ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Outdoors blog

Archive for June 2014

Lawsuit filed to protect lynx from Idaho traps

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the governor of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that can harm or kill Canada lynx, one of the rarest cats in the United States.

The lawsuit charges Gov. Butch Otter, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and members of the state Fish and Game Commission with violations of the Endangered Species Act resulting from state permitting that leads to trapping of lynx, a threatened species numbering as few as 100 animals in Idaho.

The state has not taken action to satisfy the previous complaints, the organizations said in filing the suit. The groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center.

The groups say increases in fur prices, especially for bobcat, have increased interest in trapping and cited at least three confirmed incidents of lynx being unintentionally trapped in the last two years.

The groups say the Idaho Department of Fish and Game should develop a conservation plan with measures to minimize incidental trapping of lynx. Such a plan would include restrictions on body-crushing and steel-jaw traps and snares, reporting requirements, and a daily trap check requirement throughout lynx habitat. They say similar lawsuits in Minnesota and Maine have led to such restrictions.

Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more than 26 million acres of critical habitat across six states for the Canada lynx, which faces ongoing threats from habitat destruction and reduced snowpack from climate change.

Lynx are medium-sized, long-legged cats, ranging up to 24 pounds. They are generally nocturnal and well adapted to hunting snowshoe hare at high elevations.

The lawsuit, which was filed today in federal district court in Boise, can be read here.

Forest Service road work will cause delays near Pass Creek Pass

PUBLIC LANDS — National Forest travelers headed to the Pass Creek Pass area of the Colville National Forest, including the south trailhead for the Shedroof Divide and the Grassy Top Mountain trail, could experience delays this month on certain days.

The Forest Service and Border Patrol are doing heavy road maintenance on Forest Service Road 302 (Idaho) and Forest Service Road 22 (Washington).  This road system, known to locals and mapping as “Pass Creek Pass”, connects travelers between Nordman, Idaho, and Metaline Falls, Washington.

Although the road will remain open during construction, drivers may experience occasional 2-3 hour delays.

This project will improve the drivability, safety and drainage of this road system, says Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandles National Forest Spokesman.

Drivers are encouraged to use an alternate route due to the possibility of 2–3 hour delays (or longer), mostly during weekdays including:

  • July 1– July 3, 2014
  • July 7–July 9, 2014
  •  July 15– July 20, 2014

“The work will be only in Washington, but will take place on both the Colville and IPNF although the majority of the work will be on the IPNF side,” Kirchner said. “This is one of those areas where the IPNF slops over into Washington by a few miles. So, anybody approaching the trail heads at the top may experience delays from both sides, but mainly the IPNF side.”

“We recognize the importance of this route for the pubic traveling between Washington and Idaho to recreate in the northern portions of the Priest Lake and Newport Ranger Districts” noted Matt Davis, Priest Lake District Ranger.  “Over the course of the next two months the Forest Service in conjunction with the Border Patrol contractors will be working to improve the road for the overall safety of the public.”

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or the Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-6839.

Northern pike can’t get food stamps

FISHING — An angler took a shot at me in the Sunday Sports Letters regarding my Thursday column updating the northern pike suppression effort on the Pend Oreille River downstream from Newport. 

That's fine. All opinions are welcome.

But he insinuates that I “didn't tell you” something. 

Actually, I expected anglers to understand that if northern pike were left to proliferate in the river with consumption rates of more than 17 million forage fish a year, ultimately they would deplete the food base not only for themselves but also for the largemouth and smallmouth bass that anglers enjoy catching.

Leaving the non-native pike population to go unchecked had a brief window of excitement and prosperity and was already beginning to deteriorate into a lose-lose deal for everyone when pike suppression was enacted.

Photo: Whitetail buck in velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A promising sight to behold.

Thanks to Western Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for this week's antler-development update.

Groups help state acquire Plum Creek lands in Cascades

PUBLIC LANDS — The Nature Conservancy has purchased 1,280 acres of timberland from Plum Creek in the Manastash area west of Ellensburg, and transferred it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to be managed as part of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

This acquisition is the most recent in a decade-long project to eliminate a “checkerboard pattern” of public and private land and create large blocks of public lands in the Cascade Mountains.

Partnerships including the state agency, TNC, the Yakama Nation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have brought more than 25,000 acres of private timberlands into public ownership as part of the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative.

The program assures public access to these lands as it heads off the possibility of the timber company selling the properties to private interests that could install locked gates.

“These particular sections are full of streams and tributaries that flow into the Yakima River,” TNC says in a media release. “Conserving this forest will protect valuable river habitat for wildlife as well as ensure water downstream for people, fish, and the rich agriculture of the Yakima Valley.

Plum Creek has played an important role in keeping these forests intact while the Conservancy brought together financing to bring them into public ownership.

  • “Protecting the streams and forests in this region supports the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan, assuring water for people, salmon, wildlife and farms into the future,” said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy.
  • “Plum Creek recognizes the public benefits of this project and is pleased to participate in the partnership that achieved this important conservation outcome,” said Jerry Sorensen, senior director of land management for Plum Creek.
  • “Together, we’re ensuring that the public will continue to have access to this land for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping,” said Mike Livingston, Southcentral Region director for WDFW. “This diverse habitat supports threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, steelhead, spotted owls and wolves, as well as big-game such as mule deer and elk.”

The Washington Department of Ecology provided funding for this project through its Office of Columbia River.

Sinlahekin wildlife celebration has eye on critters tiny to large

WILDLIFE — The 75th anniversary celebration for Washington’s first wildlife area – the Sinlahekin in northcentral Okanogan County near Loomis– continues with free public field trips and presentations on butterflies, bats, deer and more on Saturday and Sunday, July 5-6.

Sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the July 5-6 sessions are the second in the “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” summer weekend series on the area’s fauna, flora, geology and history.

Sessions are led by scientists, researchers, and experts from colleges and universities and other natural resource management agencies, along with WDFW staff.

Saturday's offerings include a butterfly tour and programs on grassland ecology, “Predators, Parasitoids, Pollinators and Pretty Insects,”  “Deer and Moose,” and ending with an evening program on bats.

Sunday's activities include a butterfly tour and programs on “Restoring Altered Habitat,” “Dragonflies and Damselflies,” and “Deer and Moose.”                    

The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, which covers 14,314 acres west of U.S. Highway 97 between Loomis and Conconully, was established in 1939 to protect winter range for mule deer. The first parcels of mule deer winter range were purchased with revenue from a federal tax on hunting arms and ammunition. The area’s diversity of fish and wildlife today draws not just hunters and fishers, but also wildlife watchers, hikers, campers, and other outdoor recreationists.

Graham Mountain hike overlooks Silver Valley

HIKING — It's called Coal Creek Trail No. 41, leading up, steeply up in some places, roughly 6 miles from the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River road to Graham Mountain, elev. 5727 feet, overlooking the Silver Valley.

Great views from a former fire lookout sight, looking across to Silver Mountain, up the I-90 corridor to lookout Pass and Stevens Peak.

Trailhead is 12.5 miles up the paved North Fork road from the Kingston Exit off I-90.

Hike is 11 miles round trip with 3,420 feet of elevation gain.

Hiking up to a fire lookout side is almost always worth the effort.

 

Little Spokane River shuttle starts July 5

WATERSPORTS — No more worrying about getting a lift back to your car at the put-in on Saturdays in July and August.

Ice Age Floods center opens with festival at Dry Falls

GEOLOGY — The Dry Falls Visitor Center south of Coulee City, Washington, will open Saturday, June 28, with a new exhibit and a festival celebrating the unique geologic heritage of Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park.

The annual Flood Fest, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday highlights the Ice Age floods that carved the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington.

Educational stations will be staffed by event partners, including the National Park Service, Ice Age Floods Institute, Coulee Corridor Consortium, Bureau of Reclamation and David Shapiro, author of the popular children’s book “Terra Tempo.” New this year will be the Birds-of-Prey station where visitors can view a live golden eagle and great horned owl.

Three guest speakers are scheduled to present in the Dry Falls Visitor Center Theater:

10 a.m.—Nick Zentner, professor of geology at Central Washington University, discusses how the Grand Coulee and channeled scablands were formed.

1:30 p.m.—Bruce Bjornstad, geologist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, discusses the extremely diverse topography created by Ice Age Floods.

3 p.m.— Dr. Robert Weaver, professor of biology at Central Washington University, educates visitors about the reptiles and amphibians that call Grand Coulee home.

On Sunday, June 29, geologist Bruce Bjornstad will guide a kayak tour of Deep Lake to explore the local geology of Dry Falls of the Grand Coulee by water. The tour will begin at 9 a.m. at the Deep Lake boat launch in Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park. Participants will need to supply their own watercraft and life jackets for this event.

“New Interpretations of the Ice Age Floods” Exhibit Opening

During this year’s Flood Fest the Dry Falls Visitor Center will host a noon-time grand opening of a new exhibit, “New Interpretations of the Ice Age Floods.” The exhibit explores the geologic history of the Grand Coulee from multiple perspectives, with a focus on the pioneering field work of J. Harlen Bretz and the resulting Ice Age flood debate of the 20th century. The exhibit was developed in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and members of the Ice Age Floods Institute.

A Discover Pass is required to park at the visitor’s center and the boat launch. For more information about the pass.

About the Dry Falls Visitor Center and Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park

The Dry Falls Visitor Center opened to the public in 1966 and serves as a primary destination along the four-state Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is 4,027-acre camping park located in the heart of the Grand Coulee. The state park offers opportunities to explore this remarkable National Natural Landmark by foot, bike, boat and vehicle.

The visitor center offers Friday night movies and weekend interpretive programs and nature hikes. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the summer months. 

More information about and directions to Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park.

Racers hit Blackfoot in open canoes

WATERSPORTS —The 2014 Open Canoe Slalom National Championship starts today and runs through Sunday (June 29) near Missoula on the Blackfoot River upstream of the Roundup Fishing Access Site off Montana Highway 200.

Spectators can view the American Canoe Association event for free in the designated area upstream of the Roundup Bridge.

 For information about open canoe whitewater racing in general, see aca.whitewater-slalom.us.

Saturday features four “Citizen-class” races in which noncompetitive or inexperienced paddlers can run the course in a tandem canoe with an experienced racer.

Roosevelt cedar grove reopens, but only for day use

CAMPING — The Forest Service has re-opened Stagger Inn, the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls, but visitors will be allowed in the area only during daytime. Camping will not be allowed this season.

The sites were closed last summer for removing hazardous trees after a camper in a tent was killed by a tree that came crashing down in a severe wind storm.

Although hazardous trees have been removed, forest officials say they're still concerned about the stability of some trees in the area.

“We recognize the importance and value of the site to generations of campers and will do our best to deem the site safe for camping in the future” said Matt Davis, Priest Lake District Ranger.

“Over the course of the next year the Forest Service will be monitoring other trees and soil conditions on the site determining if additional tress need to be removed and whether to open the site for camping in the future.”

High winds on the night of August 25th, 2013 caused several trees to become weakened and damaged in the Stagger Inn Campground, resulting in several fallen trees and causing one fatality at the campground.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District, (208) 443-6839.

Sign-up for SpokeFest now for chance to win bike

BICYCLING — The annual SpokeFest event, with bike rides and activities for the whole family based out of Spokane's Riverfront Park and into Riverside State Park, isn't until Sept. 7.

But if you register before Monday, June 30, your name will be entered in drawing for an adult bicycle from REI.

  • SpokeFest is well represented on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for fun facts, community stories and tips on improving your ride!   

Montana surplus big-game tags on sale

HUNTING — The wait is over for nonresidents still hoping to purchase a license to hunt deer and elk in Montana.

A number of first-come first-served surplus licenses, good for antlered deer and elk in most hunting districts, can be purchased online or over-the-counter at any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office.

Nonresident surplus hunting licenses available include:

  • Montana’s big game combination license for $971,
  • Elk combination license for $821,
  • Deer combo for $575.

Montana’s nonresident combination hunting licenses allow one to hunt for deer and/or elk and include season conservation, fishing, and upland game bird licenses; and the hunting-access enhancement fee.

See Montana's  “2014 Nonresident Deer & Elk Combo Hunting Licenses.”

Montana's big game archery season runs Sept. 6 – Oct. 19; and the general rifle big game seasons run Oct. 25 – Nov. 30, for a combined 11 weeks.

Deer and elk are found throughout most of Montana, where hunters enjoy nearly 35 million acres of National Forest and other public land, as well as about 8 million acres of land made available through the Block Management Program.

Lake Quinault reopens for fishing, paddling, recreation

WATERSPORTS — Lake Quinault on Washington's Olympic Peninsula has reopened for summer activities including fishing and boating after a brief hiatus.  

Lake Quinault Lodge, located just steps from the lake and in the heart of a temperate rainforest, will again offer fishing, boat rentals and tours of the lake. Guests can now enjoy the glacier-carved lake via a variety of vessels including canoes, kayaks, row boats or the comfort of a guided boat tour offering visitors a thorough history of the area, views of beautiful waterfalls, record breaking trees and a variety of native wildlife.

Olympic National Park also lists trails and other attractions in the area.

The Lake, located within the boundaries of the Quinault Indian Reservation, was closed in April 2013 due to concern related to water pollution, invasive species, public safety and the need to protect and restore salmon habitat, particularly Blueback salmon.  It reopened, for swimming only, last year but as of April 26, 2014 it has reopened for all summer activities.

Artist’s passion for wood decoys, waterfowling displayed at GU

WATERFOWLING — Hand-carved waterfowl decoys — pretty to see and effective for hunting — are on display through Sept. 13 at Gonzaga University.

  • Artist Frank Werner of St. Maries, Idaho, will give a public lecture, “An Art of Deception,” about his decoys and his passion for using them at 4 p.m. Friday, June 27, at GU's Jundt Art Museum’s Arcade Gallery. “I'll be talking about decoys, how they fit in the art world, how hunting has influence the art world. with visuals showing how they are part of the American Culture,” he said.

The exhibition is part of the museum’s “Close-In” series of summer exhibitions highlighting the work of regional artists.

Werner, a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant who was born in New York City, is recognized as a master decoy carver whose been carving decoys and hunting with them since 1974. His work has been shown in more than 50 exhibitions since 1984.

He describes his decoys as “strongly gridded, post-modern pieces,” but he emphasizes they are utilitarian first and are not solely decorative.

His elegantly sculpted waterfowl are positioned in attitudes that are typical to their activities: perching, standing, and feeding. No matter how aesthetically pleasing, “duck decoys are meant to deceive,” he says.

Intended for their practical use in the water, the display “cases” in the exhibition are only temporary homes until the next hunting season.

Werner has written and lectured about decoys, folk art, carving competitions, hunting, collecting, and the debate of art vs. artifact.

The museum’s exhibitions are free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays and University holidays. Info: (509) 313-6843.

Idaho controlled hunt permit results available

HUNTING — Results for Idaho’s 2014 controlled hunts for deer, elk and pronghorn have been posted on the Idaho Fish at Game website.  I held off with the notice that came yesterday because high interest in the results was causing delays on the website.

Check your hunting license for your license number, have it ready, and follow the steps.

A new law that goes into effect July 1 allowing 10 and 11 year olds to hunt big game caused some confusion during this application period and resulted in more than 1,000 controlled hunt applications that included 10 and 11 year olds, mainly in group applications, Idaho Fish and Game officials said, with the following explanation:

Even though the law doesn’t take effect for a few more days, and the drawing occurred before then, Idaho Fish and Game decided to allow the applications to remain in the drawing for administrative and customer services reasons.

Because the vast majority of these applications were controlled hunt group applications submitted with other family members, removing those that included 10 and 11 year olds would have disqualified approximately 2,500 additional individuals who otherwise would have been eligible to participate in the drawing.

Removing, and/or correcting all 1,000 plus applications from the drawing, would have taken significantly more time and delayed completion of the drawing and the release of results to our customers.

We apologize to those who wanted to submit controlled hunt applications on behalf of their child but didn’t because the new law was not yet in effect. Given the number of applications received, Fish and Game leaders felt this was the best option available. Because the new law will be in place July 1, 10 and 11 year olds will be eligible to put in for the next controlled hunt application held in August, or they may purchase general season big game tags. 

Interested 10 and 11 year olds must hold a valid hunting license in order to apply for a controlled hunt. Anyone holding a Hunting Passport can purchase general season big game tags

Birders count 82 species at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary with various activities to help introduce the public to an area that's been wildly upgraded in recent  years.

This is a great time to visit the refuge.  See upcoming events, including the first ever bicycling event at the refuge.  I have a details story coming up in Sunday Outdoors.

Earlier this month, refuge biologists Mike Munts led a birding tour.

We did the bird tour for the refuge 75th anniversary today (June 7). Ten people came out for a great day of birding. We saw/heard 82 great birds during the day.

  • A total of 206 bird species have been documented at the refuge over time, Munts said.
  • Another birding tour is planned for Saturday, June 28. 

Following is the list of species the group identified:

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal*
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck*
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe*
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer*
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Western-wood Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Warbleing Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Black-billed Magpie*
  • Common Raven
  • Tree Swallow
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • House Wren
  • Pacific Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Western Bluebird
  • Veery
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • McGilllivray’s Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Sparrow
  • Western Tanager
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark*
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Red Crossbill

*Birds Munts saw at Horsethief Lake after the field trip

 

Hikers: snow still lingering in area mountains

HIKING — “Road is open from Lightning Creek through to Trestle Creek,” reports Mary Franzel of Hope, Idaho. But the photo she posted (above) indicates significant snow on the ridge at Lunch Peak Lookout

Creeks are still running high in most areas, making crossings a challenge.

