Latest from The Spokesman-Review
HIKING — I made some footprints on the BLM's Pacific Lake/Lakeview Ranch near Odessa on Wednesday. The 40-degree day was perfect for hiking this dry country studded with magnificent basalt rock formations.
The area's signature end-to-end hike is featured in my guidebook, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.
Downside to hiking this week: The wildflowers are not yet blooming.
Upside: The tick's aren't active.
BOATING – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proposing recreation fee increase for sites around Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Daily boat launch fees at Blackwell Island and Mineral Ridge would increase from $4 to $6 and season passes would increase from $30 to $40.
Tent camping fees at Mica Bay Boater Park, Killarney Lake Recreation Site, Huckleberry Campground and Windy Bay Boater Park would rise from $8 to $10 a night.
Trailer camping fees at Huckleberry Campground along the St. Joe River are proposed to increase from $15 to $18 a night.
No fee increases have been proposed for the U.S. Forest Service sites in the area.
The proposals will be considered by BLM’s District Resource Advisory Council Wednesday (Feb. 22) at the BLM office, 3815 Schreiber Way.
Info: (208) 769-5004.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Interior Department has announced dates in 2013, ranging from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Veterans Day, when more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and other federal lands will offer free admission.
The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
Tourism and outdoor recreation also are economic engines in communities across the country, the agency noted in a release. Recreation on federal lands in 2009 provided 440,000 jobs and contributed $55 billion to the economy.
Some groups don't have to wait for a holiday to get special rates for visiting federal public lands.
- 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 Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and older and a $80 annual pass for the general public.
But the fee-free days will give both first time and repeat visitors a good reason to spend time in these extraordinary places, Interior officials said.
2013 fee free days
Here is a breakdown of the days and which agencies are offering free admission:
Jan. 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day - The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will waive their entrance fees and the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation will waive their standard amenity fees.
April 22-26: National Park Week - National Park Service.
June 8: Get Outdoors Day - U.S. Forest Service
Aug. 25: 97th birthday of the National Park Service.
Oct. 13: National Wildlife Refuge Day - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Sept. 18: National Public Lands Day - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
Nov. 9-11: Veterans Day weekend - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A record 273 bald eagles was counted today — Dec. 29 — at Lake Coeur d'Alene, making this the best year ever to take in the annual Eagle Watch Week activities.
Bald eagles are gathering in record numbers at in the Wolf Lodge Bay to feast on spawning kokanee.
Here's the information just received from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which conducts the weekly surveys.
The count is up from last week and the likely reason why is due to snow covering the trees during last Thursday’s count. Snow of course acts as camouflage for the adults especially. Today’s weather is ideal for counting! Carrie Hugo, wildlife biologist, noted that she counted over 35 eagles in the Blue Creek Bay area which is unusually high for that location. She thought it may be due to the windy conditions and that the bay offers some protection.
One important item for Eagle Watch: due to high winds yesterday, we were unable to have the spotting scopes, information pamphlets and the canopy tents up. Today, due to winds earlier we only held the Watch site at the Mineral Ridge Trailhead location. We just can’t risk the scopes or the display birds being blown over. We are watching tomorrow’s weather closely as it appears wind may again be a factor. We plan to have staff out but may not be able to have scopes or informational materials available.
Eagle Watch Week runs through Sunday.
Drive east east from Coeur d’Alene on Interstate-90 and take Wolf Lodge Exit 22. Follow Highay 97 south a short way to exhibits and spotting scopes at the Mineral Ridge boat ramp. The volunteers will be on hand to offer information about the eagles from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each day through next Sunday.
Cruise boat tours geared to eagle watching will launch daily this week from the Coeur d’Alene Resort this weekend. Book seats on resort’s website or call (208) 765-4000.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have peaked or may be declining slightly after last week's record count of 259 birds in Wolf Lodge Bay.
In today's survey, a total of 237 bald eagles — 204 adults and 33 immature — were counted in the weekly survey by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo. That's down slightly, but Hugo notes in the survey report that viewing conditions were fairly difficult because of the sun shining into her spotting scope and snow on the trees making it difficult to pick out the white heads of the adults.
