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St. Joe River campground host sought

CAMPING – A campground host is being sought for the Huckleberry Campground along the St. Joe River 30 miles east of St. Maries, Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Coeur d'Alene District provides the volunteer hosts free camping and utilities for services five days a week.

Info: (208) 769-5041.

Read on for more details from the BLM:

Not a hero: Rancher’s federal land grab all about greed, arrogance

UPDATED 3:18 p.m. to properly attribute Taylor quote.

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington State Rep. Matt Shea has ridden out of his Spokane Valley district on his white horse to save us from the overpowering federal government as he stands in lock-step with a Nevada rancher who's stolen more than $1 million in grazing favors from public land.

Whom will Shea stand up for next? The guy who says he has a Constitutional right to rob the Post Office?

Shea says he was compelled to back Cliven Bundy as he joined Rep. Dave Taylor for a trip to the Bundy Ranch. As Taylor put it,“If we don’t stand up for our neighbors, there won’t be anybody left when they come for us.”

The confrontation stems around a Nevada rancher who doesn't recognize the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the owner of the public land he wants to graze his cattle on. Bundy has declined to pay about $1 million in fees while he lets his stock run amock where law abiding ranchers don't.

Trouble is, the BLM isn't the only voice saying Bundy is breaking the law.  So have the courts, twice.  

The courts, at last check, are our nation's way of settling points of law.

BLM backed away from confiscating Bundy's cattle — seizing the stock was authorized by a judge — when supporters came in and posed the climate for a violent confrontation.

So where do we go from here?  

The public owns the land, not the rancher. If every man who fabricates a disagreement with the government decides to run his cattle — or cuts his trees, builds his roads, kills his game, nets his fish, or fires up his bulldozer — the way he sees fit, the American icon of public land will be lost.

That, Mr. Shea, is what's worth standing up for.   Not one man's greed and selfishness, but rather the rule of law and the overwhelming advantages of regulated public land.

Shea says feds making war on rural U.S.

 

YouTube video by Gavin Seim

The federal government has declared “war on rural America” with its rules and regulations on land use, a Spokane Valley legislator said in the wake of last week’s standoff between a Nevada rancher and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

In a speech on land near the center of the dispute, Republican Rep. Matt Shea called for federal land to be transferred to the states. A coalition of legislators from Western states was forming to stand up for Cliven Bundy and others in the fight against overbearing federal rules, he said.

But a spokesman for the group challenging Bundy's rights to graze hundreds of cattle on federal land without a permit or paying fees, said the rancher is trying to do something other cattlemen can't. And a federal judge's order supports that view. . . 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

To read the federal judge's order in the legal battle between the BLM and Cliven Bundy, click on the document below.


Documents:

BLM regroups in confrontation with deadbeat rancher’s grazing

PUBLIC LANDS — A Nevada rancher who owes the federal government more than $1 million in fees for illegally grazing cattle on U.S. Bureau of Land Management has won a temporary reprieve by summoning a protest by his right-winger brethren, some of which were armed militia-types.

IS this this future: The most heavily armed among us can take over public lands?

Nevada rancher's standoff with BLM re-energizes old debate
Time Magazine examines the Bureau of Land Management's conflict with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and what precedent the federal agency's decision to call off the gathering of Bundy's cattle illegally grazed on federal lands for the past two decades will set.
—Time.com

Click continue reading for the latest story on the confrontation from the Associated Press:

BLM opens Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — The gate has been opened temporarily at Escure Ranch to allow motor vehicles to drive the road less than three miles into Towell Falls, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Spokane office has announced. 

The 14,000-acre BLM Rock Creek Recreation Area site south of Sprague is the realm of hikers and mountain bikers for most of the year, but the road is opened to the scenic falls in the window between the winter and spring mud season and the fire-danger season, which starts sometime in June.

BLM spokesman Steve Smith said:

The Towell Falls gate is now open at BLM's Rock Creek Recreation Site, and that Towell Falls Road has been very recently mowed.  As usual, the gate will remain open until we decide there is too much risk of wildland fire ignition for vehicle travel to continue on that road.