Hikers are reaching Stevens Lakes near Lookout Pass without much problem, but the creek crossing can be a crux.

Farther north in Canada, snow is late to leave.  

Kootenay National Park rangers just called to cancel my camping permit for The Rock Wall Trail, a five-day trek I'd planned to start on July 5.   They said the famous trail would not be passable until at least July 10.

  • I knew I'd be pushing the envelope when I made the reservation months ago, but there are rewards to taking a chance on the early season in the high country.

Photo:A fine day to climb Rainier

CLIMBING — Climbing Mount Rainier with the Spokane Mountaineers clearly was a perfect way to celebrate the first day of summer. 

This group beat the odds and made it to the top.  Only about 40 percent of the 11,000 mountaineers who attempt the climb reach Rainier's 14,410-foot summit.

Lightning: flashy way to die outdoors

OUTDOOR SAFETY — Name the safest place to seek refuge if you are outdoors and a lighting storm moves in?

  • Answer: An automobile — totally safe, unless a tree blows down on top of you.

This is Lightning Awareness Week, so be aware.  Sure, you can't bail out of the wilderness every time a thunder storm rolls in, but you can minimize risk by checking weather reports and getting very early starts on ventures into the high ridges so you can return to safer areas or your car by the time thunder activity begins, usually in the afternoon.

Check the attached document for some solid background on lighting safety.


Documents:

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

Grande Ronde spring chinook season opens Friday; first in 40 years

FISHING – Starting Friday (June 27), the lower Grande Ronde River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in 40 years.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced that the river, from the Highway 129 Bridge upstream approximately 12 miles to the farthest upstream Oregon/Washington boundary line, will be open for spring chinook fishing through Monday (June 30).

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are testing the feasibility of a spring chinook fishery in the lower Grande Ronde River to increase the harvest of hatchery fish destined for the Lostine River in Oregon, said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) eastern region fish program manager. 

The Grande Ronde River fishery is co-managed by Washington and Oregon, where a similar chinook season will open concurrently.

“This brief, four-day fishery will give us some indication of angler participation and the catch rates we would see with a fishery in the lower river,” Whalen said. 

The season was rushed into play a as reserachers monitoring PIT-tagged fish movements upstream said the targeted fish are getting there and now’s the time, Whalen said.

Some specific regulations include:

  • Anglers will have a daily catch limit of seven hatchery chinook salmon (adipose fin-clipped), only two of which can be adult chinook. Anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult hatchery chinook salmon.
  • Anglers must use single point barbless hooks no larger than 5/8 inch from point to shank.
  • Night fishing is prohibited.
  • Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily catch limit.

Whalen said fishery managers were able to provide the brief opportunity after in-season projections indicated good returns of spring chinook salmon to the upper Grande Ronde River.

“We’re specifically targeting the Lostine chinook stock, which data shows tends to migrate through the river a month later than other chinook populations,” Whalen said. “By allowing this opportunity now, we can fish for these late-arriving chinook while avoiding the majority of fish from other stocks.”

Films celebrate 50 years of wilderness Thursday

PUBLIC LANDS  –  A free mini-film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is traveling through the Inland Northwest this summer.

The beauty, history and adventure of wilderness areas, the highest level of protection offered for America’s public lands, is featured in 10 short films totaling just over an hour of entertainment suited to all ages.  Screenings still to come include:

  • Spokane – Mountain Gear Store, 2002 N. Division, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 26.
  • Metaline Falls – Cutter Theater, 7:30 p.m., June 27.
  • Colville – Rendezvous Theater, 7 p.m., Sept. 25.

Films include: American Values – American Wilderness, Last Light, Sage Steppe, North Cascades Wilderness Ranger, and a production by Gonzaga senior students highlighting the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in northeastern Washington.

The films are being presented by Colville National Forest District Ranger Gayne Sears and partners from the Lands Council or Kettle Range Conservation Group, who will answer questions and hand out door prizes.

Info: Gayne Sears, (509) 447-7300.

Reward offered for reporting illegal off-road drivers

PUBLIC LANDS — I'm still hearing some positive and some disturbing responses to my recent stories dealing off-road vehicle driving.  But the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have step up with some reasonable step toward accountability.

Special Grande Ronde River spring chinook season coming

FISHING —  A new four-day spring chinook section on a stretch of the Grande Ronde River is likely to be opened starting Friday.

The official announcement and details are likely to be released Wednesday morning.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife didn't get all the permits in order today… but stay tuned. This is a new deal for anglers!

Brown trout photos document beauty of catch and release fishing

FISHING — Here's a tip of the hat to catch-and-release trout fishing regulations on the upper Spokane River  — and elsewhere for that matter.

The value of the rules is documented in this report and photo comparison just received from Sean Visintainer, guide and owner of Silver Bow Fly Shop.

My buddy Bob McConkey and I were out on the upper last night and caught a couple really nice browns on dries. Bob's brown however looked awfully similar to a fish that one of my guides caught when we were floating TWO February's ago.

I matched up the pics… same brown!

We had fished through this area numerous times since but had not caught him again until last night, he was a little farther downstream but pretty much in the same area. We caught another brown later last night (inset photo) — couldn't believe we picked them both up on dries! 

Visintainer has more photos and details on his Silver Bow blog.

 

CdA osprey-watching boat cruise July 12

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual osprey viewing and banding  boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene is set for July 12, the Idaho Fish and Game Department just announced.  If you want to go on this popular wildlife educational activity, sign up quick.  Last year it sold out in a day.

  • Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

The osprey is a fish-eating hawk common to northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers, says Phil Cooper, IFG educator.  Here's more from Phil:

Adult osprey along with the young of the year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America, and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched.

The University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population. 

To conduct this research, young of the year pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is gently applied to one leg, and the 6-7 week old birds are safely placed back in the nests.

You may be wondering what the adult osprey think of the process. The adults take flight when the research boat approaches. They make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away and to tell the young osprey to lie down flat in an effort to hide. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey and they can understand ‘osprey’ language. Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get away from the nests in no time flat.

The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secure…but sporting new leg bands. 

None of us know if having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.

Would you like to learn more about this bird, common to our area in the summer?  How about coming along and watching osprey research? 

An Osprey Boat Cruise has been scheduled for Saturday, July 12. The trip will run from 9am –11am, boarding begins at 830. 

The cruise will be leaving from the west end of the CdA Resort boardwalk. Parking is available at the new covered parking under Front Street, on nearby streets, and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum. The cost of the trip is $15 for adults, $35 maximum per family. Children under 12 are free when with a paying adult.

Space is very limited and reservations are required.  Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce at 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

Wildlife Biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside a Lake Coeur d’Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known Wildlife Biologist and renowned osprey researcher Dr. Wayne Melquist will take young of the year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos. 

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts, including Beth Paragamian representing Idaho Fish and Game.  They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species.  A limited number of binoculars will be available for loan, however, bringing your own along with a camera, sun hat and sun screen is advised.

Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s CdA Lake Management Team, and a Cougar Bay Osprey Preservation group.

The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Cooperators include The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Idaho, the Audubon Society and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. 

Court asked to speed up Canada lynx recovery work

THREATENED SPECIES —  Wildlife advocates want a federal judge to force the government to move more quickly on a recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx, according to this story just moved by the Associated Press.

The U.S. government declared the snow-loving big cats a threatened species across the Lower 48 states in 2000. But officials haven’t come up with a mandated recovery plan.

After a federal judge criticized the delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed completing the plan by early 2018.

A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups says that’s not soon enough. They’re asking U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to order the work done by late 2016.

Lynx are rarely seen and there’s no reliable estimate of their population. Their 14-state range includes portions of the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon. 

Hiker finds Blue Mountains elk herded up with young in tow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Blue Mountains delivered a Yellowstone-like wildlife watching experience for hiker Ken Vanden Heuvel of Newman Lake last weekend.

He was solo hiking one of the ridge trails that lead into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness when he came across a herd of elk — at least 46 cows, yearlings and calves.

I cropped in on the left portion of Ken's main photo for a blow-up shot of the left portion of the herd where at least 12 calves were concentrated for protection.  

“When they came back up the ridge in front of me, the calves were whining,” Ken said, noting that he held still to watch the spectacle. “As I waited for them to cross, a few of the calves were nursing.”

A few weeks ago, the cows were all off on their own delivering their young of the year.  As soon as the calves were strong enough, they joined up with other cows and yearlings for strength in numbers — more eyes and ears to help detect danger from predators.

This looks like a good crop.

The bulls, by the way, are off on their own — until September

Clearwater spring chinook fishing ends Sunday

FISHING — Fishing for chinook salmon in the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers will be closed at the end of fishing hours on Sunday (June 29).

This closure marks the end of the spring chinook fishery in the Clearwater Drainage. Since the season opened on April 26, anglers harvested more than 3,700 adult Chinook and more than 1,000 jack Chinook in the Clearwater drainage during the 2014 spring season.

  • Little Salmon River will remain open for chinook salmon fishing at least through Friday (June 27). While many anglers are catching chinook on the Little Salmon, fishery managers believe the share set aside for sport anglers has not been completely harvested yet. Those managers will meet later this week to look at the most up to date numbers before deciding if the fishery can continue beyond Friday June 27.

Post Falls Dam gates close; Spokane River flows drop

WATERSPORTS — The Spokane River's flows have subsided enough for the spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed, Avista Utilities reports. That has allowed river recreation to open for the season starting today in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables that are just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. 

The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park is opening to the public today. The swim beach will open later this week after the parks department removes fencing, installs swim safety bouys and lifeguards are scheduled. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, and on average about June 22.

 Upgrades underway this summer at the South Channel Dam adjacent to Q’emiln Park will require visitors to stay out of some areas near the construction.

Geocaching 101 class offered Wednesday

NAVIGATION — A free Geocaching 101 Class is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The class is geared to people who want to learn the basics of the engaging high-tech hide-and-seek game using GPS devices and a  World Wide Web full of clues and challenges.

The class will be held at the Cache Cave, 2324 E. Euclid Ave., Suite 204, in Spokane and conducted by shop owner Lisa Breitenfeldt.

Info: (509) 720-8382,  lisa@cache-advance.com.

Hiker documents growth of red-tailed hawk chick

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While hiking on a U.S. Bureau of Land Management area south of Sprague in May, Pat Killien discovered  a red-tailed hawk nest perched in a 30 foot basalt wall.

“I could look down from above or below and be within 15 feet or so of the nest,” he said. “There was a single chick that I estimated to be 7-10 days old.”

Seizing the opportunity to watch and learn, Killien returned each week for a good hike — and to observe the chick's growth. His last trip was Monday, 40-some days after the chick had hatched. As he expected, the nest was empty.  

“They normally fledge between 44 and 46 days,” he said. “When I was there at (37-41 days old,) it was quite antsy and looked like it might just jump out of the nest at any moment.

“I never saw an adult near the nest except for the first time. I was hiking near the wall where the nest is located and an adult flew out from the wall in front of me and hung around in the area. That's what tipped me off to the possibility of a nest and I quickly found it.

“From below you couldn't see anything in the nest so I walked around and came out on top of the wall directly above the nest and saw the chick. In all my trips out there, the adults never came near. They circled high overhead and screeched but that was all.

On the last visit (Monday), I saw a hawk fly a bit and land, something the adults never did. That could have been the chick. The adults were hanging around today circling overhead but I didn't see three hawks at one time so can't be certain the hawk that landed was the chick. He had to be in the vicinity, though, as the adults were constantly overhead.”

Killien plans to return next year in April for a repeat performance.

Elk hoof disease prompts survey, euthanasia for severely inflicted

WILDLIFE — A mysterious hoof disease that's been crippling significant numbers of elk in southwestern Washington for at least six years has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin organizing a survey for this summer. Staff likely will euthanize elk with severe symptoms.

To help with the survey, state wildlife managers plan to enlist dozens of volunteers to assist them in assessing the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease in the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds.

To minimize the spread of the disease, WDFW is also proposing new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.

WDFW announced its plan today, two weeks after a 16-member scientific panel agreed that the disease most likely involves a type of bacterial infection that leaves elk with missing or misshapen hooves.

Members of the panel, composed of veterinarians and researchers throughout the state, agreed that the disease closely resembles contagious ovine digital dermatitis in sheep.

Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW epidemiologist, said the panel’s diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the USDA National Animal Disease Center and four other independent diagnostic laboratories that have tested samples of elk hooves submitted by WDFW since last year.

Mansfield said treponeme bacteria have been linked to an increase of hoof disease in sheep and cattle in many parts of the world, but have never before been documented in elk or other wildlife.

Nate Pamplin, director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, said the diagnosis limits the department’s management options, because there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.

“At this point, we don’t know whether we can contain this disease,” Pamplin said, “but we do know that assessing its impacts and putting severely crippled animals out of their misery is the right thing to do.”

Since 2008, WDFW has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hooves in Cowlitz, Pacific, Lewis, Clark, Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties, all within the range of the two elk herds.

Scientists believe the animals pick up and transmit the disease through wet soil, characteristic of the lowlands of southwest Washington.

“There is no evidence that the bacteria are harmful to humans, and tests have shown that the disease does not affect the animals’ meat or organs,” Mansfield said. “But treating infected animals has posed a real challenge for the livestock industry for nearly 30 years.”

Some livestock producers bathe the hooves of infected sheep and cattle in an antibiotic solution, but many become re-infected and are ultimately sent to market, Mansfield said.

“In any case, daily footbaths are not a realistic solution when you’re dealing with thousands of free-roaming elk,” she said.

The primary focus of WDFW’s work this summer will be to assess the geographic spread of the disease and the proportion of the herd that is affected, Pamplin said. The department will enlist the help of volunteers to run survey routes and report their observations.

Information gathered from the survey will be compared against sightings of diseased elk reported by the public since 2010 using WDFW’s online reporting system, he said. Reports can be filed at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease/reporting/.

Next winter, WDFW will capture and fit elk with radio-collars to determine how the disease is affecting area elk populations, survival rates and calving. Wildlife managers will likely remove elk showing severe symptoms of hoof disease to end their suffering, Pamplin said.

In a separate measure, the department has proposed new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear public comments and take action on that proposal in August.

Pamplin noted that hoof disease is one of a number of illnesses without a cure affecting wildlife throughout the nation. Chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and tuberculosis all take their toll on elk and deer each year in other states.

“Bacterial hoof disease in elk presents a huge challenge for all of us,” Pamplin said. “We will continue to work with scientists, hunters and local communities to assess its toll on area elk herds and determine our course of action.”

Mount Rainier plays no favorites when it claims a life

HIKING — Although the official announcement still wasn't released this morning, friends on Sunday mourned a well-known outdoors writer and photographer who had been missing for three days in Mount Rainier National Park before searchers said they recovered a body of a woman.

The National Park Service said it will be up to the Pierce County medical examiner to confirm that the body found Saturday afternoon was that of 70-year-old Karen Sykes of Seattle, but her daughter confirmed the death, according to the Associated Press.

Annette Shirey says her mother had developed a personal connection to the mountain and wanted to share that love with others. 

Sykes' body was discovered in an area where searchers, and they ended the three-day rescue effort after finding it.

Although the cause of Sykes' death has not been determined, early-season hiking poses hazards associated with lingering snow.  An early-season hiker slipped on a snowfield and slid to his death in Glacier National Park last year. 

 Also, hikers can suffer injuries from breaking through snowfields weakened by rocks or moving water below.

“For a lot of local hikers, it’s an extreme loss,” said Greg Johnston, who edited a “Trail of the Week” column she wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “For decades, she showed us the way, and now that’s gone.”

Here's more from the AP:

Sykes was prominent in the Northwest hiking community for her trail reviews and photographs, for her book on hiking western Washington and for leading group outings. Friends said she found sanctuary in the wilderness.

“It was a real healing thing for her,” Johnston said. “Once she found hiking, she never stopped.”

She had been hiking with her boyfriend, Bob Morthorst, on Wednesday in the Owyhigh Lakes area east of Rainier’s 14,410-foot summit when they encountered snow on the trail at about 5,000 feet. He stopped and she went on, friends and park officials said.

When she didn’t return as planned, he made it safely down the trail and reported her missing.

The body found Saturday was off-trail, about halfway down a steep hillside above Boundary Creek, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. She didn’t know whether it was apparent that the woman had fallen or what caused the death. It remains under investigation.

Among the dangers of hiking on snowfields in the summer are falling through snow bridges caused by melting water beneath the surface and sinking into tree wells, where deep, soft or unsupported snow accumulates around tree trunks. A searcher was hurt Thursday when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the area.

“It’s a time to be cautious when you’re in the backcountry on snow, but we don’t know if that was a contributing factor or not,” Wold said.

Michael Fagin, a meteorologist who specializes in mountain weather forecasts, said Sykes invited him on the hike, but he had to work. Often during hikes with Sykes and her boyfriend, she’d continue walking around and taking pictures when Fagin and Morthorst stopped to eat or rest.

“Bob and I would stop and eat lunch, and she’d be crawling in the dirt taking pictures of flowers,” Fagin said. “She couldn’t sit still.”

Fagin said he would typically take the lead on their walks; Sykes, who was also a distance runner, would get too far ahead if she led.

