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County buys 269 acres for Glenrose conservation area

CONSERVATION — The Dream Trail through the Dishman Hills of Spokane Valley has come 269 acres closer to reality this week with the purchase of two parcels in the Glenrose area.

Two adjoining parcels were purchased with $473,500 from the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program plus $257,500 donated by the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, said John Bottelli, County Parks assistant director.

"DHNAA exceeded their original pledge by ultimately covering more than the county's share of the Stone Estate acreage by $35,000," Bottelli said. "Their $257,500 represents 54 percent of the purchase price and is an incredible accomplishment for any non-profit!"

The Dishman Hills group scraped up the money and secured the property before other interests could lock it up privately.

Click here for the details on this great acquisition for future generations and how it fits into the big picture for maintaining wildlife movements and public access to wildlands in our ever-more-populated region.

Waterfowl love the wetness soaking the region

SPRING MIGRANTS — The region's wet spell is putting a damper on a lot of activities, but waterfowl are in their element as they pause during their spring migrations in the Inland Northwest's wealth of flooded fields and wetlands.

Ducks, geese and swans have so many options, they're fooling even experienced birders in their back yards.

John Stuart of Newport, fresh in from a birding trip in his neck of the woods, was disappointed over the weekend to see the 1,500 tundra swans had left Calispell Lake in Pend Oreille County.

"The migrating Tundra swans, usually a big noisy deal on Calispell Lake, sort of pulled a switcheroo on us, thanks to the weather," he said in a report to Inland Northwest Birders.  He assumed that because the lake had risen 3 feet in a couple days — and swans necks being only so long, they could no longer reach the submerged comestibles and had to take their leave."

But soon after he put out the report, he heard from other birders and set the record straight Wednesday afternoon:

Apparently my story of the Swans at Calispell Lk. was not as black and white as I supposed.  Terry Little found a big crowd there on Friday (30th) and Jon Isacoff found a couple thousand on Tues (3rd), while we saw none on Sunday.  But Jon found a guy at Riverbend (about 10 miles north) who said the swans had been up there feeding on the larger than usual flooded field.  So apparently the birds were finding some alternative feeding areas without leaving the area.

So the rain eliminated one area for feeding but created at least one new one.

Snowshoers find plenty to walk on

WINTER SPORTS — Photo shows a group of snowshoers enjoying a fine March 24 during the 6th annual Goat Mountain trek above Lake Pend Oreille. Almost daily snowfall in the previous five days has left fresh layers on a deep snowpack.

The hike is one of the many active events organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Where’s Aldo? His words ring true 125 years after his birth

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us.

"When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

― Aldo Leopold

BC approves controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort in Purcell Mountains

PUBLIC LANDS — British Columbia Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson has announced his approval of controversial private-company plans to build the $900-million Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere.

The area is considered a pristine conservancy important to grizzly bears and backcountry recreation.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, opponents say they have not given up the fight to block the building of the luxury all-season resort that will have two hotels and 1,360 residential units with 6,250 beds.

Here's the Calgary Herald report:

B.C. approves controversial Jumbo Glacier ski resort:
$1B proposal has divided Kootenay region residents for decades

Here's the CBC News report on the decision.

See my story and photos about hiking in the area, which is featured in my guidebook, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.


  

Volunteers needed to score recreation grant requests

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is looking for nearly 70 volunteers to help determine how millions of dollars in state grants should be spent in Washington’s great outdoors.

The volunteers will score grant applications submitted in two statewide programs: 

  • The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which provides grants to build and renovate parks and trails, and to protect and restore valuable wildlife habitat and farmland.
  • The Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, which provides grants to restore Washington shorelines and create access for people to the waterfront.

The grants are awarded to cities, counties, state agencies, tribes and others.

Read on for details.

Hunters post a sign of the times

CONSERVATION — Behind the words on the sign is a tradition of hunters and anglers paying billions of dollars in license fees, federal duck stamp fees and excise taxes on their hunting and fishing equipment to fund wildlife conservation efforts.

Most other recreation groups contribute little or nothing in comparison.

Aldo Leopold’s daughter coming to MAC for showing of Green Fire documentary

CONSERVATION — Estelle Leopold is scheduled to be in Spokane on Saturday at the Museum of Arts and Culture for a screening of a dumentary about her father and renoun conservationist, Aldo Leopold.