The 2010 peak count — a record at that time — was 254 bald eagles surveyed on Dec. 23.
“As usual, lots of birds were seen on the south shore across from Higgens Point and many were on the west side of Beauty Bay,” Hugo said.
“Lots of Eagle Watchers out today as well. The Mineral Ridge Trailhead parking lot was packed! There are still many kokanee floundering around and there were plenty of opportunities to see eagles fishing on the wing today.”
Eagle Watch Week runs Dec. 26-Jan. 1, with volunteers offering information and offering use of spotting scopes 10 a.m.-3 p.m. south of the Wolf Lodge exit 22 from Interstate 90.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are mobbing Lake Coeur d’Alene in record numbers this week.
On Thursday, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo returned from an eagle cruise boat tour and reported that eagles were “all over the place” compared to just the week before, when her weekly survey counted 136 bald eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay.
She confirmed her notion Friday with the fourth official survey of the season, tallying a record 259 eagles congregating to feast on spawning kokanee. That's an increase of 123 in just one week.
Friday’s congregation breaks the record of 254 eagles counted in the bay on Dec. 21, 2010.
The record previous to that was a mere 154 eagles in 2004.
Hugo counted 215 adults and 44 juveniles Friday, noting that most of the fish-loving birds were hanging out in the Beauty Bay area and the hillside just across the water from Higgens Point.
More eagles could be coming in, since the peak of the congregation traditionally has been just before Christmas.
BLM, Idaho Fish and Game and Audubon Society volunteers are organizing the annual Eagle Watch Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1 (take I-90 Wolf Lodge Exit 22) with free exhibits to educate visitors about this confluence of propagation, death and survival. Volunteers will be available
at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and trailhead parking areas, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each day during Eagle Watch Week.
Eagle cruises launching
Reservations are filling fast for cruise boat tours to view bald eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.
Tours are set to launch from the Coeur d’Alene Resort this weekend, Dec. 24 and Dec 26-Jan. 1
Book seats on resort’s website or call (208) 765-4000.
Washington DNR considers removing bald eagles, pergrine falcons from state Forest Practices Board’s critical habitats list.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources will hold public hearing regarding proposed changes to state Forest Practices Rules on Jan. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Region Office, 713 E Bowers in Ellensburg
One proposed rule will amend Forest Practices Board rules on threatened and endangered species to be consistent with other state laws. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission already has removed the bald eagle from the state’s threatened and endangered species lists, following removal from the federal endangered species listing. DNR's proposed rule change would remove the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon from the Forest Practices Board’s critical habitats list.
BLM is sponsoring a public meeting tonight on a proposed trail for Cougar Bay. The trail will be located in a portion of the public preserve known as the John C. Pointner Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary. The Nature Conservancy and BLM are co-managing Cougar Bay lands for hiking, recreation and wildlife habitat. There are a number of improvements in the works, but for this meeting, the BLM and The Nature Conservancy propose to construct a 0.7-mile trail that would follow the banks of Cougar Bay/Terry Harris, KEA Blog. More here. (Brian Plonka SR file photo: A redwing blackbird approaches a cattail in Cougar Bay)
Question: Are you interested in the proposed trail for Cougar Bay?
BIRDWATCHING – The season’s third survey of bald eagles congregating at Lake Coeur d’Alene found another big jump in numbers from the previous week.
Today's survey found 112 adults (white heads) and 24 immature eagles (under 4 years old with dark heads) for a total of 136, said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.
About 80 eagles were counted at Wolf Lodge Bay last week.
Even more are expected before their numbers peak later this month to feed on spawning kokanee.
The annual Eagle Watch celebration, with displays, experts and spotting scopes, is set for Dec. 26-Jan. 1 in the Wolf Lodge Bay area south of I-90.
Stay tuned for details next week.
BIRDWATCHING — The weekly fall/winter survey of bald eagles congregating at Lake Coeur d'Alene has been cancelled this week as BLM staffers are in training meetings.