Much of Sykes’ recent work had been for the website of Visit Rainier, an organization that uses local lodging taxes to promote tourism at the mountain. She often tried to write about lesser-used trails, Fagin said.

“After lunch on the ridge we continued, climbing from one high point to the next facing the mountain,” she wrote in a piece about snowshoeing on Mazama Ridge. “As much as we love the forest there is something that stirs the restless soul to go further, to go higher.

“One has to be careful to establish and stick to a turnaround time. The siren will tempt you with another high point along the ridge, then another, then another.” 

Oregon surveying residents on lead ammo for hunting

Updated 1 p.m. with more details.

HUNTING — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife plans to ask state residents to share their opinions about using lead ammunition for hunting.

A survey is being mailed this month to a random sample of 4,200 hunters in the state. The department later plans a survey of non-hunters.

A wildlife division administrator, Ron Anglin, says lead ammo is a national issue because of its effects on wildlife and human health.

California plans to ban use of lead ammo for hunting starting in 2019. 

Read on for more details from the Eugene Register-Guard and Associated Press:

EUGENE, Ore. — On the theory that what happens in California often drifts north, Oregon wildlife officials are surveying hunters in the state to gauge their opinions about lead ammunition.

By 2019, lead ammunition will be banned in California, which acted to further the recovery of the condor from near extinction.

There’s no drive in Oregon to bar lead ammunition, but the question has been contentious in the United States for years. Lead ammunition is blamed for poisoning birds that scavenge animals killed with it.

“We want to make sure that if questions are being asked, that we as an agency have a good feel of what the hunting community thinks so that we can respond with what our hunters are telling us,” said Ron Anglin, wildlife division administrator.

The survey will be mailed to a random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters — the state has an estimated 250,000. The wildlife department plans a similar survey later of non-hunters in Oregon, Anglin said.

Oregon doesn’t regulate lead bullets, the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1jJdSpI ) reports, but since 1991 there has been a federal ban on lead in the shells that waterfowl hunters used in shotguns.

In years since the ban, steel and other variants of shot shells have come onto the market.

Lead ammunition is generally cheaper than the alternatives, and it’s often more effective.

“Outside of the toxicity, lead would be the ideal ballistic material — it’s cheap, it’s everywhere and it’s easy to form,” said Ralph Nauman, president of Environ-Metal in Sweet Home.

The company makes a no-lead, nontoxic brand of shot shells made of copper, nickel and iron.

The company has tried to sell bullets without lead but discontinued the line more than a decade ago, he said.

Anglin said several instances of lead poisoning among Oregon birds of prey have been documented, in eastern Oregon and the Portland area.

“When they’ve done blood tests on them, they found high levels of lead,” he said. “But we don’t know what the source of those levels was.”

In Eugene, Executive Director Louise Shimmel of the Cascades Raptor Center said her organization sees one or two instances of lead poisoning each year.

“It’s the scavengers — the eagles, the soaring hawks like red-tails, the vultures and ravens — that are going to go for gut piles of things that were shot,” she said.

Snow slowly receding, exposing high-country trails

HIKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker celebrated the summer solstice by checking out the Grouse Mountain Trail in the Cabinet Mountains for an upcoming project by the Idaho Trails Association.  They couldn't resist to going all the way to the summit of the 5,980-foot mountain northeast of Sandpoint and east of McArthur Lake.

They had to ford a the North Fork Grouse Creek, which will be a rock hopper later in the summer.  And they had to walk on snow at higher elevations.

But the glacier-lily bloom was following the receding snowline up the mountain.

Wild turkeys are brooding below Mount Spokane

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local birder/photographer Ron Dexter caught this wild turkey hen marching a newly hatched brood of eight chicks near his property at the foothills of Mount Spokane on Sunday.

Looks like they got through last week's cold and rain just fine.

Outdoors skills workshop set for women

SKILLS – The Washington Outdoor Women annual fall workshop, for adult women and girls age 9-12, will feature activities such as fishing, hunting and outdoor-skills clinics near North Bend Sept. 12-14.

Volunteer instructors will guide the sessions at Camp Waskowitz, including four biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who will teach outdoor skills ranging from wildlife identification and freshwater fishing to map and compass reading.

WOW is a non-profit program dedicated to teaching women and girls outdoor skills and natural resource stewardship. The organization is an educational outreach program of the Washington Wildlife Federation.

Info: (425) 455-1986, washingtonoutdoorwomen.org

Colville Forest advisers help allocate $580K fund

PUBLIC LANDS — A group of volunteer advisers are getting ready to help the Colville National Forest plan for spending $580,000 allocated for use in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties for ecosystem-enhancing projects.

The Colville Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) will meet Tuesday, July 01, at 10 a.m. at the Colville National Forest Headquarters.  The Committee will be discussing and voting on the 2014 Title II project applications relevant to natural resources. 

The meeting is open to the public, and a comment period will be provided at the beginning of the meeting.

The Colville RAC is a committee of volunteers selected by the Secretary of Agriculture to advise the Forest Service on the use of money allocated to the Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. The Congressionally-mandated committee consists of 15 county residents representing a broad section of the community including: outdoor recreation, environmental, mineral, education, cattle, elected officials, Native American, and other interests. 

The Colville RAC is charged to decide how to spend the funds to benefit the lands in the three counties that are on, or adjacent to National Forest system lands.  Projects can be on adjacent private or other agency land, provided the work helps the ecosystem or watershed of the Forest.

Info: Franklin Pemberton, forest public affairs officer,  (509) 684-7177. 

Mountain biking skills classes offered at Beacon Hill

CYCLING — 

Mountain bike skills taught

CYCLING – Mountain bike skills classes with certified coaches are being offered this summer at Camp Sekani by Evergreeneast.org.

Classes cover the fundamentals of balance, body positions, cornering, switch backs, obstacles and more.

  • The first class is for Intermediates, 5 p.m. Wednesday.
  • The Women’s Basic class is 6 p.m. July 9
  • A freeride class, July 21, covers advance wheel lifts, drops and more.

Pre-register: http://www.evergreeneast.org/skillsclasses/

Questions? kyle@evergreeneast.org.

New map published for Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — A new Cabinet Mountains Wilderness map, highlighting about 80 trails, has been published by conservation groups celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

“The last Forest Service wilderness map, published in 1992, is out of print and almost impossible to find,” said Sandy Compton of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, one of several groups, agencies and businesses that worked on the project.

“This is not only a good map as far as being able to find your way around, it’s also more of a resource for the local communities,” he said, noting it lists trails, contacts, attractions and services around the Western Montana wilderness area south of the Kootenai River.

Ten trails are spotlighted with short descriptions to show the range of options. It's beautifully illustrated with photos from the area.

The new map is clean, easy to read and water-resistant. But mapaholics won’t want to throw away their old Forest Service wilderness map.

For example, the new map leaves off a few landmark names, including small lakes or ponds and Hanging Valley.

Perhaps only a little prematurely in this age of climate change, it omits Blackwell Glacier on the north side of Snowshoe Peak and shows it as water.

However, trails on the new map are updated, easier to follow and more detailed.

Released this week, the map is being distributed at Forest Service offices, stores in the region as well as the Spokane REI store.

Two grizzly bears relocated to Cabinet Mountains

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.

The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, wildlife officials told the Daily Interlake.

Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release. The bears are fitted with Global Positioning System tracking collars to allow for their movements to be monitored.

Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears to released into the Cabinets since 2005.

In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.

Last year, a study that made use of genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.

Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said that estimate means that there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, and that indicates that the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.

As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced. That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.

Today: Kootenai Wildlife Refuge celebrates 50 years

WILDLIFE WATCHING — See an eagle fly to freedom today, and marvel at a marvelous habitat for wildlife in North Idaho.

Lake Roosevelt water level close to full pool

WATERSPORTS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1287.70 feet above sea level today and is expected to remain in the range of 1286 - 1288 for the next week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports. Spill may occur intermittently. Full pool behind Grand Coulee Dam is 1290 feet. 

  • Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.
  • Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Unmanned aircraft banned from national parks

PUBLIC LANDS — National Park Service lands across the United States, including the agency's national recreation areas such as Lake Roosevelt, are being ordered to prohibit launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters, according to a policy memorandum to park superintendents signed today by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

“We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care,” Jarvis said. “However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.

Unmanned aircraft have already been prohibited at several national parks. These parks initiated bans after noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, an incident in which park wildlife were harassed, and park visitor safety concerns. For example:

Last September, an unmanned aircraft flew above evening visitors seated in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater. Park rangers concerned for visitors’ safety confiscated the unmanned aircraft. 

In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered for a quiet sunset, which was interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon. Later in the month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

  • The video below shows one of many ways drones and cameras have been used in national parks.

The policy memorandum directs park superintendents to take a number of steps to exclude unmanned aircraft from national parks. The steps include drafting a written justification for the action, ensuring compliance with applicable laws, and providing public notice of the action.

The memorandum does not affect the primary jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration over the National Airspace System.

The policy memorandum is a temporary measure. Jarvis said the next step will be to propose a Servicewide regulation regarding unmanned aircraft. That process can take considerable time, depending on the complexity of the rule, and includes public notice of the proposed regulation and opportunity for public comment.

The policy memo directs superintendents to use their existing authority within the Code of Federal Regulations to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft, and to include that prohibition in the park’s compendium, a set of park-specific regulations.

All permits previously issued for unmanned aircraft will be suspended until reviewed and approved by the associate director of the National Park Service’s Visitor and Resource Protection directorate. The associate director must approve any new special use permits authorizing the use of unmanned aircraft. Superintendents who have previously authorized the use of model aircraft for hobbyist or recreational use may allow such use to continue. 

The National Park Service may use unmanned aircraft for administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study. These uses must also be approved by the associate director for Visitor and Resource Protection.

Fires prompt shooting ban on Wenas Wildlife Area

PUBLIC LANDS — The entire Wenas Wildlife Area has been closed to target shooting until Oct. 1 after several wildfires have burned the property near Ellensburg, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The closure bans target shooting 24 hours a day at the wildlife area. Public notice of the closure will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites.

WDFW adopted the closure in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.

Cindi Confer Morris, who manages the WDFW wildlife area, noted the agency restricted target-shooting to morning hours earlier this month, a step WDFW has taken the last three years to reduce wildfire risk.

“Even with the restrictions, four wildfires have been started on or near the wildlife area already this year,” Confer Morris said.

The most recent fire, which scorched nearly 10,000 acres, is believed to have started at a nearby Cottonwood Creek shooting area and spread across the wildlife area. Two other fires at the Wenas Wildlife Area were sparked by target shooting; fireworks started a fourth.

According to wildfire experts at DNR, people cause 85 percent of Washington's wildfires. Common causes include unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers on dry grass, target shooting and careless disposal of cigarettes.

“This area and the rest of eastern Washington are experiencing drier than usual conditions, which call for added precaution,” Confer Morris said. “It's important for the public to take steps to preserve public recreation lands and wildlife habitat.”

Confer Morris said the ban applies to this year's fire season only. WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing rules for target shooting on the wildlife area.

Like all of WDFW's wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has restrictions on campfires and prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Volunteers working on Mount Spokane snowshoe hut

STATE PARKS — A hut geared primarily for snowshoers at Mount Spokane is well on its way to being completed for the next winter season.

Nora Searing, above, and Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park were working on the hut Thursday, as Nora painted the stair railings.

“Afterwards I had a scenic little hike all by myself up Trail 140, while Cris continued to work,” she said, making a perfect day of work and pleasure.

Says Cris, who heads the Friends group:

The volunteer project to finish the snowshoe hut at Mt. Spokane is up and running. Today, volunteers painted the first coat on 3 sides and we've made lots of progress insulating the floor. I'm planning to work on it next Thursday through Sunday, so if you would like to help, please let me know what days you are available. If it's showery weather, we'll paint inside, and if not, we'll do the 2nd exterior coat. Three to five people each day would be perfect. It's also not too early to start getting firewood if anyone is so inclined. I could also use a couple more carpenters for the more technical work like the deck railing, the ADA ramp, the wood shed, and the interior siding and window trim. We also need someone to make a table and benches out of a really nice white pine I found in the nordic area. It has been ripped into rough cut lumber and drying since last August. This place is going to be soooo nice when it's all done!!!

Statistics to help Montana count wolves

PREDATORS — The bottom line is that state's can't afford to continue spending millions of dollars to monitor wolf populations. There has to be an easier more affordable way.

Montana researchers come up with a new way to count wolves
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' requirement to provide minimum wolf counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expires in two years, and researchers from the state wildlife agency and the University of Montana have developed a new statistical technique to come up with wolf numbers.
—Helena Independent Record

Get kids ready for Great American Backyard Campout

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Gather the kids, make a plan for exploring the “jungles” around the house and pitching a tent in the backyard and join the group across the country on June 28 for the Great American Backyard Campout.

The annual promoted by the National Wildlife Federation encourages people of all ages to camp in their backyards, neighborhoods, parks and campgrounds, as a simple way to reconnect with nature!

“From wildlife watching tips and games to campfire songs and recipes, NWF gives people everywhere the resources they need to experience the wonders of wildlife right in their own backyards or neighborhoods with a simple yet memorable summer Campout,” said Maureen Smith, chief marketing officer for National Wildlife Federation.

Once the sun sets, a new array of wildlife emerges to explore America’s backyards. To help with your campout, here are some fun wildlife watching tips for observing nocturnal wildlife such as owls and moths.

  • Pick areas where night-flying insects are abundant, such as over water, or near flood lights. Light and water attract the insects that certain animals feed on at night. Here are five common nocturnal wildlife species to watch for.
  • Get your binoculars, bird book, and some flashlights and go out in the woods at night to search for owls. Owls are nocturnal, so the best time to look for them is at night.
  • Watch for bats at sunset. At sunset, bats come out to look for mosquitoes and other bugs to eat. They like to fly over open areas, often over water. To help increase your chances of seeing bats, build or buy a bat house.
  • Go mothing. Put out fruit at a simple tray feeder or smear it on a tree in the late afternoon or early in the night. At nighttime, check the feeders for moth activity.
  • Observe bugs at night by hanging a bed sheet in the backyard and shine a white light directly on it. Insects are a big part of the nighttime backyard show. Depending on the season, the sounds of crickets may be loud! Moths of all sizes are attracted to patio or spotlights in the warm weather.
  • Hunt for nightcrawlers with a flashlight.
  • Use your ears; if you hear birds, frogs, or mammals calling, slowly walk towards those sounds for a better chance of seeing them. Always remember to keep a respectable distance from the birds and mammals you are viewing.

Are you in?

 Take the pledge to camp on June 28th or anytime of the year.

Forest Service updates snowmobiling travel plan

WINTERSPORTS — Snowmobiling rules send mixed messages and where the machines are allowed to roam, groups say.

USFS releases updated over-snow travel management plan
Snowmobiling groups applauded the U.S. Forest Service's proposed update of its over-snow travel management plan that keeps access decisions at the local level, but Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Idaho-based group that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in 2005 over its management of over-snow travel said the plan did nothing to address inconsistencies found in the previous plan.
 —Missoulian

Pull together against weeds at Iller Creek Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — Local hikers are pulling together to reduce the noxious weed infestation at the Iller Creek unit of the Dishman Hills Conservation Area in Spokane Valley.

The Inland Northwest Hikers are recruiting volunteers for a spotted knapweed pulling party on Saturday.

“We’ll move up the east ridge trail and pull as we go to the Rocks of Sharon,” said co-organizer Bob Strong.

“Bring sturdy work gloves and a trowel if you have one. Bring lunch and at least two quarts of water — it's going to be sunny and warm.”

 Meet at 9 a.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church to carpool to the trail head. Directions: From Sprague/Appleway in Spokane Valley, turn south on Dishman-Mica Road. Go past 32nd Avenue and turn right (at the traffic light) on Schafer Road to the church parking lot on the right.

Small-town OHVers detour from mainstream of public land users

PUBLIC LANDS —Apparently my name is mud in Ione this week.

Last week, I reported that Colville National Forest officials were investigating a May gathering of four-wheel drive enthusiasts who illegally drove off designated roads open to motor vehicles and ripped up a seasonal wetland area in a powerline easement near the Pend Oreille County town.

I posted on my blog a link to a Facebook video someone shot of the mudding event and used a Forest Service photo of the aftermath to publicize that agency officials were investigating the case.

“It is against the law to tear up forest roads and meadows, and the legal and financial consequences can be steep,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman in Colville. 

  • See today's Outdoors column on Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' bill to overturn the Travel Management Rule governing motor vehicle use on national forests.

Comments to my stories have ranged from “Thanks for bringing this sort of activity to the public’s attention,” to “I’m suing you for everything you’ve got!”

This is roughly the range of comments also being received by Forest Service officials who are trying to enforce laws that protect public lands.

In this May incident, the off-road travel and mudding was part of a popular annual charity ride. That doesn’t make it legal, but as one emailer pointed out, “What are you going to do, cite the whole town of Ione?”

I received several emails berating me for being an environmentalist who's interfering with their manner of enjoying public lands.

For the record, I'm not the only person who recognizes that some rules need to govern motorized vehicle use on national forests. Following the posting of my stories on the Cedar Creek mudding incident, I received a letter to the editor.

