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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.

Federal appeals court revives homeless lawsuit against Boise over camping

A federal appellate court has revived a lawsuit brought by homeless Idaho residents against the city of Boise over ordinances that bar sleeping and camping in public spaces. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling sends the 2009 lawsuit back to Boise's U.S. District Court for consideration. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

BLM seeks hosts for North Idaho campgrounds

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking for camp hosts for two campgrounds in its Coeur d’Alene District, in the Idaho Panhandle.

Mica Bay Boaters Park, about 10 minutes south of Coeur d’Alene, is a boat-in recreation site that offers 15 campsites, a picnic pavilion, fishing docks and a swim area. RVcamping is available for the camp host, but no one else. Here, the camp host performs minor maintenance such as lawn mowing and weed trimming with tools provided by the BLM. The host also monitors visitor use and provides information to users about the site and surrounding area. The work schedule for this opportunity is Thursday through Sunday, as well as one additional floating day during the week.

  • Info: John Mottern, Mica Bay Boater Park ranger, (208) 769-5002.

Hammer Creek Recreation Site offers 12 campsites along the Lower Salmon River south of Grangeville. A popular camping, picnicking and swimming destination, it’s also a common put-in site for rafters floating the river. Here, the camp host makes visitor contacts, provides area information and assists with minor maintenance such as painting, cleaning and weed trimming. The BLM is seeking a host that would live on-site from mid-June through Thanksgiving.

  • Info: Joe O’Neill, Hammer Creek Recreation Site outdoor recreation planner, (208) 962-3683.

 Click here for general information on both sites.

Most Dworshak facilities closing for season

BOATING — Most of the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are buttoning up for the winter.

Dam View, Grandad and Canyon Creek campgrounds, and Merrys Bay day-use area are closed for the season and will reopen in the spring 2013 as weather conditions allow.

Dent Acres campground will remain open until Dec. 15, weather permitting, to accommodate late-season hunters.

Big Eddy, Bruces Eddy and the fishing wall area below the dam will remain open for use during the winter season. 

Roads accessing recreation areas can be challenging and icy during inclement weather.

Info: (208) 476-1255 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Vehicle emergency kit cheap insurance for winter travelers

WINTER TRAVEL — Slippery roads this week are a reminder that drivers should be prepared for mishaps that might catch stuck, stranded or off the road in winter conditions.

A bag of items stashed in your vehicle could spell the difference between comfort and misery if not — in the worst case scenario — life and death. 

Carry a survival kit in your vehicle.

  • First-aid kit
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Cellular phone and charger
  • Windshield scraper with snow brush
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Extra winter clothes including shoes, hats and gloves
  • Compact shovel
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or  cat litter) and tow strap
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Road map
  • Candles, matches, non-liquid firestarter.
  • Special-needs items vehicle passengers may require.

National Parks offer free three-day weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 10-12.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Veterans Day weekend fee waiver is the last scheduled for the year.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been offered the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Trailwise parents organize online to hike with kids

HIKING — A group of trailwise parents in Spokane has started leading group hikes for families and children. Anyone who likes to hike with families is welcome to join them!

It's a free Meet Up group that organizes online. They call themselves the Big and Little Rock Hikers.

 Last week they were on a treasure hunt at Slavin Conservation area.

Coming up:

  • Sun. Oct. 14th, Hike & Scavenger Hunt with Clues, to Big Rock & Beyond, led by Gary (age 10) and Kathy Kalich.
  • Sat. Oct. 20th, Beaver Dam Hike w Biology Expert & GU Professor Sue Niezgoda, Liberty Lake Trail.

Campfire ban extended at Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — No campfires will be allowed at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area except at designated grated campfire sites at least through Sunday.  See the park's announcement issued Monday: 

In accordance with the 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium, Acting Superintendent Natalie Gates has extended the ban for campfires on the exposed lakebed through midnight on October 7, 2012.

Campfires in park-provided fire grates at developed campgrounds are allowed.  The use of gas and propane barbeques and self-contained stoves is allowed in the recreation area. 

Campfires are never allowed on the beach area above the exposed lakebed.

Impact of fires on wildlife won’t be known until spring

WILDLIFE LANDS — Wild fires continue to char and in some cases nuke forests and other wildlife habitat in scattered areas around the Inland Northwest.  But the future isn't all black.