A survey early next week should give us an update on whether the eagles continue to set a pace toward record numbers for their annual gathering to feast on spawning kokanee at Wolf Lodge Bay.
PUBLIC LANDS — Five new members were named today to the Bureau of Land Management’s Coeur d’Alene District citizen-based Resource Advisory Council. The announcement was just released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The appointees will serve a three-year term and advise the BLM on public lands issues.
The newly appointed and reappointed members are:
- Alan Harper, Commercial Timber Industry representative.
- Jann Higdem, Energy and Mineral Development representative.
- Dan Dinning, Elected Official representative.
- Clifford Swanson, Dispersed Recreation representative.
- Patricia Perry, Tribal Representative
The RACs, composed of citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, help the BLM carry out its stewardship of 245 million acres – the largest land portfolio of any Federal agency. The BLM has established 29 RACs across the West, where most BLM-managed land is located. Each RAC consists of 10 to 15 members with an interest in public land management, such as conservationists, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, Tribal officials, state and local government officials, academics, and others.
WILDLIFE WATCHING – A week can make a big difference in the numbers of bald eagles gathering for their annual feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene.
On Tuesday, the season's second weekly eagle count at Wolf Lodge Bay tallied a whopping 76 bald eagles, said BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo. That compares with 64 eagles counted on the same date last year.
That's exciting news for birdwatchers, considering that 2010 was a record year for the migration, with a peak of 254 eagles counted in the bay during the BLM survey on Dec. 21.
Tuesday's count indicated a big swing in eagle movements. The first survey of the season on Nov. 22 found only 12 bald eagles compared with 42 counted on the same day in 2010.
Top viewing areas are from Higgens Point as well as south from the Wolf Lodge Exit off I-90 on Highway 97 around to Beauty Bay.
- Read more details tomorrow in my Thursday Outdoors column regarding eagles and how they might be be linked to the numbers of kokanee in the region's lakes.
A 75-year-old lawyer who fought private property rights battles alongside Idaho U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth and her Nevada rancher husband Wayne Hage in the 1990s is still cultivating the Sagebrush Rebellion’s roots and earning handsome speaking fees from conservative audiences across the West.
Associated Press writer John Miller has been looking into the efforts of Frank Kelly Grant to carry on where Reagan administration Interior Secretary and Sagebrush Rebellion crusader James Watt left off before he was booted out of government for, among other things, his attempt to privatize federal lands.
Read on for the AP Story.
WILDLIFE WATCHING – The annual gathering of bald eagles that feast on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene is getting off to a slow start.
The eagle count at Wolf Lodge Bay is down by 70 percent from last year at this time, said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.
Hugo made the first weekly survey of the season on Tuesday and counted only 12 bald eagles compared with 42 counted on the same day last year.
“It could be the storm we just had,” she said. “We’ll be out on the lake Saturday for the special eagle boat cruise for veterans, so we’ll see if the changing weather makes a difference.”
She also points out that 2010 was a record year for the migration: 254 eagles were counted in the bay during the BLM survey on Dec. 21.
The eagles traditionally start gathering in mid November, peaking in numbers during December before the birds start moving on as the fish spawning ends in January.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in Idaho, Washington and seven other Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior.
The administration apparently hopes that significant local support that's already been generated for these areas will prompt a Congress that can’t agree on the simplest things to approve legislation establishing new land protections.
The proposals include creating San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington and protections for the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of central Idaho.
The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.
Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land, the Associated Press reports. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been declared wilderness.
The proposal is the latest plank in what the administration is calling the America’s Great Outdoor’s initiative. Representatives from all 50 states were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The conservation plans are meant to protect public land, encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and bolster employment in tourism and recreation.
WILDLIFE WATCHING – Veterans and active military are being honored with a special eagle-watching cruise set for Nov. 26 on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
The free two-hour partyboat cruise to view the annual congregation of bald eagles is organized by the U.S Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Fish and Game.
Participants are invited along with their immediate families must make reservations by calling (208) 769-5043. Seating is limited to 160.
Migrating eagles visit the Coeur d’Alene area in winter to take advantage of the kokanee spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay.
