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Counties challenge Clearwater National Forest travel plan in court

PUBLIC LANDS — A week after conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit against the new Clearwater National Forest Travel Management Plan, two Idaho counties have filed suit against the plan that closes 200 miles of national forest trails to motorized vehicles.

Idaho and Clearwater counties charge that forest officials failed to adequately consult with local authorities while drafting the travel plan enacted last year.

County officials also claim forest planners didn’t properly analyze the plan’s local economic impact and allege the forest created de facto wilderness areas by banning motorcycles and mountain bikes from areas previously recommended for wilderness.

“We thought we better take a stand,” Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told The Lewiston Tribune. “We get ran over all the time by the Forest Service. We picked a battle where we think we are on solid ground and hope we will prevail.”

Forest officials did not offer an immediate response sought by The Associated Press today on the new legal challenge.

Commissioners from both counties say they were compelled to file a lawsuit after their administrative appeal of the travel plan was denied by the agency.

The lawsuit is the latest filed against the forest and its 2012 travel policy.

Last week, three environmental groups sued in federal court, contending the forest plan allows too much access for motorized vehicles, a policy they say will ultimately harm wildlife habitat. The environmental groups allege the travel plan violates a 1987 plan by allowing motorized vehicle use in areas the agency had pledged to protect as prime habitat for elk.

Federal laws require agencies like the Forest Service to coordinate their actions and plans with state and local governments.

The case brought by the counties alleges agency officials made little effort to coordinate the travel plan with the counties, who favor more motorized access when possible.

“We didn’t really see any attempt to do that,” Ebert told the Morning Tribune. “They just sort of disregarded us.”

Clearwater travel plan challenged by conservationists

PUBLIC LANDS — Three conservation groups say they filed a lawsuit on Dec. 5th in Idaho Federal District Court challenging the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan. The recently released plan determines which trails and roads will be open to motorized vehicles and which areas of the national forest will be open to snowmobiles.

The plan defers the decision on the ultimate size and extent of the road system.

The Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Sierra Club contend that rather than protect key wildlife habitat and wild areas, as prescribed in the forest plan, the travel plan allows motorized vehicles to enter sensitive wildlife habitat in the
backcountry on trails not designed for motorized use.
 
The organizations also contend that the travel plan does not minimize summer or winter off-road vehicle damage or minimize damage to wildlife habitat, watersheds or quiet recreation.
 
Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater says the 1987 Clearwater National Forest plan was supposed to protect the natural resources with its specific standards set for the protection of wildlife in certain backcountry areas. 
 
“Since then, motorized vehicles have been essentially unregulated on backcountry trails, severely degrading both terrestrial and aquatic habitat,” he said. “Roadless areas that are prime wilderness candidates, including Weitas Creek and Pot Mountain, have
been overrun with motorized use.”
 
The plaintiffs note that the Forest Service did not even fully protect its limited recommended wilderness
from motorized vehicles. “Even the biologically unique Fish Lake in Kelly Creek, an area recommended for wilderness by the Forest Service, was not protected from vehicle use,” says Al Poplawsky of the Sierra Club. “The resource damage from vehicle use in this area has been so serious that the Forest Service has had to close the trail during wet periods in recent years. The trail to the lake and areas around the lake are littered with vehicle parts and broken glass. It would make more sense to just close the entire area to vehicle use.”

Andrus steps up to support Boulder-White Cloud monument

PUBLIC LANDS — Cecil Andrus, former Idaho governor and Interior secretary, is among several prominent Idahoans to appear in a new ad campaign supporting national monument designation for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains.  

Andrus has called for protecting the area near Ketchum for several years as Congress has failed to move the legislation introduced by Rep. Simpson in each of the last six Congressional sessions.

In the print ad, which debuted today in the Idaho Statesman, Andrus says, “My career has been about common-sense conservation in line with Idaho values. National Monument status will protect the area’s fish and wildlife habitat, while keeping it open to hunting, fishing and other recreational uses that greatly benefit our economy.”

According to the Idaho Conservation League, the campaign also features Ketchum businessmen Bob Rosso and Tom Nickel, former State Representative Wendy Jaquet, and sportsman Tyler Jackson, who back monument designation “for businesses,” “to keep tourists coming,” “for future generations,” and for “plentiful fish and game.”

A new economic study released by the Idaho Outdoor Business Council showed that creation of a BWC monument could add between $3.7-12.3 million in revenue and support as many as 150 new jobs. 

