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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.

Learn winter camping basics in free program

WINTER SPORTS — Basics of Winter Camping, a free program presented by an REI staffer, will be presented at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Spokane store, 1125 N. Monroe.   

Pre-register to reserve a seat.

Video: See black bear test BearVault food canister

CAMPING — My Sunday Outdoors feature story focuses on bear-proof food canisters — where they are being required for campers and which one to buy.

The video above looks at the story from the bear's point of view.

This bear is very determined, but it doesn't get a reward for trying to steal a camper's food out of a BearVault brand container.

Objections to Panhandle Forests plan available online

PUBLIC LANDS — The 22 formal objections filed to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ revised forest plan were made available for review this week.

The revision of the plan last revised in 1987 was released in September and is meant to guide forest management of everything from timber production to roadless areas for the next 15 years or so.

The objections can be reviewed on Idaho Panhandle National Forests “Objections Received” webpage.

People interested in an objection can file a request to participate in any resolution meetings that are scheduled.

For example:

  • Old stands of pines, cedars and firs don’t have enough protections under the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ draft management plan, according to environmental groups, who say the big trees need more safeguards.
  • The plan's recommendations for wilderness are criticized for being too much as well as too little.
  • Objections from the Shoshone County Commission, including issues about snowmobiling, were so extensive they had to be separated into two online files.

The Forest Service has 90 days to respond to the objections.

 

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

Geocaching store grand opening set for Saturday

GEOCACHING — Cache Advance, Inc., is opening the second geocaching retail store in the United States right here in Spokane.

The Cache Cave grand opening at 2324 E. Euclid Ave., Suite 204, is set for Saturday, Nov. 9, noon-5 p.m., with a ribbon cutting and geocaching flash mob at 1 p.m. 

  • If you're a geocacher, perhaps you'd prefer the coordinates: N 47° 41.140 W 117° 22.526

Owner Lisa Breitenfeldt started the business in 2005 largely for online sales to fill a niche for supplying the needs of geocaching enthusiasts triggered by the public availability of Global Positioning System navigation technology.

Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt. Played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices or GPS enabled Smartphones, geocachers hide and/or locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share their experiences online.

October 2013 one of the best ever for staying outdoors

ENVIRONMENT — If you are a camper, backpacker, paddler or angler, you're probably looking back, as I am, with fond memories of October's fall color spectacle against blue skies.  

It was fantastic, with perhaps a record dearth of rainfall to spoil the experience.

Not great for everyone, but we take the lemonaide when it comes.

We were sleeping under stars and an brilliant full moon without need for a tent in the middle of the month 

Like all seasons, October glory is finally waning into something else, as this photo suggests from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Alaska family adventures trekking into Aunties Bookstore

ADVENTURE — Alaskan author Erin McKittrick and her family, who are all traveling by camper van from from Alaska through California on a book tour will present a program Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m., at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane. 

Published this month, the book, Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home, and Family on the Edge of Alaska (Mountaineers Books).  

That should help explain why the book, family and the program may be worth your attention.

Erin and her husband have two little kids who feature strongly in their stories and presentation, so their events are free and family-friendly (i.e., lots of cool gear for little kids to climb into and around).

Also of note, Erin and her family are also the featured subject of a Banff Mountain Film Festival film this year, a short piece called “Life on Ice” which follows them around as they lived for a few months on the Malaspina Glacier in Alaska. 

Erin and her family have been profiled by the New York Times.  Now you can see for yourself.

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.

Federal shutdown still taking toll on recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — As the federal government shutdown advances to Day 11, I was buoyed by this headline and story today:

Utah loans federal gov't $1.7-million to open 5 national parks
On Saturday, the five national parks in Utah, as well as Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments, will reopen after the state signed an agreement to loan $1.7-million to the federal government, enough to keep them open for 10 days.

But we can't get our hopes too high in Washington — where we're not even adequatley funding our STATE parks.

Maybe a caffeine high will be our salvation:

Starbucks launches petition drive to get government open again
On Friday, petitions seeking the reopening of the federal government will be available at all 11,000 Starbucks shops in the United States.

