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Utah’s $50 bounty on coyotes may be boosting mule deer

HUNTING — Although credible evidence has suggested that wholesale killing of coyotes ultimately stimulates coyotes to produce more pups, Utah officials say a $50 bounty on the predators is contributing at least somewhat to the state's recovery of mule deer.

However, wildlife managers say habitat restoration has been the key, noting that the state has spent more than $125 million in the effort over the past eight years.

  • See the latest report from Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah legislature allotted $500,000 to the Targeted Predator Control Program in 2012 as it approved the Mule Deer Preservation Act.

Based on two years of data, the state estimates that 25,054 coyotes have been killed, a 59 percent increase in the previous estimated annual harvest of 7,397 coyotes per year.

Unlike other Western states, Utah is reporting an increase in mule deer numbers in recent years. Most of the credit is being given to expansive habitat-restoration efforts.  Says Prettyman:

Since 2006, the initiative has restored more than 1 million acres and spent more than $125 million. Another 197,100 acres are currently under restoration and 10,600 more acres have been proposed.

Of the total spent, federal partners provided $69.5 million for the restoration projects from a mix of sources, including tag fees. And the state chipped in $42 million. Sportsmen's groups contributed close to $6.8 million. Federal agencies provided $6 million in in-kind contributions and landowners added another $2.6 million.

Utah's $50 coyote bounty is startling to some, a fee much higher than rare bounties in other states for predators or nuisance exotics such as nutria.

But it's not the only predator bounty program in the West.

The Northern Pikeminnow Reward Program pays $4-$8 a fish from the Columbia River to help reduce the native predator's impact on smolts of endangered salmon and steelhead. Since the issue is caused primarily by the Columbia and Snake River dams, which allow the pikeminnows an unfair and unnatural advantage, the Bonneville Power Administration picks up the tab.

  • The program has spent an average of bout $3 million a year for 25 years.
  • Some of the most accomplished angler participants make more than $30,000 each during the six-month reward season,including the top angler who pocketed $76,478 last year.
  • Anglers turned in 162,079 pikeminnows for bounties in 2013.
  • Total payments for the 2013 season of regular vouchers, coupons, and tagged fish totaled $1,138,251.

Modest bounties are paid in several states for rats, nutria, porcupine, house sparrows, starlings, snakes, beaver, coyotes and other critters. Utah's $50 coyote bounty appears to be the highest, but overall it pales in payouts to the Columbia River systems pikeminnow reward program.

Idaho, BPA reach $40 million deal on wildlife mitigation funding

The state of Idaho and the Bonneville Power Administration have agreed to a $40 million deal to satisfy the BPA's wildlife habitat mitigation responsibilities to the state for impacts from its hydropower dams in southern Idaho. The money will go to the Idaho Fish & Game Department over a 10-year period, for administration, operation and maintenance, and restoration and acquisition of wildlife habitat. Of the total, $22 million will be used for restoration, acquisition and stewardship costs associated with new projects (at least 8,588 acres), $4 million will be used to administer the program over the next 10 years, and the remaining $14 million will be placed in a state endowment fund to pay for perpetual management of approximately 8,700 acres already protected by the mitigation program.

“This agreement gives the state control of acquiring and managing wildlife habitat lost as a result of federal dams in southern Idaho,” said Gov. Butch Otter. “The agreement also protects the state’s fiscal interests by establishing a dedicated endowment fund to ensure Idaho can manage these lands for future generations.” It's designed to mitigate the impacts on wildlife from development of Palisades, Black Canyon, Minidoka and Anderson Ranch dams, along with operational impacts of Deadwood Dam. Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore welcomed the agreement, saying it will give Idaho more flexibility in how it manages mitigation funds and programs, including funding new projects and managing existing ones. Click below for the state's full announcement, followed by some historical information about the role of BPA mitigation funding in Idaho.

Invasive mussels knocking on Idaho’s door, official says

INVASIVE SPECIES — Having the invasive quagga mussels booming in Utah's Lake Powell is like having a deadly contagious disease at a major national airport with folks coming and going in all directions — including Idaho, a federal biologist says.

He's trying to get the word out before boaters flood out of Idaho to Utah for spring break.

Here's the story from Rob Thornberry of the Idaho Falls Post Register:

With Utah finding more quagga mussels in Lake Powell, the likelihood they will find their way to Idaho is increasing, said Lee Mabey, a forest fisheries biologist with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Having the mussels in Lake Powell is like having a deadly contagious disease at a major national airport with folks coming and going in all directions, including Idaho, Mabey said. The rate of spread of the mussels could be very rapid now that Lake Powell is infected.