Enjoy a book signing with the Leopold, who's written a book about her family, and enjoy beer and wine for the viewing of Green Fire.

WhenSaturday (March 10) from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Cost: $5-$7.

Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, sold out last year at the Riverfront IMAX Theater.

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

Video: American Whitewater makes case for its cause

RIVERS — American Whitewater, a national river and river running advocacy group, needs support to continue standing up for free-flowing rivers that are always under pressure for water demands.

Last year, the group had a voice in taking down a few dams, protecting flows in rivers and representing paddler interests.

Since 2005, American Whitewater has been involved in the removal of 14 old and uneconomical hydropower dams, restored flows and improved access to 25 significant whitewater runs and supported designation of 1,118.75 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. I

See a video report on the group's latest projects on this  highlight reel.

Join American Whitewater here or call (866) 262-8429.

Alberta oil camp sloppiness contributes to 145 dead black bears

WILDLIFE — Alberta appears to be taking a Stone Age mentality to petroleum development in the realm of its highly regarded wildlife resources.

Read this Calgary Herald report about 145 black bears that were shot last year by Fish and Wildlife conservation officers after the bears had been habituated to garbage in the oilsands region.

Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell said it suggests Albertans are far from using best practices “or even a modern attitude” toward wildlife management.

Author to read from Grizzly Manifesto at Gonzaga

WILDLIFE — Canadian conservation author Jeff Gailus will read from his book “The Grizzly Manifesto” at Gonzaga University this week, sponsored by the university's Environmental Studies Speaker Series.

The program will start at 7 p.m., Wednesday, (Feb. 22) in the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium. Gailus plans to read from his book and discuss the future of grizzly bears in the United States and Canada.

Gailus has developed extensive knowledge of grizzlies, following them from Yellowstone National Park through the Canadian Rockies to the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area (pronounced musk-quah-ke-chee-kah) in northern British Columbia.

The free event, open to the public, is titled, “A Grizzly Tale of Two Countries: Grizzly Bear Management and Recovery across the Medicine Line.”

Wildlife commission approves Okanogan land purchase

CONSERVATION — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase of 165 acres of key fish and wildlife habitat in Okanogan County today during a conference call meeting.

State Fish and Wildlife Department officials say purchasing the land along the Okanogan River about 20 miles north of Omak will allow the agency to protect spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead, and grassland and shrub steppe beneficial to wildlife.  

The property will become part of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, managed by WDFW to provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species as well as public access for outdoor recreation, such as fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.

The $795,000 purchase price will be funded with grants from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Congress may allow online Duck Stamp purchases nationwide

HUNTING — It looks as though Congress is going to make it easier for sportsmen to one-stop-shop for state and federal waterfowl hunting licenses. That's good news for the sport and for wetland habitats.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 373-1 recently to forward a bill that would allow hunters to buy their federal duck stamps online, similar to the way state hunting licenses can be purchased.

The e-Duck Stamp program started four years ago on a trial basis in eight states, including Idaho (but not Washington). The program allows hunters 16 and older to purchase temporary duck stamps online until their physical stamps arrive in the mail.

Prior to this pilot program, waterfowl hunters were required to buy federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps, at post offices and sporting goods stores. The trouble came when suppliers ran out of stamps early in the season or small rural post offices didn't carry the stamps at all.

If the U.S. Senate follows the overwhelming approval of the House vote, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have the authority to make the program permanent and extend it to all states.

The Federal Duck Stamp was created in 1934 as a federal waterfowl hunting license and a means to conserve waterfowl habitat. The program has generated more than $800 million to protect more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States, land now part of the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamps cost $15 per year, with 98 percent of revenue going straight to land purchases, easements and leases.

Fly fishing, map and compass and wetlands on outdoor event schedule

OUTDOOR PROGRAMS — Here's a few outdoor programs to consider catching this week:

Fly fishing – “Match the Hatch Simplified,” free program by Oregon fly-fishing author Dave Hughes, 7 p.m., Wednesday (Feb. 8) at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, hosted by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

Map and compass – Free seminar on basics of reading a map and applying a compass for navigation, 7 p.m., Thursday (Feb. 9), at REI. Pre-register here to assure a spot.