Mica Bay Boater Park closed for tree removal

BOATING — The Mica Bay Boater Park on Lake Coeur d'Alene has been closed temporarily until hazardous trees can be removed, according to the Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office.

Closure of the popular lake access site  will continue while operators work to fell and remove at-risk trees.  The order is expected to be lifted by mid-May. 

The BLM explains in a media release:

Last fall, after several diseased western larch fell and grazed a camp host's trailer, managers conducted a safety inspection of the trees in the recreation area and prepared an analysis outlining options to ensure the safety of users at the site.  Western larch is typically noted for being resistant to diseases such as root rot but throughout the north-facing ridge bordering the site, many trees have been compromised.  Because of the potential risk of failure that could cause a threat to people and/or property, managers determined that removal of the trees was necessary before the public begins to actively use the site for the summer season. 

Mica Bay Boater Park is a popular day-use area for boaters on Lake Coeur d’Alene and is also accessible by foot for groups looking for a secluded picnic spot or quiet place to pitch their tent.  

See information on alternate boater parks or picnic areas managed by BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office. 

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year links to National Parks Week.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The next freebie date of the year is Presidents Day Weekend, with fee-free days at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of all the 2014 free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

BLM to fight fire with fire at Fishtrap Lake

PUBLIC LANDS —  Slow-moving fires are planned for about 1,150 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management scablands southwest of Spokane near Fishtrap Lake starting this week to boost wildlife habitat and reduce the chance of intense wild fires during summer and fall.

The Spokane District will be conducting prescribed fires in the Fishtrap area of Spokane and Lincoln Counties, approximately 8.5 miles northeast of Sprague during the period from Wednesday, Jan. 15, through Feb. 28, depending on weather.

Smoke may be visible on active ignition days and for several days following, officials said, noting these burns are part of BLM's region-wide fire control program. A program of prescribed burns can help reduce the intensity and damage cause by natural fires, such as those that have burned in Lincoln County in recent years (photo above).

Says BLM:

Prescribed fire is used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increase public and firefighter safety. It also helps meet a variety of resource management objectives: reducing hazardous fuels (surface or ladder fuels), and restoring habitats and ecosystems. To restore fire to its natural role in forests and rangelands, trained experts employ low intensity prescribed fire in the spring and fall, when weather conditions minimize escape and allow for controlled burning.

Bald eagles drifting away from Lake CdA gathering

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is thinning out at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay area where the national symbols gather each year to feast on spawning kokanee.

After peaking at 217 two weeks ago, the number of eagles counted today by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo dropped to 53 — that's  51 adults and 2 juveniles.  

The eagles came later than normal this year and stayed in large numbers longer than in the past, perhaps because many of them had been taking advantage of the revived kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille.  

  • See more on the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene eagle gatherings.

“Chances are the number of eagles (at Lake Coeur d'Alene) is slightly higher than my count reflects today,” Hugo said, noting that she spotted at least 20 soaring eagles but does not include flying birds in her surveys. 

“Having said that, the numbers should continue to decline rapidly from here,” she said, adding that no more surveys would be conducted until the birds should begin returning again in November.

 “It was another good year with a few surprises in the numbers!  We might have to find someone to monitor Lake Pend Oreille next year!”  

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

Poor visibility postpones CdA eagle survey

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekly survey of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene was postponed today because of poor visibility caused by the incoming storm.

Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologists, said she saw enough eagles to believe that the eagle numbers are still high.  In last week's survey she counted 217.

She said she'll try again on Wednesday to do the survey.

But  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson hit it right on Monday, coming before the storm and finding plenty of action for good, sharp photos, as you can see above.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, a fee-free day at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Eagle’s comeback testament to Endangered Species Act

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  As wildlife lovers and their families flock to Lake Coeur d'Alene Eagle Watch activities to view congregating bald eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay this week, let's not forget that very few if any bald eagles would be gracing our Inland Northwest skies if it weren't for the foresight of the lawmakers who passed Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Bald eagles, grizzlies living reminders of federal law's success
President Richard Nixon signed the federal Endangered Species Act into law on Dec. 28, 1973, and in Montana, bald eagles and grizzly bears have rebounded because of the law's protections.