“As motorized users and sportsmen, we cannot tolerate the ATV and 4x4 mudding incident that took place near Ione, Wash., in May,” the letter begins. “Driving an ATV or 4x4 on our public lands is a privilege and our access is threatened by those who cause resource damage.

“We understand that access to public lands comes with responsibility, and like the vast majority of motorized users, we follow the rules. When senseless damage like this happens it leads to loss of access and trail closures and loss of trust.”

The letter was signed by 11 groups including five regional ATV clubs and one ATV dealer.

Here's a link to the entire letter and the groups that signed on to it.

QUESTION:

Why don't more northeastern Washington OHV enthusiasts partner with landowners for a place to stage OHV events on private land? Charge an entrance fee and make it a festival like they'll do this weekend at the St. John sprint boat races or as they do on private land near Odessa each spring for the Desert 100 dirt bike race.


Documents:

Grizzly bear at home on the range

WILDLIFE WATCHING — No cowboys were trying to rope this stray and put their own brand on it Tuesday, for good reason.

Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson had been sitting in a blind near a fox den before he headed toward  home near Lincoln.  

“As I drove along a back prairie road, I noticed a strange dark-colored cow being chased by the other cows. As I got closer I realized….. that’s no cow….  Weird to see grizzlies on the prairie.”

He apologized for the quality of the image but said he had to document the sighting.

Head 'em up!   Move 'em out!

Fascinating funji delicate, pink; will it kill you?

NATURE — This week's damp June weather is a gift from God for mushroom gatherers, and Priest Lake is a hot spot for variety.

Indeed, Pecky Cox, producer of the everything-about-Priest Lake website, found this beauty in her neck of the woods on Wednesday.  Can you positively identify it? 

A coral mushroom?

Would you ask you readers,” she wrote. “It's not yellow like the other one. OK to eat? Smells like dirty socks the way it's supposed to… but pink-ish?”

Washington game plan focus of meeting for hunters

WILDLIFE — A proposed plan for managing game animals in Washington will be presented in a public meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court.

The plan will help Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials guide management of species from deer to wolves.

Key issues considered in the draft plan include:

  • Promoting hunter recruitment and retention;
  • Managing predator/prey relationships;
  • Maintaining hunter access to timberlands;
  • Managing wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species; and
  • Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot.

Final recommendations for the six-year plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September. 

Also in August, the agency will hold meetings on possible changes in Washington’s hunting rules for the 2015-17 seasons. 

Access reopens to most Western Montana rivers

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has lifted flood related closures at most western Montana access sites along the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers.  Only Woodside Bridge, along the Bitterroot River near Corvallis, remains closed.

Additional access site closures and restrictions around western Montana are possible as runoff continues. FWP officials urge caution if venturing on or near rivers during high water. 

For updates, visit fwp.mt.gov and choose “restrictions and closures.”

Father sets bar high as hiking/parenting role model

HIKING — What's  your excuse for not getting your son or daughter out on the trail lately?

James Geier, a retired law enforcement officer, celebrated Fathers Day by hiking with his 18-year-old son, Jonah, in Arches National Park. Even though Jonah is not able to hike, his dad gave him a tow on trailer so he could enjoy the experience of traveling three miles into the Utah backcountry, climbing 480 feet over slickrock trails and up red rock steps to share with his dad a worldwide symbol of strength and endurance.

“Perseverance,” his daughter Laura wrote of the outing. “Shared by both the Arch in withstanding time and change, and the resolve of a father to hike his disabled son to the Arch to experience the incredible symbol of natural beauty and strength.”

 

50 years after Wilderness Act: still much to discover

PUBLIC LANDS — Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act of 1964 is full of eye-opening insights.

QUIZ:

The Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico border through California, Oregon and Washington to the Canada border passes through how many official wilderness areas?

  • Three
  • Nine
  • 12
  • 48

The answer is at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, most people associate wilderness areas with national forests.  But the Forest Service isn't the only federal agency that manages officials wilderness, which can be in national parks as well as lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the  U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM manages 245 million acres in the U.S., primarily in the West (in addition to administering 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate). Of that land, 27 million acres are managed as national conservation lands including National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic RiversNational Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert. 

BLM manages 8.7 million acres in 221 units as wilderness, with no roads and no motorized vehicles or mechanized equipment allowed.

Check out the video below featuring BLM staffers explaining the basic question:  “What's Wilderness?” See more videos of young BLM staffers exploring Utah wilderness here

Answer: 48.

Western tanager lights up a gloomy day

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “It was 37 degrees and raining at our home this morning,” reports Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, without a hint of complaint. “ The best part of rainy June days is that the Western tanagers show up in force! I lost count at 30+ tanagers on our feeders this morning!”

Western tanager plumage resembles the colors of a flame. The species certainly stokes my enthusiasm to head out with a spotting scope.

Idaho spring chinook fishing winding down

UPDATED 1:55 p.m. with announcement of Sunday closings by Idaho fish and Game:

 

 

FISHING — Idaho’s spring chinook salmon fisheries on the lower Salmon River and the Clearwater River basins are almost history for 2014.

Idaho Fish and Game has just issued this announcement:

As harvest quotas of adult Chinook salmon will soon be achieved throughout the Clearwater drainage, harvest of adult Chinook in the entire Clearwater (including the Middle Fork, South Fork and Lochsa) will end on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 9:15 Pacific Daylight Time.

Harvest of all Chinook salmon; including jacks, will be off-limits in the main stem Clearwater and the North Fork Clearwater after Sunday June 22. Closing these sections to all salmon fishing will eliminate mortalities among adult salmon hooked and released by anglers fishing for jack salmon.

Harvest of jack salmon (those under 24 inches) will continue to be allowed on the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa River until further notice. Anglers may harvest up to 4 adipose-clipped Chinook salmon under 24 inches per day on those rivers. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released. Anglers harvesting four jacks in a day or having 12 jacks in possession must discontinue fishing.

On the Salmon River:

“Fishing for both adult and jack spring chinook will close on two sections of the lower Salmon River at 9:15 p.m. Thursday,” reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. “The river will close to salmon fishing between Rice Creek and Time Zone bridges and from the mouth of Short’s Creek to the boat ramp at Vinegar Creek.”

Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are closing the two stretches to make sure anglers don’t catch too many salmon destined for the upper Salmon River.

The river will remain open to chinook fishing between Time Zone Bridge and the mouth of Short’s Creek, often referred to as the Park Hole. The Little Salmon River will also remain open.

But fishing on those two stretches could close in the next few weeks. Last week, anglers caught nearly 1,400 adult chinook from the lower Salmon River and more than 1,500 from the Little Salmon River. So far this year, anglers have caught about 4,300 adult chinook from the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, leaving about 2,500 on the state’s share of the Rapid River run, which is fewer than were caught last week.

“If harvest last week is any indication of what is going to happen this week, that should put us pretty close to our harvest share,” said Don Whitney, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Fish managers decided to close the Clearwater stretches after analyzing catch data. Anglers caught 419 adult chinook from the South Fork of the Clearwater, Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers last week.

Idaho hunters still waiting for controlled hunt drawing results

HUNTING - Some big-game hunters who applied for Idaho controlled hunting permits got all excited last week when Washington announced the results of its 2014 big game hunting permit drawings.

But Idaho hunters are still weeks away from getting the good/bad news and planning their vacations accordingly.  Says Idaho Fish and Game:

Q: When will the deer, elk and pronghorn drawing results be available?

A: Successful applicants will be sent a post card to the address listed on their hunting license by July 10. Results will also be available on the Fish and Game website

Lingering snow delays Glacier Park opportunities

PUBLIC LANDS — Be patient if you're making plans to visit Glacier National Park, especially if you want to venture into the high country.

Snow conditions, cool weather, and debris from snow slides are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads in Glacier National Park.  Snow accumulations in the park are above average this year and spring snowmelt has varied at different locations. 

A weather system is predicted to impact the area beginning tonight through the next couple of days, including cooler temperatures and heavy precipitation.  At this time, a winter storm warning has been issued in and around Glacier National Park for elevations above 6,500 feet with predictions of snow accumulations of one to two feet.   The elevation at Logan Pass is 6,646 feet. 

Numerous trails in Glacier National Park are still snow-covered. Park staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris.

  • The Ptarmigan Falls Bridge and Twin Falls Bridge have been removed due to winter damage and hazardous conditions. Temporary bridges are expected to be installed by early July.
  • The Iceberg Lake Trail is closed to stock use until permanent repairs to the Ptarmigan Falls B ridge are complete.  Permanent repair work on both bridges is anticipated to begin this fall.
  • Trout Lake Trail has been impacted by extensive avalanche debris.  Hikers are not encouraged to use this trail, or it is recommended that hikers have route-finding skills to traverse the debris. 

Trails may traverse steep and sometimes icy snowfields and park rangers are advising hikers to have the appropriate equipment and skills to navigate such areas, or perhaps visit those areas once conditions improve. 

The park posts current trail status reports.

Even some lowland facilities have been affected by the late season. Frozen and damaged sewer and water lines caused some delays in seasonal opening activities for utilities park-wide.

  • Rising Sun and the Swiftcurrent cabin areas experienced damaged water lines.
  • The Apgar and Lake McDonald areas experienced issues with frozen sewer lines, and some broken water lines.
  • The Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Campgrounds experienced delayed openings due to abundant snow accumulation and slow snow melt.   

The Going to the Sun Road is still being cleared by snow removal crews. A snow slide in the Alps area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, about five miles west of Logan Pass, wiped out about 20-30 feet of rock wall along the road.  Several new slide paths across the road have been encountered this spring, including the need for extensive snow and debris cleanup.    

Snow removal operations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continue with road crews working near the Big Drift and Lunch Creek areas east of Logan Pass. Above average snow accumulation and cool June temperatures have provided challenges for snow removal operations. The snow depth at the Big Drift is estimated to be about 80 feet, larger than recent years.  Once the snow is removed, a thick layer of ice on the road is anticipated. 

Park road crew employees have begun working overtime in an effort to accomplish snow removal goals.

Snow removal and plowing progress, including images, are posted online.

  • Currently, visitors can drive about 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side of the park, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side. It is anticipated that there will be vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook area on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by this weekend, but it is dependent on weather conditions.  Vehicle access to Logan Pass, and beyond Avalanche on the west side of park, is unknown at this time. 

Hiker-biker access is currently available from Avalanche to the Loop on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. See current hiker-biker access and park road status reports.  

Smokey Bear sparked legacy of fire prevention art

PUBLIC LANDS — The legacy of Smokey Bear is celebrating its 70th anniversary of fire prevention messages this year. 

The campaign's roots date back to 1942, when the U.S. Forest Service’s popular icon of wildfire prevention was conceived during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource—wood. The first artist’s rendering of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle in 1944.

 The ad campaign: “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires”, was created in 1947 by The Advertising Council.

The ad campaign got a flesh and blood boost starting in 1950, when firefighters working a blaze in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains came back to camp packing an orphaned six-week-old black bear cub with singed hair and burned feet.

Ray Bell, a state Game and Fish Department ranger and pilot, flew the bear to a veterinarian in Santa Fe for initial treatment and then took the cub home, where his wife and daughter helped him nurse the bear back to health over two months.  Initially, they had to get the cub to suck a mixture of honey, milk and baby food from their fingers.

The cub originally was named “Hot Foot Teddy,” but U.S. Forest Service officials saw the potential for news about the cub to translate into a hot campaign for forest fire prevention.  They renamed the bear Smokey.

The cub was taken to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., later that summer, where he became an instant celebrity as he grew into a 400-pound bear. Smokey lived there for 26 years before his death in 1976.

While preventing forest fires continues to be a noble cause, the Forest Service in recent years has had to come to terms with over-protection of some forest areas. Education efforts have expanded to showing that that fire suppression in some cases can let fuels build up on forests to a degree that a fire sparked by humans or nature can blow up to catastrophic proportions.

  • The goal and theme of the Smokey Bear campaign was adjusted in the last decade, from “Only you can prevent forest fires” to “Only you can prevent wildfires.” The purpose is to respond to the criticism, and to distinguish 'bad' intentional or accidental wildfires from the needs of sustainable forests via natural 'good' fire ecology.

Meanwhile, the 70 years of Smokey Bear campaign created a legacy of artwork, some of which can be viewed online.  Federal land agencies and Firewise are producing an exhibit of Rudy Wendelin’s famous Smokey Bear prints at the Idaho Capitol Building in Boise through June

Wendelin worked for the US Forest Service from 1949-1973 and took the approach to “soften & humanize” the appearance of Smokey Bear to gain the attention of children. This method was successful in helping spread the fire education message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

x x

Researchers set grizzly bear snares near Priest Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Researchers are setting snares in the Hughes Meadows area north of Priest Lake this month in an ongoing effort to capture grizzly bears and fit them with radio collars.

As of Tuesday, the two-man crew working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had caught one bear – a black bear. The 5-year-old male, weighing 134 pounds, was ear-tagged and released, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.

“There have been some years when we didn't trap in Idaho but we've generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” he said.

This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares in the Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.

“The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” Wakkinen said. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”

Researchers also are trapping bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area, he said.

Wayne Kasworm, federal grizzly bear biologist who's supervising the collaring project, said his crews plan to be trapping high in the mountains in July and August.

“We currently have five female grizzly bears with collars in the Selkirks and we hope to collar four or five more,” he said.  

Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, he said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal if they’ve been triggered with a radio signal to the crew.

The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said. 

Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer.  “If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.

“If there's something stinky there's a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out.  Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.

“Radio collars can yield a great amount of information such as survival rates, cause of mortality, reproductive output, cub survival and identification of seasonal ranges and dispersal,” he said. “These data in turn can be used to make informed land management decisions.”

Found bighorn just short of Boone and Crockett world record

WILDLIFE — Close but no cigar for a bighorn skull found in Canada. It just misses world record status, the Boone and Crockett Club says.

A long winter buried in snow apparently swelled the horns of a bighorn sheep that died of natural causes. The ram was found this spring by Alberta wildlife officials and green-scored as a potential new world record. 

Following the Boone and Crockett Club's mandatory 60-day drying period, the ram's horns lost an astounding four inches in net score. The original scorers reconvened to find that every measurement was smaller on both horns. 

Still, with a final score of 205-7/8, the ram ranks No. 5 all time. It has been entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta. 

The reigning World's Record, taken by a hunter in Alberta in 2000, stands at 208-3/8. 

“Though it's not a World's Record, it is another tremendous specimen symbolic of continuing, successful conservation programs. For that, we congratulate Alberta wildlife officials,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. 

Hale added, “Biologists speculate this latest ram died of old age in early summer 2013, so the horns were exposed to the elements through the remainder of summer, all fall and all of a wet, snowy winter. Apparently, the horns absorbed an incredible amount of moisture, because four inches of shrinkage during the 60-day drying period is very rare.” 

The Boone and Crockett Club, long recognized as the leading authority on big-game recordkeeping, requires air drying all trophies at habitable room temperature for 60 days immediately prior to final scoring. It's a rule made precisely for this kind of situation. 

“By standardizing the scoring process as much as possible, we ensure the credibility of our records. That's very important for the biologists who use these data to compare and contrast outstanding habitat, strong recruitment into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. It's also important to sportsmen in that all trophies are being treated as equally as possible,” said Hale. 
  

Logs pose hazard to whitewater rafters in Marble Creek

WATERSPORTS — Whitewater rafters and kayakers were greeted by hazards in Marble Creek last weekend.

Logs from a logging operation apparently slid down a steep slope and into the tributary of the St. Joe River.

This is prime time for river runners before flows become too low in Marble Creek, but the stream flows fast with tight turns and hazards that make it for experts only.

Three reasons to go fishing at Sprague Lake

FISHING — Here are three graphic reminders (above) of why some anglers prefer fishing at  1,876-acre Sprague Lake, which straddles the Lincoln-Adams county line. 

The photos were snapped last week by Scott Haugen of Four Seasons Campground and Resort. May and June are considered prime time for catching rainbows that plump up fast in this productive lake.

“Last week-end was fantastic still fishing in the boats, out in the middle between our resort and the big island,” he said. “Several boats with limits, with lots of 3-4 pound rainbows.”

Sprague also holds largemouth bass that grow to very pleasing sizes.

Hunters rile politicians about new Weyerhaeuser access fees

HUNTING — Hunters had better be cautious in their rants about private timber companies charging fees for access to their forest lands.

For decades, these companies have allowed free public access. Everyone knows the public hasn't always been respectful. The public is responsible for too many cases of dumping garbage, driving off roads and creating unauthorized trails, destroying gates, damaging trees and stealing timber.

When the companies close some access or charge a fee, some factions raise hell.  Wow.

In this region, Potlatch and Inland Empire Paper Company have both scaled back where the public can go and set fees for some access.

This year, a major company in Western Washington has announced a fee-access program and hunters are going ballistic.

 Following is the latest update from the Longview Daily News:

By Shari Phiel and Tom Paulu

Reacting to public anger over Weyerhaeuser Co.’s fee-for-entry policy, commissioners in Cowlitz and Grays Harbor counties are looking for ways to block the move or lessen its impact.

A proposal in Grays Harbor County would raise Weyerhaeuser’s property tax, though a company spokesman said Thursday linking land access to taxes might be illegal.

Weyerhaeuser plans to start charging $150 for a family permit to visit much of its land around Longview starting Aug. 1. Some areas will be leased to the highest bidder. The company is also expanding its fee access program in Grays Harbor County.