Before-after-photos at Naneum Lake (above) hint at the impact of the Table Mountain Fire, which has spread over thousands of acres along with other forest fires in the Ellensburg-Leavenworth-Wenatchee area. The fires were ignited by lightning storms around Sept. 9, 2012.

Some areas have been reopened to public access, but hunters need to check ahead with the Forest Service, DNR and Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for closures to distinct areas in the Wenatchee region.

This photo comparison doesn't look good, but Washington Fish and Wildlife experts say the damage/benefits to the Colockum elk herd won't be known until next spring when they can assess the ratio of hot-burned areas with the areas that  were lightly burned or skipped-over by the flames.

The fires ultimately will be good for wildlife.

The question is whether the recovery will be measured in years or decades.

Peak fire season tips for hunters

HUNTING — It's not news that the fields are dry and fire danger is extreme.

But don't let your guard down when you go out hunting or recreating.  One thoughtless moment in these conditions can be costly.

Hunters, who have an especially big responsibility to be fire conscious, should:

  • Drive only on established roads.
  • Avoid roads with tall vegetation in the middle track.
  • Never park over dry grass and other vegetation.
  • Carry a fire extinguisher—or water-filled weed sprayer—shovel, axe, and, a cell phone for communications in addition to other outdoor safety gear.
  • Restrict camping activities to designated camping areas.
  • Not build campfires.
  • Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.

Being able to respond is essential in the first few seconds of a fire start when it is small and easily extinguished.

Black bears hanging out at English Point near Hayden Lake

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A black bear sow and her cub have been frequenting the English Point recreation trail near Hayden Lake, Forest Services officials say.

No reports of aggressive behavior from the bears have been received at the Panhandle National Forests headquarters in Coeur d'Alene, "but it remains important for the public to exercise caution and give the bears plenty of space to ensure future bear encounters are uneventful," said Jason Kirchner, forest public affairs officer.

“Bear sightings are not unusual but due to the unpredictable nature of bears the public needs to understand that some caution should be taken whenever they are in bear country,” said Coeur d’Alene River District Ranger Chad Hudson.

BEAR ENCOUNTER GUIDELINES

Should you encounter a bear:

  • Stay calm. Group together, pick up small children and assess the situation. Prepare to use your bear spray.
  • Do not run or make sudden movements, it may instinctively cause the bear to charge you.
  • Give bears a chance to identify you as human, and not a threat. If the bear stands up, it is trying to see, hear and smell you better.
  • Talk firmly in a low-pitched voice while backing away. Avoid direct eye contact as bears may perceive this as a challenge or threat.
  • Continue to back away slowly and cautiously, retreating to a place of safety. Monitor the animal’s response, and adjust your actions accordingly.

More info: Center for Wildlife Information or your local Forest Service office.

Travel: Canoeing Montana’s Missouri River

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

    When I opened my eyes, the sun was not yet over the horizon and the weak light it cast was wrapped in the heavy mist rising from the Missouri River. I lay still, warm and bundled under a heavy layer of quilts, watching through the small window beside the bed as the day came into its own.  Soon I could see deer grazing in the rolling fields around the other cabins, all, like my own, early homestead shelters that had been moved to the Virgelle Mercantile and refurbished for guests.


    By the time I was up and dressed the coffee was ready in the kitchen of the old Mercantile building. I poured a cup and the steam rose from the mug in my hand as I walked back outdoors out to take photos.


    After a breakfast of whole-hog sausage and baked French toast, washed down by pots of hot coffee, in the company of others there for the guided fishing and canoeing trips offered by the Mercantile’s sister business, The Missouri River Canoe Company, we gathered our gear and took the short ride down to the canoe launch.Once our canoes were loaded we paddled away.

   This stretch of the Missouri River is shallow this time of year, no more than a couple of feet deep in some places. We made steady progress, paddling hard enough to get where we were going but stopping whenever something caught our attention. The beauty of September in Montana is that the summer travelers have gone back to work and school. We had the river to ourselves, but we were not alone. Deer splashed across inlets and an eagle sitting on the branch of a tall Cottonwood tree studied us as we passed. Farther along, a silent, watchful Coyote, camouflaged in the tall grass, turned his head to follow our progress down the river.

       Soon, warmed by the sun and the exercise, our jackets came off. There wasn’t a cloud in the wide blue dome of the sky and only an occasional gust of wind worked against us as we paddled.