—Missoulian

Eagle count soars to 129 at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual bald eagle gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene continues to grow, with plenty of birds for viewing as “eagle ambassadors” gear up for the annual Eagle Watch Week activities during the holiday school break.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 129 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from 86 eagles counted last week and up from 57 eagles counted two weeks ago during her weekly survey.

For decades, the eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

Eagle numbers are down from the past few years. Today's count of 129 eagles compares with 260 during the same week last year, Hugo said.

“At any rate, they are increasing and I saw floating kokanee and a good amount of fishing so there is still plenty of high quality viewing out there,” she said “At one point there were 17 eagles soaring between Wolf Point and Higgens Point.”

EAGLE WATCH WEEK

The annual Eagle Watch Week, Dec. 26-30, is a good time to bring the family out for eagle viewing to take advantage of display and spotting scopes set up by people who know a lot about eagles.

The activity is based at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Mineral Ridge boat launch and trailhead on SR 97 south of I-90 from the Wolf Lodge Exit. 

Beginning Dec. 26, the BLM will partner with Idaho Department of Fish and Game and other “eagle ambassadors” to answer questions about bald eagles, their lifestyles and habits and assist visitors with high-powered spotting scopes.

In case of severe weather, check the “Eagle Watch Hotline” —(208) 769-5048 after 9 a.m., Dec. 26-30 — to be sure activities have not been curtailed.

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

BLM to set prescribed burns in Stevens County

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is planning to conduct prescribed fires in the Huckleberry Mountains area in Stevens County Dec. 12-Jan. 31, according to the Spokane District Office.

About 153 acres of public land will be burned, and smoke may be visible on active ignition days and subsequent days. The overall goal of this burn is to reduce the fire hazard and intensity.

Generally, controlled burns also improve wildlife habitat.

Says BLM:

Prescribed fire is used in BLM's fire management program to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increase public and firefighter safety. It also helps meet a variety of resource management objectives: reducing hazardous fuels (surface or ladder fuels), and restoring habitats and ecosystems. To restore fire to its natural role in forests and rangelands, trained experts employ low intensity prescribed fire in the spring and fall, when weather conditions minimize escape and allow for controlled burning.

The legal descriptions of the prescribed fire areas are Township 29 North, Range 37 East, Sections 1, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 24, and Township 31 North, Range 39 East, Sections 9, 10, and 34. The project areas are located approximately 10 miles northwest of the town of Wellpinit, Washington and 10 miles southwest of Chewelah, WA. The units are bordered by other BLM public lands and Washington Department of Natural Resources lands. 

 

 

More eagles at Lake CdA, plus other places to find them

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is increasing at their traditional winter feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 86 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from 57 eagles counted during her weekly survey last Tuesday.

“This time last year I counted 203 eagles,” Hugo said. “Today there were 23 in Beauty Bay and a handful that were nice and visible between Boothe Park and Higgens Point.” 

The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

The Spokesman Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

Read on for a story about eagle-watching areas in Western Washington.   And to expand your horizons even more, realize that the author didn't mention the good chances of seeing bald eagles along the Clearwater River near Orofino or the Methow River between Carlton and Winthrop or the Clark Fork River near St. Regis or all along Lake Roosevelt and even the lower Spokane River — all likely winter spots to see bald eagles, one of the classic success stories of the Endangered Species Act.

Study reveals increasing development along forest boundaries

PUBLIC LANDS — Perhaps researchers are offering some insight on how wildlife and hunters are feeling the squeeze of humanity in rural areas — and why forest fire fighting costs continue to soar.

Private development along the edges of most public forests in Oregon and Washington more than doubled since the 1970s, a new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station has found.

The study, which used aerial photography to inventory structures at the fringes of public forests, is the first to look at development trends in the two states before and after the enactment of land use laws. The findings are reported in Changes in Development Near Public Forest Lands in Oregon and Washington, 1974-2005: Implications for Management, a report published by the PNW Station.