More than 400 people have signed a petition asking the Cowlitz County commissioners to try to stop Weyerhaeuser from charging for public access. Chris Bornstedt of Kelso started the petition several weeks ago, leaving copies in local sporting goods stores. Bornstedt said the fee access system will be bad for the local economy because it will discourage hunters from spending.

“We’ll take (the petition) to county commissioners and let them know we aren’t happy with it,” Bornstedt said.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Jim Misner said he’s asked Weyerhaeuser to waive or reduce permit fees for Cowlitz County residents and for current and retired company workers.

At the commissioners’ meeting Thursday, Misner said he has asked Weyerhaeuser spokesman Anthony Chavez if the company could reduce fees for people who carry garbage bags into the forest and pick up trash. He and Waste Control have discussed putting dumpsters at five locations in the county where woods trash could be dumped.

“I told him a lot of hunters are going to be reluctant to hunt our local timberlands now because of the hoof-disease epidemic, so a lot of them aren’t going to hunt locally anyway,” Misner said. “The other thing is, I think it’s just good PR for the locals. Anthony likes the idea, but he wants to run it up the chain.”

Hunters are also upset in Grays Harbor County, where a proposed ordinance would increase taxes for timber companies that charge for access. Traditionally, Grays Harbor County allows some timber owners to pay lower taxes on land primarily used for growing and harvesting timber. Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Comier wants to eliminate the tax break for landowners who charge for public access.

Grays Harbor will hold a hearing on the proposal on June 23.

In an email, Chavez told The Daily News, “we are evaluating the ordinance and question the county’s authority to tax our timberlands in this way. Our preliminary research suggests the ordinance is inconsistent with state law and invalid.” The note did not elaborate.

“I think that Grays Harbor is on to something,” Misner said. He said he has asked the Cowlitz County’s prosecutor’s office to review the legality off the proposed Grays Harbor ordinance. Misner also suggested the commissioners hold a forum and invite people who have signed Bornstedt’s petition.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Mike Karnofski, a former Weyerhaeuser Co. employee, said he wanted to hear the Cowlitz County legal staff’s opinion of the taxation ordinance before considering a forum.

Film fest celebrates 50 years of wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS  –  A free mini-film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is traveling through the Inland Northwest this summer.

The beauty, history and adventure of wilderness areas, the highest level of protection offered for America’s public lands, is featured in 10 short films totaling just over an hour of entertainment suited to all ages.  Screenings include:

  • Newport – Roxy Theater, 7:30 p.m., Thursday.  June 19 
  • Spokane – Mountain Gear Store, 2002 N. Division, 6:30 p.m., June 26.
  • Metaline Falls – Cutter Theater, 7:30 p.m., June 27.
  • Colville – Rendezvous Theater, 7 p.m., Sept. 25.

Films include: American Values – American Wilderness, Last Light, Sage Steppe, North Cascades Wilderness Ranger, and a production by Gonzaga senior students highlighting the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in northeastern Washington.

The films are being presented by Colville National Forest District Ranger Gayne Sears and partners from the Lands Council or Kettle Range Conservation Group, who will answer questions and hand out door prizes.

Info: Gayne Sears, (509) 447-7300.

Groups highlight trail projects past and future

PUBLIC LANDS – Volunteer trail projects past and future will be highlighted in a program by the Spokane Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association on Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

“The Mountaineers have a long history of giving back to our local trails,” said Lynn Smith, the club’s trail-maintenance program coordinator. “Whether working on our own or in conjunction with other organizations, we understand that stewardship goes hand-in-hand with recreation, and volunteers are a crucial part of the process – especially in this era of shrinking budgets.”

More projects are planned this year in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, he said.

Fish survey: good news for Dworshak kokanee, bass anglers

FISHING — Fishing for kokanee and bass at Dworshak Reservoir is excellent, as confirmed by this fishing report received late Friday from Joe Duont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager:

Dworshak Reservoir Kokanee Report (6/13/14)

In late April we completed our spring trawl survey, and the time for an update on the kokanee fishery is overdue.  The ‘catchable’ size kokanee we caught in the trawl averaged 9 ¼ inches long, which is about a half inch shorter than the same time last year.  However, there are a lot more fish out there this year.  In fact it appears we have about twice as many 2-year old kokanee (the larger kokanee we like to catch) this year as we did last year.

We have also been busy talking to fishermen at the ramps this spring.  While not everyone is coming in with fish this year, most anglers are.  We are also seeing more limits of kokanee than empty coolers.  In April, catch rates averaged 7.6 fish kept per fisherman and 2.8 fish per hour of kokanee fishing.  In May, it picked up to 10.3 fish per person and 3.9 fish per hour.  We don’t have many interviews so far for June, but right now catch rates are 12.3 fish per person and 3.5 fish per hour.  These are great catch rates for Kokanee fishing.  The Kokanee we’ve seen in the creel recently are around 10 inches long, but there are occasional fish over 13 inches long.  Right now most people are fishing between Canyon Creek and Dent Bridge, but we have marked good densities of kokanee farther up the reservoir during our research work.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  We also interviewed 38 bass anglers over the past month who spent 117 hours to catch 463 smallmouth bass and kept 45. This works out to a little over 12 bass caught per person and four fish per hour.  Harvested bass have averaged about 13 inches, but a couple larger fish have been brought in, with the largest right at 20 inches.  Recent surface temperatures are in the mid to upper 60’s with a thermocline at 10 to 15 feet.  As the water has warmed and spawning has wrapped up, larger bass are moving into deeper water.  Some bass anglers I spoke with over the weekend reported that smaller bass were plentiful, but larger bass were down 40 to 50 feet and tough to come by.

Sinlahekin celebration features critter clinics

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Native bees, birds, bears, deer, mollusks, wildflowers, mosses, lichens and geology will be the featured topics this weekend at summer-long 75th anniversary celebration continues at Washington's Sinlahekin Wildlife Area near Tonasket.

And Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet will give a program on early exploration of the region.

See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County.

The list is long and offerings are impressive.

Events are scheduled for this weekend — June 14-15 — as well as on July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7. 

Will you brave a Friday 13th full moon?

SKY WATCHING — If you can get above the clouds, tonight may be a good night to stroll a mountain ridge without a headlamp in the shadowy light the full moon will be bathing on the landscape.

But remember, it's Friday the 13th.  A chilling thought.

“I know people who say that (it’s superstitious), but it’s just a thing that happens because of the moon and the calendar align, for me there’s nothing supernatural about it,” Jerry Eber, a Spokane Astronomical Society member, told S-R reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner. “The moon is up there all the time, it just happens to have more sun on it.”

The convergence of the astronomical and the astrological calendar is rare. The last time Friday the 13th coincided with a full moon was Oct. 13, 2000. The next time will be Aug. 13, 2049.

Tonight is only the 10th time since 1900.

Although there’s no concrete evidence, police have noticed odd things happen when there’s a full moon. A former Spokane County Sheriff’s sergeant once recounted to The Spokesman-Review some of those odd happenings: as a naked man on the side of the road offering free sex and a dead coyote stuffed into a mailbox were two.

Fathers Day promotions get Dads on water free

WATERSPORTS —  Still scratching your head over what to get Dad for Father's Day?

If you book before June 17, ROW Adventures is offering families of four or more a free pass for Dad on whitewater rafting trips on the Lochsa, Clark Fork and Spokane Rivers.
ROW also is offering discounts for dads on stand up paddle board tours and fly fishing trips on the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe Rivers.

Info: 208-770-2517

BLM gating Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — Motor vehicles will be blocked from driving the Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague starting today,  U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say.

The annual summer closure begins when fire danger becomes high in the range land area south of Sprague, said Steve Smith, recreation manager for BLM's  Spokane District.

While the gate will be locked, hikers and mountain bikers are still free to travel on the roads and trails, he said. 

Note: Keep dogs on leash.  The area is a fairly reliable place to see rattlesnakes.

Clinic prepares dogs for rattlesnake encounters

HUNTING – A rattlesnake aversion clinic for dogs, using live adult and juvenile snakes, put on by Natural Solutions of California is set for June 27 in Lewiston. Cost: $70.

Pre-register to schedule individual time slot: (208) 413-3032 or email shellyd181@gmail.com.

Centennial Trail nets $30,000 from Spokane Bike Swap

TRAILS — The numbers are in for the third annual Spokane Bike Swap and the checks are written — including a $30,000 boost for the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

“Spokane Bike Swap has become the largest supporter of our Trail Builder’s Fund,” said Loreen McFaul, the friends group's executive director. Proceeds from the April 12-13 Bike Swap are designated for expansion of the popular trail along the Spokane River, completion and maintenance, she said.
 
“Our funding priorities include advocating for funding and construction plans for the Mission Street gap, supporting the construction of two Trail extensions – from Bridge to Boone Avenue and from Sontag Park to the Nine Mile Recreation Area at Lake Spokane, finalizing a gap completion plan for Argonne Road, improving directional and safety signs on the Trail and keeping printed maps, our Google map and Trail posters updated as gaps are completed.”
 
More than 3,000 people attended the 2014 Spokane Bike Swap on at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, which featured 53 exhibitors and nearly 750 used bikes registered to sell.
 
“We tripled the amount of used bikes sold from our first year in the bike corral, selling 549 bikes,” said LeAnn Yamamoto, swap event director. To boost cycling safety, 173 children age 14 and younger who bought a bike in the bike corral received a free Bell helmet and helmet fitting, she said.

Stagger Inn Campground closed for tree removal

PUBLIC LANDS — The Forest Service has begun removing hazardous trees at the Stagger Inn Campground on the Priest Lake Ranger District and work will continue  through June 30, says Panhandle National Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner.

Stagger Inn and the adjacent Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls will remain closed during the operations.

“We ask that people remain patient as we work to make the Stagger Inn Campground safe for the public,” said Priest Lake District Ranger Matt Davis. “We recognize the importance of these sites to the Priest Lake area.  Our crews are working hard to reduce the hazards and reopen the site.”

High winds on Aug. 25, 2013, weakened and damaged several trees in the Stagger Inn Campground. A man was killed as a tree fell on his tent, prompting closure of the area.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-6839.

Montana ski area opening technical mountain bike trails

BICYCLING — The trend continues with alpine ski areas developing facilities for mountain bikers to enjoy during the summer season:

Montana ski area goes big on mountain bike features
Discovery Ski Area in Montana will open its opens new technical skills park for experienced mountain bike riders on Sunday, with a variety of wall rides, bridges, jumps and logs along the way down 1,050 vertical feet.

In the Spokane area: 

  • Mount Spokane downhill trails are being planned and construction is underway.  Last weekend, Evergreen East organized The Warm Up Mt. Spokane benefit event, raising nearly $1000, attracted 30 volunteers who put in 170 hours of hard labor on trail construction, and brought together 26 riders for a total of 13 laps on a Mount Spokane course. A new Mountain Biking brochure and map details the existing riding opportunities at Mount Spokane.
  • A downhill and technical biking park has been created at Beacon Hill

State Parks pass can buy you a free lunch

PUBLIC LANDS — The value of a Washington state Discover Pass is going up.

The $30 annual pass, required on vehicles in state parks and many other state lands, also will be valid for a free sandwich at many SUBWAY® sandwich shops.   Most of Eastern Washington is left out of the deal, but if you're headed west of the Columbia River, take your Discover Pass and stay nourished.

The “Walk in the Park” promotion starts Saturday, June 14, (National Get Outdoors Day) and runs through Sept. 30 at all 435 SUBWAY® restaurants in 17 counties throughout Western Washington — King, Snohomish, Chelan, Clallam, Douglas, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Thurston and Whatcom.

Show your Discover Pass at the shop or at a state park in participating counties to receive a voucher for a free regular six-inch sandwich with the purchase of a regular six-inch sandwich of equal or greater value and a 30-ounce drink.

Washington developing game management plan; meetings set

HUNTING — The public is getting a chance to help shape the Washington's game management plan at a series of public “open house” meetings scheduled by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) this month.

The public can also comment on key aspects of the six-year plan via an on-line survey, from today through July 18.

The meetings are scheduled to run in Eastern Washington from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. as follows:

  • June 17 – Wenatchee, Red Lion Inn Wenatchee , 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave.
  • June 18 – Kennewick, Red Lion Inn Kennewick, N. 1101 Columbia Center Blvd.
  • June 19 – Spokane, Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court..

Once adopted, the plan will be used by WDFW to guide development of hunting seasons and other management policies in future years, said Dave Ware, WDFW game program manager.

“We want to hear people’s concerns, especially those that address significant conservation or management issues,” he said.

  • Key issues in the draft plan include:
  • Hunter recruitment and retention.
  • Hunter access to timberlands.
  • Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot. 
  • New proposals for managing predator/prey relationships.
  • Developing a plan to manage wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species.

Ware said comments received at the public meetings and from the online survey will be used to develop additional recommendations, which will be available for further review.

Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September.

Washington big-game permit drawing results available

HUNTING — Some Washington hunters will be celebrating tonight. Others will be crying in their beer.

Results of the state's big-game special permit drawings for deer, elk and moose, etc., are available online

You'll need your WILD ID and you'll have to remember your birth date to get your results.

I didn't get my hopes too high, and it's a good thing.   I was eight for eight — NOT  DRAWN.

Lifejackets aren’t for sissies

WATERSPORTS — The season's barely begun and already two drownings have been reported from private rafting trips on Idaho's Salmon River.

Neither victim was wearing a lifejacket on the RIVER OF NO RETURN, which, forgive me for being honest, is inexcusable.

Colville Forest starts planning ORV trail system

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest is moving ahead with a 10- to 15-year project to plan off-road vehicle trails and relocate camping areas to serve the motorized trail groups while rehabilitating the impacts illegal OHV use has had on streams, meadows and wildlife habitat.

  • A timeline of documents regarding the South End Project has been posted on the forest website.

The Decision Notice describes the selected alternative (Alternative 3) and provides the rationale of why the Forest Service selected this alternative. The chosen alternative includes designation of new off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes, restoration of campsites currently causing resource damage, development of parking areas, and an adjustment of the boundaries of management areas in the Colville National Forest Plan. 

“This decision will designate a system of roads and trails that create quality loops, connects communities, and provides for better access and increased opportunities for off-highway vehicles, while protecting natural and cultural resources,”  said Laura Jo West, Colville National Forest Supervisor.  “Once the new routes are added to the Colville National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map they will be a great addition to ride and enjoy.”

The project area includes all or parts of Ruby, Cusick, Tacoma, Twelvemile, Monaghan, Indian, Addy, Leslie, Bayley, Chewelah, Thomason, Cottonwood, Smalle, Winchester and Calispell creek drainages on the Colville National Forest northwest of Newport. 

 “With such a large project area and a number of restoration efforts needed this project will be phased in over the next 15 years,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. “Each potential route requires a safety analysis and a one year monitoring period to ensure there is no unauthorized use before being officially designated as open on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).

  • Go here to see details of the forests travel management plan and view the MVUM and maps.

It is important to understand that until some important restoration and safety analysis work can be completed, the new routes will not be open to the public.  

An implementation team will meet twice each year.  In the spring, they will determine the roads to be added in the following year.  During the summer, each new route will undergo a safety evaluation and be surveyed for user created OHV routes.  In the fall, they will review monitoring, and roads that meet the criteria will be put on the MVUM for the following year.  To be put on the MVUM, a route must not have any new user-created OHV routes.  The first group of routes to be designated will connect the communities of Chewelah, Cusick, and Usk.  

 In addition to the new routes, an important restoration effort at Phillips Lake will help restore some previous damage.  During the restoration of Phillips Lake, there will be walk-in access only.  A gate will be placed on the road into the lake and limited parking available.  The restoration includes blocking all user created OHV trails, blocking the wetland areas with rocks, and defining parking and camping areas. 

 The Forest is working towards restoration of campsites to define parking and reduce compacted areas.  Work in Ruby, Tacoma, Cusick, and Calispell is expected to occur next summer with the goal of designated camping along high use areas.

 The OHV Ambassador program is being developed with interested parties.  Formal agreements are being developed.  The OHV Ambassador program involves volunteers riding through the area and interacting with visitors to keep the OHV experience enjoyable. 


Documents:

Study: Midwest farming linked to decline of monarch butterflies

ENVIRONMENT — The Heartland is no longer the land of milkweed and honey for monarchs.

Study links farming methods in U.S. to rapid decline of Monarch butterflies
A new study published last week in the Journal of Animal Ecology said a change in farming practices in the Midwest of the United States that led to a rapid decline of milkweed, where monarch butterflies lay their eggs in the spring and summer, is tied to the marked decline in the number of the butterflies.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Inland Northwest bucket list: moose chase

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was minding my own business running through the woods near my South Side house this morning at 5:30 a.m. with my dog when the yearling bull moose started chasing us.

Your bucket list isn't complete unless you've had that thrilling experience.

Lesson: Never be far from a big ponderosa pine in moose country.

Lone fawns rarely deserted by Mother Deerest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

“Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer,” says Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration.”

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing to the benefit of other wildlife.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive. Nature provides for them.

But nature shouldn't have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring,  fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

“While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned,” he said.  “An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn.”

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.

Hanging around a fawn or calf you might discover in the field likely will likely push a doe or cow farther away and deter it from returning.

“IDFG has had fawns brought in by people who say, 'I stayed there and watched it all day, and the doe never came back,'” Cooper said. “Without realizing it, the presence of a person likely kept the doe in hiding.”

