Posts tagged: outdoors
STATE PARKS — Jon Jonckers of Spokane found stunning contrasts at Palouse Falls State Park as mist from the 185-foot waterfall froze on the surrounding cliffs in the 10-degree temperatures on Saturday.
WINTER SPORTS — Saturday will be a better day to wax your cross-country skis than to use them.
According to today's grooming report, there's been no grooming on the Mount Spokane nordic trails for a few days because the snow is ice and in some places “hard as a rock.”
Snowshoer Warren D. Walker found the footing firm and the Vista House coated with frost on the mountain summit this week (above).
FISHING — Steelhead fisheries will close one hour after sunset on Sunday, Dec. 8, on the upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam and on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.
Fishing for whitefish will also close on the Wenatchee River.
The closures will not affect the Okanogan River, Similkameen River, Methow River, and mainstem Columbia River from Wells Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam. Those fisheries will remain open until further notice under previously published rules.
Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“This year's run is smaller than in recent years and contains a relatively high proportion of wild steelhead,” Korth said. “Because of that, we saw an increase in the rate of encounters with natural-origin fish in some fishing areas.”
Although anglers must release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in area fisheries, some of those fish do not survive and are counted toward ESA impact limits.
The federal permit authorizing the steelhead fisheries sets a maximum allowable mortality of natural-origin steelhead to accommodate variations in run strength and angling effort on specific waters. WDFW closely monitors the fisheries and enforces fishing rules to protect wild steelhead.
The primary reason the upper Columbia steelhead fisheries are permitted is to remove excess hatchery fish from spawning grounds, said Korth, noting that those fisheries provide popular recreational fishing opportunities and economic benefits for rural communities throughout the region.
WDFW fisheries managers are analyzing fishery impacts to date, and will produce a steelhead run update next month, Korth said. Some areas could be reopened at a later date for additional fishing opportunities, and anglers should keep a close eye on the WDFW website for these possibilities.
Read on for specific details about the closure:
RIVERS — Discussions on revising the Columbia River Treaty are picking up, as the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee plans a field hearing Monday, Dec. 9, in Pasco to learn about regional impacts of the treaty with Canada.
Changes in the treaty could have profound impacts on hydropower management and fishing.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the committee, has concerns about the upcoming renegotiation of the treaty and the United States’ draft recommendations for possible changes.
He scheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. in the Pasco City Council Chambers, 525 N. Third Ave.
Read on for more from the Associated Press:
PUBLIC LANDS — The 22 formal objections filed to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ revised forest plan were made available for review this week.
The revision of the plan last revised in 1987 was released in September and is meant to guide forest management of everything from timber production to roadless areas for the next 15 years or so.
The objections can be reviewed on Idaho Panhandle National Forests “Objections Received” webpage.
People interested in an objection can file a request to participate in any resolution meetings that are scheduled.
The Forest Service has 90 days to respond to the objections.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Excellent programs on winter birding are planned next week, a spinoff in the birding social event of the year.
Local Audubon Society chapters have tapped professional biologists to present special pre-Christmas Bird Count programs on identifying and understanding “winter birds:”
Whether you're gearing up for joining a group outing during the Audubon Society's 114th annual Christmas Bird Count or simply brushing up on your bird identification skills, check out one of these free programs:
Coeur d’Alene Audubon will feature Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologist, on Tuesday (Dec. 10), 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene.
Spokane Audubon will feature Gary Blevins, Spokane Falls Community College biology professor on Wednesday (Dec. 11), 7 p.m., at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. Driving directions: tinyurl.com/SASmeeting.
The Audubon Chapters also welcome newcomers on the Christmas Bird Count field trips they've organized. Following are the dates and the leader contacts:
Coeur d’Alene: Dec. 14; Shirley Sturts, (208) 664-5318, email@example.com.
Moscow: Dec. 14; Kas Dumroese, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lewiston: Dec. 15; contact Bryan Jamieson, email@example.com.
Sandpoint: Dec. 14; Rich Del Carlo, (208) 265-8989, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonners Ferry: Dec. 28; Jan Rose (208) 267-7791, email@example.com.
Spirit Lake: Jan. 2; Shirley Sturts.
Indian Mountain: Jan. 5; Don Heikkila, (208) 659-3389, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pullman: Dec. 14; Marie Dymkoski, email@example.com.