Mabey is trying to raise awareness of the problem before people travel south for spring break.

Data from the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s five years of boat inspections indicates Lake Powell is the most frequently visited mussel-fouled water body by Idaho boaters. Many of these vessels have been out of the water less than 30 days at the time they are inspected, posing a significant risk of transporting larval or adult mussels to the Gem State.

In 2013, Idaho inspected 568 boats that had recently come from Mead, Powell, Mohave, Havasu or Pleasant lakes. All those waters have mussels.

Idaho does not, and officials are keen on keeping it that way.

If quagga or zebra mussels take hold in Idaho, the state’s lake fisheries will be forever changed and the irrigation and hydropower industry could face millions of dollars in added expenses. Undoubtedly these expenses will be passed on to the consumer, Mabey said.

Quagga mussels are prolific breeders and attach themselves to hard and soft surfaces. Once in a lake, they filter plankton from the water, robbing fish of food.

“If we get these mussels in our lakes, it is going to turn the ecology upside down,” Mabey said. “Our fish populations would crash. It is simple biology — a lake only supports so much biomass. You can have plankton and fish or you can have plankton and mussels.”

Mabey encourages all anglers and boaters to take the threat seriously and learn about proper precautions to keep the marauders out of Idaho.

  • Click here for more information on steps boaters can take to prevent spread of invasive mussels. 

“We need everybody to take part in prevention,” he said. “We can’t rely on just inspection stations. We need to have a change in mentality of all users. Just like anglers have adopted catch-and-release regulation, we need boaters and all water users to adopt clean, drain and dry after each excursion.”

Jordan Nielson, a Madison High School graduate, is the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He said government agencies are doing well to slow the spread of mussels, but those efforts will be wasted if boaters don’t change their habits.

“We need a paradigm shift,” he said. “The state agency can only do so much. People have to realize they have a responsibility when they go boating to make sure they aren’t moving things around. It is essential.”

Preventing invasive mussels worth cost, study says

INVASIVE SPECIES — An Independent Economic Advisory Board update released last week indicates that the money spent – an estimated $5 million per year from a variety of sources — in attempts to ward off an invasion of non-native zebra and quagga mussels into the Columbia River basin is money well spent.

However, the report acknowledges there's still a probability the damaging species will eventually get into the Columbia and Snake River systems and raise havoc for irrigators, municipalities and hydropower managers, not to mention boaters and anglers.

See the story from the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Colville Tribe opens $51 million salmon hatchery

FISHING — The new Chief Joseph fish hatchery that will release nearly 3 million salmon to the wild each year is being dedicated today along the Columbia River in north-central Washington new Brewster, marking the opening of the first hatchery designed and built under new scientific recommendations intended to boost fish survival rates in the Pacific Northwest.

Read on for the Associated Press report with more explanation on why this hatchery has benefits that override previous concerns over the impact of hatchery fish on native stocks.

Chief Joseph salmon hatchery to open June 20; tours offered

FISHING — The Chief Joseph Hatchery, designed to release up to 2.9 million chinook salmon into the Columbia River, will be dedicated and tours will be offered on Thursday (June 20) during a celebration organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The $50 million state-of-the-art hatchery, between Bridgeport and Chief Joseph Dam, has been built with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration in cooperation with state and federal agencies. It will be managed by the tribe.

 The facility will provide chinook for the tribe, boost Columbia sport fishing and facilitate reintroduction of spring chinook to the Okanogan River.

Read on for more details and a schedule of events and tours for the Thursday ribbon-cutting celebration.

BPA paid $644 million for fish-wildlife in 2012

RIVERS — In Fiscal Year 2012, the Bonneville Power Administration reported $644.1 million in total costs for its federally mandated actions to mitigate the impacts Columbia River Basin hydroelectric development has had on fish and wildlife.

The costs are listed an annual report released last week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

The Northwest Power passed by Congress in 1980 requires BPA, which markets power generated at federal dams in the region, to fund the NPCC programs undertaken by state and federal agencies and some tribes.

Bonneville estimates the grand total expended since 1978, when the costs began, through 2012, is about $13 billion, not including $2.27 billion in capital investments for fish hatcheries and fish passage facilities at dams.

Read on for a summary of the 2012 costs, compiled by the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Salmon hatchery proposed on Walla Walla River

FISHING – The Bonneville Power Administration may fund a salmon hatchery on the Walla Walla River proposed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

The plan is to naturally spawning spring chinook to the Walla Walla River Basin, where they’ve been missing for  more than 75 years.

The project, the latest of several in the basin, would expand the existing adult holding and spawning facility on the South Fork Walla Walla River near Milton-Freewater, Ore.