Wetlands – The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising banquet for wetlands conservation on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in Pullman. Tickets: Joe Ford (509) 872-3030.

Spokane’s Mountain Gear easy on environment

CONSERVATION — Backpacker magazine and SNEWS named Spokane-based Mountain Gear the Sustainable Retailer of the Year at the recent 2012 Winter Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

The annual award honors outdoor retailers that stand out as leaders for the industry and the communities they serve.

 “This award recognizes the efforts of our entire team to be a sustainable organization and to continually learn and try new ways to reduce our footprint,” said Paul Fish, company president.

The S-R has reported for years on Mountain Gear's environmental activities. Among the stories:

The award givers at the recent Outdoor Retailer show also were impressed with Mountain Gear’s corporate headquarters (see map), an old warehouse renovated with skylights, energy management systems and drought-tolerant landscaping irrigated with collected rainwater.

Recycled materials, low-flow plumbing, waterless urinals and energy-efficient lighting were added. Incentives for employees to commute efficiently or bike to work top it all off.

Poll finds Western sportsmen back land, air, water protections

CONSERVATION — Western voters who identify themselves as sportsmen view America’s public lands as critical to their state’s economy and quality of life, accoding to survey results released Monday by Colordao College, in Colorado Springs.

The State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that Western sportsmen support upholding protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey covered AZ, CO, MT, NM, UT and WY, but Idaho was not included.

A college press release says the poll was conducted by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm).

According to the results:

  • 92 percent of sportsmen – the majority of whom identify as politically conservative or moderate – believe that national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an “essential part” of the economies of these states.
  • Nearly two-thirds of sportsmen polled also opposed allowing private companies to develop public lands when it would limit the public’s enjoyment of – or access to – these lands, and the same percentage believe in maintaining current conservation measures for land, air and water.
  • More than two out of every three sportsmen view loss of habitat for fish and wildlife as a serious threat to a quality outdoor experience.  Further, 75 percent of sportsmen polled indicated that cuts in funding for parks, habitat, and water quality pose a serious threat to their hunting heritage and western lifestyle.
  • Sportsmen and members of the general public agreed that even with tight state budgets, the government should maintain investments in land, parks, water and wildlife conservation.

These results bolster the findings of a major survey commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation late last year, which measures the significant economic impacts associated with outdoor recreation and makes the case that conservation programs are a common sense investment.

The full sportsmen’s survey is available on the Colorado College website.

A fact sheet highlights the results.

Wildlife area closing temporarily to protect Colockum elk

WILDLIFE — For the fifth consecutive year, about 44,000 acres of state wildlife land east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1-April 30 to protect wintering elk from disturbance.

Keeping the elk on the state wildlife areas should keep more elk from moving to private lands where they can cause crop damage, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency will temporarily close the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area and a portion of the Quilomene Wildlife Area in Kittitas County. The area to be closed is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River.

Read on for details from the WDFW:

Enter your best shot of Scotchman Peaks during winter

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are taking entries in their annual winter outdoor photography contest.

If you are in or around the Scotchman Peaks this winter (you have to be able to see the wilderness), and you take a picture you think is really cool, attach it to an e-mail telling where you took it, when you took it, and maybe even why you took it and send to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org.

The grand prize: a night’s stay for two next summer at the Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast near Clark Fork, in the shadow of the Scotchman Peaks.

Film celebrating Cascades conservationist coming to Spokane

CONSERVATION — The Irate Birdwatcher, a film celebrating the witty words of the late Washington conservationist, wilderness advocate and hiking guidebook author Harvey Manning, is coming to Spokane on Monday evening (Jan. 23).

Sponsored by the Spokane Mountaineers, the film will start at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear's retail store, 2002 N. Division St.

A $3 donation is requested to benefit Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.

The film reminds us that wilderness, such as that found in the North Cascades, needed thoughtful committed advocates to remain wild and undeveloped.  The words are beautifully illustrated with mountain and wildlife video photographed by Robert Chrestensen and others.

See a clip from the film here.

Enviros oppose Jumbo Ski Resort as decision nears

PUBLIC LANDS — After 20 years of debate, the British Columbia government apparently is nearing a decision on whether to authorize development of a large four-season resort on and around glaciers near Jumbo Pass in the Purcell Mountains above Invermere.

If you've hiked the trails to Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass described in my book, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest, you know the neighborhood.