Colville: Dec. 14; Barbara Harding, (509) 684-8384, Barbara_Harding@fws.gov.
Pend Oreille River: Dec. 15; John Stuart, (509) 447-2644, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarkston: Dec. 15; Bryan Jamieson, email@example.com.
Chewelah: Dec. 21; Mike Munts (509) 684-8384, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spokane: Dec. 29; Alan McCoy, 448-3123, email@example.com.
PUBLIC LANDS — Cecil Andrus, former Idaho governor and Interior secretary, is among several prominent Idahoans to appear in a new ad campaign supporting national monument designation for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains.
Andrus has called for protecting the area near Ketchum for several years as Congress has failed to move the legislation introduced by Rep. Simpson in each of the last six Congressional sessions.
In the print ad, which debuted today in the Idaho Statesman, Andrus says, “My career has been about common-sense conservation in line with Idaho values. National Monument status will protect the area’s fish and wildlife habitat, while keeping it open to hunting, fishing and other recreational uses that greatly benefit our economy.”
According to the Idaho Conservation League, the campaign also features Ketchum businessmen Bob Rosso and Tom Nickel, former State Representative Wendy Jaquet, and sportsman Tyler Jackson, who back monument designation “for businesses,” “to keep tourists coming,” “for future generations,” and for “plentiful fish and game.”
A new economic study released by the Idaho Outdoor Business Council showed that creation of a BWC monument could add between $3.7-12.3 million in revenue and support as many as 150 new jobs.
Andrus, a longtime supporter of legislative protection of the Boulder-White Clouds says Congressional stalemate helped convince him to advocate for national monument status for the area.
“It’s time to resolve the debate in a reasonable way that will conserve and protect one of the nation’s last great unspoiled landscapes. I now believe that the protection so richly deserved for this place can only be accomplished by presidential action – the creation of a national monument.”
The campaign, which will run over the next few months, is cosponsored by the ICL and The Pew Charitable Trusts, which have been working to safeguard the Boulder-White Cloud area for more than a decade.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The online alerts have been buzzing this week with news of a northern hawk owl hanging out out around Moscow — a rare sighting that's attracting life-listing birdwatchers from around the region.
The hawk owl was still there this morning, according to this post from Kirsten Dahl.
The Northern Hawk-Owl is still present as of 7:30 am this morning. It is perched on top of a bush just east of the Hwy 8/Blaine intersection, along the bike trail.
The photo above is by Moscow birder Terry Gray. Here's a story about the occasion by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:
MOSCOW - When Lori Nelson heard about the northern hawk owl, she quickly devised a plan.
She dropped her son off at school Wednesday morning in Richland and headed east to the Palouse. By noon, she was standing under a tree near the Eastside Marketplace and admiring the rare bird that normally stays well north of the U.S.-Canada border.
“He has feathered feet, that is so cool,” she said. “It’s (a) once-in-a-lifetime bird for me. I may not get a chance to see one again.”
Many avid bird-watchers keep lists of all the species they have spotted. When a rare bird is found, they spread the word so others can not only enjoy it but also add to their lists.
The rare visitor was first spotted Tuesday morning and positively identified as a hawk owl that afternoon by Terry Gray of Moscow. He filled out a rare bird report and news of it quickly made the rounds via email listserves and websites like ebird.org. Local birders from Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston soon showed up to take a look and perhaps add a bird to their life lists.
“It’s kind of cool. It’s amazing how fast word gets out there through the different listserves and ebird on rare bird sightings,” said Gray. “It’s kind of fun.”
Later in the day, people from farther away started to show up. Gray said he met a carload of women from Boise who headed north as soon as they got word.
Keith Carlson of Lewiston was one of the early arrivals and said the bird didn’t disappoint.
“He’s a real piece of work,” he said. “He just sits there and he’s an experienced hunter. I saw him try to, and to catch, two mice this morning. He just sits in one or two trees and watches. All of a sudden he launches off and boom, he catches one and flies back up and eats it.”
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, northern hawk owls prefer coniferous or mixed forests near open areas. They live year-round in Canada and Alaska. When food is scare during tough winters, the birds sometimes move south in large numbers, known as an irruption. Gray said there is no evidence this bird is associated with an irruption.