Andrus, a longtime supporter of legislative protection of the Boulder-White Clouds says Congressional stalemate helped convince him to advocate for national monument status for the area.

“It’s time to resolve the debate in a reasonable way that will conserve and protect one of the nation’s last great unspoiled landscapes. I now believe that the protection so richly deserved for this place can only be accomplished by presidential action – the creation of a national monument.”

The campaign, which will run over the next few months, is cosponsored by the ICL and The Pew Charitable Trusts, which have been working to safeguard the Boulder-White Cloud area for more than a decade.

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

Local land trust has conserved 14,694 acres

CONSERVATION — Some landowners have a deep attachment to their property and its value to wildlife, water, scenery, tradition and other values.  We can all be thankful to them.

Since 1991, Inland Northwest Land Trust has helped private landowners get tax advantages and peace of mind on the way to protecting 14,694 acres – with more acres added soon!

Here's a word from the local land trust, a local non-profit working for everyone's future an acre at a time.

We work with willing private landowners to protect the region’s natural lands, waters and forests for the benefit of wildlife, our community and future generations. You make our mission possible by your commitment to our region.

Supporting Inland Northwest Land Trust on Giving Tuesday celebrates and encourages a national movement for charitable activities helping non-profit organizations AND provides an additional $2 for every $1 donated to us thanks to an Extra Gift Challenge Grant throughout December.  

Call the Inland Northwest Land Trust office, (509) 328-2939 or mail a check to Inland Northwest Land Trust, 35 W Main Avenue, Suite 210, Spokane, WA 99201.

Good hunting is no excuse for littering

HUNTING — This is a note to the person who discovered a little public land quail honey-spot I've hunted for 30 years.

You apparently had a good day recently.  I don't really care how many birds you killed or missed, but I found at least six of the red 12-gauge 7 1/2-shot shell casings you left littering the sage brush on just a few acres of land.  I have no idea how many I didn't see.

I don't know who you are, but I have this vision of you being a pig.

Responsible hunters should clean up all of their litter, especially plastic shot shell hulls that will remain an eyesore in the field to give all hunters a black eye for decades. 

Jimmy Carter to share Alaska parks history with students

PUBLIC LANDS — On Monday, students and teachers will get a huge opportunity to hear Jimmy Carter explain an historic federal public lands deal that was big, big, big in every way.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter doubled the size of the National Park System when he signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Students throughout the country can celebrate the anniversary of this landmark bill by joining President Carter on a live webchat on Monday, Dec. 2, from 2-3 p.m. EST.

ANILCA, often called the most significant land conservation measure in the nation's history, protected more than 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska. It doubled the size of the country’s national park and refuge system and tripled the amount of land designated as wilderness. ANILCA expanded the National Park System by more than 43 million acres. 

Ultra-brief history of Alaska Lands Act:

In 1971, Congess passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), granting 44 million acres of land to the Native groups. In addition, ANCSA designated 80 million acres to study for possible conservation. ANCSA was largely in response to the discovery of oil on the north slope, concern about rampant development as well as the conflict arising over how much claim the indigenous people had to that oil and the other resources around Alasak.

With the completion of the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977, the debate continued and oil was a bigger issue than ever.

During President Carter's last days as president, he accepted a compromise that ensured Alaska's status as the last frontier. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 provided the following:

  • 10 National Parks and Reserves
  • 2 National Monuments
  • 9 National Wildlife Refuges (Including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR)
  • 2 National Conservation Areas
  • 25 Wild and Scenic rivers

ANILCA expanded three other parks already in existence, including Denali. When all was said and done, 104 million acres were designated for conservation and protection - an area larger than the state of California.​

 The theme for Monday's special event, sponsored by Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, Georgia, is Celebrating President and Mrs. Carter and Their Contributions to the National Park Service. President Carter will speak on ANILCA then participate in a question-and-answer period.

About 90,000 students are likely to view the event through Internet2, the U.S. national research and education network.

President Carter will answer questions via video from high school students from Plains High School (Plains, Ga.), Southwest High School (El Centro, Calif.), Sugar Salem High School (Sugar City, Idaho) and Woodrow Wilson Junior High (Dayton, Texas). Schools may view the event via a live web stream or at http://idahoptv.org/INSESSION provided by Idaho Public Television.

Click here for more information about the Presidential Primary Sources Project, a collaborative program sponsored by the U.S. Presidential Libraries and Museums, the National Park Service, the Internet2 K20 Initiative.