“If you find a seriously injured animal; or, in those extremely rare instances where you know with certainty that a wild animal has lost its parent, intervention may be appropriate.  Contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for instructions on the next step.”

It is illegal to confiscate young wildlife and attempt to raise them on your own, he said, noting that cute babies can become a burden or a danger to people as they mature.

Video: Rafter catches Moyie River whitewater

RIVERS — Whitewater river rafter Tanner Grant floated the Moyie River in North Idaho over the weekend and made this video documentary of the run from Meadow Creek to Moyie Dam at 2,300 cfs — that's 4 feet at the dam.

The 8-minute video is instructional for rafters who want to follow in his wake.  

But don't procrastinate.   Here's Grant's field report:

I wanted to share my run down the Moyie River in North Idaho from this last weekend.  The river is on the drop and time is running out, there was no wood in Eileen Dam or Hole in the Wall rapids, feel free to share on your blog if you want to, what an awesome run!

See Grant's descriptive videos of other rivers:

Another Clearwater stretch closing to spring chinook

FISHING — At the end of fishing hours on Thursday June 12, the fishing harvest season will close for adult Chinook Salmon (24 inches or longer) on the Clearwater River between the Orofino Bridge and the South Fork Clearwater.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the catch quota for the stretch has been met. 

Starting on Friday, June 13, only the harvest of adipose clipped Jacks (salmon less than 24 inches)  will be allowed on the Clearwater River downstream from the South Fork Clearwater River. Anglers may keep up to four adipose clipped jacks per day. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released in this river section. 

Spokane Riverkeeper float goes for the flow

RIVERS — The Spokane  Riverkeeper, which keeps a watchful eye on the health and other issues along Spokane's most precious resource, is planning a whitewater float trip that will leave participants smiling and raise a little money, too.

The Riverkeeper will join with ROW Adventures on June 26th at 4:30 p.m. for a fun and informative Happy Hour float down the river through Riverside State Park, the frothing Bowl and Pitcher rapids and the mischievous Devil's Toenail.

This trip costs $75, and ROW Adventures will be donating a major portion of the trip price back to Spokane Riverkeeper for its work for a Fishable and Swimmable Spokane River!

The fee includes a three hour trip and ALL equipment and transportation from the ROW Adventures office in downtown Spokane.

The plan calls for a short stop mid-way through the trip for some Happy Hour fun and to hear updates about the Riverkeeper program and Spokane River issues.

Seats on this trip are limited.  Book spots here. 

 

Groups try to restrict lethal action against cow-killing wolves

PREDATORS  — Conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, are petitioning the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit the killing of wolves in response to livestock deaths.

Even though the state has take significant steps and statewide guidelines for preventing wolves from being attracted to livestock, the groups filed their petition late on Friday, asking the state to require ranchers to exhaust nonlethal options to prevent their livestock from being preyed on by wolves before killing the predators.

The Associated Press reports the groups are still hung up on the rare extreme action the state took in 2012 when Fish and Wildlife aerial gunners killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack. The groups contend the northern Stevens County rancher didn't go far enough in taking nonlethal actions that might have prevented wolves from attacking his cattle. The rancher endured 17 attacks on his cattle on private and public land.

The groups say that ranchers and sports-hunting groups have refused to consider their proposals, and that the state is moving forward with less protective wolf-control rules.

The groups filing the petition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return a message to the Associated Press. 

Spokane County lakes get extra trout for Fathers Day

FISHING — Washington is spicing up the potential for a Fathers Day fishing trip at 19 lakes, including two in Spokane County, with extra plants of rainbow trout this week.

In addition to the trout remaining from fish plants preceding the April fishing season opener, West Medical Lake will received 1,250 catchable-size trout and Williams Lake will get 400.

Other lakes in this region getting a boost of fish include:

  • Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County, 600.
  • Park Lake in Grant County, 400
  • Alta Lake in Okanogan County, 350 and Conconully Reservoir, 750.

Free fishing events Saturday at north Idaho ponds

FISHING — Saturday, June 14, is free fishing day in Idaho – no license required – and the state is boosting the attraction by offering fishing events geared to kids and novices.

All other rules and catch limits apply on Saturday, but anyone, including nonresidents, can go fishing without purchasing a license.

 Volunteers will be helping people with equipment at the following locations from 9 a.m.-noon, except in Coeur d’Alene.

  • Bonners Ferry, Snow Creek Pond.
  • Calder, Calder Pond.
  • Coeur d'Alene, Ponderosa Springs Golf Course (7 a.m.-11 a.m.).
  • Enaville, Steamboat Ponds.
  • Harrison, Harrison Marina.
  • Mullan, Lucky Friday Pond.
  • Post Falls, Post Falls Park Pond.
  • Priest Lake, Priest Lake Golf Course.
  • Rathdrum, City Park.
  • Sandpoint, Round Lake State Park.
  • Moscow, Spring Valley Reservoir.

Comment extended on petition to delist Selkirk caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The public is being given an extra 30 days to chime in on a North Idaho-originated petition to remove the rarest and most endangered big-game species in the United States from endangered species protections.

Online comment is extended through Aug. 6 and a meeting is being scheduled in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry on a petition to delist the Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

The Service’s finding and proposal were published in the Federal Register (79 FR 26503) on May 8,
2014. In response to the petition, the Service determined that delisting the species is not warranted, and
also proposed to amend the current listing of this population by defining the Southern Mountain Caribou
Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which includes the currently listed southern Selkirk Mountains
population of woodland caribou. The Service proposed to change the status of the Southern Mountain
Caribou DPS to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, it was determined that the
30,010-acre critical habitat designation is applicable to the U.S. portion of the proposed Southern
Mountain Caribou DPS.

The petition and proposed rule to amend the listing [Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097] is available for public inspection in the Federal Register Reading Room

The notice is scheduled to be published today in the Federal Register.  The final document also will be published Wednesday on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Idaho website.

Public meetings have been scheduled as follows (information sessions will be followed by evening public hearings for comment):

June 25, Sandpoint

Informational meeting: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Public hearing:  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  -  Speaker Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Bonner County Administration Building 1st Floor Meeting Room, 1500 Highway 2, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864

 

June 26, Bonners Ferry

Informational meeting: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Public hearing:  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  - Speaker Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Bonners Ferry High School Auditorium, 6485 Tamarack Lane, Bonners Ferry, Idaho 83805

Kokanee Fishing 101 for kids offered at Dworshak

FISHING —  Idaho Fish and Game will host a 2nd annual Kid’s Kokanee (land-locked Sockeye Salmon) Fishing Clinic on Dworshak Reservoir on Sunday, June 29.   

The one-day clinic will run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Staff members will be available to take kids on the water and teach them kokanee fishing basics. Fishing adventures will be followed by a Dutch oven dinner starting at 4 p.m. 

Youth should bring their own lifejacket if they have one, water, snacks and any other personal gear such as sunscreen and a hat. Fish and Game will provide fishing instruction, some lifejackets, boats & all the necessary fishing gear.

The clinic is free and open to youths ages 9-17.

Pre-register, spaces limited:  (208) 799-5010.

Four-wheel drivers trash Colville meadow by ‘mudding’

UPDATED 4:55 P.M. WITH VIDEO OF MUDDERS AT THIS SITE.

PUBLIC LANDS — Every year a few butt-heads remind us why more and more public and private lands is being listed as off-limits to motorized vehicles.

This week, it's some yet-to-be cited mudders who drove their four-wheel drive vehicles off-road and into a wet meadow on the Colville National Forest in the upper Cedar Creek area. Actually, one Ione man called to say this is a site that's been hammered every spring for years.

The site is located in a power transmission line corridor about 3.5 miles northwest of Ione.  “After a few minutes of tire rutting and spin-outs, the vehicle operators left behind a muddy bog covering at least half an acre of the original wetland,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. 

“It is against the law to tear up forest roads and meadows, and the legal and financial consequences can be steep,” he said.  “Tearing up high-country meadows with four-wheel-drive and off-highway vehicles destroys wildlife habitat and ecosystems and can take years to heal.”

The poster at left may be linked to the illegal activity on public land.

Forest enforcement officials are looking for tips to cite the culprits.

  • Report tips in this case and other violations to the Colville Forest Supervisor’s office, (509) 684-7000 (weekdays) or (509) 685-6900 (weekends).  

“Mudding, or driving through meadows, moist areas and puddles is considered fun by some drivers,” said Gayne Sears, District Ranger for the Newport -Sullivan Lake Ranger Districts.  “But the damage they cause not only taints the image of all four-wheel drive enthusiasts, it is illegal and individuals responsible for causing damage to roads, property or forest land can be sited for malicious mischief and face financial charges for the cost of rehabilitating any damage they cause.  It can run into thousands of dollars.”

Wet meadows on the Colville National Forest provide prime foraging opportunities for elk and other big game animals, Pemberton said.  Wetlands provide habitats for native amphibians, and most of the rare insects and plant species found on the forest.  Wetland soils tend to be fine grained and prone to compaction.  Vehicles driven through these sites can quickly tear up the vegetation, compact the soil, and leave deep ruts.  Exposed soils may then dry out and become colonized by noxious weeds.  It can take many years for habitat values to be restored on the worst “mud-bogging” sites.

While the road adjacent to the damaged wet meadow is open to all vehicles, cross-country travel on the Colville National Forest is prohibited as identified on the forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). 

Copies of the Colville National Forest MVUM are free and available at any forest office and on-line.  The 2013 version of the Colville National Forest MVUM remains in effect for 2014.

First chick hatches under Sandpoint ‘osprey cam’

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An osprey chick has just hatched for all the world to see under the watchful eye of the Sandpoint, Idaho, Osprey Cam.

The chick is the first of three eggs to hatch. The others should hatch soon. Viewers can tune in to watch in real time as the new osprey family begins and grows.

The video camera is on a nest above Sandpoint’s War Memorial Field on Lake Pend Oreille.

Senior mountaineers led the way for rising stars

CLIMBING — Bill Fix and Joe Collins — two legendary Spokane Mountaineers — celebrated Joe's 89th birthday Sunday. They are especially known for taking a couple of young upstart climbers under their wings 50 years ago and launching them toward the top of the world. 

Fix and Collins were among the Spokane club's teams that made pioneering climbs throughout the region and especially in the Canadian mountains anywhere within striking distances of the epic three-day trips they'd make with barely enough time to return home to go to work again on Monday.

Nearly 50 years ago, a recent graduate of the venerable Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School, John Roskelley, was assigned during the Mountaineers Summer Outing to the Grand Tetons to rope up with Fix for the technical rock-climbing portion of their ascent of Mount Moran. Fix filed the trip report (see photos above) in the club's journal, the Autumn 1965 Kinnikinnick: “A special commendation is due John Roskelley for his help in route finding and leading to the summit from Drizzlepuss. At 16, he has to be dubbed 'most promising new climber.'”

  • Roskelley later rose to the top of the heap of the world's mountaineers, a career honored this spring in Italy as he became the first American and sixth recipient of the Golden Ice Axe award (Les Piolets D'or). Although Fix had an eye for  Roskelley's climbing prowess, perhaps nobody could have foreseen that he would one day be on the same mountaineering lifetime achievement list as Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Robert Paragot and Kurt Diemberger. 

Joe Collins recalled in the 1960s chauffeuring Roskelley and another teen Mountain School graduate, Chris Kopczynski, for a club climb of 9,131-foot Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades near Mount Baker.  

“Chris ate all three-days worth of food the first day,” Collins recalled.  “He came to me and said, 'Joe!  Joe!  My food's all gone,' as I had all of my food neatly organized in front of me.” 

Kopczynski, a standout wrestler in high school and later at the NCAA level, reportedly said, 'What should I do, Joe?' as he looked longingly at Collins's food, each meal for each day wrapped and labeled. 

“I put each package in my stuff sack, pulled the drawstring tight and put it in my pack and said, 'Next time you will remember.  Let's go climbing.'”

  • Kopcyznski learned his lessons well. His long list of climbing accomplishments include joining Roskelley in 1974 to become the first American team to climb the North Face of the Eiger; becoming the ninth American to climb Mount Everest, and completing the Seven Summits by 1994.

‘Full Draw’ bowhunting films coming to The Bing

HUNTING — A screening of short films devoted to bowhunting films — the Full Draw Film Tour — is schedule in Spokane for Wednesday, June 11, starting at 7 p.m. at the Bing Crosby Theater. Tickets are $14 for adults, available online. Doors open at 6 p.m.

In its fourth year, the 2014 tour featuring eight hunting filmmakers is traveling to at least 21 U.S. cities.

 

State recreation panel meets in Spokane

OUTDOOR RECREATION — Gov. Jay Inslee’s new Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation will meet Tuesday in Spokane as part of a summer-long effort to develop a plan for encouraging outdoor recreation and boosting related jobs and businesses.

The session is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Room 205, Nursing Building, WSU Riverpoint Campus, 103 E. Spokane Falls Blvd.

A public comment period at the meeting will start at 11:50 a.m., but the public is invited to submit ideas online throughout the summer.

Inslee said he's focusing attention on outdoor recreation because it directly supports 227,000 jobs in Washington and generates more than $22 billion in annual spending on things like equipment, lodging and apparel.

The 28-member task force, which has been meeting since April, plans to complete its work by September 19.

Subcommittees will be reporting on four topics: meeting future recreational needs, getting more people outdoors, economic development and the state’s role in providing outdoor recreation.

Take the Poll about Funding Recreation

Visit Engage Outdoor Washington at www.engageoutdoorwashington.com.

The task force is asking new questions each week about different recreation issues. Last week, the task force asked who participates less frequently in outdoor recreation in Washington and why?

A poll about funding for parks is asking:

The task force includes 16 voting members who are citizens involved in outdoor recreation and recreation-related businesses, 8 state agency representatives and 4 legislators.

Wilderness goal: get passport stamped for “Blue Mountains 7”

WILDERNESS — Maybe you've followed trails all over the Northwest, but have you visited all seven wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains that straddle the Washington-Oregon border?

The Blue Mountains National Forests (Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) have introduced the Wilderness Passport Challenge to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act

The passport has a page for each of the seven wilderness areas in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington — Wenaha-Tucannon, North Fork Umatilla, North Fork John Day, Hells Canyon, Eagle Cap, Strawberry Mountain and Monument Rock.

Get the free passport and have it stamped at a Forest Service office when you venture out to visit one of the wilderness areas.This will be a collector's item with a lot of good memories and stories behind it. 

 The National Wilderness Preservation System, established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, has become one of the nation's treasures. 

The passport challenge is just one way you can join the many activities this year celebrating the Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary.

Umatilla National Forest Headquarters

Pendleton, Oregon (541) 278-3716

North Fork John Day Ranger District

Ukiah, Oregon (541) 427-3231

Pomeroy Ranger District

Pomeroy, Washington (509) 843-1891

Walla Walla Ranger District

Walla Walla, Washington (509) 522-6290

Free fishing event for kids at Post Falls

FISHING — A “Just for Kids Fishing Derby” for kids ages 5-14 is set for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 14 at Falls Park, 305 W. 4th Ave. in Post Falls. 

Awards will be given for fun competitions. Participants should bring their own fishing rod and gear, although a limited amount of fishing gear will bee available for check out.

The fishing pond at Falls Park is dedicated for youth and handicapped individuals and stocked with small game fish by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. 

This is a free event, but pre-registration is encouraged. Call Post Falls Parks & Recreation Department.  (208) 773-0539.

On-site Registration will be open 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

  • NOTE: June 14 is Free Fishing Day in Idaho. No license is required for youths or adults, residents or nonresidents, to fish in most lake and streams. All other regulations apply.

Shooting hours reduced to prevent Wenas area fires

SHOOTING — To reduce the risk of wildfires, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is restricting target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area near Yakima and Ellensburg.

From June 2-Sept. 30, target shooting is restricted to the hours between sunrise and 11 a.m.

Public notice of the limited hours will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.

WDFW adopted the rule in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.

Temporary target-shooting restrictions adopted in the past two years have helped to reduce the number of wildfires sparked by bullets on those lands, said Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the WDFW wildlife area.

Since 2012, four fires attributed to target shooting have burned 37 acres in the wildlife area, she said. By comparison, target shooting caused six fires, scorching more than 600 acres in the two years prior to the adoption of summer shooting restrictions.

“All four of the wildfires sparked by target shooting since 2012 occurred in June before the restrictions went into effect,” Confer Morris said. “Given that experience, we decided we needed to begin the restrictions earlier, rather than waiting until we started having fires.”

Cost, as well as habitat protection, is a significant consideration in preventing wildfires, she said. In the three years prior to adopting shooting restrictions, WDFW’s fire suppression and restoration costs in the wildlife area averaged $70,000 per year, compared to $7,500 per year since 2012.

“We are supporting efforts by Kittitas County to find an appropriate location to develop a public range that would be safe for the public to use year-round,” she said. Sun Targets, a shooting range in Moxee, may also be an alternative for target shooting near the south end of the wildlife area.

Like all of WDFW’s wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has restrictions on campfires and prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Go wild with family on Fathers Day

WILDLIFE — The topics for the Fathers Day weekend family-oriented programs at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Washington are delicious: Birds, bees, bears,  wildflowers, mosses, lichens, mollusks, geology, even a little history lesson.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife celebration of the Sinlahekin's 75th anniversary — the state’s first wildlife area – continues after the June 7 kick-off with these “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” free public field trips and presentations on Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15.  They’re the first in our summer-long, six-weekend series on the area’s fauna, flora, geology and history.

