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GAO report: 3 of 4 Forest Service trails below standards

HIKING — A new federal report says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit.

The is the latest news, coming out after my recent localized story: Budget cuts leave recreation areas looking for outside help.

The Missoulian this week looked into the Government Accountability Office's nation-wide report on trail conditions.

Two groups petitioned members of Congress to look into the matter, since the last similar study was done in 1989. U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Jim Moran, D-Va., officially requested the study.

“With the important exception of maintaining forest health to combat wildfires and insect kill, there is no other activity in the Forest Service’s portfolio that is more important than ensuring the public’s access to our forests and wilderness areas,” Lummis said in a statement, where she also described the trails maintenance program as “held together by Band-Aids and bailing wire.”

The Government Accountability Office report released on June 27 found the Forest Service did some maintenance on 37 percent of its 158,000 miles of trail in fiscal 2012. But it estimated another $314 million in deferred maintenance remained on the to-do list, along with $210 million in unfinished annual maintenance, capital improvements and operations. In its recommendations, the GAO called for closer work with volunteers to get projects done.

That’s already a working assumption for groups like the Backcountry Horsemen, according to Montana state chairman Mark Himmel.

“We asked the Forest Service for a punch list of places that needed work,” Himmel said after returning from a brush-clearing trip on the Continental Divide Trail near Rogers Pass. “The guy said throw a dart at the map. Wherever it hits needs work. We’re a maintenance organization. We pick up the slack and make it work. We know there’s budget cutbacks. I don’t know where it’s going to go, except to just keep at it.”

Idaho state parks loaning gear to new campers

CAMPING – Idaho State Parks has partnered with The North Face to loan camping equipment at no charge to first-time campers through September.

The Explore Your Parks program is underway at two North Idaho state parks:

  • Hells Gate, (208) 799-5015.
  • Priest Lake, (208) 443-2200.

The offer’s also good at Lake Cascade State Park south of McCall.

New campers can check out tents, tarps, chairs, cooking equipment, lanterns and other gear – everything needed except sleeping bags and food.

The only costs are the normal campsite and reservation fees.

Participants are greeted by staff who will assist with campsite setup and offer tips on camping basics.

Often the state parks also have activities, such as staff-led nature hikes and family activities.

Dworshak levels plunging to cool Clearwater for salmon

BOATING — This week’s heat wave is changing the landscape for boaters and campers planning Fourth of July holiday trips to Dworshak Reservoir, which stretches 54 miles on the North Fork of the Clearwater River near Orofino.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam operators are more than doubling the flows from the chilly depths of the reservoir to cool the Clearwater River to safer temperatures for young salmon and steelhead.

The increased discharges from Dworshak Dam have caused the Clearwater River to rise 1.5 feet downstream from the confluence with the North Fork.

Visitors in the many campsites along the reservoir will be impacted as the water level drops from the full pool reached last week. The level is expected to drop 5 feet below full pool by Thursday and continue dropping to 9 feet below full by July 8.

Decreasing water levels can leave moored boats high and dry and long expanses of rocky shoreline between the water and the campsites.

Read on for details from the Corps, along for the reasoning of fish managers charged with protecting endangered fish stocks.

Colville National Forest reports alarming budget decline, especially in recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal resource acengies are suffering big budget hits, as I pointed out on my Sunday Outdoors story.

Here's a spotlight on the issues, using an example close to home:

ALARMING NUMBERS FROM THE COLVILLE NF

The 1.1 million-acre Colville National Forest spans 3 counties in Washington. This year its overall operating budget is about $16 million, employing about 150 permanent staff and 100 temporary workers. Forest officials round out the figures with these trends:

62 percent decrease in employees since the early 1990s.

5 percent reduction in overall budget in each

of past four years.

46 percent decrease in road maintenance contracting

budget in the past two years.

64 percent reduction in the already meager recreation budget expected in the next year.

What to know before you go to forests for holiday

PUBLIC LANDS — Fireworks are prohibited year-around on national forests, BLM lands, state wildlife lands and most other public lands. 

