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Field reports: Lawmaker questions rail trail funding

PARKS – Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax) says he questions the value of Washington State Parks and Recreation Department proposals to spend millions of dollars in his district improving the portion of a rail trail that crosses Eastern Washington.

In July, state parks officials released a legislative budget request for $6.2 million in the next two years for John Wayne Trail projects including tunnel and trestle repairs, trailhead development at Tekoa and Rosalia and trail development from Lind to Rosalia.

The John Wayne Trail is the portion of Iron Horse State Park that runs east of the Columbia River to Idaho. The portion of the 285-mile ribbon of state park that runs west of the Columbia to North Bend is mostly developed.

“Parks already has a $486 million backlog of maintenance and yet you want to add more to it?” Schmick said in a story published by the Whitman County Gazette on Dec. 1.

Eastern Washington landowners along the trail have publicly opposed development of the abandoned Milwaukee railway corridor.

Ted Blaszak of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association said 39 Washington town governments have endorsed development of the trail, including Colfax and 11 other towns in Schmick’s district.

Schmick was not available for comment this week.

Bald eagle count spike at Lake CdA

BIRDS – The bald eagle bonanza has boomed at Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay in the past week.

The number of bald eagles arriving for the annual congregation at Lake Coeur d’Alene doubled two weeks ago – and that number tripled in the past week with a whopping 213 eagles counted on Thursday.

“Lots of birds in Beauty Bay and across the lake from Beacon Point,” reported Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. “Lots of frozen dead kokanee on the shoreline.”

The big birds are homing in on the feast of spawning kokanee. This year’s fish run is the biggest in 20 years in the northeast area of the lake.

The bald eagle gathering usually peaks in late December, so breaking 200 on the Dec. 8 means word is out in the eagle world. In 2015, the gathering was surveyed at 126 bald eagles on Dec. 10.

A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d’Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.

Wild turkeys cause power outages

WILDLIFE – A flock of wild turkeys, long considered menaces to one Oregon town, have sparked new ire after causing power outages in the eastern part of Medford.

Turkeys flying into Pacific Power lines have caused four morning outages in a month, each time cutting off power for more than 1,600 customers.

Pacific Power spokesman Monte Mendenhall says it’s unclear how the utility will resolve the issue.

Unlike in rural areas, it is illegal to shoot or hunt within Medford’s city limits. And trapping turkeys is difficult and time consuming.

Wildlife biologists say the outages are a new symptom of the old problem of people feeding turkeys, allowing them to establish urban flocks.

In Spokane, wild turkeys have been plaguing some neighborhoods for several years. Residents who feed turkeys in town exacerbate the problem officials say. However, no turkey-related power outages have been reported, yet.



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