed high into the basalt cliffs for chukars on Saturday.

It was a perfectly sunny but cool day for working my English setter, Scout, who was on his game.

Mount Spokane snowshoers revel in perfect conditions

WINTER SPORTS — Although skiers would prefer a nice dump of new snow to soften the slopes, conditions were perfect for snowshoers exploring Mount Spokane from top to bottom today: firm footing, sunny skies and not a breath of wind on the summit.

Another gun writer dumped for telling it like it is

SHOOTING — Dick Metcalf, one of the country’s preeminent gun journalists for decades, has been dropped from a firearms TV show and dismissed as a columnist for Guns & Ammo magazine — and gun companies have stopped wining, dining and flying him to exotic locations to shoot.

His violation? Telling the truth.

The New York Times recently reported on the man who has been blackballed despite devoting his life to the shooting sports and monitoring gun laws.  He foolishly dared to stray the tiniest bit off the gun-lobby reservation.

In October, Metcalf wrote a column that the magazine titled “Let’s Talk Limits,” which debated gun laws.

“The fact is,” wrote Metcalf, who has taught history at Cornell and Yale, “all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.” 

He said that too many gun owners believed that the constitution prohibits any regulation of firearms. He noted that all rights are regulated, like freedom of speech. “You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater,” he wrote.

“The question is, when does regulation become infringement?” he continued. Mr. Metcalf ended the column arguing that requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry license was not an infringement.

Guns & Ammo editors had approved the column before it went to press, but they reversed course after publication when firearms-related companies threatened to pull their advertising if Metcalf wasn't canned. 

The viciousness of the gun crowd to their own kind isn't new. In 2007, Jim Zumbo, long-time hunting editor for Outdoor Life and author of 23 hunting books, wrote a blog post for Outdoor Life’s website suggesting that military-style rifles were “terrorist” weapons, best avoided by hunters. His writing, television and endorsement deals were quickly put on hiatus. The term “Zumboed” was coined and applied to anyone ostracized for saying anything counter to the party line on guns.  He had to grovel and be rehabilitated by letting Ted Nugent show him the virtues of an AR-15.

In 2012, Jerry Tsai, the editor of Recoil magazine, wrote that the Heckler & Koch MP7A1 gun, designed for law enforcement, was “unavailable to civilians and for good reason.” He was pressured to step down, and despite apologizing, has not written since, the Times reported.

 

Idaho Fish and Game looks back at 2013

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Everybody's been looking back at 2013 for some perspective, including the Idaho Fish and Game Department.  

The revival of Lake Pend Oreille's kokanee fishery and completion of a new sockeye hatchery top the agency's highlights for the year.

Read on for the complete look back from IFG.

4th of July Pass ski-snowshoe event cancelled

WINTER SPORTS — Packed ice on trails is a safety issue throughout the region where the snow cover is especially thin. 

The 23rd annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe Event set for Saturday, Jan. 4, at 4th of July Pass has been canceled because of treacherously icy conditions, said Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

Usually the club has a plan to walk the trails for the event in the case of thin snow cover, but not this year, Harvey said today:

Glenn Truscott and Van Bennett went up to 4th of July. They reported that you can't drive or walk on the parking lot, much less the trail.  Jim, Carol and Geoff talked and decided the best thing would be to cancel Best Hand Fun Ski. Geoff and Glenn will get a sign up so that people don't even try to enter the parking lot as they may not get out. We plan to reschedule.

Outdoor historic places saved-lost in 2013

Montana sites make national list of historic places saved, lost
The National Trust for Historic Preservation released a list of 10 sites saved and 10 lost in 2013, with the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Central Montana making the saved list, and Pompey's Pillar in Montana, making the lost list due to vandalism that occurred in October during the government shutdown.

— New York Times

Powder-breaking news from Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTS — In the past few weeks, snow-goers have been worshipping every new inch of the precious-little snow that's been falling from the sky.

That's why the 4 inches of beautiful snow that fell last night on Lookout Pass stirs some excitement.

And look at those dark clouds in the photo Lookout Pass Ski Area posted this morning!

Dark, threatening clouds rarely look so good!

Hunters must file reports to avoid fine

UPDATE 1 p.m., 1-3-14: Be patient and willing to try later… the Washington website for reporting hunting activity has been down for hours, possibly from a surge in hunters trying to get on line.

HUNTING — Washington hunters must file a report for each deer, elk, bear, turkey tag, and each special hunt permit awarded, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is reminding sportsmen this month. 