    I listened as our guide, a genuine Montana woodsman who makes his living guiding, hunting and trapping along the river, talked about Lewis and Clark’s journey along the same route through what is now the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. It was, he pointed out, with the exception of the occasional barn or fenceline and the grey-green Russian Olive introduced by homesteaders as a way to shelter flimsy cabins from the relentless wind, essentially an unchanged landscape. Soon, at a bend in the river, the eerie Hoodoos and white sandstone cliffs so unique to that portion of the river, the aptly-named White Cliffs stretch, came into view.    One more thing checked off the list of places I need to see before I die.


    After a couple of hours we pulled our canoes onto a pebbled strip of beach and stopped for lunch, digging into the sandwiches and fruit like we were starving, as though we hadn’t eaten a massive breakfast that morning. As we ate, I thought about something one of the group had said the night before. He’d been telling a story and mentioned a particular day— a special day—as one of the thirty or so he actually remembered of that particular year. I’d never really thought about it before but he is right. Most of the 365 days of work and worry, scheduled appointments, hurried commutes and eat-at-your-desk lunches, blend into a blur. Not much stands out. But, once in a while, there are moments that stay with us forever, etched into memory. They are special enough to share.    

    We packed up the scraps left from our meal and pushed away from the shore, paddling on down the river. More white cliffs and narrow coulees. More photos. More memories.


    At the end of the trip, gathering our gear and hopping back into the van that would carry us and the canoes back to our cars at the Mercantile, I let what I’d seen and done replay in my mind.  From the moment I opened my eyes and let them rest on the fog-softened view, to the last spectacular mile of Missouri River wilderness before we pulled our canoes out of the water, the day was special. It was a day worth holding onto and, in that way, worth sharing.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

National Parks offer free admission Sept. 29

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate National Public Lands Day on Sept. 29.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been featured the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

La Sportiva Wildcats a hit with Pacific Crest Trail through hikers

BACKPACKING — Ultra light, ultra functional and ultra durable — those are the keys to gear that causes a buzz among through hikers on long-distance trails.

One group of hikers most of the way through their month's long,  2,650-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, recently were comparing notes on their shoes at Washington's Chinook Pass. The durability winner in this group was the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoe, a Backpacker  Editor’s Choice item in the magazine’s 2010 gear review.

One hiker had 1,000 miles on his pair and they were still going strong.

While trail running shoes may be perfect for PCT through hikers, who are focused on speed and staying on the trail, they may not be the best for everyday hikers who may not be so trail hardened or who do more off-trail exploration.

Map shows forest areas closed by fires in Leavenworth-Wenatchee area

FOREST FIRES — The map above from the Wenatchee National Forest shows areas off limits to visitors because of forest fires in the Central Washington area.

The closures affect hikes in prime season and hunters out for Washington's early High Buck Hunt that opened Saturday.

Cool-headed backpackers evacuate Alpine Lakes as fires close in

BACKPACKING — After reading my post this morning about fire-related closures affecting hikers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness,  Stephanie Akker of Kennewick emailed me the photo (above) snapped Saturday from the Colchuck Lake area as she decided to evacuate during the night to safety. 

I was happy to see your article on-line as I have been scouring for more info since we backpacked out of Colchuck, in the dark, Saturday night. 

Attached is a photo of the fire from our campsite on the north end of Colchuck.  We day hiked into the Enchantments Saturday after camping at Colchuck Friday night. We chose to evacuate after watching the fire grow dramatically over the course of 24 hours and also considering the proximity to the parking lot. 

Yes, we had to forgo our coveted permit, but felt it better safe than sorry. 

Read on for her photo of Colchuck Lake, a scene that helps you understand why it was no easy decision to leave.

Fires restrict access to Alpine Lakes Wilderness, other areas

HIKING — Many backpackers with coveted permits for the prime September season in the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in northcentral Washington are finding their plans up in smoke.

Area includes Eightmile Road, Colchuck, Stuart, Eightmile, Caroline, and Trout lakes, and the Windy Pass portion of the Enchantment area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness due to a fire burning Many Enchantment area overnight camping permits are cancelled. However, the Enchantment Basin itself remains open at this time with access via Snow Creek Trail. Please call the Wenatchee River Ranger Station for more information on which permits are cancelled.