Although many people and businesses are suffering this week in all walks of life, my outdoors column on Thursday highlighted some high prices recreationists are paying for the budget impasse in Washington, D.C. Here's a summary as we head into the weekend:

All 401 national parks are closed, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the public boat launches for the Columbia River Reservoir. Note: Free boat launching is available at Two Rivers Marina, owned by the Spokane Tribe.

National Wildlife Refuges are closed. That means hunters with special elk permits for Turnbull Wildlife Refuge are out of luck, waterfowl hunter who would be using blinds at Columbia and Kootenai national wildlife refuges and locked out and fishermen who would by catching trout at Bayley and McDowell lakes are prohibited from entering the refuge until the shutdown is over.

Forest Service offices are closed, which means outfitters can't get permits for their seasonal activities and neither can woodcutters, all of whom are on a deadline delivered by the seasons regardless of what goes on in Washington, D.C.

Hunters are finding campgrounds closed as they head into the opening of deer and elk seasons.

Anglers are finding streamflow information on U.S. Geological Survey water websites and fish passage numbers from the Corps of Engineeers are not always up to date.

Hikers trying to finish the months they've devoted to completing the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail are being blocked at the national park boundaries, such as at North Cascades National Park, and told they have to stop or re-route.

Other stories to ponder as the arrogancen in D.C. continues:

Shutdown halts logging project in Idaho, puts sawmill in peril
Brad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Lumber Co., the sawmill in Ovid, is just one of a number of timber contractors who were told to stop logging in Idaho because of the federal government shutdown, and Jensen said the cessation of the work puts his entire business at risk.

Wyoming national forest sends its concessionaires packing
Grand Teton National Forest had kept its concessionaire-operated facilities operating despite the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but they were told to pack up and leave as the shutdown continued, which means Granite Hot Springs in the Wyoming forest closes today.

National wildlife refuges off-limits to hunters as federal shutdown continues
Upland bird hunters in South Dakota, duck hunters in Montana and antelope hunters in Colorado won't be able to hunt on national wildlife refuges this weekend as seasons open but the federal government remains closed.

Montana governor says state won't pay to open national parks
Gov. Steve Bullock said he would not use state funds to open state parks as he believes the federal government should re-open it its entirety, including the payment of death benefits to members of military families who lost loved ones.

National Parks, neighboring towns take financial beating from shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — My outdoors column today highlights some personal stories of individual recreationists impacted in a big way by the continuing government shutdown that's closed federal services and some federal lands since Oct. 1.

Here are more details about some of the overall costs:

Report tracks shutdown's costs to national parks
A report issued by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said that the federal government's shutdown that closed national parks and monuments has cost the U.S. economy $750 million in the first ten days, with Yellowstone National Park representing $9,452,054 of that loss; Glacier National Park $3,076,712; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors travel in October to view the eye-popping fall foliage, has lost $23 million.

—Casper Star-Tribune

Shutdown throttles businesses in Utah community near Zion NP
October is usually a busy time of year for Springdale, as tourists stop in the Utah town on their way to or from Zion National Park, but the shutdown has left the community's streets quiet, although the IMAX theater in town, which is now showing documentaries about the park, which is, for now, the only way to experience the park.

—Salt Lake Tribune

Utah governor offers to loan Interior Dept. money to open national parks
Gov. Gary Herbert said he talked with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday and offered to loan the federal government the necessary money to get national parks and monuments in the Beehive State open again, and he said that his offer has precedent, as Arizona loaned the federal government money during the 1996 shutdown to keep the Grand Canyon open.

—Deseret News

Government shutdown leaves options for outdoors enthusiasts

PUBLIC LANDS — As the House and Senate continue to battle over a budget compromise, the impact of a potential government shutdown on Washington state would be a pain for some people, but it wouldn't necessarily be earth-shattering to the short-term plans of outdoors enthusiasts.

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight, all national parks and refuges would be closed, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed.

Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. 

However, access would still be allowed to national forests and state lands would not be affected.

Snow closes Glacier Park’s Logan Pass temporarily

PARKS — The first serious bout of winter-like weather has temporarily closed Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road today at The Loop on the west side of the park.  