That's the first rule to know before heading out for the Fourth of July holiday.

Here are more considerations from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Responsible Motorized Use.  Please stay on designated routes and obtain the appropriate travel maps before you go. On the Colville National Forest as well as the Coeur d’Alene River, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest Lake Ranger Districts visitors should carry the FREE Motorized Vehicle Use Maps, available at Forest Service Offices. 

  • The Colville National Forest “Motorized Use Map” can be viewed online under Maps and Publications.

No mud bogging is allowed anywhere on National Forest System lands.  State traffic laws apply to all motor vehicles including off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and motorcycles of all types.

For the latest information on road conditions, including restrictions, closures and construction, visit the national Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Road Status” web page.       

Camping.  Camping is allowed for up to 14 days within any 30-day period in developed recreation sites, undeveloped recreation sites, campgrounds, wilderness areas and other general forest areas. Visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Recreation” web page to check the status of your favorite site.

Campfire Safety. Even if it’s “green,” please practice good sense by using caution with fire and smoking at all times, in all places.  Drown, stir and check your campfire for heat with your bare hand.  ALL fires must be DEAD OUT when left unattended and before leaving the site.

Keep it Clean to Avoid Bear Encounters!  Proper food storage practices are recommended throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and are required on the Sandpoint, Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry Districts. Bears often develop a strong liking for human and pet foods.  Store food in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof containers. Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free from food and food odors. Wash up, change clothes and remove all scented articles nearby before going to bed.  Wild bears avoid people, but bears conditioned to human food can be aggressive and may be euthanized if problems occur. For more information on safety in bear country visit our “Food Storage” web page.

More info: contact your local Idaho Panhandle Forest Service office.

Idaho women’s outdoor clinic fills; sign up for next time

Registration is closed for the August Panhandle Women's Outdoors Clinic as all slots are filled.

But Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say they're already starting a contact list for women who want to be notified when registration opens for next summer's clinic involving shooting, fishing, camping, survival and other outdoors skills.

Don't be left out. Contact Idaho Department of Fish and Game (208) 769-1414.

Sign up for Washington women’s fall outdoor weekend clinics

GETTING OUTDOORS — Women age 18 and older can learn the basics of fishing, hunting, and other outdoor skills at a weekend workshop Sept. 13-15 that includes sessions led by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) experts and other certified instructors.

The annual women outdoors workshop at Camp Waskowitz in North Bend, Wash., is coordinated by Washington Outdoor Women (WOW), a non-profit program dedicated to teaching women outdoor skills and natural resource stewardship. WOW, now in its 16th year, is an educational outreach program of the Washington Wildlife Federation.

Participants will choose from 20 different classes taught by 32 instructors on outdoor skills such as archery, freshwater fishing, fly fishing, kayaking, big-game hunting, wild edibles, map and compass reading, wilderness First Aid, survival skills, outdoor photography and more.

Cost: $250, includes lodging, meals and equipment. Participants also must have a Washington recreational fishing license to participate in the fishing and fly-fishing sessions.

Partial scholarships, provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, are available for first-time participants.

Download the registration form.

Contact Director Ronni McGlenn, (425) 455-1986.

Hungry bear causes closure of Lake Chelan backcountry campsite

CAMPING — A backcountry campground near the head of Lake Chelan has been closed indefinitely because of a black bear that was lured by the taste of food and garbage left unsecured by visitors.

The National Park Service announced Thursday that Tumwater Campground, located about 12 miles from Stehekin Landing, is closed until further notice.

A bear received a “substantial food reward” when it got into a garbage can at the primitive campsite on Monday, the agency said. Though the can has been removed, the bear is expected to return to the campground to look for more food.

The nearby High Bridge Campground will also be monitored by park staff to make sure the bear does not go there in search of an easy meal.

The agency said that a camp closure of two to three weeks in generally enough to convince a bear that there is no more food there.