These sessions are led by scientists, researchers, naturalists, authors and experts from colleges and universities, WDFW and other natural resource management agencies. Several presentations or field trips are conducted on both Saturday and Sunday, so that weekend visitors to the Sinlahekin can take in a variety of sessions that run concurrently.

Information about all “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” events through the summer is available on the WDFW website.

Outdoor recreational outings offered to disabled

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute's recreational therapy team is gearing up for a busy summer season of outdoor recreation fun for physically challenged adventurers of all ages.

Outdoor Recreation Experience,  June 21, features adaptive and regular fishing, handcycling, archery, kayaking and canoeing, plus a barbecue for participants and family members.  

SkiFest, July 19-20,  features adaptive water skiing, boating and swimming at Clear Lake. 

From boat ramps to potties, fishermen have paid their way

FISHING — While Washington is highlighting the contributions hunters and shooters have made to wildlife habitat through the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, Idaho this week is highlighting the contributions anglers have made through fishing license fees and the federal excise taxes they supported in the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950.

“We’re all a familiar with the brown 'access' sign along the highway with the little fish and the hook,” the Idaho Fish and Game Department points out in this week's installment of its 75th anniversary story series.  “It means a ramp to launch your fishing boat…and maybe also a place to find a little relief from too much coffee. But all these ramps, rivers and potties have a story behind them.

“Idaho Fish and Game’s fishing and boating access program’s roots extend back to 1929 when $240 of angler license money was used to acquire Jimmy Smith Lake in Custer County. This 192-acre lake was the first site acquired specifically as a fishing access site for Idaho anglers.

“In the 1930s and 40s, eight more angler access sites were acquired when landowners donated property to Fish and Game or the department used fishing license dollars to purchase property purchases from a willing seller.

“In 1951, Idaho first used federal sport fishing dollars from the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act to purchase Caldwell Ponds in south Idaho. These funds enabled the Department to take significant steps to secure fishing and boating access for Idaho’s anglers. This new funding source took the boating and fishing angler access program budget from less than $1,000 per year to putting more than $1,500,000 per year on-the-ground for angler access in 2014.

Cabela’s new Missoula store opens June 12

OUTFITTERS — The grand opening for the Cabela’s Outpost store in Missoula is set for June 12, with a ribbon cutting at 10:45 a.m. and doors opening for business at 11 a.m.

Opening day will kick off a weekend-long celebration highlighted by special appearances, family events, giveaways and more.

The 42,000-square-foot store is located in the growing South Crossing retail development on Brooks Street in the southeast quadrant of South Reserve Street and Highway 93.

It will be the third Cabela’s store in Montana, joining the 80,000-square-foot Billings location opened in 2009 and a 42,000-square-foot Kalispell Cabela’s Outpost store opened in November 2013.

The Post Falls Cabela's store is 170 miles west of Missoula of Interstate 90.

The Missoula store will include an indoor archery range and archery tech.

Currently, Cabela’s operates 53 stores across North America with plans to open an additional 21 over the next two years.

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 National Get Outdoors Day.

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.

Wenatchee spring chinook season first in 20 years

FISHING — Starting Friday (June 6), the Wenatchee River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in nearly two decades, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced.

With almost 10,000 hatchery chinook expected to return to the river this year, WDFW is opening two sections of the river:

  • From the Washington State Parks foot bridge at Confluence Park (just upstream from the confluence with the Columbia River) to 400 feet below Dryden Dam.
  • From the confluence with Peshastin Creek to the downstream side of the confluence with the Icicle River and from that point to a marker on the opposite shore.

The fishery will be open seven days a week in both areas until further notice.

Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery spring chinook measuring at least 12 inches long and marked with a clipped adipose fin. Under statewide regulations, anglers may retain only one daily limit of salmon, regardless of how many waters they fish.

All wild chinook must immediately be released back into the water unharmed.

Jeff Korth, regional WDFW fishery manager, said this year’s fishery was made possible under a new permit issued by NOAA-Fisheries that allows the department to conduct mark-selective fisheries to reduce the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds.

“We are pleased that we’re able to provide this fishery, which will reduce excess hatchery fish while increasing fishing opportunities in the area,” Korth said. “We’ve done this successfully in other watersheds and now we’re bringing it to the Wenatchee River.”

Korth noted that WDFW will closely monitor the fishery and enforce fishing rules to ensure protection of wild chinook, bull trout and any steelhead that may be incidentally caught and released.

In addition to the mark-selective rules in effect for the fishery, anglers are required to:

  • Retain any legal hatchery spring chinook they catch until they reach their daily limit, then stop fishing for spring chinook.
  • Release any spring chinook with one or more round holes punched in the tail fin. These fish are vital to ongoing studies in the upper Wenatchee River Basin.
  • Observe selective gear rules in effect on the Wenatchee River wherever chinook seasons are open. No gear restrictions are in effect on the Icicle River, and anglers may use bait on both rivers.
  • Heed the prohibition of internal combustion motorized vessels and observe night closures on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.

To participate in this fishery, anglers must possess a valid 2014-15 fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. 

Because the fishery is open until further notice, anglers should check WDFW’s Fishing Rule Change website.

Comments due on Idaho’s wolverine plan

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Monday, June 9, is the deadline to comment on the Idaho Wolverine Conservation Plan proposed by the state Fish and Game Department's. The document was released May 19 for a 21-day public review.

Wolverines are members of the weasel family. In the northern United States, they occupy high-elevation alpine and subalpine habitats with spring snow cover and cool summer temperatures.

The plan lays out the state's course in protecting wolverine populations and their habitats to ensure their long-term viability in Idaho. The plan includes statewide wolverine status and distribution, factors affecting population and habitat, priority areas for conservation, and supporting actions to benefit wolverines in Idaho. 

Free fishing offered in Idaho, Washington

FISHING — Washington and Idaho are among the many states offering free fishing – no fishing license required – on designated days in June.

Washington doubles the fun by allowing anglers to fish without a license Saturday and Sunday June 7-8.

Other requirements waived at Washington fishing waters and access sites include the Discover PassColumbia River salmon/ steelhead endorsement, and two-pole endorsement.

All other rules apply.

Idaho’s Free Fishing Day is Saturday, June 14.

Montana offers Free Fishing on Father’s Day weekend, June 14-15.

Are state efforts to grab federal lands sincere?

PUBLIC LANDS — Cutting through the facade of state's rights land grab efforts…

Utah's quest for federal public lands a simple fundraising ploy
Given the mild response from the members of the Utah Federalism Commission to an assistant attorney general's announcement that the state does not intend to pursue a lawsuit to make the federal government hand over management of its lands as required under the 2012 Utah Transfer of Public Lands act, they're aware that the legislation, as well as Rep. Ken Ivory's work and that of his American Lands Council, are designed to collect votes and cash, and not about seeking a solution to an actual problem.
—Salt Lake Tribune

Idaho closing chinook season on portions of Clearwater

FISHING — The recent reports of great spring chinook fishing on Idaho's Clearwater River were a prophesy that some quota's would soon be reached.  Time has come. Here's a closure notice just released:
 
At the end of fishing hours on Friday, June 6, 2014, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will implement a closure to the harvest of adult Chinook Salmon (24 inches or greater) on the Clearwater River from Cherrylane Bridge upstream to Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River.  
 
This closure is being implemented because the harvest quota for adult Chinook Salmon has been met in these sections of river.  Harvest quotas for adult Chinook Salmon in different reaches within the Clearwater River drainage were developed using input from the public to help insure all communities in the watershed have opportunities to harvest salmon.
 
Starting on Saturday June 7, 2014, only the harvest of adipose clipped Jacks (salmon less than 24 inches)  with a daily limit of four (4) will be allowed downstream of Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River. 
 
Chinook Salmon rules in river reaches upstream of the Orofino Bridge will remain unchanged until further notice.

Blockages: Check ahead for forest road, trail conditions

HIKING — It's early season; snow is still plugging mountain roads and Forest Service crews are just working their way through projects left by the ravages of winter.

The basic rule: Call ahead to the national forest ranger districts or other agencies for any updates on road and trail conditions before making solid plans for a trip.

For example:

  • Two popular trails and one road are temporarily closed west of Winthrop Washington.  The West Fork Methow and Cutthroat trails were both damaged by avalanches over the winter and Harts Pass Road, a gateway to the Pasayten Wilderness, is impassable due to storm damage. Trees, logs, brush, and other debris were left behind by avalanches, blocking portions of both trails. Contact Methow Valley Ranger District at (509) 996-4000;  www.fs.usda.gov/okawen.
  • Marble Creek Road in the St. Joe Ranger District will present travelers this summer with road delays ranging from 30 minutes to an hour due to Potlatch Corporation  logging operations.  The work will begin mid-June 2014 and is expected to continue until September 2014. The line machine will be first set up at the 2 – 2 ½ mile marker of Marble Cr. Rd. 321 mid-June and then will move to the 3 ½ mile marker in mid-July. Contact David Canning or Gerri Bush at the St. Joe Ranger District (208) 245-2531.

Here's more info regarding the Methow region issues:

“There is a considerable amount of debris on each trail, so it will take some time to get them open”, said Jennifer Zbyszewski, Recreation, Wilderness and Facilities Program Manager for the Methow Valley Ranger District.  “For now though, the debris fields are dangerous to cross and we’ve temporarily closed the trails; until we can clear them.” 

Harts Pass Road is also temporarily closed.  A rainstorm last fall damaged the road where it crosses Cache Creek, approximately one mile north of Dead Horse Point.  Snowmelt in Cache Creek has caused additional damage to the road and it needs to be repaired before it is passable.

“We’re going to repair the Harts Pass road as soon as possible,” said Zbyszewski.  “We know folks are anxious to drive up that road to see the wildlife, flowers, and beautiful views.  We hope to have it open within the next few weeks.”

Ocean salmon fishing hot, as predicted

FISHING — Reports from the first week of the ocean salmon fishing season off the Washington Coast confirm the predictions that this is a season for the record books.

“At Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), anglers averaged nearly a marked chinook per rod during the first two days of the season,” reports Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Following is a story published just before the May 31 ocean season opener listing details of the summer seasons and the expectations of fish managers and charterboat operators.  And the expectations are being realized!

Time to book a trip:

Here's more information:

By Tom Paulu/Longview Daily News

The good news for Ilwaco’s fishing fleet is that the summer salmon runs for the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River should be immense.

The bad news: This is the first year when it’s been illegal to keep a sturgeon in the lower Columbia River.

In past years, May and June have been the biggest months for sturgeon fishing in the lower river. With only a few catch-and-release sturgeon trips this year, this weekend’s opening of the ocean salmon season is even more important for charter boat operators.

A chinook-only ocean season starts Saturday and runs through June 13. Starting June 14, anglers can keep chinook and coho. The salmon season on the lower Columbia River starts Aug 1.

Washington and Oregon fishery managers have been touting the big runs arriving this summer and fall.

The Columbia River fall chinook forecast is more than 1.6 million, the largest since 1938, the year after Bonneville Dam was finished (runs were higher before then). The 2013 fall chinook return of 1.2 million was nearly double the forecast of 686,900.

In addition to all those chinook, a monster run of coho totaling almost 1 million fish is forecast to return to the Columbia River this fall. In 2013, there were 316,900 Columbia River coho.

“I think fishing should be off the chain,” said Butch Smith, a charter boat owner and president of the Ilwaco Charter Association. He said commercial trawlers have been landing chinook weighing 30 pounds and up.

“I think the predictions are true,” Smith said. “We should have a pretty good king-only season and an excellent summer season that starts the 14th.”

“It should be absolutely fantastic,” said Milt Gudgell, owner of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco. “The commercial guys have been just pounding them.”

“This certainly could be a banner year for summer salmon fisheries, particularly off the Washington coast in the Columbia River,” Ron Warren, policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release.

Of the 1.2 million coho forecast, slightly more than half are Columbia early-stock coho, the main source of the ocean and Buoy-10 fishery. Buoy 10 is the name given to the 16 miles between Buoy No. 10 at the Columbia River mouth and the line between Tongue Point in Oregon and Rocky Point in Washington. At the fishery’s peak, the area often is mobbed with boats.

The late coho stock usually enters in October and November, when sport-fishing interest starts to wane.

Ilwaco is the largest port for charter boat sport fishing at the mouth of the Columbia, with about 25 boats.

Smith said early in the season, most people who book trips live within a one-day drive. Later in July, charter boat operators see more family groups on extended vacations, he said.

Dampening all the enthusiasm for the upcoming salmon runs is the lack of a sturgeon season.

The estimated number of legal sturgeon in the Columbia River went from 100,200 in 2010 to 72,700 in 2012, according to estimates by Washington and Oregon biologists.

In 1987, the lower Columbia River sturgeon harvest was 62,400. Last year, sturgeon fishing on the lower Columbia closed in June and the harvest was only 6,500.

Earlier this year, Smith made a pitch to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for a limited sturgeon fishery in May and June because it would have provided a needed economic boost to the Ilwaco area. He argued that the sturgeon population is rebounding along with the smelt they eat.

The commission didn’t discuss revisiting the issue (which would also require action by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission) but Smith said the issue will be discussed again next year.

Until two or three years ago, when sturgeon seasons were longer, they provided more than half of his income, Smith said. Last year, sturgeon trips still brought in about $80,000, he said — he’s only one of four charter boat companies in Ilwaco.

“This is worse than it was in ‘94 when they closed the (salmon) season,” he said.

Though salmon get most of the glory, Ilwaco charter boat operators also do trips for bottom fish, halibut and tuna.

——

Fishing seasons

Pacific Ocean, North of Cape Falcon, Ore., to Leadbetter Point, Wash.

n Recreational season for hatchery fin-clipped chinook from May 31-June 13 (9,000 coastwide quota).

n Recreational season for all salmon from June 14-Sept. 30 with a two-fish limit, of which only one can be a chinook and all coho must be fin-clipped. Quota of 92,400 coho with 13,100 chinook guideline.

Columbia River

In the following fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all licensed anglers have reached their daily limits:

n The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Lewis River will be open for hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-adult daily limit from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6. From Sept. 7 through Sept. 14, anglers will be allowed to retain hatchery chinook. From Oct. 1 through Dec 31, anglers can retain two chinook daily.

n The Columbia from the Lewis River upstream to Steamboat Landing dock and the point straight across on the Oregon side of the river will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook, with a daily limit of two salmon.

n From the Steamboat Landing dock upstream to the Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho.

n From Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho. Anglers must release any unmarked coho caught downstream of the Hood River Bridge.

The sockeye and hatchery summer chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will be open from June 16 through June 30 on the mainstem Columbia River, with a daily limit of two adult salmon or steelhead, or one of each.

Buoy 10

The Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The fishery will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Sept. 1 with a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which can be chinook. From Aug. 30 through Sept 1, all retained chinook must have an adipose or left ventral clip.

From Sept. 2 through Sept. 30, anglers will have a daily limit of three hatchery coho but must release chinook. Fisheries managers will assess in-season catch and may enact in-season changes to the chinook retention in August and September. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can keep five fish, two of which can be chinook.

Elk group gives Idaho $276K for projects

WILDLIFE — Shoshone County is one of 10 Idaho counties that will be sharing a $276,584 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation grant for wildlife habitat projects on nearly 76,000 acres in the state. 

Shoshone County's portion will be used in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to aerially ignite 1,200 acres to improve big game forage, stand conditions and reduce natural fuels on elk summer range within the Heller Creek and Wisdom Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  

This project is part of a larger plan to treat 3,750 acres with prescribed fire resulting in up to 21 percent of the project area becoming forage openings, according to RMEF officials.  Prescribed burning also will be applied to 1,500 acres in the Lost Creek area of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains as part of a 5-10 year habitat enhancement project. 

The grant also will help fund statewide research in areas where elk are declining, especially in the Clearwater region.

The steady elk decline in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho over the past three decades is attributed to substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves, RMEF officials said. Money in that county will be used for a multi-year elk nutrition study and developing habitat models.

Read on for details about the grant funding for other counties and statewide projects.

 

Survey: Sportsmen’s groups top list of wildlife habitat supporters

CONSERVATION — I write often about the contributions hunters and anglers make to preserving fish and wildlife habitat in contrast to animal rights and anti-hunting groups that have never made the commitment to help critters on the ground where it counts.

Here are the latest hard numbers. 

The chart above illustrates the response to just one of many questions on wildlife management posed last month in a rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department.

  • See all 190 pages of the the survey report as well as the summary.
  • See my column on the survey, which deals primarily with public opinion on wolf management in Washington.

Pope and Young OKs lighted nocks for bowhunting records

HUNTING — A Spokane man's four-year crusade to make lighted nocks allowable for archery hunters — as a means of reducing wounding loss, among other things — has found his ultimate reward.

The Pope and Young Club, the bowhunting record-keeping group for big-game trophies since 1961, has voted to make an exception to its ban on electronic equipment for taking animals submitted for archery records.

Jim Sutton, president of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, started his campaign by showing up at public game-rule meetings, writing letters and testifying before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission — often with his daughter.  Over and over they made the case that the state should allow bowhunters to use the electronic devises, since they gave the hunter no killing advantage but a big advantage in finding wounded game and recovering arrows from the field.

The Suttons' proposal was slow to be accepted, but gained backing by most archers, save for the traditionalists.