Weather conditions along the higher elevations of the Going-to-the-Sun Road today have included very windy conditions — 30-40 mph at Big Bend — slush and icy conditions on the road, cloudy and limited visibility, and snow accumulations of more than 8 inches at Logan Pass.

Camping conditions suck.

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.

When campers leave, yellowjackets still have to bug something

CAMPING — Most of the campgrounds are empty, but streams around Lake Pend Oreille are ripe with "new meat" for this year's infestation of yellowjackets to gnaw at.

I'll have a Kokanee with that, sir.

Rainbow Family gathering cost Forest Service $575K

PUBLIC LANDS — My last family outing to a national forest was not this expensive…

USFS tab for Rainbow Family gathering in Montana was $575,000

The U.S. Forest Service spent approximately $400,000 providing law enforcement at the Rainbow Family gathering in July in Montana, and another $175,000 in administrative tasks.
— Montana Standard

Norman Maclean had high perspective on lightning

MOUNTAIN STORMS — If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky,” Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune recommends it, and so do I.

It is one of the “other stories” in his book “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.” 

Recently I wrote a story about a backpacking trek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during which thunder storms pounded my camp with the shock and awe of the bombing of Bahgdad.

Maclean says this about thunderstorms from the perspective of a forest fire lookout staffer at  Elk Summit near Powell, Idaho:

“In the late afternoon, of course, the mountains meant all business for the lookouts. The big winds were veering from the valleys toward the peaks, and smoke from little fires that had been secretly burning for several days might show up for the first time. New fires sprang out of thunder before it sounded. By three-thirty or four, the lightning would be flexing itself on the distant ridges like a fancy prizefighter, skipping sideways, ducking, showing off but not hitting anything. But four-thirty or five, it was another game. You could feel the difference in the air that had become hard to breath. The lightning now came walking into you, delivering short smashing punches.”

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.

Prescribed burns planned on Idaho Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — The fire-fighting season is winding down, and now, as burning conditions are controllable, the planned use of fire is about to begin for the benefit of forests health and wildlife habitat.

Here the plan from the Idaho Pandhandle National Forests:

National forest visitors this fall can expect to see occasional smoke and short term area closures due to planned prescribed fires in various locations across the Idaho Panhandle.

Hunters, hikers, campers and other forest visitors should check the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) website for prescribed fire locations and updates before venturing into the woods this fall. Not all planned locations will be ignited this fall, but when conditions are right the forest website will be updated and fire crews will post signs in the area and visit nearby campsites prior to ignition.

For a full listing of potential prescribed fire sites, including maps, visit the IPNF Prescribed Fire web page or www.northidahorxfire.com.

“Our prescribed fires complement local community wildfire protection plans, and provide great benefits to forest health,” said District Ranger Chad Hudson. “The end result will be reduced wildfire risks for local communities, improved wildlife habitat and a large step toward restoring the forest’s resiliency to threats such as uncharacteristic fires, insects and disease.”

Active burning will occur at each site for a period of 2-3 days, with smoldering fire afterward until rain or snow extinguishes the fires. Burn areas can pose very hazardous conditions such as rapid and unpredictable spreading of flames, falling trees, heavy smoke and limited visibility, and rolling rocks and logs. Members of the public are urged to stay away from these areas during burning operations and for a few days afterward. If you plan on recreating or hunting in these project areas make sure you understand your location relative to the burn units. If you find yourself in an active burn area, you should travel downslope or away from the predominant path of flames, because fire typically burns fastest upslope. When burn dates or date ranges are forecasted, signs will be posted along access roads and near affected trailheads and trail junctions. Temporary access restrictions or closures may be utilized if deemed necessary for public safety.

Contact your local US Forest Service office.

Bear awareness needed during early season hunt

HUNTING — After several recent human-bear encounters in Idaho and Wyoming, wildlife managers are reminding hunters and others heading into the region’s backwoods to properly store their food and garbage to keep conflicts with the curious and ravenous predators to a minimum.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say anyone who leaves food out is baiting bears.

The animals have a tremendous sense of smell and become habituated to humans if they discover people are associated with easy meals.

The agency urges hunters to keep a clean camp, store garbage in bear-resistant containers or high in trees — out of reach of black bears and grizzlies.