Dworshak Reservoir nearly full; camping at its best

BOATING — Dworshak Reservoir is just two feet shy of full pool, which puts boaters into the period of the best access to the campsites along the reservoir up the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

Remember, this is a banner year to fish for Dworshak's kokanee as well as smallmouth bass.

The water should reach full pool at 1,600 feet elevation next week, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Around July 8, the reservoir will gradually be drawn down to provide cool water for downstream salmon. That annual drawdown leaves many of the campsites vacant because of the long uphill walk from the water line.

Read on for details from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Dworshak Dam and the reservoir recreation sites.

Bargain rate offered for Spokane River whitewater rafting

RIVERS — Wiley E. Waters rafting company is offering discounted three-hour whitewater river float trips for the Washington State Parks Centennial 2013 celebration on Saturday (June 8) at Riverside State Park.

Trips will start at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., with shuttles from Riverside Park's Bowl and Pitcher area to the launch site in Peaceful Valley and from the take-out at Plese Flats.

Cost: $49. Pre-register: (208) 457-1092 or on line, riverrafting.net.

Last-minute sign-up will be accepted by the outfitter’s booth at the Bowl and Pitcher if space is available. 

Check the  Riverside State ParksFoundation website for details and a schedule of events for the centennial celebration.

See the Sunday Outdoors story: Riverside good choice for Centennial Celebration.

Riverside State Park activities celebrate 100 years of Parks

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Parks Centennial 2013 celebration at Riverside State Park will feature free activities on Saturday (June 8) from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. based at the Bowl and Pitcher day-use area and campground.

The Discover Pass requirement for vehicles will be waived for the day.

RAFT THE RIVER

Wiley E. Waters rafting company is offering discounted three-hour whitewater river float trips for the Centennial 2013 celebration on Saturday.

Trips will start at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., with shuttles from the Bowl and Pitcher area to the launch site in Peaceful Valley and from the take-out at Plese Flats.

Cost: $49. Pre-register: (208) 457-1092 or on line, riverrafting.net.

Last-minute sign-up will be accepted by the outfitter’s booth at the Bowl and Pitcher if space is available. 

SCHEDULE of Free events on June 8:

1:15 a.m. – Raptor program, West Valley Outdoor Learning Center.

Noon – Park blessing, Spokane Tribe, plus welcome from park manager, dignitaries. 

1:15 p.m. –Patrick McManus book signing.

2:15 p.m. – Live music by three bands through 6 p.m.

2:30 p.m. – Beginner Orienteering Course, Eastern Washington Orienteering Club.

2:30 p.m. – Arts and Crafts, Spokane Parks & Recreation.

3:30 p.m. – Bike Rodeo, Evergreen East Bike Club.

3:30 p.m. – Geocaching 101, Washington State Geocaching Association.

4:30 p.m. – River trail hike led by Rich Landers, Spokesman-Review outdoors editor and author of “Day Hiking Eastern Washington.” Meet at Bowl & Pitcher day-use parking area trailhead that leads to the swinging footbridge.

Check the  Riverside State Park Foundation website for more details about the centennial celebration.

Wenaha River beckons backpackers

HIKING — This photo is just a glimpse of the scenic value I enjoyed this weekend with other backpackers as we hiked up the Wenaha River from Troy, Oregon.

The Wenaha is a major trib to the Grande Ronde, a former steelhead and salmon fishing ground for Chief Joseph, and namesake for the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. 

You have to hike in roughly six miles just to reach the wilderness boundary.

It's a sweet early-season trek, opening to backpackers sometime in March.

Kettle Crest areas closed as dangerous trees felled

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest has temporarily closed the Kettle Crest Trailhead, Sherman Overlook Campground and the Sherman Overlook Day Use Area on Sherman Pass to ensure public safety and allow crews to remove a number of dead trees that could fall and pose a hazard to visitors.

The temporary closure will remain in effect until crews can safely remove the dead trees. This work is expected to be completed in the early summer.

