Field reports: Farm Bill grant boosts fishing access

FISHING – Fishermen are enjoying free access to previously restricted private land along southeast Washington rivers thanks to a Farm Bill grant secured by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Although landowner sign-ups in the new program are not complete, access already has been opened to more than 7.5 miles of the Touchet and Walla Walla rivers, said Dawn Davis, the department’s private lands biologist in Walla Walla.

The land is posted “Feel free to fish,” so there are no restrictions or reservations needed, she said..

The federal grant, secured by Don Larson, the department’s agricultural liaison in Spokane, allows the agency to pay farmers for habitat improvements and allowing public access to fish.

So far the state has two agreements on the Touchet River:

• North of Touchet on North Touchet Road that provides 1.5 miles of river access.

• South of Prescott, providing another 1.5 miles of access. 

The Walla Walla river also has to cooperators providing a total of 4.5 miles of river access.

The areas should be posted when the new GoHunt web access feature is activated on the WDFW website.

Heliskiers fined for cutting trees

FORESTS – North Cascades Heli-Skiing’s operating permit is in a probationary status after owners of the Mazama-based company admitted to cutting down or topping a few dozen high elevation trees on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest last winter to make helicopter landing safer.

The Methow Valley Ranger District also warned that any new violations will result in further action which “could include removing areas from your permit or terminating your permit,” an Oct. 3 letter from District Ranger Michael Liu to owners Paul Butler and Ken Brooks said.

Some of the trees were centuries-old whitebark pines.

Several other new requirements were also outlined in the letter, including weekly reports with GPS coordinates of each helicopter landing, submitting yearly operation plans instead of one every five years, and getting certification so a Forest Service permit administrator can fly in the company’s helicopter to inspect operations.

The company will also have to pay for damages and restoration of the sites where trees were cut, but costs have not been determined.

Wild Olympics bill stalls in Congress

WILDERNESS – The Wild Olympics bill remains stalled in Congress, but Sen. Patty Murray’s office says the bill is still under consideration.

If the campaign continues next year it will be without the sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Norm Dicks, who is retiring.

Murray and Dicks introduced legislation to designate nearly 200 square miles of new wilderness in Washington’s Olympic National Forest. The bill also would put 19 rivers under wild and scenic river protections.

Opponents say the bill would restrict logging and limit recreation.

Mt. Spokane State Park looking for volunteers

PARKS – The Mt. Spokane State Park Advisory Committee is now accepting applications for membership. The board is responsible for advising the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on matters relating to the development and management of Mt. Spokane State Park. Those interested can send a letter of interest to Cris Currie, Chair, at 11203 E. Heglar Road, Mead, WA 99021 or criscurrie@igc.org by Nov. 15, 2012.


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