The eagles already are starting to show up and numbers will build to a peak in December before the birds start moving on the spawning ends in January.
Last winter, a record 254 eagles were counted in the bay by BLM biologists on Dec. 21.
BOATING — The end of the summer boating season on Lake Coeur d’Alene is in sight.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Blackwell Island boat launch will closed for the season on Sunday evening (Oct. 16) . The popular launch site, located on the south side of the Spokane River, has been in operation for nine seasons.
Blackwell Island recreation area will also be closed to day-use activities after Sunday. The main gate will be closed for the season and toilet facilities winterized. The site is a popular area for walking, picnicking and wildlife viewing during the summer season. Blackwell Island typically opens in late May dependent upon lake water levels.
ROCK CLIMBING — The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a ban on rock-climbing at Cedar Fields near Burley, Idaho, to protect cultural resources in that area and would also ban climbing on BLM lands in the Castle Rocks Inter-Agency Recreation Area.
The federal agency is taking public comment on the plan until Oct. 28.
PUBLIC LANDS — Ranchers continue to cow the federal governement from expanding the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which eased under the national spotlight in the past two decades along with interest in the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The head of the federal Bureau of Land Management returned to Montana on Monday with a message similar to the one he delivered to ranchers a year ago: No new national monuments.
As part of a tour of rural communities across the West, BLM director Bob Abbey met with about 20 ranchers still upset over the creation of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument by former President Bill Clinton more than a decade ago.
Ranchers noted that the monument had not substantially changed their operations, but noted that efforts of environmental groups to curtail grazing on monuments is a constant worry to them.
Read on for details from the Associated Press report.
PUBLIC LANDS – A new study shows recreation and the industry that supports outdoors activities is outpacing traditional uses such as grazing and mining on land managed by the Bureau of Land management in Idaho.
The results are from a study on the U.S. Department of Interior’s economic effects in Idaho. The state has ample public land, including nearly 12 million acres managed by BLM.
The report finds that recreation accounts for six times more jobs than grazing and timber industries, and three times more than energy and minerals.
BLM Deputy State Director Jeff Foss says ranchers still drive many rural economies. But he says from a statewide perspective recreation is tops.
The Idaho Statesman reports the BLM spends about $81 million annually to manage grazing and timber land, compared to $68 million on recreation management.
PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is conducting workshops in the next two weeks so the public can view maps and participate in developing proposals for managing 445,000 acres in Washington, including the Fishtrap Lake area and Huckleberry Mountains.
Issues to be presented include grazing, recreational shooting, off-road vehicle use, wildlife protection and more.
Meetings of interest to the Spokane region are scheduled for 6 p.m.-9 p.m. as follows:
- Okanogan, July 27, County Fairgrounds Agriplex Annex, 175 Rodeo Trail.
- Pasco, Aug. 2, TRAC Center, 6600 Burden Blvd., Room 4.
- Davenport, Aug. 3, Davenport Memorial Hall, 511 Park St.
- Colville, Aug. 4, Institute for Extended Learning, 985 S Elm S.
More info online.
BOATING — The Blackwell Island public boat launch was reopened Friday as water levels on Lake Coeur d’Alene continued to drop, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced.
Based on new stream flow predicitions, the launch facility should remain open for the season, said Kurt Pindel, BLM Outdoor recreation planner.
The launch was closed on May 27 after being inundated with 2 feet of water as runoff poured into the lake.
Other Lake Coeur d'Alene facilities affected by the high water included BLM’s Windy Bay site, Mica Bay Boater Park, Killarney Boat Launch and Huckleberry Campground. Pindel said all sites have been reopened.
WILDERNESS — The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comment through June 29 on its Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River Management Plan being developed for the six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments designated in Idaho's Owyhee County by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act in 2009.
See the Twin Falls Times-News story.
PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will swear in its new Spokane District manager on Tuesday at the district office,1103 North Fancher Rd.
Daniel Picard has been the Superintendent for the Uintah and Ouray Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs since 2007. Picard has two decades of service with the Nez Perce Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs working on water rights, dam safety, FERC relicensing, cultural resource protection, fisheries management, and oil and gas leasing.
