Retailers to stay in Utah
The Outdoor Retailer trade show, which pumps an estimated $32 million annually into Salt Lake City’s economy, announced it will remain in Utah despite an earlier protest of Utah’s alleged failure to protect the wild lands used by outdoor enthusiasts.
The trade organization said it would keep the show in Salt Lake City for another five years — contingent on the expansion of the Salt Palace Convention Center and a state commitment to protecting recreational areas. Outdoor Retailer, which opened last week, has been in Salt Lake continuously since 1996, drawing roughly 20,000 visitors to its summer show and 15,000 visitors to its winter show.
In addition to an expanded Salt Palace, members of the board of the Colorado-based Outdoor Industry Association are passionate that state leaders protect wilderness and recreation areas. The association is a powerful lobby that represents 4,000 U.S. manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, sales representatives and distributors.
Last year, former Gov. Mike Leavitt created a task force charged with identifying the state’s recreational gems and building a recreation economy.
Staff and wire reports
Four Katmai bears dead
A fourth brown bear has been found dead near a bear-watching stream in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Rangers investigating the illegal shootings of three other bears in the area flew to the site south of Iliamna Lake recently to look at the cub carcass.
A necropsy performed by biologists at the scene determined the bear died of natural causes. It had bite marks, indicating the cub might have been attacked by another bear, said Jane Tranel, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.
The front claws were cut from at least two of the other animals, including a mature female that was actively nursing, said Homer pilot and bear-viewing guide Ken Day, who discovered and reported the first three carcasses to the National Park Service last week.
“We’ve been watching these bears for years and years and years,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing when you see these beautiful creatures that just want to leave you alone — and for somebody to come over there and do a cold-blooded killing.”
An agreement among 22 organizations that took 19 months of negotiations will result in the reintroduction of threatened summer steelhead and spring chinook salmon to 226 miles of habitat upstream of the Pelton-Round Butte complex of dams on the Deschutes River in Oregon.
Under the $135 million agreement, Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, which own the dams, will spend $121 million over the next 50 years for fishery improvements and they also will receive a 50-year operating license for the dams from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late this year or in 2005.
Juvenile summer steelhead and spring chinook have not successfully migrated from the upper Deschutes, Metolius or Crooked rivers upstream of the dams since 1968, despite the presence of a fish ladder at the projects. Confusing currents in Lake Billy Chinook had caused migrating juvenile salmon to lose their way when maneuvering downstream through the reservoir and so there has been no successful migration since the dams were built in 1964. As an alternative to fish passage, PGE implemented a hatchery program in 1968.
Staff and wire reports
Elk need to eat
Not much seems to stand in the way of some bull elk having a meal — not even, new research indicates, the threat of becoming a main course for hungry wolves.
Researchers believe that famished bull elk in the northwestern part of the Yellowstone ecosystem become so intent in the winter on bulking up after a stressful autumn that they leave themselves more vulnerable to attack by wolves. In fact, researchers believe, bull elk are at six times greater risk of falling prey to wolves than cow elk.
The research is among the work being conducted to gain a better understanding of how the reintroduction of gray wolves has affected the Yellowstone ecosystem, especially wildlife such as elk.
Some sportsmen’s groups and opponents of the federal government’s wolf reintroduction program have argued wolves are responsible for what they contend is a noticeable decline in elk populations in and around Yellowstone National Park.
By winter, bull elk often are famished because of stresses from the mating season and a decline in the quantity and quality of food. They routinely lose up to 20 percent of their body weight by December, John Winnie Jr., a doctoral student in ecology at Montana State University.
By that point, they’ll eat like it’s their last meal — and for some it is.
When wolves begin to move in, he said, “bulls don’t respond, at least to the extent of cows, and they’re paying the price.”
Since cows have more stored fat, they don’t need to eat as much and can spend more time on the lookout for danger, said Scott Creel, a Montana State University ecologist.
If bulls pulled themselves away from eating, Winnie said, it would mean almost certain starvation — “and I think they would rather take their chances.”
Winnie sees no cause for alarm in what researchers have found.
“It would take a huge, huge reduction in bulls before I think we would see any real impact on the population,” he said. “So far, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying we’re heading for trouble or anything. I don’t see that in the research yet.”
ATV rule criticized
Sportsmen and wildlife biologists are asking the U.S. Forest Service to beef up a proposed nationwide crackdown on off-road vehicles.
While the government should be praised for addressing the growing problem of all-terrain vehicles and other off-road modes of travel, it needs to do more, said Stan Rauch, a Montana-based hunter outreach coordinator for the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition.
“The whole proposal needs to be strengthened if we are to see any real reform,” he said.
Rauch joined the leaders of hunting and fishing groups in Idaho and Montana to discuss the proposed Forest Service rules recently in a national conference call with reporters.
Under the proposal, each forest and grasslands district would work with the public to identify routes, trails and other areas suitable for off-road vehicles. An environmental analysis would also be required on each site to determine potential environmental effects.
The result would be a “use map” to outline what activities are allowed in which areas. The Forest Service says the plan would also halt the proliferation of new roads and trails, helping ease maintenance and enforcement problems.
Environmentalists and hunting and recreation groups like the idea, but say it should include more effective enforcement and money to pay for it.
Rauch suggested a two-year deadline for forests to establish off-road vehicle routes, “otherwise there will be no incentive to act in a timely manner.”
“They’ve also got to immediately end the use of all unauthorized, renegade ATV trails,” he said. “If the renegade trails continue to be used while they go through this process, the problem will just get worse and worse.”
Cherie Barton, president of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, agreed more protection is needed to keep irresponsible off-road users out of the region’s pristine backcountry.
“I’m not for banning ATVs, but I am for common sense management of their use. … These actions hurt everyone who uses off-road vehicles. They show a very, very indiscriminate lack of respect for wildlife and other hunters,” she said.
West Nile threatens
Biologists fear that West Nile virus could pose a rude welcome to thousands of sandhill cranes converging on south-central Colorado this year.
The town of Monte Vista holds a festival every spring to celebrate arrival of the migrating, statuesque birds that visit the wetlands and national wildlife refuges in the San Luis Valley.
Up to 300 breeding pairs fly farther north to build nests in Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
The fear is the greater sandhill cranes will contract the mosquito-borne virus, which killed hundreds of birds in Colorado last summer.
Young cranes are particularly vulnerable. The adult birds are less so because their thick feather layers and rough leg scales protect them from biting mosquitoes.
Outbreaks of the virus killed nearly 40 percent of the young cranes at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md. Less than 1 percent of the adult cranes died.
The threat West Nile poses to people has health and wildlife officials weighing whether to spray for mosquitoes in wildlife refuges.
The virus killed 55 people in Colorado last year and sickened nearly 3,000 more.
Mosquitoes are usually considered a welcome part of the ecosystem in wildlife refuges. Their larvae feed insects, beetles and fish. Birds and bats also eat mosquitoes.