Free programs offered by local outdoor groups

Inland Northwest outdoors groups are sponsoring a wide range for free programs this week. Among them:

  • Bicycling the TransAmerica Trail, second of two programs, this one featuring the journey from Pueblo, Colo., to Florence, Oreg.,  by garry Kehr, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Bicycle Club.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium,

  • Clark Fork Delta Restoration, by Susan Drumheller of the Idaho Conservation League, 7 p.m., Tuesday nov. 12 at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Annual Fly Auction fundraiser, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Hanford and the Columbia River, by Theresa Labriola of the Columbia Riverkeeper, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon

Idaho gets habitat grants from elk group

WILDLIFE — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says it is transferring $223,943 in grants and other funding to help boost elk habitat programs in Idaho, including $50,000 for the wolf management program.

The funding is directed mostly to nine counties including Boundary, Clearwater, Latah and Shoshone.

Projects include controlled burns and weed control to boost big-game forage with the goal of reestablishing healthy elk habitat and populations, RMEF officials said.

Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies.

“It’s no secret elk populations and habitat declined over the last few decades in north-central Idaho. RMEF is stepping up funding and research efforts and working with our partners to address improvements,” said David Allen, RMEF president. “We are also increasing our efforts to assist and strengthen the state’s wolf management program.”

The funding comes largely from the foundation's local fundraising banquets, he said.
 
Read on for the list of 2013 projects the funding will boost in each  county.

5,250-mile trek calls attention to wildlife corridors

CONSERVATION  –  Adventurer John Davis biked into Fernie, British Columbia, this week, wrapping up TrekWest, an eight-month, 5,250-mile hike/bike/paddle journey  to raise awareness for protecting wildlife corridors.

He lectured along the way, promoting what he calls the Western Wildway that needs to be protected and connected much as his trip was through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and British Columbia.

Threats to habitat connectivity range from the U.S.-Mexico border wall to interstate highways and vast expanses of overgrazed public land, he said.

Davis’s TrekWest travel stats:

  • Horseback-200 miles; hiking-3,500 miles; biking-1,100 miles; raft/paddle-200 miles.
  • Tent nights-200.
  • Presentations–23 to 1,700 people
  • Media-50 published stories;15 radio/TV interviews.
  • Co-trekkers-120.
  • Peaks over 8,000 feet bagged-35; Fourteeners bagged-3.
  • Shoes worn out-three pairs.
  • Pounds of peanut butter eaten-60.

City projects could affect access to South Hill bluffs

TRAILS — The City of Spokane's plans to “remodel” High Drive in 2014 while updating sewer lines could change bike lanes and reduce parking options for the popular South Hill bluff trails.

Traffic flow, pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes will also be affected, according to the Friends of the Bluff.

A neighborhood meeting on set for 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 8) at he new Jefferson Elementary School Multi-Purpose Room, 123 E. 37th Ave.
 
This might be the public's best chance to see the initial plans and provide constructive input, the Friends group says.
 
 

Lawsuit challenges lack of habitat protection for mountain caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A coalition of six conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to cut more than 93 percent of protected critical habitat for the endangered mountain caribou — from a proposed 375,562 acres to a mere 30,010 acres. 

The November decision was a major setback for the struggling animals, which in recent decades have only survived in the lower 48 states in a small area in North Idaho and northeastern Washington.

Caribou numbers have dwindled due to logging of old-growth forests, road construction and growing recreational use of snowmobiles, the groups say.

The groups warned in January they would file the lawsuit.

“This reduction in protected habitat is a death sentence for mountain caribou. They will not survive in the United States if we don’t protect their habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision ignored the science and caved to political pressure.” 

Caribou once ranged across much of the northern lower 48 states, including the northern Rocky Mountains, upper Midwest and Northeast. The southern Selkirks mountain caribou, the last remaining population in the northern Rocky Mountains was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1984.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, never designated critical habitat for the caribou, and in 2002 the groups filing today’s notice petitioned, and eventually litigated, to obtain a designation.

In keeping with a scientific recovery plan for the caribou, the proposed critical habitat issued in 2011 included more than 375,000 acres, which encompassed a majority of the area specified in the scientists’ plan as necessary for the animals’ recovery.

Organized business groups in north Idaho and state leaders opposed designating a large area of critical habitat.

In cutting this proposed acreage by more than 90 percent, the Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have abandoned the goal of recovering caribou in the contiguous United States, the conservation groups contend in the lawsuit.   

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s cut in critical habitat will greatly increase the caribou’s risk of extinction in the lower 48 states,” said Mike Petersen, executive director at the Lands Council. “It will be a sad day if we have to tell our children and grandchildren that we once had our own reindeer, but that we allowed them — like the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and so many others — to be wiped out.”