Environmental and recreation groups have opposed this resort from the beginning, arguing it would be detrimental to grizzly bears in some of the best grizzly habitat in the region. They also say existing resorts, such as nearby Panorama Resort, already are short of customers without adding more competition.

The Jumbo Glacier Resort appears to be more of a real estate development scheme than a viable ski resort plan, as pointed out in this video.

Recreationists also point out the development would degrade what's been a premier backcountry experience and close some access to public (crown) lands.

Click here to see how the developers promote the Jumbo Glacier Resort project.

Click here for insight on the potential impacts to wildlife.

Click here for the overall environmental argument against the resort.

Click here for the perspective of the local First Nation, the Ktunaxa.

Click here for information on booking the rustic Jumbo Pass hiker-skier cabin.

Click here for a YouTube video documenting a week of backcountry skiing out of the Jumbo Pass cabin.

Aldo Leopold’s 125th birthday cause for reflection on wildlife conservation

CONSERVATION — Aldo Leopold, widely recognized as the father of professional wildlife management, was born Rand Aldo Leopold in Burlington, Iowa, 125 years ago this month.

His ideas remain as relevant today as they were in his own time.

Leopold's legacy involves his idea of "a land ethic," which he famously penned in his classic book, A Sand County Almanac.

"A land ethic," he wrote, "changes the role of Homo sapiens from conquerer of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."

Garrison Keillor recognized Leopold's birthday on NPR last week: Listen here.

Landowner secures conservation easements on 3,900 acres in Stevens County

CONSERVATION — Working with the Inland Northwest Land Trust, a landowner has protected 3,900 acres of forest land in Stevens County west of Horseshoe Lake with conservation easements.

The latest of two easements assures 2,540 acres will remain a working forest with wildlife habitat on land owned by Beryl Baker.

In 2009, Baker protected 1,363 acres of the timberland that's been in his family for nearly 50 years.

The land includes 68-acre Baker Lake fed by Beaver Creek and other seasonal tributaries in the Little Spokane Watershed.

The land provides wetland habitat and year-round habitat for deer, elk, moose, bear, cougar and other animals. It's the biggest land package to be preserved by the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Land Trust, which is responsible for managing the easement in perpetuity.

Timber will continue to be harvested in a sustainable fashion under the easement, the INLT says.

Baker, who grew up on a Kahlotus-area wheat farm, purchased the property in 1966 after seeing an ad in the Wall Street Journal. “I needed a change from banking in Seattle,” he said.

“I feel fortunate finding a way to protect the property that has been in my family almost 50 years from division and commercial development. The property can only be used for timber production and wildlife habitat. This will provide the animals with a permanent home.”

“Rural areas are some of the last wild places left untamed in Eastern Washington and landowner Beryl Baker will make sure they stay that way forever,” says Chris DeForest, INLT Executive Director.

Groups take sides on relaxing rules on motorized access to roadless areas

CONSERVATION — Opinions among wildlife conservationists regarding legislation that could allow more motor vehicle use in federal roadless areas. 

Which side do you take?

Hunting, fishing groups join environmentalists to fight federal legislation
Members of Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development are joining the National Wildlife Federation and other similar organizations to oppose House Resolution 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, while Safari International and the National Rifle Association support the legislation.
—Durango Herald (Colorado News Connection); Dec. 31

Sportsmen help Forest Service acquire land overlooking Lake Pend Oreille

CONSERVATION — On the south face of the Cabinet Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, 921 acres of elk and moose wintering range have been permanently secured for wildlife habitat and public access in a land-exchange signed Dec. 22.

The swap between Stimson Lumber Co. and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests was made possible in part by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Formerly owned by Stimson Lumber, area has become part of the adjoining Kaniksu National Forest. In exchange, Stimson received a similar amount of U.S. Forest Service acreage in the form of small isolated tracts that are not connected to the main body of the national forest.

All of the lands involved are in Bonner County, Idaho.

Read on for information from the elk foundation:

Four-year effort protects 10,000 acres in Cascades for wildlife

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION — Good things don't always come quick and easy.

Hunters and other conservationists are reminded of that this week as a deal closed to seal four years of negotiations by a partnership of conservation groups and state agencies. The project blocks up and protects about 10,000 acres of public land for big-game and other wildlife in the east and central Cascades.