The campground and trailhead are located approximately 26 miles west of Kettle Falls, Washington along Washington State Route 20 (WA-20).

The temporary closure will not close the popular Kettle Crest Trail, it only closes the trailhead. Visitors may park at the interpretive kiosk along the side of WA-20 and access the trail.

Info: Kettle Falls Regional Information Center: (509) 738-2300.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: What's the one thing that should never be brought along on a camping trip?

Remorseful camper contributes to junk-food elk

CAMPING — Many families consider Memorial Day weekend the kickoff for the camping season. Unfortunately, it's also the start of some bad habits for wildlife attracted to the food and garbage campers make available.

Luring wildlife to camping areas with food creates pests that can bother or injure campers that follow. In some cases, especially with bears, a junk-food addict usually must to be killed for public safety.

Also, wildlife attracted to food are  more likely to be around roads where they can be hurt in vehicle collisions. 

But even with that knowledge already firmly in his camping routine, James Pelland was chagrined to find elk rustling through untended garbage at his camp over the weekend.   Here's his report and heads up to other campers.

“My family and I enjoy floating and camping up on the N.Fk CDA. Over the years we've seen plenty of deer, elk and moose.

“Around 5 a.m. Monday morning I woke to what sounded like something rummaging through our camp gear. I had gone to bed early and left it up to my wife and daughter, who were enjoying the campfire, to make sure our site was properly “secured” (food put away etc). I poked my head out of the tent and saw our small trash bag had been left hanging on a tree and the elk (not raccoons, not crows) in the attached picture were helping themselves to leftover pita chips and clam chowder. The yearling was using its nose to try to open our cooler!

“We feel sorry for furthering the habituation of these elk to people and people food, and feel sorry for the elk. The camp  hosts told us that the elk drink the soapy water from their cleaning pail.”

Then Pelland pointed out:

I remember a couple years ago a bear chewed on someone's ear through his tent near St. Regis… The camper got there at night and didn't notice that the previous folks had left a huge food mess. My buddy and I had driven right past that site the next day on our way to fishing… I always remember that story and don't need a bear chewing on my ear (or worse).

Plan ahead for free forest access on June 8

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 June 8, Great Outdoors Day, with free access to national forest lands such as the Umatilla and Okanogan-Wenatche forest areas where the Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent is otherwise required. 

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.

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

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.

Check road, trail conditions before you go

FORESTS — A trail closure notice just issued by the Colville National Forest is a reminder that roads, trails and campgrounds are subject to the whims of nature, even on a holiday weekend.  

Call ahead to forest offices to check on any last-minute closures that could foil your plans.

 

Upper North Fork Trail #507 will be closed to public use until a washed out bridge can be replaced, Colville Forest officials announced this morning. 

The #507 trail is a connector trail that connects the upper portion of the North Fork of Sullivan Creek to the #515 Crowell Ridge Trail in the Salmo Priest Wilderness.

Info: Sullivan Lake Ranger Station at (509) 446-7500.

Wildlife officers clamp down on Grande Ronde frat party

PUBLIC LANDS — Two Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers followed a tip to find a large college party underway recently on state wildlife lands along the Grand Ronde River at the bottom of Shumaker Grade. 

In the past, these gatherings have resulted in large amounts of litter, destruction of habitat, illegal burning, etc.,” reported Capt. Dan Rahn. The photo one of the officers snapped (above) indicates the 160 students already were getting a good start on trashing Snyder Bar. 

The area is a popular staging and camping area for anglers launching or taking out boats for floating the Grande Ronde.

The party was an annual event organized by a University of Idaho fraternity, according to the officers' report.

“After locating the frat president, the officers issued numerous citations for No Vehicle Access Permits and MIC,” Rahn said.  “They were warned for not having required group permits and advised these gatherings would not be allowed in the future.  They agreed to have all of the litter cleaned up by morning or they would be subject to litter citations and they agreed to not return in the future.  There were a total of 13 kegs of beer on site and the purchasers were identified.  Possible charges of Furnishing to Minor will be forwarded to the Prosecutor.”

