Field reports: Fall projects affect national forest access
PUBLIC LANDS – Area Forest Service ranger districts have announced road and trail closures this month as they finish construction projects and cordon off areas for prescribed burns.
Examples of access restrictions announced this week include:
• St. Joe National Forest, prescribed burns start soon in the upper reaches of the St. Joe River near Heller Creek.
• Coeur d’Alene National Forest road closures or restrictions for construction include Cascade-Magee Road at Potter Creek bridge (alternate route available) and Jordan Creek Road 412.
Although the following will be closed during the week, they will be open for weekend traffic: Wolf Creek Road, Big Creek Road to Lake Elsie and West Fork Eagle Creek Road.
FISHING – Idaho Fish and Game is holding open-house meetings this week to gather public comments on proposed fishing rule changes.
The Panhandle meeting is set for Wednesday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., at the agency’s regional office in Coeur d’Alene.
Many of the proposals would simplify current fishing rules and increase fishing opportunity, officials said.
Panhandle proposals include:
• Changing the general stream season to “open all year” rather than the current Memorial Day weekend through Nov. 30.
• Allowing cutthroat harvest in the St. Maries River.
• Allowing more harvest on lake trout and browns in the Kootenai River.
• Setting a general daily bag limit of 15 kokanee throughout the Panhandle.
• Extending protective largemouth bass restrictions to Pend Oreille River sloughs.
See all of the proposed changes at www.fishand game.idaho.gov
Octogenarian draws hunt of a lifetime
BIG GAME – An 84-year-old man has won the single tag for a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram in the eight-day Lookout Mountain hunt in eastern Oregon.
Fred Riggs, who’s lived in Richland since 1937, has been hunting in Baker County almost as long. But there were no Rocky Mountain bighorns in the state until the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife imported some from Canada in 1971.
Last year, 414 hunters applied for the first of the two annual Lookout Mountain bighorn hunts.
The Baker City Herald
Whitewater park proposal reaffirmed
PADDLING – The Spokane City Council recently unanimously passed a resolution refreshing its support for the whitewater park proposed six years ago on the Spokane River in Peaceful Valley near Sandifur Bridge.
The Parks Board is scheduled to consider the same resolution this week.
The action was needed to request an extension for a $530,000 grant approved by the Legislature. Another $400,000 authorized by the Legislature in 2005 is being held by the Friends of the Falls.
Permitting has been more difficult that originally expected, especially with state agencies and groups registering concern for fish passage and trout spawning areas near the proposed site.
Avista is likely to release a fisheries survey in October as part of its FERC dam relicensing requirements. The survey is likely to confirm that red-band trout spawn in the area near the proposed whitewater site.
Conservation groups say the information would be valuable in determining the impacts of the park, which would involve cementing rock structures into the riverbed to create waves for a paddling playground.
LeRoy Eadie, Spokane City Parks director, said some permits are requiring an environmental impact statement, which likely will cost $50,000-$100,000 and won’t be completed until sometime next year. Other sites may be considered, he said.
Groups to spiff up local outdoors
VOLUNTEERS – Two popular group cleanup efforts are registering volunteers:
Q’emiln Park Access Fund Adopt-A-Crag cleanup in Post Falls, Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon. Lunch provided.
Sign up: North Idaho College Outdoors, (208) 769-7809.
Spokane River Cleanup, Sept. 25. More than 800 volunteers recycled 2 tons of trash in last year’s seventh-annual event.
Sign up: To help lead in key positions, call Stephen 953-6437, or Shawna 951-0608.
Otherwise, preregister online, www.friendsofthefalls.org
EPA rejects ban on lead ammo
ENVIRONMENT – The Environmental Protection Agency last week rejected a request that it ban lead bullets, saying it does not have the legal authority to do so.
However, the agency left the door open to consider a ban on lead fishing tackle.
The American Bird Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity had petitioned for the bans to curb lead poisoning in birds ranging from waterfowl to birds of prey and scavengers such as eagles and condors.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, under which the petition was made, exempts ammunition from its controls, the agency said.
But the agency said it will seek comment on the merit of a ban on lead fishing sinkers, which have been shown to kill birds such as loons.
Staff and wire reports
Visitation surges on Hiawatha Trail
CYCLING – Perhaps fueled by the 100th anniversary of the 1910 forest fires, bicyclists have flocked to the Route of the Hiawatha rail trail this season.
Visitation is up more than 10 percent from last year’s record season, said Phil Edholm of Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation.
August riders totaled 12,263.
The Route of the Hiawatha, a 15-mile rail trail that straddles the Montana-Idaho border, is to close Sept. 26 – earlier than normal to accommodate some construction projects, he said.
The trail includes 10 tunnels and seven trestles as high as 230 feet.
For details and bike rentals, call (208) 744-1301 or visit www.skilookout.com.
State offices closed on Tuesday
BUDGET – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife offices, and most other state agencies, will be closed Tuesday for the third of 10 statewide, unpaid employee layoff days for 2010-2011 prompted by the state budget shortfall.
State wildlife areas and access sites will remain open.
Wildlife enforcement officers will remain on duty.
Other layoff days this year are Oct. 11 and Dec. 27.