The reports are required whether or not you harvested an animal or hunted at all.

File reports by Jan. 10 on this year's hunting activities for black bear, deer, elk, or turkey for a chance to win one of nine 2014 special hunting permits.

Those who meet the deadline will be included in a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state. Those permits will be valid from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said the annual hunting reports are an important source of information for managing the resource and developing future hunting seasons.

“The drawing for special permits is designed to give hunters an extra incentive to file their reports early,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “If everyone waits until the last minute, it creates problems with reporting.”

  • The report deadline is Jan. 31 in order to avoid a $10 administrative fee when you purchase your 2014 license this spring.

If your special permit allows you to hunt beyond Jan. 31, 2014, your hunter report is due within 10 days of the close of that season.

Hunter reports can be filed online or call toll free at (877) 945-3492. You will need your WILD ID number, the Game Management Unit(s) you hunted, number of days hunted, and if, when, and what you harvested.

You should record and file your confirmation number for EACH report filed, this is the only way the WDFW can verify that you submitted a report for each tag and permit. 

Eagle Cap Extreme puts sled dogs to test

WINTER SPORTS — It's the only Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog race qualifier in the lower 48 that takes place west of the Rocky Mountains — and it's virtually in our backyard.

The 10th annual running of the Eagle Cap Extreme sled dog race is Jan. 22-25 in northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County.

Not to be missed, especially if you're bringing kids, is the Jan. 22 pre-race veterinary checks in Enterprise and Joseph that gather all of the sled dogs for public viewing — and in some cases, petting. Sled dogs are amazingly fit, happy and eager to perform.

The Eagle Cap Extreme is hailed by mushers as one of the most challenging and best-run mushing events in the lower 48 states.  The ECX is one of only six qualifying races in the U.S. outside of Alaska.  The race provides a unique opportunity for dog lovers and mushing fans to witness premier canine athletes race through this most rugged and beautiful corner of Oregon.

The event includes three races: 

  • A 12-dog, 200-mile race, which is the Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. (The Iditarod and YQ each cover more than 1,000 miles.)
  • An 8-dog, 100-mile race.
  • A 6-dog, 62-mile “pot race”, which consists of two 31-mile stages held on consecutive days.

All three races begin at Ferguson Ridge ski hill at 1 P.M. on Thursday, Jan. 23.  Pot race finishers return to Fergi later that afternoon, and again on Friday; 100-mile finishers arrive early-mid morning on Friday, Jan. 24; 200-mile finishers arrive early on Saturday the 25th.  The ECX culminates in the mushers' banquet that evening, held in Joseph.

All events except the mushers’ banquet are free to the public. 

Washington state parks consider more commercialization

STATE PARKS — The public has until Tuesday, Jan. 7, to comment on a proposal to allow commercial advertising in the Washington state parks website.

At its next regular meeting on Jan. 23, the parks commission plans to approve a new Washington State Parks advertising policy to allow commercial advertising on digital and printed material, and to set criteria for any such advertising.

The draft advertising policy can be found online.

The proposed policy does not include commercial advertising in state parks, but only advertising on agency websites and select printed materials.

The public can comment online by Jan. 7. Comments will be given to the commission for consideration.

Really? Is everyone responsible in foreign exchange student’s skiing death?

WINTER SPORTS — Will this suit put a chill on what foreign exchange students are exposed to as guests in the United States?

German family sues Montana ski resort for teen's death
The family of a German exchange student, who died after skiing into a tree well at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in 2010, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Montana resort, the company that handled the exchange student's stay in the U.S., and the family that hosted him.
— Helena Independent Record

Comment due on Idaho hunting-trapping proposals

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idaho Fish and Game is seeking public comments on proposed changes to the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 upland game, turkey and furbearer seasons. Comments are due on Friday, Jan. 3.

Idaho Fish and Game proposes:

  • To allow nonresident trappers to trap any species that Idaho trappers can trap, provided the state of residence of the nonresident trapper allows nonresident trappers to trap any species their residents can trap.
  • To reduce the statewide bobcat trapping season length to prevent overharvest.

In the Panhandle Region:

  • To increase river otter quota to 40, from 30.

In the Clearwater Region:

  • To allow beaver trapping in the Cow Creek drainage and its tributaries in Nez Perce County in the Clearwater Region.
  • To clarify that corporate timber lands are not considered private lands for the purposes of Fall Turkey General Hunt in Units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18, which runs November 21 - December 31 and is open on private land only.