LAKE ACCESS – The Blackwell Island public boat launch and others on Lake Coeur d’Alene will remain closed until the high water subsides, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced today.
“The launch facility is currently under 2 feet of water, with the lake level expected to rise another foot by Friday,” said BLM Park Ranger Glenn Bailey.
Other Coeur d'Alene Lake facilities affected by the high water conditions include BLM’s Windy Bay site, which is currently under about 18 inches of water.
If the water comes up as high as expected, the walk-in access into Mica Bay Boater Park will be under water as well.
“These three sites are expected to have the greatest impact from the high water situation in the Coeur d'Alene Field Office area,” Bailey said.
“Killarney Lake boat launch and Huckleberry Campground facilities may see some impacts as well.”
BLM officials say they will reassess the high water situation for the Coeur d’Alene Lake sites after June 1.
PUBLIC LANDS – This is prime time to visit the BLM’s Escure Ranch area south of Sprague. The scabland area is green, Rock Creek is flowing nicely over Towell Falls, wildflowers are blooming and the cheatgrass hasn’t turned brown and full of spears.
Read on for details from my weekend reconnaissance.
LAKES — The main gate at the Bureau of Land Management’s Blackwell Island Recreation Site will reopen on Wednesday ( May 25). Both the day use and boat launch will be open.
The daily parking fee is$4. The area is checked daily.
BLM staff will be selling $30 season passes at Blackwell Island for the rec site and nearby Mineral Ridge boat launch during weekends from Memorial Day through mid-July.
Info: Kurt Pindel, (208) 769-5015.
BOATING – The Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office has just announced the closure of the Killarney Lake boat launch for the season in order to deal with needed repairs.
The boat launch, on the northwest section of Killarney Lake, is located about 20 miles east of Coeur d’Alene near Rose Lake. The camping and picnic facilities at the Killarney Lake boat launch site will remain open.
Alternative facilities in the area include the Cataldo Mission, Rose Lake and Medimont boat launches.
Kurt Pindel, recreation specialist for the Coeur d’Alene Field Office, said BLM is improving the old boat launch to include a new concrete ramp.
Construction had been scheduled for January during low water, but seasonally characteristic low water never came this year, he said.
“The probability that water levels will drop enough for construction to begin this summer or fall is low due to the high spring rains and mountain snowpack,” Pindel said.
“We will begin final repairs on the boat launch as soon as the water levels allow installation of the new concrete pads, which unfortunately we anticipate will be sometime next winter.”
Info: Kurt Pindel, (208) 769-5015.
DAY HIKING — Wet spring weather is giving dayhikers extra incentive to hit the trail.
Palouse Falls near Washtucna is roaring this week, and nifty trails offer numerous points of view.
One not to miss in its brief spring rise to fame is Hog Lake falls, 30 miles west of Spokane.
The scablands are saturated and feeding the lake’s waterfalls, which generally flow only in late-winter and spring. The lake, a popular winter trout fishery that closes Thursday, is on the Bureau of Land Management’s Fishtrap Lake recreation area south of Interstate 90 near the Spokane-Lincoln county line.
From Exit 254, drive south and turn left at the first public road. Cross the railroad tracks and continue on the gravel road to the boat launch. Hike the west shoreline a few hundred yards, scramble up to the rim and follow it up the lake, past all the blooming buttercups, to the overlook of the falls.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Bureau of Land Management in Idaho is seeking nominations for 22 open positions — five in North Idaho — on its four Resource Advisory Councils, which advise the BLM on public land issues.
The BLM will consider nominations until May 2.
Read on for details.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Coeur d’Alene District will meet in Coeur d’Alene Tuesday at the District Office, 3815 Schreiber Way.
In addition to the RAC's regular business items, the agenda includes election of officers, briefing from field offices on various programs, and an update on the Forest Service recreation program.
The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 8 a.m. The public may address the RAC from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Info: Lisa Wagner, RAC coordinator, (208) 769-5014.