See a photo and report from a backpacker who self-evacuated Colchuck Lake Saturday night as fires closed in.

Read on for the latest press release and details from the Wenatchee National Forest.

Fires affecting front country and backcountry

WILD FIRES from recent lightning storms on tinder-dry landscapes are an issue for people heading outdoors in almost every direction.

Here's a regional roundup from Mountain West News:

Thousands of lightning strikes spark hundreds of fires in Washington state
The 300-acre Cascade Creek Fire is the worst of the 200 wildfires sparked by lightning in Washington state over the weekend.
Portland Oregonian;Sept. 10
Wildfire in southern B.C. forces hundreds from their homes
Strong winds pushed a wildfire first reported Sunday afternoon across more than 200 acres in southern B.C., and more than 1,550 residents near Peachland were ordered to evacuate.
Vancouver Sun;Sept. 10
 

Evacuations ordered as wildfire burns on Wyoming's Casper Mountain
A wildfire first reported at 4 p.m. Sunday on the east side of Casper Mountain in Wyoming grew quickly to hundreds of acres and forced the evacuation of campgrounds and dozens of homes.
Casper Star-Tribune;Sept. 10

More evacuations ordered on Mustang Complex fire in Idaho
A level 3 evacuation order was issued for residents along the Highway 93 corridor from Quartz Creek to North Fork in Idaho on Sunday, as the Mustang Fire Complex moved closer to that corridor.
Ravalli Republic (AP);Sept. 9

Wildfire threatens resort in W. Wyoming
The Little Horsethief Fire that ignited Saturday afternoon grew quickly to 800 acres, and on Sunday, residents living on Snow King Mountain near Jackson, Wyo., were put on notice that they may need to evacuate.
Jackson Hole Daily;Sept. 10
 
Crews have 8,000-acre wildfire in Montana 51 percent contained
Fire investigators believe the 8,000-acre wildfire burning in Montana south of Livingston was human caused.
Billings Gazette;Sept. 10
 

Lightning fires erupt in Wenatchee Valley

PUBLIC LANDS — Last night's wave of thunder storms in Eastern Washington has sparked numerous fires in the dry canyons and forests near Leavenworth, Chelan and Wenatchee.   Here's the just-posted Forest Service report for details on locations, with the grim warning that high winds are predicted to fan the flames.

Read on:

Corps closes Columbia campgrounds early; campers irked

PUBLIC LANDS — Citing budget cuts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed several camgrounds on the Columbia River on Tuesday — weeks earlier than normal.

The move surprised campers as they were evicted on Tuesday in picture-perfect weather for being in a campsite with their families.

Read the Tri-City Herald story.

See a list of Walla Walla District recreation sites and closure announcements.

It probably didn't help the Walla Walla District's budget last week as crews had to clean up trash from 3,000 partiers at the corps' Illia Dunes recreation site on the Snake River.

With bear spray in pack, woman suffers bites from grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  The recent story of a bear protecting its cubs in the presense of humans calls for a review of basic procedures for walking in bear country:

  1. Bear spray is an effective deterrent to bear attacks.
  2. Bear spray is useless if not immediately accessible when a bear is encountered.

In Montana and Idaho, grizzlies are especially active this time of year looking for berries to put on fat for the winter, as displayed in the photo above snapped last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Hikers and especially stealthy hunters, such as archers, should be prepared for bear encounters during fall.

See a video on using bear spray effectively

See more tips for especially for hunting and fishing in bear country.

Fire restrictions loom for Labor Day weekend campers, hunters

PUBLIC LANDS — Fire danger as well as still-burning wild fires will be a major factor for some campers and hunters heading for recreation areas in Idaho, Montana and Washington during Labor Day weekend.   

Smoking, campfires and use of chain saws are restricted on most state and federal lands to prevent more fires. Access roads and trails to some areas are closed because of existing fires, notably in Montana and central Idaho.

For example, the Selway River Trail, popular with hikers and hunters in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is closed this week as fire crews clear timber falling on the route in the Moose Creek District.

No major fires are listed on the Colville or Idaho Panhandle National Forests, but fire restrictions are in place.

Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger continues to be rated extreme in much of the region, said Joani Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Umatilla National Forest. 

National forest websites are the best all-hours sources for updates on fire-related restrictions.

Websites with updates on fires and restrictions include:

THROUGHOUT THE WEST

IDAHO

WASHINGTON