WINTER SPORTS — Backcountry skiers who use alpine ski resorts that operate on public land are being scrutinized this season.
Here's a story from last month.
Here's the latest:
Uphill skiers at Montana resort warned to use designated routes
There are two routes uphill skiers at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana may use to access the powder under their own power, and a U.S. Forest Service official who works with the resort on its special permit warned skiers to stick to those routes to avoid additional regulations on the practice. —Flathead Beacon
FISHING — The chart above, just released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is an early forecast for spring and summer chinook returning to the Columbia River next year.
The numbers suggest that almost twice as many spring chinook will return to the system to delight anglers in 2014 while the numbers of summer chinook bound for the upper Columbia could be slightly down.
The numbers will be updated several times over the coming months.
WINTER SPORTS — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson and his wife, Lisa, of Lincoln jumped at the chance Wednesday offered to strap into their snowshoes for a walk through a cold clear day and deep powder in Western Montana.
Broke trail to the top of Rogers Pass this afternoon (snowshoes). It is approx.. 1.5 to 2 miles to the top with an elevation gain of about 1000 feet.
There was between one and two feet of snow for the entire trail. Cold and clear day – we got on top just in time for the warm sunset light!
As it set – it got cold! When we eventually got back to the truck, it was 10 degrees below zero. Considering we were 1000 feet higher, we estimate It was closer to -15 on top!
PUBLIC LANDS — Perhaps researchers are offering some insight on how wildlife and hunters are feeling the squeeze of humanity in rural areas — and why forest fire fighting costs continue to soar.
Private development along the edges of most public forests in Oregon and Washington more than doubled since the 1970s, a new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station has found.
The study, which used aerial photography to inventory structures at the fringes of public forests, is the first to look at development trends in the two states before and after the enactment of land use laws. The findings are reported in Changes in Development Near Public Forest Lands in Oregon and Washington, 1974-2005: Implications for Management, a report published by the PNW Station.
“Although public forests are not necessarily directly subject to development, they still face management issues at their edges because of indirect development pressure,” said David Azuma, a research forester at the station who led the study.
In Oregon and Washington, about half of all forest lands are publicly owned and managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. Using a fine-scale grid of points on air photos across the two states, Azuma and colleagues classified areas outside of federal lands for land use and then recorded the number of structures within a 321-meter radius of each of these points.
“Quantifying the increases in structures in areas that have not been converted in land use can serve as a surrogate for the broader risk associated with development near public lands,” Azuma said.
Among the study’s findings:
The study’s findings suggest that areas with increasing development should probably expect continued development. The work can help agencies that manage public forests to better plan for management options at the edges of their land.
The report is available online.
PUBLIC LANDS — A proposal by Idaho lawmakers to assume control of millions of acres of federal land statewide earned mixed reviews today, with supporters calling it an essential step to revitalizing rural economies and critics panning it as a financial boondoggle, according to a story that's just been moved by the Associated Press.
The Federal Lands Interim Committee meeting gave lawmakers their first chance to gauge public opinion on a plan calling on the federal government to cede much of the public land it oversees in Idaho to the state, writes AP's Todd Dvorak in Boise.
Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a resolution making a case for the land transfer and the committee is spending two years to study the merits before submitting a recommendation in 2015.
Those encouraging lawmakers Wednesday included leaders of tea party groups, foresters who’ve seen local economies struggle amid declines in timber cutting and the shutdown of sawmills and county leaders frustrated with the management of national forest lands.
Ken Postma, a former forester for wood products company Boise-Cascade, argued the state would be a better steward of the forests and more amenable to expanding logging and other activities.
Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press:
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf sightings have been reported in Whitman County off and on for several years, but last week, Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists were able to verify wolf tracks in the Palouse.
Two biologists verified one set of wolf tracks in the Rock Lake area, about two miles from where wolf sightings had been reported in the Ewan area.
They surmise the wolves may be wandering in from packs established in Idaho, just a short hop away for a wandering wolf.
Wolf tracks are huge in the canine world, measuring at least 4 inches long — twice the size of a coyote track.
HUNTING — A few birds may still be hanging on at hunting sites for the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement and Release Program.
The final release of farm-raised rooster pheasants was made a last week, just before Thanksgiving at sites near Fishtrap Lake, Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, Snake River and 20 other areas in the region.