In 2005 conservation groups sued the Forest Service and obtained a closure to snowmobile use for most of the caribou’s critical habitat included in the proposed rule. The final designation, however, only includes a fraction of this area, and the Forest Service is already considering lifting the closure.

With new technologies allowing snowmobiles to get ever farther into the backcountry, these machines are a major threat to the shy, easily spooked animals, the conservation groups say.

“Now is not the time to back away from nearly 30 years of effort to recover the mountain caribou,” said Tim Layser, a wildlife biologist with the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “With adequate protection from snowmobiles and other threats, caribou can once again thrive in the United States.”

Mountain caribou are a unique form of woodland caribou adapted to surviving winters of deep snow, with dinner-plate-sized hooves that work like snowshoes and an ability to subsist for three to four months on nothing but arboreal lichens found on old-growth trees. The caribou are part of a population that straddles the border with British Columbia and consists of fewer than 30 animals.     

“Habitat loss and fragmentation is the top reason for the decline of mountain caribou,” said Brad Smith, a conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League. “If we are going to recover the last herd of caribou in the lower 48, then we must protect the habitat they need to survive.”       

The groups on the lawsuit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Conservation League, The Lands Council and Selkirk Conservation Alliance. They are represented by Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West.  

Pend Oreille Bay Trail group reaches funding goal

TRAILS – A non-profit group has raised $400,000 to secure a key piece of Lake Pend Oreille waterfront for a trail near Sandpoint.

Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail president Jon Sayler said a couple of large donations helped raise the required money a year ahead of schedule.

The City of Sandpoint already as purchased two parcels of four parcels needed to secure the trail corridor.

The City of Ponderay has agreed to purchase the third parcel in October and the Friends group has pledged to by the fourth parcel next year, he said.

Sayler said the purchases, opening more than a mile and a half of shoreline trail to the public, are the first phase of the trail project.

Future plans call for securing portions of railroad right-of-way to complete the trail into Ponderay, an underpass under the railroad from the shoreline to Ponderay and master trail planning for future trail construction and amenities.

The Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Concept Plan, developed by the community in 2010, also calls for the trail to extend into Kootenai and Ponder Point, which will also require cooperation of the railroad and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A celebration event is set for Nov. 21 at the Pend d’Oreille Winery.

Liberty Lake man honored for elk habitat conservation

CONSERVATION — Rance Block of Liberty Lake was honored today for decades of work to protect wildlife habitat and sportsmen's access to the outdoors across the West, especially in Eastern Washington. 

Block was presented the Joan Thomas Award at the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition's annual breakfast this morning at the Seattle Westin Hotel.

Block left a 15-year career at Boeing to join the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and dedicate his negotiation talents to conservation. Block recently retired from RMEF after 20 years during which he had a direct hand in protecting more than 130,000 acres of wildlife habitat in six western states.

“One would think that I have great anecdotes about kicking the dirt with Rance and a land-owner or dawn hikes to spot wildlife … I don't,” said Peter Dykstra, Coalition board president who presented the award. “I know him from countless hours in community rooms working with communities to overcome differences, find common ground, and build dreams protecting vital wildlife habitat. The reality of conservation work is that you spend a lot of times indoors and not a lot of time outdoors.”

In his address, Block highlighted his work on the Rock Creek project as an example of how unconventional community partnerships and grants from sources like the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program can help preserve access for all outdoor enthusiasts.

The project near Naches protected more than 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat, addressing the problem of checker-board ownership that put access to the area in jeopardy.

The project, which closed in late 2012, garnered broad support from elected and business leaders in the community in addition to recreationists.

He was involved in several similar efforts to block up checkerboarded land that will boost efforts to maintain the big-game habitat as well as assure public access.

Block offered some advice to conservationists looking to expand partnerships: 

“It's important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of elected officials … potential partners … of outdoor users,” Block said. “In conservation work, there are a lot of potential partners that often go ignored when you're looking for supporters. It is important to recognize that people utilize our public lands differently and it's important to find ways to incorporate their support.”

He also noted that many of the breakfast's almost 700 attendees, most of them were over the age of 35. Block encouraged everyone in the room to take time to listen to the younger generation and craft programs that appeal to future conservationists.