The deal has foresight to secure the real estate elk and other critters need from winter to summer range.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the most recent purchase in November, using funding from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Grant Program.

But the negotiations and original purchases of land were undertaken by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. The land was purchased from Plum Creek Timber Company to prevent the land from being developed or subdivided as well as to maintain public access.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2009, securing 2,675-acres.

Read on for details from a just-issued RMEF media release a day after the final phase of the deal was closed.

Endangered species get stamp of approval

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Stamp your mail with a note of confidence in the Endangered Species Act by purchasing the recently introduced Save Vanishing Species semipostal stamp, available at post offices.

Although there's no similar tool for dedicating a few cents to this good cause when you send an email, the stamp is an easy and inexpensive way to help conserve wild tigers, rhinos, elephants, great apes and marine turtles around the world — every time you mail a letter.

By purchasing the stamps, which feature the image of an Amur tiger cub, at a rate of 55 cents per stamp — slightly above the cost of first-class postage — the public can directly contribute to the on-the-ground conservation programs overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders programs.

“The Save Vanishing Species stamp offers the public a convenient way to help conserve some of the world’s most endangered animals, from the white rhino to the mountain gorilla to the leatherback marine turtle,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

This is the first U.S. postage stamp issued in the 164-year history of the Postal Service that will raise funds for international wildlife conservation.

The five funds enacted so far by Congress are:

The African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1998, the Great Apes Conservation Act of 2000, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004.

 

To learn more about the Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds and the Save Vanishing Species stamp, visit: www.fws.gov/international/semipostal.Follow the Service’s International Program on Twitter @USFWSInternatl and on Facebook, USFWSInternationalAffairs.

Outdoors can play enjoyable role in a kid’s Christmas

FAMILIES — Aidan Long puts his muscle into bringing home the Monana family's 2011 Christmas tree last weekend.

"No freshly felled fir ever smelled so sweet to me," said his dad, Ben.

A family get-to-gether isn't the only reason to go to a tree farm or buy a Forest Service permit and harvest your own tree, according to five good reasons from The Nature Conservancy.

Real vs fake: Which Christmas tree choice is best for environment?

ENVIRONMENT — According to a video report by The Nature Conservancy, here are the top five reasons why harvesting a real tree for the Christmas holiday might be a better choice for the environment than buying an artificial tree.

ENVIRONMENT — According to The Nature Conservancy, here are the top five reasons why harvesting a real tree for the Christmas holiday is a better choice for the environment than buying an artificial tree.

5. Families have fun and build traditions by heading out to cut their own tree, and real trees smell great in the home.

4. Buying real trees helps keep tree farms in business and helps maintain open space.

 

3. Real trees are more easily and more thoroughly recycled while fake trees are made of vinyl, one more difficult plastics to dispose.

 

2. Artificial trees are a double whammy to the environment, requiring fossil fuels for the raw materials and releasing carbon pollution during the manufacturing.

 

1. Cutting a real tree improves the environment. I must inject that a well-selected tree from the forest can help thin a stand to promote growth of other trees and reduce fire danger. TNC points out that a tree cut from a tree farm usually is replaced by up to three new trees to absorb carbon dioxide out of the air.

Cantwell, Inslee lead effort to protect roadless forests

CONSERVATION — Two Washington lawmakers led a bipartisan group of 131 sponsors to introduce legislation Thursday to assure an administrative rule protecting 58.5 million acres of wild roadless areas on America's public lands

Led by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, a group of sponsored by 20 Senate and 111 bipartisan House co-sponsors introduced the legislation to bolster the recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act will confirm long-term protections against damaging commercial logging and road-building for vulnerable wildlands on 30 percent of the 193-million-acre National Forest System, shielding roadless areas from political tides and whims of future administrations.

Roadless areas provide many benefits to Americans and wildlife: They safeguard the source of drinking water of 60 million Americans; they contain some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in National Forests; and they provide abundant opportunities for quality outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, and backpacking, supporting an industry that contributes an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

National forests cover 9.2 million acres of Washington – about one-fifth of the state’s total land mass. There are two million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Evergreen State, including sites like Kettle River Range, Dark Divide and Lena Lake.

Sen. Cantwell's office prepared this report highlighting the economic, environmental and societal benefits that roadless areas provide.