“Although public forests are not necessarily directly subject to development, they still face management issues at their edges because of indirect development pressure,” said David Azuma, a research forester at the station who led the study.

In Oregon and Washington, about half of all forest lands are publicly owned and managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. Using a fine-scale grid of points on air photos across the two states, Azuma and colleagues classified areas outside of federal lands for land use and then recorded the number of structures within a 321-meter radius of each of these points.

“Quantifying the increases in structures in areas that have not been converted in land use can serve as a surrogate for the broader risk associated with development near public lands,” Azuma said.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Structure density within 1 kilometer of public forest more than doubled for each of the public owner groups between the 1970s and the mid-2000s.
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources lands are the most developed along their edges, with an average of 11 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer of their land – a rate that is more than twice that of lands managed by the other public land owners.
  • In Oregon, the greatest amount of development occurred along the edges of Bureau of Land Management forests, where there is an average of 4.4 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer and 19.5 structures within 2 to 5 kilometers of their land.
  • The greatest increases in structure density along public forest borders occurred in Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Clark Counties in Washington, and in Deschutes County in Oregon.

The study’s findings suggest that areas with increasing development should probably expect continued development. The work can help agencies that manage public forests to better plan for management options at the edges of their land.

  • The study also verifies the attention Washington state agencies and groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy have given to “blocking up” forest lands that are in checkerboard ownership.  See story and links.

The report is available online

CdA bald eagle count booms from 11 to 57 in a week

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are finally showing some interest in their traditional winter feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 57 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey two weeks ago and up from 11 counted last week.

However, the 57 eagles counted today — 46 adults (white heads), 10 immatures (under 4 years old) and one unknown — amount to less than half of the eagles counted in Wolf Lodge Bay last year at this time, Hugo said.

The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

“Last year I counted 121 bald eagles — 84 adults and 37 immature,” Hugo said, noting that today's survey conditions were cold and windy and many eagles were soaring in the breeze. “Let's see if the cold snap this week freezes some lakes up north and sends a big pulse (of eagles) our way!”

Bald eagle numbers far short of last year’s Lake CdA gathering, so far

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are way short of their historical mark for showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 11 adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area today.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey last week, but down from 100 eagles counted during this week last year.

The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

Birders and biologists have been scratching their heads, wondering if the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille is detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

Could CdA eagles be detoured by super-sized meal?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders and biologists were scratching their heads last week at reports of the dearth of bald eagles gathering to feed on on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay.

Could the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille be detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Are the eagles simply late in coming?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

 

Bald eagles still not showing up at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual gathering of bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene is lagging.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

However, Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only two adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday, down from three eagles she counted last Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

“Last year on Nov. 20 there were 64 eagles in all,” she said this afternoon.  The number built to 260 bald eagles counted on Dec.19, 2012.  

“I spoke with Jim Fredericks from Idaho Fish and Game about the kokanee spawn outlook,” Hugo said.  “Fredericks said that estimates for numbers of adults are lower than last year but still within the realm of the norm for what they hope and expect to see in Lake CdA.  Also he mentioned that spawning is going to be pretty goon on Lake Pend Oreille and that he noticed quite a few eagles up there.”

She said there's some speculation that bald eagles may be camping out in the Lake Pend Oreille area.  On the other hand, there were quite a few eagles at Pend Oreille's Granite Creek spawning area last year at this time and plenty of eagles still showed up at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Three bald eagles lead annual feeding fest at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual fall-winter congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have started, barely.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted three adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

“There was no count this early last year because I was not here to count so I have no comparison,” Hugo said, but she added that the eagle numbers can build rapidly. “The count on Nov. 20, 2012, was 64.”

