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Field reports: Washington advances lead-ban restrictions

ENVIRONMENT – Lead is gradually getting the boot in Washington’s hunting and fishing circles.

Although pheasant releases won’t resume until next fall in Eastern Washington, hunters technically will be required to use nontoxic shot at the specified release sites starting Jan. 1.

The nontoxic shot rule that’s been in effect at refuges and release sites for several years in Western Washington will phase in to the East Side in 2011.

The boundaries of those nontoxic shot zones have not yet been defined, said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman.

Last weekend, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved rules restricting lead fishing tackle at 13 northern Washington lakes frequented by nesting common loons.

It was a federal rule that banned lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting starting in 1986.

Rich Landers

Montana proposes nonresident fee hike

HUNTING – Montana wildlife officials are proposing changes to nonresident hunting license rules to comply with a ballot initiative passed last month.

Voters approved the measure to abolish 7,800 outfitter-sponsored hunting licenses and raise fees on nonresident licenses by about half.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission tentatively approved moving the quota of outfitter-sponsored licenses to the general license category and raising nonresident big-game combination licenses to $912 and nonresident deer combo licenses to $542.

Associated Press

Idaho criticized for roiling OHVers

OFF-ROADING — The supervisor of the Nez Perce National Forest has criticized the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, contending the state agency tried to rile up off-road vehicle riders over a proposed plan that could limit their access to the forest’s trails.

An e-mail exchange that’s emerged and reported by the Associated Press shows Supervisor Rick Brazell criticized a Nov. 3 letter the state agency sent to off-highway vehicle riders encouraging them to comment on a proposed travel management plan.

Brazell moved to the Nez Perce/Clearwater national forests last year after earning a reputation on the Colville National Forest for bringing disparate forest user groups together.

In his e-mail to Idaho Parks, Brazell questioned what he called “using a state database to get folks upset without giving the whole story.”

Parks director Nancy Merrill said the letter was to inform riders, not lead them to conclusions.

The Idaho Conservation League says it fears the correspondence may show Merrill’s agency favors one recreation group over others: hikers, horseback riders, anglers and hunters concerned about wildlife habitat affected by trails.

Staff and wire reports

Beetle-killed trees may not be fire hazard, researchers say

PUBLIC LANDS – Forests killed by mountain pine beetles may not be as prone to massive fires as previously assumed.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Yellowstone National Park drew that conclusion after they surveyed trees killed by beetle infestations that can leave red swaths of destruction.

Using computer programs, they found dying and dead stands of trees might be less susceptible to major fires than lush and green stands, since there is less fuel to burn.

Wisconsin researcher Martin Simrad says his results don’t support the assumption of increased fire risk after the beetle outbreak. In fact, it could decrease it under certain conditions.

Elected officials in the West sometimes contend beetle-killed forests are fire hazards, to promote harvesting more trees.

Meantime, about 800,000 acres on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest are infected with the beetles.

Associated Press