In mid-August, four people in and near Yellowstone National Park were injured in separate bear encounters, though all escaped with minor bite and scratch wounds. 

Forest Service safety measures create firewood at campgrounds

CAMPING — Campers are finding a windfall of sorts at campgrounds around the region — plenty of firewood available on the ground, ready to scavenge, cut, split and use.

Forest Service crews worked overtime before the holiday weekend to identify and cut down potentially dangerous trees at developed camping sites after a man was killed in his tent during an intense Aug. 25 storm toppled a huge tree in the Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake.

The crews moved quickly, often leaving the wood for campers to use. This tree, for example, was conveniently dropped on the border of a campsite in Gypsy Meadows on the Colville National Forest northeast of Sullivan Lake.

Outdoors adventures away from the smoke for holiday weekend…

Looking for some outdoor adventure over the holiday weekend, but want to avoid the wildfire smoke? Longtime Idaho outdoors writer Steve Steubner has some suggestions here at his blog, Stueby’s Outdoor Journal. Among them: Five easy-to-access kid-friendly lakes in the McCall area; camping near Cascade and McCall; and Salmon River beaches upstream of Riggins.

Stuebner also has posted a really enlightening NASA image that shows where the smoke plume from California’s Rim Fire near Yosemite flows in Idaho.

Flash flood warning for North Cascades east slope

HIKING — Watch the sky if your heading for camping or hiking in the North Cascades near Leavenworth.  The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning with a forecast for storms and heavy rain today.

Priest Lake campground closed for hazardous tree removal

CAMPING — Beaver Creek Campground at the northwest end of Priest Lake has been closed today and visitors are being evacuated after Forest Service inspectors discovered more than 40 hazardous trees that must be removed for visitor safety.

The Beaver Creek boat launch and canoe portage areas northeast of Nordman are outside of the campground and will remain open, officials said, but the campground closure will continue through one of the most popular camping weekends of the year.

The agency ordered inspections of national forest sites in North Idaho after a Sandpoint man was killed by a 200-foot-tall tree that fell on his tent in Stagger Inn Campground during a severe thunderstorm on Sunday night.

Kyle L. Garrett, 48, was killed by the uprooted tree northwest of Priest Lake. A 52-year-old woman was injured and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Forest Service officials and local law enforcement are evacuating the Beaver Creek Campground today and suggesting alternate camping sites, said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

Campers with reservations through the Labor Day holiday weekend will be notified by email and given a refund for their advance fees through a federal reservation website, he said.

“Closing a popular campground before a holiday weekend is a terribly difficult decision but, in this case there are too many dangerous trees to remove before the weekend, so closure is our only option to ensure a safe environment,” said Mary Farnsworth, forest supervisor.

Crews have been assessing the conditions of developed recreation sites throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forest since Monday, Kirchner said. In many sites crews have already identified and removed dozens of hazardous trees from campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads.

Beaver Creek Campground, which is northeast of Nordman, is the only site where danger is extensive enough to require a temporary closure for tree removal, he said.

tHowever, a handful of smaller recreation sites are still being assessed today.

For the latest status of the ongoing storm damage assessment visit Inciweb.org.

A number of alternate campgrounds are available in the Priest Lake area, including Outlet Campground, Luby Bay Campground, Reeder Bay Campground and Osprey Campground. These sites all include “first come, first served” sites and reservation sites.

Check Recreation.gov for reservations and status of these and other Forest Service campgrounds or call (877) 444-6777.

No survey of sites outside campgrounds

The current assessment of hazardous trees does not include areas outside of developed recreation sites so it is vitally important for forest visitors to understand that hazardous trees may be present anywhere on the national forest. Visitors are encouraged to take a hard look at their surroundings when recreating throughout the forest, and especially when selecting a campsite. Hazardous trees are not always readily apparent, but some obvious indicators of dangerous trees include damage to roots, branches or trunk; insect infestations; leaning trees; or dead trees. These types of trees are especially hazardous when the wind is blowing. For more information of identifying and avoiding dangerous trees please download the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s Hazard Tree Safety Flyer.