Despite the non-toxic shot requirement enacted in 2011, these release public land sites have continued to be popular since the program began in the late 1990s. It's especially popular with hunters who don’t have access to hunt private land.
The first releases of the year occurred at all sites before the Sept. 21-22 youth upland bird season. Two additional releases were scheduled at the sites during the general pheasant season.
Only about half the sites were stocked with birds for the Oct. 19 opener, said Joey McCanna, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. The other sites were stocked the following week, he said.
The agency does not divulge which sites will be stocked when.
This bit of chance and inconvenience dates back to the bad experiences agency staff had years ago when hunters often waited at designated sites for the game farm trucks to show up. In some cases, greedy hunters created dangerous situations, sometimes even blasting away as the birds were being released.
Times have changed in other ways since the early years of the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program, when the Washington Legislature required 80 percent of the funding to be spent on releasing birds while the rest was earmarked for pheasant habitat efforts.
In 2008, about $270,000 was spent to release birds on the East Side and about $32,000 went to habitat.
That year, with legislative approval, Washington Fish and Wildlife managers approved a phased-in schedule to reduce the number of birds planted until the spending equaled about 50 percent for birds and 50 percent for habitat.
“We’re right about there this year,” McCanna said, noting that 11,350 rooster pheasants were released at the sites this year. That’s down from 11,820 last year and down from more than 20,000 birds in the initial years.
Hunter groups have supported the department’s emphasis on working with farmers to enhance habitat for wild pheasants. Methods include developing plantings that improve pheasant productivity on lands seeded into the federal Conservation Reserve Program.
WINTER SPORTS — My recent blog post on the transitions at Mount Spokane State Park indicated the biggest change this seasons is the elimination of the Discover Pass for WINTER vehicle access to the park through March 31.
The handy chart above, courtesy of the Spokane REI store, helps illustrate the change.
Read the story for details.
SHOOTING — This is a great idea, at least in the minds of those of us who honed our early shooting skills by plinking tin cans.
LaserLyte®, a company specializing firearms laser technologies, has released an entertaining Laser-Plinking-Can. When hit with a laser from any of the LaserLyte® training cartridges or other laser trainer tools, the cans react by jumping up and falling over just as a real can would.
This reaction is all powered by a 9-volt battery and a spring loaded plunger released by a solenoid. To reset the cans, simply stand them up and depress the plunger. The battery will last for about 8,000 shots.
The Laser Plinking Can Set provides hours of training and entertainment indoors or outdoors without the cost of ammunition, need for a special range — or the clean-up of cans after the session!
ENDANGERED SPECIES — An organization of wildlife officials for Western states is asking the federal government to delay a possible listing for wolverines as a threatened species, which could mean an end to trapping outside Alaska for the animal’s fur.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife objects to any listing based solely on fears climate change could shrink the wolverine’s wintry terrain along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and other Western ranges.
“Climate change models are not a reason to list species under the Endangered Species Act,” Bill Bates, a representative from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, told The Tribune.
Bates said the population of wolverines has actually increased since the time of European settlement, even though it’s estimated fewer than 300 of the elusive, snow-loving carnivores roam the mountain ranges of the Lower 48 states.
“We can wait and see what happens with climate change in the next 20 to 30 years,” Bates said.
Federal officials say they aren’t trying to use the wolverine as a means to regulate greenhouse gases, but they say it’s a fact climate change threatens the wolverine as much as it does the polar bear. The Interior Department listed polar bears as threatened five years ago because of loss of their primary habitat, sea ice, due to climate warming.
In January, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed protections for the wolverine throughout the continental U.S. It opened a public comment period that’s set to end on Monday.
Read on for more of the story moved by the Associated Press.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are finally showing some interest in their traditional winter feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 57 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey two weeks ago and up from 11 counted last week.
However, the 57 eagles counted today — 46 adults (white heads), 10 immatures (under 4 years old) and one unknown — amount to less than half of the eagles counted in Wolf Lodge Bay last year at this time, Hugo said.
The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.
“Last year I counted 121 bald eagles — 84 adults and 37 immature,” Hugo said, noting that today's survey conditions were cold and windy and many eagles were soaring in the breeze. “Let's see if the cold snap this week freezes some lakes up north and sends a big pulse (of eagles) our way!”