Wildflowers blooming at Steamboat; snakes, too

HIKING — A Spokane couple returning from a camping-hiking trip to Steamboat Rock State Park this weekend have several recommendations for folks who want to follow their footsteps:

1. Go now. The wildflowers are beautiful, with the balsamroot on the downward swing but bitterroots are just ready to bloom.

2. Keep the tent screen zipped closed.  They found two rattlesnakes in camp, one huddled against their tent and one under their cooler.

3. Use hiking poles and if you hike with a dog, keep it on leash.  They encountered two more rattlers on the trail while hiking to nearby Northrup Canyon. One was on the aggressive side, which is rare. But they felt more comfortable after they gathered up hiking sticks to thwart any advances. With their dog on leash, they had no problem.

Olympic Park not taking campsite reservations by phone

BACKPACKING — Olympic National Park is accepting reservation requests for wilderness camping areas with overnight use limits by fax or postal mail only. Phone reservations are no longer accepted.

Limits on overnight use in high-use wilderness camp areas are in effect May 1-Sept. 30 to help minimize the impact from humans and provide a quality wilderness experience. Reservations for these sites are recommended, park officials said in a news release.

Reservations for camp areas without overnight use limits are not required and are not accepted. Permits for these areas are not limited and may be picked up at a permit office just before a hike.

A wilderness camping permit is required for all overnight stays in the park’s backcountry areas. Permit fees are $5 to register a group and an additional $2 per person per night for anyone 16 or older. The full permit fee will be charged for all reservations. The fee is nonrefundable.

Overnight use limits are in effect for these high-use wilderness camp areas:

Ozette Coast, Royal Basin/Royal Lake area, Grand Valley and Badger Valley area, Lake Constance, Upper Lena Lake, Flapjack Lakes, Sol Duc/Seven Lakes Basin/Mink Lake area, Hoh Lake and C.B. Flats, Elk Lake and Glacier Meadows and the group and stock camp sites along the Hoh River Trail.

Here's the proceedure:

  • Download the campsite reservation form.
  • Mail reservation requests to Olympic National Park, WIC, 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or
  • Fax reservation requests to (360) 565-3108.

 Click here for additional information.

Plan ahead for free week of entry at national parks

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. 

But none of the perks are as sweet as the week of entry-fee-free days coming up at national parks:

  • Celebrate National Park week with no entry fees April 22-26.

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.

June 8, Great Outdoors Day — U.S. Forest Service

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

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.

Wash. state parks face grim future under Senate proposal

PARKS — State Parks were hurting when the 2013 Washington Legisature convene, and a bunch of them will be closing if the Senate doesn't scratch up some money to keep these valuable assets solvent.

The state budget as proposed by the Senate on Thursday — SSB 5034 — would CUT the state parks budget by more than $5 million and force the closure of some state parks.

A lot is at stake for Spokane area, where the quality of life is vastly enhanced by Mount Spokane and Riverside state parks, which also manage the Centennial Trail and Little Spokane Natural Area.

But under deep cuts inflicted on the agency over the past few years, Mount Spokane already has no ranger on duty two days a week. That situation would likely get worse under the current budget proposal, not to mention the 30 or so parks that would have to be closed.

The governor’s proposed budget is much kinder to State Parks,” said Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

State Parks needs $27 million from the General Fund to keep the system functioning reasonably, said Jeff Lambert, conservation chair of the Spokane Mountaineers.  At this point, he said, “There is no long-range financial plan for State Parks.”

 Contacts:

Only 13 state senators support federal lands in Idaho

PUBLIC LANDS — Would you trust the state of Idaho to manage the national forests, rangelands and parks in the best interest of a full range of the public, recreation and wildlife?

Quotable:

“Senators, the only reason you want title to a land is to sell it. And I don't think Idaho should be for sale.”