Incidentally, the WWRC knows a few things about partnerships and conservation. Since it was founded 24 years ago, WWRC has leveraged $1.1 billion in government grants and appropriations and private donations to fund over 1,000 projects across the state. The money has used to create playgrounds for disabled kids, build urban and rural trails, buy wildlife habitat, secure farmland from development, provide new water access and more.

Read on for details about the Joan Thomas Award:

Agreement reached on Spokane River boat access at Convention Center

BOATING — The Spokane Parks and Recreation Board apparently has reached an agreement with the Spokane Public Facilities District that may assure maintaining a viable boat take-out point under the Division Street Bridge after the voter-approved $55 million Convention Center expansion project is finished.

The outlook wasn't so good when I wrote today's Outdoors column on the subject or when I wrote about the state of the issue in April as final Convention Center plans were being approved.

But here's a message received tonight from Parks Board member Andy Dunau of the Spokane River Forum:

I’m pleased to be able to share what I believe is good news. Today, the Spokane Parks and Recreation Board passed a resolution that the PFD has agreed to. The resolution addresses items needed to move forward this fall with development activities on Centennial Trail and Spokane River shoreline that are part of the convention center expansion. The section of the resolution that is essential to a put-in/take-out for the water trail reads as follows:

“The Park Board approves the Access in principle and subject to further review and approval design of the Park Board, and further authorizes the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department to be the lead agency in getting the Access permitted, conditioned on the District’s acknowledgement that it will bear all costs and expenses associated with permitting and construction of the Access, including any expenses ordinarily assigned to the City as lead agency for any permitting and/or construction of the Access, up to an amount not exceeding $47,000.”

The PFD verbally agreed to the resolution at the Park Board meeting, and will memorialize their agreement to it in a letter being sent to the Park Board.

We now have in writing a commitment of funds from the PFD, a design that has received broad support (also funded over the summer by the PFD), and Parks and Recreation agreeing to be the lead agency to develop the access. We can now get to the fun part: creating the Spokane River Water Trail Division Street Bridge Access.

Over the past week, intensive hours were committed by both PFD and Parks and Recreation staff and Boards to take this critical step forward. We are very appreciative of their time, effort and support. The Forum would also like to thank Spokane City Council for amending the municipal code last spring to allow this site location to move forward; Avista for their support in developing the design; Spokane Riverkeeper for providing important policy and regulatory guidance; and the many individuals and user groups who are the lifeblood of helping make good things happen.

$55 million Convention Center project should give voters more, not less river access

UPDATE: Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.: Tentative agreement reached on Spokane River boat access at Division Street.

RIVERS — Plans for the voter funded $55-$65 million expansion of the Spokane Convention Center are advancing to the construction stage, but Public Facilities District officials continue to suggest that maintaining viable public river access at Division Street Bridge for rafts, kayaks, paddle boards and outfitters is not their priority.

I wrote about this in April when the designs were being approved.

I wrote about it again today as the PFD readies to begin digging without giving a commitment to a viable boat access when the construction is complete.

Unbelievable.

Idaho Conservation League celebrates 40 years at Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — A group that formed over a spaghetti dinner is celebrating four decades of creating a voice for conservation in the Idaho State Legislature and beyond.

The Idaho Conservation League is inviting the public to its 40th Anniversary Celebration, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille at Trinity by the Beach Restaurant in Sandpoint.

Since 1973, ICL has grown beyond being a legislative lobbying group to taking on issues ranging from air pollution to protecting state and federal wild lands in Idaho.

“There is much to celebrate after 40 years of dedicated work,” says Susan Drumheller, ICL’s Community Conservation associate in Sandpoint. “A few of our accomplishments over the years include protecting the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area, passage of new national rules to reduce mercury pollution, and recently, protecting Idaho’s rivers and streams from suction dredge mining.”

ICL has also enjoyed major accomplishments locally. The group helped protect Long Canyon, the last unroaded drainage in the Selkirk Mountains, and has spearheaded a campaign to permanently protect open space along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, with the creation of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

The group has 18 staff members working across the state, more than 25,000 supporters and working relationships with organizations, businesses and community leaders.

“Our work is always about personal connection, credibility and trust. We work to build bridges and get things done. That can be hard in Idaho, but it’s always worth the effort,” said Rick Johnson, ICL’s Executive Director for over 18 years. “Mary Lou Reed, an ICL founder, gave our first director a sign that says ‘Remember North Idaho.’  Forty years later we are proud of our three-person Sandpoint office and our work in the Panhandle.”