Most viewers drive to viewpoints at Higgens Point or from the Wolf Lodge Exit from Interstate 90.
However, eagle-watching cruise boat tours are scheduled in November and December leaving from the Coeur d'Alene Resort

Local veterans, active military and families from the North Idaho area will be honored on two admission-free cruises will be offered on Nov. 30 to local veterans, active military and their immediate families from the North Idaho area. The first two-hour cruise to the east end of Lake Coeur d'Alene will depart at 10 a.m. and the second two-hour cruise will leave at 1 p.m.

Reservations are required. Please call Suzanne Endsley at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to make a reservation.

Because the cruises fill quickly, the current status of available seating will be posted on the BLM's Coeur d'Alene District website.

Feds bill shooter $168K for fire ignited by exploding target

PUBLIC LANDS — The federal government said today it is collecting $168,500 to cover fire suppression costs after an Illinois man ignited a 440-acre blaze in central Idaho in 2012 while shooting at an exploding target.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the agreement after Jeffrey Kerner was target shooting on Aug. 18, 2012 on private land near Salmon in Lemhi County. As temperatures hit 95 degrees, prosecutors say Kerner’s target blew apart and ignited the blaze that later spread to adjacent federal land.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Howe in Boise said the settlement in the Idaho case was reached after negotiations with an insurance adjustment company representing Kerner.

Though the fire was relatively small at less than a square mile and was contained within 48 hours, costs quickly escalated as federal firefighters arrived in force to keep the flames from consuming at least two nearby homes.

Howe said the incident — during high summer, when temperatures were climbing — underscores the danger of shooting at exploding targets that produce a large cloud of smoke when struck by a bullet. Federal and state agencies across the West have enacted a patchwork of regulations designed to limit or ban exploding targets on public land, though there’s little uniformity.

Read on for more more of the story from the AP.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 9-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Father, son, yellow Lab score pheasants at Fishtrap

HUNTING — Robert Estuar and his 11 year-old son, Tomas, took a gamble on whether roosters would be stocked at the Fishtrap release site for Saturday's opening of the Eastern Washington pheasant season.

But they found birds and made the best of the day with their yellow Lab, Bella.

  • The state wasn't telling which sites would be stocked for the opener. Continue reading for details about the release program at 23 sites in Eastern Washington

Could Idaho cover costs of managing federal lands?

PUBLIC LANDS — A new report sheds light on the grim future of national forests, BLM lands and federal wildlife refuges if certain Idaho Legislators were to get their way.

Report: Federal government spent $392M to manage lands in Idaho in 2012
As Idaho officials mull a method to assume management of federal lands within the state's border, a report from the Congressional Research Service said that the federal government spent $392 million to manage the 32 million acres it controls in the Gem State in fiscal year 2012, considerably more than Idaho's estimate that it could make $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts.

-Idaho Statesman

Plan ahead for free entry to refuges Oct. 13

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Oct.13 — National Wildlife Refuge Day — which is honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas such as Turnbull and the Little Pend Oreille national wildlife refuges. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Sept. 28

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Sept. 28 — National Public Lands Day — which is honored by the National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three other holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Destructive shooters leave their mark

PUBLIC LANDS — After reading yesterday's blog post regarding the frustration of Idaho Panhandle National Forests officals over destructive shooting activity near Hayden Creek, reader George Barlow emailed me the photo above.

No, it's not from Iraq.

It shows the outhouse at the BLM's Hog Canyon Lake boat access site after semi-automatic weapons shooters had their way with it.

The scene explains the gunpowder vandalism that pushed BLM officials to ban shooting in the core area of the Fishtrap management area a few years ago.  

 

Elk forced out of Turnbull finding new range

WILDLIFE — As hunters are going out scouting for the upcoming big-game seasons, they aren't necessarily looking for elk in traditional places.

For instance, the hunting seasons conducted the past two years inside the boundaries of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge have spurred more of the elk to move out and set up shop in the scablands to the south, east and north of the refuge.

Last year, on Aug. 30, birding buff Mike Miller was suprised and pleased to capture the accompanying photos while hiking around the Oligher Ranch portion of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Telford Recreation Area.

First, the bull was bedded down in the reeds. When Miller surprised it, and himself, the elk trotted out through the sage.