For more information on recreation opportunities on your National Forest please contact your local US Forest Service Office.

Camper killed by falling tree in storm; Panhandle forests evaluating campgrounds

UPDATED: 2:55 p.m.

CAMPING — Idaho Panhandle National Forests staffers are scrambling to assess tree damage at developed forest sites after a visitor was killed in the Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake by a damaged tree related to thunder storms on Sunday night.

Kyle L. Garrett, 48, of Sandpoint, died when a 200-foot-tall tree uprooted and fell on his tent, according to the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office. A 52-year-old woman was also injured and was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The Stagger Inn is a small primitive campground at the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars in Pend Oreille County just west of the Idaho state line.

Other campgrounds are being evaluated before the Labor Day holiday.

Here's the info from Panhandle Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner:

High winds throughout the Idaho Panhandle last night caused numerous trees to weaken and fall resulting in one fatality at the USDA Forest Service’s Stagger Inn Campground in Pend Orielle County, Wash. Investigation into the accident is being led by the Pend Orielle County Sheriff’s Department. Due to these hazardous conditions, and in advance of the Labor Day holiday weekend, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has begun a widespread assessment of its developed recreation sites to identify additional areas where storm damage may have weakened trees. Rapid assessments of campgrounds, picnic areas and other developed recreation sites will determine whether temporary closures are needed to provide for public safety until crews are able to remove hazardous trees.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident at our campground and are making every effort to ensure that last night’s storm damage has not left hazard trees in our developed recreation sites,” said Idaho Panhandle National Forest Supervisor Mary Farnsworth.

To ensure a rapid and comprehensive response to last night’s storm damage the forest has activated an Incident Management Team, like those used to manage wildfires and other emergencies, to quickly assess and manage hazards discovered in recreation sites across the forest. Assessment will focus only on developed sites, such as campgrounds and picnic areas. Further assessment updates, including any temporary closures will be posted at www.inciweb.org.

It is vitally important for forest visitors to understand that hazardous trees may be present anywhere on the national forest. Visitors are encouraged to take a hard look at their surroundings when recreating throughout the forest, and especially when selecting a campsite. Hazardous trees are not always readily apparent, but some obvious indicators of dangerous trees include damage to roots, branches or trunk; insect infestations; leaning trees; or dead trees. These types of trees are especially hazardous when the wind is blowing.

Fires restricting public access; check before you go

PUBLIC LANDS – Wildfires scattered throughout the northwest are affecting access to niches of national forests and other lands the public normally has access to for hunting, fishing, camping, berry picking and other late-summer pursuits.

Glacier and Yellowstone Parks have had to close sections of road briefly because of fires.

Near Priest Lake, the road to Lookout Mountain was closed for a couple of days  recently and reopened as State Lands crews fought a small fire.

Huge areas of central and southern Idaho are closed by major forest fires as sportsmen plan their early-season hunts.

Most fires and restrictions can be tracked online at www.InciWeb.com.

Otherwise, call local ranger district offices for updates.

Middle Fork Salmon River rafters sickened at campsites

RIVERS — It's hard to believe that a wilderness whitewater raft trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River could be a sickening experience, but that's what's happening to dozens of rafters and even a Forest Service crew.

Idaho health officials are trying to determine what is causing the gastrointestinal illness that has affected commercial and private rafters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, as well as fire personnel, according to a story just moved by the Associated Press.

Mike Taylor, an epidemiologist with the Eastern Idaho Public Health District, tells the Idaho Statesman that river guides have fallen ill and a Forest Service weed control crew had to be flown out after getting sick.

Taylor suspects it may be norovirus, a highly-contagious viral illness that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and lasts for about two days.

About 50 people have reported getting ill while rafting or working on the river in the past month.

However, three people who were tested came back with three different illnesses — one had norovirus, one had E. coli and one had giardia.

So far, Taylor said, the only thing the victims have in common is being on the Middle Fork; they came from different rafting parties, and floated at different times.

“Even river guides have reported getting ill. A Forest Service weed control crew had to be flown out” after becoming ill, Taylor said.