The festivities will include a full hearty dinner, no-host bar, live music by the Monarch Mountain Band, and fun raffle items including ski and stay packages, fishing trips, original artwork and a one-of-a-kind quilt made from vintage ICL t-shirts. The evening also includes a pictorial time-line of ICL over the last 40 years, a showing of ICL’s 40th anniversary movie, and a short presentation by ICL Executive Director, Rick Johnson.

Tickets for the event are $30 each and can be purchase on-line, www.idahoconservation.org, by calling (208) 345-6933 or at the door as supplies last.

Spokane River cleanup needs crew leaders

RIVERS — The annual Spokane River Clean-up is set for Sept. 28 and the planning team and REI volunteer coordinator Carol Christensen are putting out the call for more crew leaders.

“If you’re willing and able to give a couple hours ahead of time for training and a morning of work leading a crew of about 30 volunteers,” she says, “please e-mail cccarolynconnelly@gmail.com

Webcast: Idaho lawmakers eye takeover of federal lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal lands belong to every U.S.  citizen, but the Idaho Legislature is attempting, and perhaps wasting a lot of time and money, to take charge of lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies.

On Friday, Aug. 9, the Idaho Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee will hold its first hearing to consider a process for the controversial proposal to acquire title to all federally administered public lands in Idaho.

The Interim Committee was established through House Concurrent Resolution 22, enacted by the Idaho Legislature in April demanding that the federal government “imminently transfer title” to more than 33 million acres of public lands in Idaho.

The hearing will be webcast live online.  (Under Committees/Locations, click on Venues, then on EW42)

WHAT: Federal Lands Interim Committee Meeting

WHEN: Friday, August 9, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. (MDT)

WHERE: Idaho Capitol, Room East Wing 42 (EW42), Lower Level, 700 W Jefferson St, Boise

WHO: Members of the Interim Committee from the Senate include Sens. Winder (Co-Chair), Davis, Tippets, Nuxoll and Stennett. Representatives on the Committee include Reps. Denney (Co-Chair), Moyle, Anderson, Hartgen and Burgoyne.

See the agenda.  

See reaction from the Idaho Conservaton League

Washington funds $86 million for outdoor recreation, conservation

For release:July 10, 2013
Contact: Susan Zemek, 360-902-3081

CONSERVATION — The Washington Legislature funded a venerable state program, that, in turn, is awarding $86 million in state and federal grants that will build parks and boating facilities, maintain backcountry trails and off-road vehicle access, improve the safety of archery and firearm ranges, conserve farmland and protect wildlife habitat.

The grants, which are awarded through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, will be given to cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribes and non-profit organizations for work in 34 of the state’s 39 counties.

Grant recipients match the funding with resources of their own. In total, grant recipients will contribute nearly $57 million in matching resources, making the state and federal dollars stretch further.

“Washington’s outdoors are one of the things that make this state great,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Outdoor recreation in Washington contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to our economy, supports 115,000 jobs across the state, draws people from around the world to our mountain tops and shorelines, and is one of the reasons people and businesses move here and stay here. Investing in Washington’s outdoor economy just makes good sense.”

The grants are funded through eight different grant programs that receive money from state and federal sources, including the sale of state bonds, gas taxes, and user fees. The Legislature authorizes funding for all the grants.

Before they are selected for funding, grant proposals go through an extensive review that includes evaluation by advisory committees made up of citizens with experience in recreation, farming, and wildlife habitat.

“Our rigorous process ensures, that we fund only the best of the best projects,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the board and administers the grants. Generally, only about half of the grant requests are funded. This year, 414 projects requested more than $163 million in funding.

These grants will fund a tremendous range of projects, from maintaining trails in the Olympic Mountains to conserving elk habitat in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Click below for descriptions of each grant awarded in the following counties:

