Outdoors

Field reports: Montana scrutinizes Alberton Gorge camping

RIVERS – A group of Spokane river runners was surprised this week when a Clark Fork River ranger informed them that camping is prohibited at the mouth of Fish Creek, near a popular paddling play area in the Alberton Gorge.

“The mouth of Fish Creek and Sandy Beach have been designated as day-use areas and closed to camping for a number of years because of their heavy use,” said Chet Crowser, river recreation manager for the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department

Signs informing river users of the rules often get torn down, he said.

The agency does not encourage camping in the Alberton Gorge because of the high volume of river-rafting use and the potential for conflicts at the small number of potential camping sites, he said.

He suggests that people who choose to camp there to use fire pans and pack out human waste.

“We’ve seen an increase in this sort of use,” Crowser said. “If people don’t manage themselves appropriately, there’s the potential we may have to regulate all camping.”

Fish, Wildlife and Parks has played a major role in managing the gorge since 2004, when land exchanges were negotiated with Plum Creek Timber Company, and more recently in the Fish Creek area after land transfers from The Nature Conservancy.

- Rich Landers

Colville Tribe steps up to fund fish hatchery

FISHING – The trout hatchery at Colville, slated for closure last year because of the state budget crisis, is being rescued for a second year with funding from the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The tribes have signed an agreement through June to provide $114,000 to produce 4,542 pounds of trout and kokanee fry. The funding pays hatchery staff and fish-production expenses, said John Whalen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fish program manager.

“We have a long history of cooperation and partnership with the Colville Confederated Tribes and we’re glad to see it continue,” he said.

The Colville Hatchery annually provides about 409,000 trout and kokanee salmon fry for anglers at 72 lakes in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

- Rich Landers

Grizzlies leave Cabinets, return to Whitefish

WILDLIFE – Two grizzly bears trapped and relocated from near Whitefish to bolster the grizzly population in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness wasted little time returning home.

“They didn’t even zigzag much,” said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who monitored the bears with GPS collars.

A dozen bears relocated to the Cabinets since the early 1990s have mostly stuck around, he said. But a 4-year-old bear relocated in July returned “home” 60 miles in six days.

Similarly, a 10-year-old bear relocated in the fall to den in the Cabinets, emerged in May and didn’t like the change in scenery. She hit the trail, covering 73 miles in seven days.

Kasworm won’t return either grizzly to the Cabinets, but he is planning to capture at least one more bear for the augmentation program before summer’s out. This time, though, he’ll look farther east to the Continental Divide country “to put more real estate between the capture point and the release site.”

- Missoulian


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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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