The Middle Fork is isolated in rugged country, but it’s highly popular among rafters, with about 9,500 floating the same 104-mile stretch last summer. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the average commercial raft group has about 23 people, while the average private group has 11 people. In all, about 800 people a week share the same campsites, water stations and toilets along the site, giving germs a prime opportunity to spread.

Amy Baumer with the Salmon-Challis National Forest said the federal agency cleans Middle Fork facilities daily and tests drinking water every month. So far, she said, all water tests have been clean.

Taylor said the district is working with the Forest Service to inform rafters about the outbreak and teach them how to reduce the risk of getting sick on a trip.

He says rafters should wash their hands frequently and avoid drinking any untreated water. Filtering river or creek water won’t remove the virus; it must also be treated with a chemical disinfectant.

If norovirus is responsible for the outbreak, it could remain a problem all summer, he said.

“Norovirus is fairly stable in water and sunshine. Over the wintertime, it will be killed and we should start fresh next year,” Taylor said.

Fish, wildlife recreation to get boost from Boundary Dam license approval

UPDATE:  State fish managers say the small fish hatchery to be built under this licensing agreement will be devoted to restoring native cutthroat and bull trout.  Fish for stocking in northeast Washington lakes under the agreement will come from existing hatcheries under a contract between the utility and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

RIVERS — The license for Boundary Dam has met the requirements for approval with no appeals submitted, according to Seattle City Light, and that spells the beginning of projects to improve wildlife habitat, recreational facilities and fisheries along the Pend Oreille River.

The license was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March, but utility officials said today that the final hurdles had been cleared. 

Under the new 42-year license, City Light will be required to mitigate the impacts of the dam to the surrounding environment in Pend Oreille County. These measures include long-term water quality monitoring programs, terrestrial habitat improvements, and wildlife monitoring programs for bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species.

For example, Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek will be removed under the agreement, clearing the way for fish passage — and kayakers — for the first time since 1909.

A native trout conservation hatchery is planned to raise cutthroats and bull trout that will be planted to help restore the native species in tributaries to the Boundary Reservoir. Required habitat restoration in these tributaries will benefit westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish.

Contracts will be signed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide fish of various species from other hatcheries to stock in area lakes.

The utility is required to make avariety of recreational improvements in the Boundary project area including:

  • New recreational trails on the east side of the reservoir.
  • New non-motorized boat access with parking and facilities at the Metaline Falls Portage.
  • Upgrading six dispersed recreation sites along the Boundary reservoir, including sanitation systems, picnic tables, fire rings and watercraft land and tie-up areas.
  • Improvements to Metaline Park boat launch in the town of Metaline.
  • New interpretation and education sites throughout the Boundary project area.

“This has been a long and carefully managed process, drawing input from many stakeholders and taking into account wildlife protection, recreational and cultural amenities, and the water quality of the Pend Oreille River,” said City Light General Manager Jorge Carrasco.

Approval of the 42-year license is a critical economic benefit to City Light’s customers and to Pend Oreille PUD customers whose primary source of electricity is low-cost Boundary power, he said

Read on for details about the conclusion of the license renewal process, according to a Seattle City Light media release:

Latest buzz from the field: Yellowjackets still bugging campers

CRITTERS — Stinging insects haven’t eased their attack since the newspaper reported on the season of the wasp two weeks ago.

 “The bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets are as bad as I've seen in my life on the Coeur d’Alene River,” said fly fishing guide G.L. Britton. “I expect to be stung every day out!”

Pesky yellowjackets drove Steve and Carol Weinberger out of Sam Owen Campground to eat a peaceful meal at a Lake Pend Oreille restaurant. “A waiter at the Beyond Hope resort said it was so bad on the restaurant deck they called an exterminator,” Steve said.

“A road construction flagger said she had been stung five times last week.”

Chuck Dunning set a personal record this week near Fruitland, being stung nine times in a day: “My hand feels like someone hit it with a hammer!”

Britton has found at least one ally: “I’ve seen pics of hummingbirds tongue lassoing wasps ahead of the stingers and slicing off the danger.

“Last week, a rufous hummer took a paper wasp 3 feet from my face. After five seconds of squealing with action so fast I couldn't discern the strategy, the bird was swallowed the wasp.”