Adams County…………………………… $410,500

Asotin County…………………………. $4,630,000

Benton County……………………….. $2,405,146

Chelan County………………………… $8,080,559

Clallam County…………………………. $679,037

Clark County………………………….. $3,691,908

Cowlitz County………………………….. $146,850

Douglas County…………………………. $950,000

Grant County………………………….. $2,109,631

Grays Harbor County…………………. $345,318

Island County…………………………. $2,524,721

Jefferson County…………………….. $5,044,634

King County……………………………. $6,160,836

Kitsap County…………………………. $5,866,822

Kittitas County………………………… $4,076,722

Klickitat County…………………………. $980,750

Lewis County…………………………….. $397,800

Mason County………………………… $4,840,191

Okanogan County…………………… $4,902,750

Pacific County………………………… $1,724,800

Pierce County…………………………. $6,210,948

San Juan County………………………… $867,500

Skagit County…………………………. $1,723,271

Skamania County……………………. $1,302,800

Snohomish County………………….. $2,972,718

Spokane County………………………… $246,001

Stevens County………………………….. $790,750

Thurston County……………………… $4,106,234

Whatcom County………………………. $500,066

Whitman County……………………….. $100,000

Yakima County……………………….. $4,250,439

Multiple Counties (including Columbia, Garfield, Wahkiakum)      $1,970,819

Statewide………………………………. $1,437,967

Dishman Hills group leads hike in Glenrose area

TRAILS — The Dishman Hills Conservancy is leading a hike to introduce the public to recently acquired land in the Glenrose area starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday (July 23).

Come join us to learn more about our goals for the Dishman Hills. This Conservation Future property was added in 2012 and is located about two miles east of Ferris High School The hike is easy to access from the urban South Hill but has outstanding views of the surrounding areas. The hike is three miles round-trip with a few short steep sections. Hiking poles recommended but not required. The hike will highlight the possible Dream Trail in the Dishman Hills. A map will be provided. 

More information and online registration: Tuesday evening hike with DHC president

Local naturalist-historian Nisbet to lead wildflower walk, talk

FLORA – Jack Nisbet, local writer/historian, will lead a nifty “clinic” on wildflowers on Wednesday, starting with 4 p.m. stroll through the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture exhibit, “In the Footsteps of David Douglas.”

At 5 p.m., he’ll lead the group on a hike in the Iller Creek portion of Spokane County's Dishman Hills Conservation Area to study the same monkshood, rein orchid, thimbleberry and yew trees that botanist Douglas – namesake of the Douglas fir — collected in our area in 1826.

Nisbet knows the topic after authoring the book “The Collector: David Douglass and the Natural History of the Northwest.”

Cost: $10. Space limited. Pre-register, 466-2823.

Wilderness groups rally volunteers for projects

TRAILS – Two friends groups are making it easy for volunteers to help improve access or restore habitat in three of the Inland Northwest's choice backcountry areas.

Friends of the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have a full schedule ranging from guided hikes to trail building northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.  

The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation works to connect people with wilderness through stewardship activities, including a long list of volunteer projects ranging from controlling weeds to hosting fire lookout.

Spokane conservationist Robbi Castleberry, dead at 80

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UPDATED WITH VIDEO 5:45 p.m. on June 11, 2013

CONSERVATION — Robbi Castleberry, a pillar of Spokane-area conservation efforts since the 1970s, died today of an apparent cardiac arrest in her home near Indian Canyon, her husband, Vic, has confirmed.

Castleberry, 80, was on the original city-county committee that spearheaded development of the Spokane River Centennial Trail.

Her many conservation leadership roles include her current committee services for the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program. She's been the energizer behind the improvements and additions to the city's Palisades Park and the closure of Rimrock Drive so it could be enjoyed by walkers and bicyclists.

“Robbi was involved with groups like the Backcountry Horsemen and the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, and when it came to issues such as trails and river access she could be counted on as an absolute driving force to keep them open for all users,” said Julia McHugh, another original member of the Centennial Trail committee. 

Memorial service arrangements are pending.

Evaluators needed for state recreation grant applications

CONSERVATION — Six volunteers are needed to work with the Recreation and Conservation Office in evaluating grant applications for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

For more than 20 years, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) has been the state’s primary source of funding for parks, trails, and wildlife habitat and is the only source of state funding for working farms.  

Antoine Peak and many of the Spokane County Conservation Futures areas have been secured with help from these funds.

In a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition founded the WWRP in 1989 to address the need for preserving more land for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat.

The Coalition continues to be the primary advocate and watch dog for the WWRP. In 24 years, the Coalition has leveraged more than $1 billion for projects in every county across the state.

The state Recreation and Conservation Office has released the following requirements for WWRP evaluators:

  • One volunteer should be from a recreational organization or parks board and three should be from local government. These volunteers will evaluate grant applications from state agencies and will serve on the State Lands Development and Renovation Advisory Committee.
  • Two volunteers should work for local government and have experience managing parks for a diverse range of recreational activities. These volunteers will evaluate grant applications to buy land, build or improve local parks and will serve on the Local Parks Advisory Committee.
  • One volunteer is also needed to evaluate trail requests.

Applications are available on the RCO’s website. The deadline is June 14, 2013. 