Comment on trapping proposals here.

Comment on turkey hunting proposals here.

Idaho Fish and Game officials say all public comments will be summarized and presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for consideration before seasons are set at the Jan. 16 commission meeting in Boise.      

It isn’t August, but winter sports need precipitation, too

WINTER SPORTS — Ski resorts are the obvious beneficiaries from a good dump of snow, and perhaps the most public insight into the economic importance of a steadily building snowpack through winter.

Farmers, river rafters, hydropower operators and many more interests are keeping their eye on the lack of precip that's leaving the region mostly brown.

Under the general radar, duck hunters and steelheaders, in particular, are sizing up the the dry, mild weather that marked the end of 2013 as a giant bummer.

“Dry, calm weather is nice, but it doesn’t make for great duck hunting conditions,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Ducks like water, and that is in short supply in the fields around the state.”

A good downpour would also improve fishing for winter steelhead on the Columbia River and elsewhere around the state, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver, Wash.

“Salmon and steelhead get active and move upriver when rivers and streams rise,” Hymer said. “A lot of anglers would welcome a good hard rain, the sooner the better.”

Statewide waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 26, while steelhead seasons vary by area, as described in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet.

Lake Spokane drawdown to begin Monday

RESERVOIRS — The annual drawdown of Lake Spokane, the Spokane River reservoir also known as Long Lake, is set to begin on Monday (Jan. 6), Avista Utilities announced today in a media release.

In 2013, the drawdown started on Jan. 23.

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

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

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

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

Paddlers continue chilly New Year tradition

PADDLING — For the 19th year, paddlers from the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club bring in the New Year with an outing on the Little Spokane River. Wednesday was no different, although the temperatures were more on the mild side compared with other years.

Eric Erickson, above, is pictured by canoe partner Juile Titone during the float in 2000.  As Titone said, he was “looking determined to reach the potluck-and-wood stove part of the day.”

Anglers get a steelie start to the new year

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop sends this photo with the post, “Starting off 2014 right… Jennifer Nepean with her first ever steelhead!”

  • Caught on the Grande Ronde near Boggans New Year's Day. “The river is in great shape for winter fishing,” he said.
    • Silver Bow is offering several fly tying classes this month. Check them out.

Soaring eagle numbers a mystery at Lake Coeur d’Alene

UPDATED  10:35 a.m. 1-2-14

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Just when it seemed the annual winter bald eagle count was going to stall at Lake Coeur d'Alene, the number soared to 217 eagles on Monday. 

Carrie Hugo, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, can't officially peg the exact reason the eagles came so much later than usual for their feast of spawning kokanee in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of the lake.  From mid-November through mid-December, about half the number of eagles had shown up compared with counts in recent years.

At the end of December, the eagle gathering usually starts to thin out as the spawn subsides and ice covers more water. This season, the numbers increased and the biggest gathering of eagles of the year is at the lake this week. 

The numbers are up from Hugo's last count on Dec. 18, when she found 129 bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. That was up from 86 eagles the week before that, according to Hugo's weekly count.

Of the 217 eagles counted Monday, 196 were adults and 21, juveniles, Hugo said, theorizing that many of the eagles were short-stopped from reaching Lake CdA by the revived kokanee spawning in Granite Creek at Lake Pend Oreille. Bayview residents, who view the Granite Creek area by boat, say the number of bald eagles there may be 10 times higher than last year. 

However, by New Year's Day, the larger number of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene wasn't apparent to Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin:

  • The increased count was a real mystery to the photographers who were out there yesterday. Based on our observations the numbers were the same or lower than they were two weeks ago. I was out there last year with 200+ birds and there were no where near that many yesterday. In my opinion the numbers aren't soaring nearly as much as the count indicates.

For decades, the eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.
Despite the recent increase, eagle numbers are down from the past few years. The Dec. 18 count of 129 compared with 260 during the same time period last year.

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

Early birds get discounts on Lake Roosevelt boat launch permits

NATIONAL PARKS — Boaters and anglers can save money buy buying their season boat launch permit for Lake Roosevelt before the end of April.

A launch permit is required at all designated National Park Service-managed ramps regardless of the type of vessel.

Without a season permit, boaters pay on site a $6 fee for a permit valid for seven days.

2014 season launch permits cost $30 if purchased by April 30. After that, the cost increases to $40.

Federal Golden Age, Golden Access and Interagency Senior or Access Pass cardholders, fees get 50 percent off.

Read on for details on where to purchase the boat launch permits.

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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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