Idaho Sen. Michelle Stennett, one of 13 who voted against House Concurrent Resolution 22, which demands Congress transfer federal lands in Idaho to the state.
- Idaho Mountain Express

Dent Acres campground opens April 11 at Dworshak Reseroir

BOATING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir says the Dent Acres Campground has been opened for the season and campers are reserving sites for spring and summer using the www.recreation.gov reservation system.

The smallmout bass fishing can be good, and Idaho Fish and Game biologists predict this will be a great kokanee fishing season at the reservoir.

Reservations can be made for camping dates May 23 or later, though the campground opens on April 11 on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Dent Acres campsite fees are $10 per night via self-deposit registration for April 11 – May 22.
  • Reserved campsites beginning May 23 are $18 per night.
  • The Group Camp is $50 per night, and the Picnic Shelter is $25 for the day.
 
Dent Acres boat ramp was opened for public use on Monday, March 11.
 
For updated Dworshak water level and boat ramp information, call (800) 321-3198.
 
For more information regarding facilities access and current conditions call (208) 476-1255 or stop by Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

National forests require firewood permits

PUBLIC LANDS — Cutting firewood for personal or commercial use from national forests requires a permit. Peronal use permits go on sale Monday (April 1).

  • Exception: Colville National Forest permit sales have been delayed until April 8 because of printing delays. Info: (509) 684-7000.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests firewood permits are on sale. The minimum permit available is $20 for  4cords. Woodcutters may purchase multiple permits, up to a maximum of 12 cords of firewood per season.

The Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District also offers an online “permit by mail” system. From the webpage, customers can print the application, fill it out, and mail it along with a check or money order for payment to either the Fernan Office in Coeur d’Alene or the Smelterville Office in the Silver Valley. Your firewood permit will be mailed to you within one business day from receipt of your application.
 
This year the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District is also providing additional maps and instructions with each permit to assist firewood cutters.
 
Info: Silver Valley office, (208) 783-2363 or Fernan office, (208) 664-2318.

Survive spring break: 10 tips for outbound college students

WATER SPORTS — With 3.7 million college students getting ready for a well-earned spring break, history tells us some of them will get hurt or killed, especially around water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offer these Top 10 tips to help you avoid being a statistic on a lake, stream or ocean.

No. 10: HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position) can save your life in cold water. This position is where your knees are drawn up to your chest with your arms grasping them together helping retain body temperature until you are rescued. Wet clothing will not weigh you down in the water because water does not weigh more than water, so leave your clothes on.
 
No. 9: Diving could be a neck-breaking experience; never dive into unknown waters.
 
No. 8: Any beach that has breaking waves could have the potential to develop rip currents near the shore that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea.If you get caught in one of these narrow rip currents, swim parallel to shore until the current stops pushing you out.
 
No. 7: Never overestimate your swimming abilities, especially in open waters.
 
No 6: Swim only in designated areas.
 
No. 5: Never swim alone.
 
No. 4: Swim and boat sober.
 
No. 3: If you are boating, wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim and don’t expect to enter the water.
 
No. 2: Choose the right life jacket for you and wear it. The new inflatable life jackets are lightweight and the belt-pack style of inflatable life jacket will still allow you to get a great tan.
 
The No. 1: tip that could mean the difference between life and death during your spring break: Don’t let anyone talk you into anything that you don’t want to do. Peer pressure can kill you.

Wash. state parks celebrates 100 years with free entry Saturday

PARKS — Washington State Parks were founded 100 years ago this month. In one of many treats and celebrations to come this year, the park system has designated Saturday a “free day:” vechicles will not be required to display the Discover Pass to visit a state park.

The State Parks and Recreation Commission selected most of its 2013 “free days” in conjunction with the National Park Service’s free days. State Parks’ remaining free day schedule for 2013 is as follows:
  • March 30 – in honor of Washington State Parks’ 100th birthday month
  • April 27 and 28 – National Parks Week
  • June 1 – National Trails Day
  • June 8 and 9 – National Get Outdoors Day
  • Aug. 4 – Peak season free day
  • Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 9 -11 – Veterans Day weekend.
The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.