  • A public meeting is set for  6 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at the Elementary School in Dayton.
  • Comments will be accepted through April 29 and can also be submitted online at www.bpa.gov/comment.

 Read on for more detals from BPA.

Upper Columbia salmon hatchery previewed

FISHING — The BPA-funded upper Columbia River salmon hatchery being built near Bridgeport and managed under the direction of the Colville Confederated Tribes is scheduled to go online in May.

The Seattle Times posted this update on the project, which should greatly enhance salmon fishing potential in the Columbia and Okanogan rivers.

Snake River anglers cashing in on pikeminnow reward fishery

FISHING — The Lewiston Greenbelt area has been the hotspot the past two weeks for anglers cashing in on the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Harvest reports for Aug. 13-19 show 1,350 pikeminnows turned in to the Greenbelt check station by anglers for cash rewards in the program funded by the Bonneville Power Adminstration.

The next best total was 752 from Cascade Locks. Boyer Park south of Colfax has been hot, dropped to 399 this week.

The Dalles Boat Basin was by far the best producing area in June and early July, but the catch has dramatically delcined there in the past month.The total catch turned in to the 21 check stations on the two rivers that week was 6,733 pikeminnows from 939 anglers, for a rate of 7.2 fish per angler, up from 6.7 the previous week.

From May through Sept. 30, registered anglers are paid $4-$8 per fish in a program to curb the number the fish, which prey on young salmon and steelhead.

As of last week, 17,793 anglers had turned in 103,506 fish. Including bonuses for catching pikeminnows that have been tagged, some anglers have earned more than $60,000 in five months of fishing.

Info: Pikeminnow Reward Program, (800) 858-9015.

High rivers a blow to wind farms

When the wind is blowing and the Columbia River is flowing, wind turbine operators in Washington have a problem they are looking to France and Germany for help.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is in Europe for a 10-day trade mission, said she met Thursday with the chief executive officer of AREVA, a French firm that operates wind farms around the Tri-Cities. The problem of wind power and hydropower peaking at the same time has been particularly bad this year, she said.

“There are concerns about BPA shutting down wind power because of excess hydropower,” she said.

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

Spokane pikeminnow angler earns 22K

FISHING — Spokane-area angler Ed Williams earned $22,374 in this year’s Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program, according to information just received from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is an update from last week’s blog post revealing that the Bonneville Power Administration paid out $1.2 million in rewards to anglers who caught and removed pikeminnows from the Snake and Columbia rivers to reduce their predation on salmon and steelhead smolts.

Williams was seventh on the list of big-money earners this year, far below the record $81,000 earned by an angler from Gresham, Ore.  Anglers are paid $4-$8 per fish, plus bonuses.

Dan Geiger of Spokane earned $18,570 and finished 11th on the payout list according to the revised information. 

The next pikeminnow reward season begins in May.

Spokane anglers in Top 10 of pikeminnow reward earners

FISHING — Two Spokane-area men ranked in top 10 earners among anglers who collected $1.2 million from the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program this year

Edward Williams ranked ninth while Daniel Geiger ranked 10th, bringing back tens of thousands of dollars to pump into the local economy.

However, they were no match for the No. 1 angler, Nikolay Zaremskiy of Gresham, Ore., who earned $81,000 in the program that pays anglers $4-$8 for each fish caught from the Snake or Columbia rivers from May through September. Zaremskiy caught a record 10,000 fish and earned cash bonuses for catching tagged fish.

Zaremskiy is no stranger to cashing in on pikeminnows. He set the previous record of $58,000 two years ago.

Pinkminnow angler earns $81K

FISHINGThe 2010 Northern Pikeminnow bounty program on the Snake and Columbia Rivers paid $1.2 million to anglers who helped to reduce the numbers of a salmon-eating pest called the northern pikeminnow.

One devoted angler cashed in on the deal, earning a record $81,000 during the six-month pikeminnow season, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which funds the program.

The BPA said just over 173,000 pikeminnows were caught, helping to increase survival rates for young salmon and steelhead.

Fishermen get paid $4 to $8 for northern pikeminnow 9 inches and larger caught in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers. The more pikeminnow caught, the more the program pays. As an added incentive, specially tagged fish are worth $500.

The annual program opened May 1 and was originally scheduled to close Sept. 30 but was extended 10 days this year.

Bad News for Men

“Exposure to high levels of a controversial chemical found in thousands of everyday plastic products appears to cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men, according to a new study published Wednesday.” http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/nov/11/study-links-plastics-chemical-to-male-sexual/

Might want to slowly back away from that water bottle. Just sayin’.