Once the state made the exception in 2013, Sutton and others turned their attention to convincing the members of Pope and Young. He knew that even though it was finally legal to use lighted nocks in Washington, many hunters would not use them if it would disqualify a once-in-a-lifetime trophy from being recognized in the record books.

Last week, he proudly sent me this memo from Pope and Young:

Lighted Nocks will be Acceptable; Other By-law Changes Passed

TO:  Pope and Young Club Members,

Standard lighted nocks and bow-mounted cameras will be exempted from the “no electronics attached to the bow or arrow” rule, as a result of changes to the Club's By-laws that had passed a vote of the Board of Directors and passed ratification by the voting membership.

Since the late 1980s, the Club has had bowhunting equipment definitions and a Rule of Fair Chase that addresses electronic devices. Among other things, those stated “no electronics attached to the bow or arrow.” This is part of the Club's By-laws constitution and governs the acceptability of animals for entry into the Club's Records Program (“the record book”).

The significant change, the result of much internal discussion/debate over many years, creates exemptions that read as follows:

  • RULES OF FAIR CHASE #7: [Not] by the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating or pursuing game, or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached, with the exception of lighted nocks and recording devices that cast no light towards the target and do not aid in rangefinding, sighting or shooting the bow.
  • DEFINITION OF A HUNTING BOW, EXCLUSIONS #2:  Electronic or battery-powered devices shall not be attached to a hunting bow, with the exception of recording devices that cast no light towards the target and do not aid in rangefinding, sighting or shooting the bow.
  • DEFINITION OF A HUNTING ARROW, EXCLUSIONS #1:  No electronic or battery-powered devices shall be attached to the arrow, with the exception of lighted nocks.

This change will officially go into effect on Aug. 1, 2014, as new Fair Chase Affidavits are created and distributed to our corps of volunteer official measurers. The change IS RETROACTIVE — meaning that animals previously taken, as well as those taken from this point forward, will now be eligible to be entered into the Records, provided they meet all other conditions/criteria.

The By-law change language passed voting membership ratification by a vote of Yes-296 (75%), No-101 (25%).

Event for homeowners managing forests on small acreage

HABITAT — An “out-in-the-woods” educational event on June 21 will provide useful, timely, and unbiased information designed to meet the needs of landowners with five to 500 acres of forest in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The forestry field day sponsored by the Washington State University Extension will include exhibitors, demonstrations and classes from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Horsmann Hills Farm near Newport, Wash. The location is within easy driving distance from Pend Oreille, Kootenai, Bonner, Stevens, Ferry and Spokane counties.  

This event is designed to prepare landowners to plan and accomplish management activities that meet their personal objectives, reduce risks and protect their financial investment. Absentee landowners with property in eastern Washington and north Idaho are especially encouraged to attend.

The state’s recognized experts will teach on topics such as forest health, plant identification, wildlife habitat, weed control, wildfire protection, timber and non-timber forest products, using global positioning systems, chainsaw safety and maintenance, and forestland security and safety and more. The presenters will be available to answer questions specific to your property situation.  Youth activities will be available all day.

The fee for those who register by Friday, June 13, is $20 per person or $30 for a family of two or more. After that date the fee is $30 per person or $40 per family. An optional BBQ lunch will be available for $10 per person. Lunch reservations must be received by June 13.

A brochure with more detailed information, driving directions and the registration form can be found at http://forestry.wsu.edu.

State park provides boat access to Lake Spokane

BOATING — With the bass and panfish season underway at Lake Spokane — and today's news that 155,000 trout are being stocked — anglers with boats will be zeroing in on the Spokane River reservoir behind Long Lake Dam.

Here's how to get onto the water.

Lake Spokane is served with three boat ramps (and five campgrounds) operated by Riverside State Park:

  • Lake Spokane Campground at the dam end of the reservoir, formerly managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
  • Nine Mile Recreation Area and Campground, formerly Nine Mile Resort, with more developed facilities, canoe and kayak rentals and a new boat launch and dock.
  • Highway 291 boat launch at the upper end of the reservoir at the mouth of the Little Spokane River.

The Washington Discover Pass, which costs $30 a year or $10 a day, are required on vehicles at all state park facilities. In addition, a $7 launch fee is charged.

Boaters who frequently visit state park launches can purchase a state parks Natural Investment Permit, which is a Discover Pass-boat launching combo pass, for $80 a year.

The combo pass has the advantage of being transferable to any number of other vehicles. However, the pass portion is valid only at state park facilities. It is not accepted at Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife facilities.

But if  you have a state fishing license, a Vehicle Access Pass for WDFW launches is included free, so you’re covered.

Wandering wolf, OR-7, and new mate have pups

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The speculation is over on whether Oregon's famous radio-collared wandering wolf has a mate.

OR-7 and its mate have produced pups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed. 

OR-7, the name given to the male wolf when it was first captured, radio-collared and released in northeast Oregon, found a mate in the Rogue River area of southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains after capturing worldwide attention as its movements were followed on the web through Oregon and California.

See more details in today's story from the Associated Press.

Video: pros take skateboarding tricks to the lake

WATERSPORTS — Anybody who likes to get pulled on a board behind a boat should check out this latest video by YouTube filming star Devin Supertramp, who teamed with some skateboarding/wakeboarding pro athletes and a few Sea-Doos to show us the state of the art.

Click here to see a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of the video. 

The best part: You have all summer to perfect these tricks.

State, Avista join to stock trout in Lake Spokane

FISHING — About 155,000 catchable-size rainbow trout are being stocked into Lake Spokane in the first season of a 10-year agreement between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Avista Utilities.

Lake Spokane, sometimes called Long Lake, is the Spokane River reservoir west of Spokane, created by Avista’s Long Lake Dam.

While the reservoir is popular among anglers fishing for bass, crappie and perch, trout fishing will improve with the annual stocking of rainbows, each about 8 inches long and expected to grow quickly. 

The stocking already has begun with trout from the state’s Spokane Fish Hatchery and Trout Lodge, Inc. in Soap Lake. The fish are sterile so they cannot reproduce with native fish in the river system. They are marked with clipped adipose fins for ease of monitoring harvest through creel surveys that will begin in 2016.

WDFW district fish biologist Randy Osborne and Avista Environmental Specialist Tim Vore thank members of the Spokane Fly Fishers and Inland Empire Fly Fishing clubs for volunteering time to the trout stocking program.

“Avista has long been providing public fishing and boating opportunities,” said Vore, “but this is an excellent new opportunity to fish and enjoy Lake Spokane.”

Randy Osborne, the state’s district fish biologist, says anglers can expect the trout to be down in the cooler water of the reservoir this summer, and therefore more conducive to boat fishing.

  • Click here for details on boat launching facilities.

But this fall and next spring, when the stocked trout are bigger, casting near the surface off of the docks or public shorelines will also be productive.

State’s opinion survey on wolf, bear management online

PREDATORS — The gist of the comments and online chat-room posts I've seen regarding my column about Washington's survey of public opinion on wolf management seem to sum up this way:

  • Wolves: a few people love 'em, a few people hate 'em, and most people are in between, generally supporting wolf recovery but not to the point that wolves are hurting the livestock industry or decimating big-game herds.

Sizing up the comments also confirms that a few people, especially in the anti-hunting camps who grieve over the death of any critter, would prefer to kill the messenger, especially if it's an outdoor writer writing about wolves.

You don't have to settle for my take on this rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department. The agency has posted the entire 190 pages of the survey report as well as the summary.

The full title of the survey is: Washington Residents’ Opinions on Bear and Wolf Management and Their Experiences With Wildlife That Cause Problems.

It offers some interesting insight on several issues, including how Washingtonians view hunting in general: 88 percent of residents support hunting while only 8 percent strongly or moderately disapprove.

But mostly the survey is about wolves, the hottest state-wide fish and wildlife management issue in Washington.

See a longer, more hunter-oriented analysis of the survey by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

 

State surveys boaters on marine parks, moorage

WATERSPORTS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is asking boaters to help the agency better understand how boaters use state marine parks and provide their views on possible changes to fees and policies for next year.

Complete the online survey by June 15.

The 30-question confidential survey takes about 5 to 15 minutes.  

A summary of results will be posted on the same web page in July.

State Parks manages more than 40 marine parks, located primarily in Puget Sound. These parks are accessible only by boat and often feature floats or buoys for overnight moorage. 

Since 2009, the agency has lost almost 80 percent of its tax support, and moorage fees are well below market rates. Results from the survey will help guide State Parks in developing a sustainable funding structure as it takes a more market-based approach to managing all of its facilities.

  • See maps showing marine park locations. 
  • Current boating-related fees for state marine parks are posted here.

Red-tailed hawk photo captures power on the wing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — North America's most common hawk — the red-tailed hawk — is a picture of fierce aerial heartburn if you're a rodent, snake, bird, hare or other creature on its menu. 

Outdoor photographer J. Foster Fanning of Curlew made this outstanding and powerful image of redtail landing in a ponderosa pine recently at Curlew Lake State Park.

Mount Rainier welcomes Washingtonians home

TRAVEL — Normally I'm thrilled and filled with hope for adventures to come when I return from a far away place and fly past Mount Rainier, the state's great “Welcome to Washington” ambassador.

This time: bittersweet.

Walleye fishing program tonight

FISHING — George Allen of the Spokane Walleye Club will present a free program on walleye fishing tonight, 7 p.m., at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council meeting, 6116 N. Market St.

Clearwater river hot for spring chinook fishing

FISHING — “Fishing was exceptional in the Clearwater River drainage last week with catch rates less than 10 hrs/fish in many places and averaging 14 hrs/fish for the entire basin,” says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

“Based on conversations with our creel personnel, it looks like the fishing is only improving this week,” he said in an email a few minutes ago. 

“We plan to check our harvest numbers Thursday (6/5/14) to evaluate if we need to make any closures.  If harvest continues to remain high, adult harvest closures could occur in river Section 2 (main Clearwater from Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge) and Section 3 (North Fork) as soon as the end of fishing on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or possibly later.”  

A notice will be released on Thursday, he said.

“The other river reaches will remain open to adult harvest through the weekend and we will evaluate the data on Monday to determine how to proceed.”    

Spring chinook fishing resumes on Snake

FISHING — Two sections of the Snake River (below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam) reopened to fishing for spring chinook on Sunday, June 1, while two other sections of the river (below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) will reopen Thursday, June 5.

The sections of the river below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam are open Sunday through Tuesday each week. The river below Little Goose Dam and in the Clarkston area will be open Thursday through Saturday each week.

All four sections will be open on their weekly schedule until further notice.

Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishery managers were able to reopen the fishery after transferring a portion of the upriver spring chinook allocation to the Snake River from the ongoing fishery in the lower Columbia River.

“With more than 600 fish now available for the Snake River fishery, we may be able to sustain fishing for the next several weeks,” said Mendel.

Read on for details:

Lake CdA’s Mica Bay Boater Park reopens

WATERSPORTS — The Mica Bay Boater Park on Lake Coeur d’Alene has re-opened for the summer boating season, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says.  

The site had been closed to visitors since April while crews removed hazardous trees.  Root disease had affected the Douglas fir and Western larch bordering the site.   

Mica Bay Boater Park is a popular day-use area that is accessible by boat on the west shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene.  It is also accessible by foot for groups or individuals looking for a secluded picnic spot or quiet place to pitch their tent. 

See additional information on boater parks and recreation sites managed by the BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office.

ROW revisits roots on Moyie River

WATERSPORTS — Peter Grubb, co-founder of ROW Adventures, was reminiscing Sunday while guiding rafters on the Moyie River east of Bonners Ferry.

We pioneered commercial rafting on the Moyie in 1982 and this was the very first one-day trip ROW offered,” Grubb said, commenting on the photo with Mount Clifty in the background. ROW was known then as River Odysseys West.

Commercial whitewater rafting was so foreign to North Idaho at the time, the Panhandle National Forests didn't even require ROW to have a commercial outfitter permit until the 1990s.

  • I was on one of those Moyie trips in '82 as ROW was beginning its commendable services of offering high, wet adventure to the common man, woman and child.

 

Sinlahekin wildlife area anniversary features summer programs

WILDLIFE WATCHING — See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County starting Saturday.

The list is long and offerings are impressive.

Events are scheduled for this weekend as well as on June 14-15, July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7. 

State of the Trails program updates a dozen prized areas

TRAILS — The Inland Northwest Trails Coalition has rounded up more than a dozen local leaders in trails-related efforts for the annual “state of the trails” presentations Thursday, June 12,  starting at 5:30 p.m. at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley. 

“Every year the coalition invites land managers to give a report on what is happening with our hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, kayaking, canoeing outdoor adventure areas,” said Lunell Haught, INTC coordinator. “We all come together in one big meeting so that you do not need to go to 10 different meetings to find out the latest news.” 

Trail users can hear the status of trail issues and learn where they can get involved in trail projects.

Natural areas will be covered, including updates on Spokane County Conservation Futures areas – a new Antoine Peak trail and access plan is developing – and progress on the proposed Dream Trail corridor heading north from the Dishman Hills.

Popular paved routes and rail-trails, such as the Centennial Trail, the Ben Burr Trail and Fish Lake Trail, will be reviewed, including efforts to connect them.

Two Washington State Parks that provide roughly 200 miles of trail opportunities – Mount Spokane and Riverside – will be represented by park rangers.

The useful Spokane River Water Trail website will be updated and the Washington Trails Association will detail this season’s trails maintenance projects from Spokane County to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

The Beacon Hill mountain biking trail system and terrain park will be covered.

Geological routes through the region’s Channeled Scablands will be summarized by the Ice Age Floods Instutue and local U.S. Bureau of Land Management managers will highlight plans for new trails in the Fishtrap Lake area.

Haught said the consortium of outdoor recreation and conservation groups has pulled together to encourage city and county governments to engage in regional trail planning.

The group’s vision, she said, “is a system of paths, trails and open space corridors that connect neighborhoods, community and regional parks and conservation land in our region to engage people in muscle-powered recreational and conservation opportunities, promote active transportation and preserve open space to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Retreat answers anglers’ prayers

FISHING — A Weekend Fishermen’s Retreat, with programs ranging from fishing to Catholic faith, is set for June 27-29 at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

The theme, “Launch Out into the Deep (Luke 5:4) will be keynoted by Paul Coutinho, who has a doctorate in historical theology.

While Coutinho, a native of India, will brings an Eastern flavor to Western spirituality, two Northwest fishermen will provide the angling content:

  • Pat Neal, a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide, steelheader, author and humorist.
  • Deacon Allen Peterson, owner of Swede’s Fly Shop of Spokane.

Info: Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, (509) 448 -1224, ext. 109.

Grande Ronde River recreation resources listed

RIVERS — A new online Grande Ronde River access map for boaters and anglers has been created by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

The resource is available just in time for the “first Saturday in June” fishing opener on the bulk of the river — although the 2-1/2 miles up from the mouth is open year-round, mostly under selective gear rules.   Fishing for smallmouth bass can be great all summer long.

Even if you're not an angler, this is prime time to visit The Ronde.  It's a great float in a raft in the Boggan's Oasis area.  But if you float from Schumaker downstream, you have to have the boat and the skills to run The Narrows.  Bone up or be ready to portage.

Read on for a list of resources helpful to people recreation on and near the Grande Ronde River.

Seattle treasure hunters fouling Yellowstone Park

PUBLIC LANDS — For God's sake, get a clue.

Yellowstone Park rangers rescue, cite treasure hunters twice
On April 27 and again on May 9, rangers from Yellowstone National Park had to rescue treasure hunters from Washington state who were ill-equipped for their treks into the park's back country seeking the $1-million “Forrest Fenn Treasure,” which a poem in the Santa Fe, N.M. art dealer's 2010 memoir allegedly contains nine clues to the hidden treasure.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

Women’s Fly fishing clinic set at private stocked pond

FISHING — Spokane members of Trout Unlimited are organizing a women-only fly fishing clinic at a private lake stocked with trout on June 21.

The all-day event is geared to beginners, complete with materials, but ladies and girls who have experience and simply want to sharpen their fish-catching skills are welcome, said co-organizer Hilary Hart.

The $50 fee includes meals and “after party,” said Hart, who noted that some scholarships are available.

Info: (509) 532-0522.

Register online.

 

Free fishing days coming up; no license required

FISHING – Washington and Idaho are among the many states offering free fishing – no fishing license required – on designated days in June.

  • Washington will allow anglers to fish without a license Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8.
  • Idaho has a single Free Fishing Day set for Saturday, June 14th.

Other requirements waived at Washington fishing waters and access sites include the  Discover PassColumbia River salmon/steelhead endorsement, and  two-pole endorsement.

All other rules apply.

  • Montana offers Free Fishing on Father’s Day weekend, June 14-15.

A Just for Kids Fishing Derby for kids ages 5-14 is set for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 14 at Falls Park, 305 W. 4th Ave. in Post Falls.

Awards will be given for fun competitions. Participants should bring their own fishing rod and gear, although a limited amount of fishing gear will bee available for check out.

The fishing pond at Falls Park is dedicated for youth and handicapped individuals and stocked with small game fish by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Children must be accompanied by an adult.

This is a free event, but pre-registration is encouraged. Call Post Falls Parks & Recreation Department.  (208) 773-0539.

On-site Registration will be open 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

Follow Rich on Twitter

Send Rich an email

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Outdoors blog.

About Rich

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.

Recent work by Rich

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here