Contact: Frances Dinger, 509.590.8111 | frances@wildliferecreation.org

Mud boggers leave mark of shame on forest meadows

PUBLIC LANDS — I don't care much if you drive onto your own land and rip it to shreds with your four-wheel drive vehicle as long as you're not polluting public waters downstream.

But the chronic spring problem of mudboggers ripping public lands to shreds is disgusting to the core.

Photos here show two recent abuses from the Colville National Forest and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  Memorial Day weekend was a free-for-all on portions of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, where Forest Service officers wrote ticket after ticket and never scratched the surface of the off-road riding abuse.

  • The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group offers rewards for people who pass on information that leads to the arrest of these off-roading criminals who desecrate public lands.

Here's an observation from Franklin Pemberton, spokesman for the Colville:

Most of the truly obvious abuse (torn up meadows and giant mud holes next to or on roads) are from individuals in 4X4 vehicles that actively seek out a “mudding” experience in meadows or on fragile spring roads. In one instance we had a “mudder” completely destroy a beautiful meadow that once had a crystal clear small stream running through it by driving a circuit through the meadow and spinning their tires in order to create deeper mud.  They did this over and over again all the while digging deep ruts that diverted a once clear stream into a muddy series of pools and puddles.  (Pictures attached)  This was near Big Meadow Lake.

The sad thing is, many of these mudders have no idea that the stream they damage was feeding Big Meadow Lake and will degrade the water quality and reduce the number of fish the lake can support.  A few of the people we have caught in the past claimed to be avid hunters and anglers and were shocked at how this activity can impact fish and wildlife aside from water quality and the spread of noxious and invasive weeds.

Here's today's report about recent damage on the Nez Perce-Clearwater:

Forest Service officials have discovered evidence of extensive resource damage near Camp 60, a popular site for camping and off-highway vehicle use, on the North Fork Ranger District of the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests.

An area that was, until recently, a beautiful meadow, has now been transformed into a giant mud bog, covering approximately .25 acre of National Forest System Lands.  In addition, new illegal routes have been developed, crossing through area streams.

While an exact date of when the resource damage occurred has yet to be determined, Forest Service officials believe that the activity took place very recently, perhaps within the past two weeks.

If anyone has information pertaining to this incident, please contact Law Enforcement Officer Steve Bryant at (208) 875-1131.

Spokane County seeks Antoine Peak access addition

PUBLIC LANDS — A proposal to purchase a 9.5-acre addition to an access site for the 1,066-acre Antoine Peak Conservation Area is on the agenda for today's Spokane County Commission meeting.

Antoine Peak is the mountain north of East Valley High School and east of Forker Road in Spokane Valley.

The Spokane County Parks, Recreation, and Golf Department will ask permission to spend $300,000 in county Conservation Futures funds to purchase the site owned by the Johnson Family Trust. The family has been allowing the public to use some of the property since the county secured the land in three phases concluding in 2011.

Public use is growing in the area, which is part of the voter-approved conservation program to protect wildlife habitat and open spaces for passive public recreation.

The property the family is offering to the county — before listing it for sale to the public — includes the existing public parking area on the east side of the mountain along with a 2,800 square foot residence with detached garage.  The site is critical to the county because it's the only place available near the trailhead for public parking.

The residence could be used as a park ranger or maintenance worker residence. Acquiring the subject property would also allow Spokane County Parks to expand the existing lot as needed to handle increasing use.

Another parking site is being researched on the west side of the peak.

Go paperless and Credit Union will plant a tree

CONSERVATION — A local credit union is linking a promotion to the roots of conservation.

Starting today — Earth Day — Spokane Teachers Credit Union members who switch to paper-saving electronic account statements will be helping plant trees and educating studens about conservation.

For every member who makes the switch from paper statements to e-statements between April 22 and June 30, STCU will donate the money to plant one treealong Deep Creek, Coulee Creek and Hangman Creek (also called Latah Creek). Work will be done in North Idaho, as well, although exact locations have not been selected.

The work is being organized by The Lands Council, which plans on planting 5,000 trees through its Project SUSTAIN.

Up to 400 Inland Northwest high school students will help plant the trees, said Amanda Swan, Lands Council director of development and communications. Students from Mead Alternative School, The Community School, On Track Academy, Lewis and Clark High School, Coeur d’Alene High School and Post Falls High School and St. Maries High School will participate.

“The benefits are in reducing erosion in the watershed,” Swan said. “Tree planting helps stabilize stream banks, reducing sediments and toxics from entering our watersheds and eventually the Spokane River. There’s a public health benefit that goes beyond doing something great for the environment and planting trees.”