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Duck stamp art contest makes rare appearance in West

CONSERVATION — One of the country’s biggest wildlife art contests will be judged in Ogden this week as the annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest comes to Utah for the first time in its nearly 80-year history. The event has been to the West only one other time.

The work of nearly 200 artists from across the United States will be open for free viewing by the public at Weber State University, reports Brett Prettyman in the Salt Lake Tribune. Judges will pick one piece during the two-day event to serve as the 2013-14 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

Organizers picked Ogden to host the 2012 event due in a large part to the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding marshlands. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other wildlife use the habitat throughout the year.

Interested in having a picnic with beavers on Sunday?


This Sunday, join The Lands Council for an afternoon of fun and hands-on learning activities focused on nature’s engineer:  The Beaver! This event is suitable for kids of all ages. They willl take you on an easy hike to some infamous beaver dams, making stops along the way for demonstrations and activities including a tree planting. 

But did you answer yes to the headline? Of course you did. They're excited to announce you'll have the opportunity to meet a live beaver. The Lands Council happens to be in the middle of a relocation and they are happy to introduce you their engineering friend.

The event is free and it's this Sunday, September 23rd from 1-4 p.m. at Liberty Lake County Park, 3707 S. Zephyr Rd. More details after the jump.

10th Annual Spokane River Clean Up set for September 29th

It seems so quick but one of my favorite events is upon us: The 10th Annual Spokane River Clean Up will be on Saturday, September 29th. This is your chance to join 800 to 1000 Spokane River lovers to help cart out the trash that accumulates annually.

Go to www.friendsofthefalls.org to register. Clean-up areas include Spokane Valley, the University District and the Spokane River Gorge below downtown. That’s over twenty miles of river you can help clean-up. A growing list of groups, clubs and organizations participate as a way to give back to the community and beautify the river. Examples include high schools, churches, rotary clubs and conservation groups. Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced picker-upper, you’re invited to join the fun.

Duck stamps that boost wetlands, birds aren’t just for hunters

CONSERVATION — If you visit Turnbull Refuge or other national wildlife refuges, consider buying a federal Duck Stamp rather than paying the $3 vehicle entry fee.  The $15 stamp is good for entering any refuge for an entire year, and it helps fund a wildly successful wetlands conservation program.

Anyone who hunts waterfowl is required to buy a duck stamp, but many birders and other conservationists buy the stamps because they know the value of protecting wetlands for the benefit of a wide range of wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says 98 percent of proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to acquire and protect vital wetlands supports hundreds of species of migratory birds, wildlife and plants. The stamps can be purchased from the U.S. Postal Service, from some sporting goods shops and online.

Since the program’s inception in 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $750 million to acquire and protect more than 5.3 million acres of habitat for hundreds of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  These refuges benefit the public by providing access to outdoor recreational activities including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and interpretation.

This year’s Federal Duck Stamp features a single wood duck painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn.  The Junior Duck Stamp features a northern pintail painted by Christine Clayton, a 17 year old from Sidney, Ohio.

Outdoor retailers give Utah ultimatum on wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS —The outdoor recreation industry is flexing its economic muscle—some $640 billion spent annually by Americans on gear, travel and services—to push for wilderness protection in Utah, threatening to pull a lucrative biannual trade show if the state doesn't change course on environmental issues.

According to a story in the Denver Post, the industry last week gave Utah's governor an ultimatum: give up on a threat to take over federal land in the state or risk losing the Outdoor Retailer outdoor gear show that draws thousands of visitors and injects more than $40 million yearly into the state economy.

The outdoor industry and related services represent a sizeable chunk of Utah's income—roughly $4 billion a year, or 5 percent of the state's gross product, the Post article says.

It's not the first time the 4,000-member-strong Outdoor Industry Association has threatened to take its business elsewhere.

High Drive Park project receives $50,000 funding boost

The City of Spokane Urban Forestry program has received a $50,000 boost to its forest health project at High Drive Park. Hikers, mountain bikers, and home owners who value the High Drive bluff area will benefit from the project’s impact on fire risk reduction.

The City’s partnership with the local volunteer stewardship group, Friends of the Bluff, enabled the Urban Forestry department to access funding from a state jobs bill through the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The money will be used for contract work on thinning and pruning the Bluff’s forest. This will reduce the risk of intense, uncontrollable fires that would threaten adjacent homes and neighborhoods as well as the trees themselves,” said Guy Gifford, a forester with DNR. “The thinning and pruning will also improve the forest health as the remaining trees will have more space, light, and moisture so they will be less susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles. We will start work this September, and will be able to treat up to 50 acres of the park.”

Washington Conservation Corps looking to fill 300 positions

Looking for some exciting work and money for school? The Department of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) needs applicants to fill nearly 300 AmeriCorps service positions in 16 counties across the state.

The WCC was created in 1983 and has provided opportunities and training for more than 1,700 young adults. In 1994, WCC started received federal AmeriCorps funding, allowing crews to carry out on-the-ground projects across the state. Local communities rely on WCC to complete environmental projects by forming cost-share agreements with Ecology.

Typical WCC activities include planting trees and vegetation, repairing stream and streamside habitat, constructing and upgrading trails, building fencing and providing environmental education. The WCC also includes the Puget SoundCorps, formed in 2011, to complete projects on public lands designed to help carry out the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda – the single playbook for focusing efforts to recover and protect the Sound. Last year, WCC members planted 940,000 trees and shrubs, improved or restored 1,100 acres of new fish and wildlife habitat and constructed or improved 400 miles of recreational trails.

Millwood Community Energy Efficiency event with Sustainable Works tomorrow

Sustainable Works is inviting you to attend their Millwood Community Energy Efficiency tomorrow 6:30pm at The Crossing Millwood Community Youth Center at 8919 E Euclid. At the Energy Efficiency Kick-off Event, residents will have the opportunity to learn about the SustainableWorks program, ask questions of SustainableWorks’ building analysts, sign-up for a home energy audit, and meet the program’s partners. To learn more about the program, or to sign-up, please visit www.sustainableworks.com, or call the SustainableWorks office at 509-443-3471.

 SustainableWorks is a non-profit focused on creating quality jobs and improving the environment with residential and small commercial energy retrofit projects facilitated through community engagement and participation. SustainableWorks utilizes a $4 million Community Energy Efficiency Program Grant to retrofit up to 2,000 homes and small businesses in moderate-income neighborhoods in Spokane, Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties over the next 2 years. This activity should produce approximately 120 full-time jobs and $12 million in retrofit work, as well as reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons.

What does a “Sportsmen’s Act” have to do with hunters and anglers?

ENVIRONMENT — Can we expect a "Sportsmen's Act" introduced in Congress to actually be in the best interest of hunters and anglers?

A Missoulian opinion columnist is skeptical in this column.

"Those who watch Congress have surely noticed an alarming trend of putting misleading titles on bills and policies that actually do the opposite of what they say," writes George Ochenski.

President Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” provided ways to clearcut national forests without environmental review or public oversight. Likewise, Bush’s “Clean Skies” legislation made it easier for corporations to pollute. The USA PATRIOT Act has nothing to do with patriots and everything to do with spying on citizens. And now we have H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 that, in reality, would undercut the 1964 Wilderness Act and destroy what remains of the nation’s once-great natural heritage.

DU saving wetlands with ’Guns, Gear and Beer’

CONSERVATION – Duck Unlimited will hold its annual Guns, Gear and Beer fundraising event starting at 6 p.m. June 16 at The Condon Barn, 4801 S. Coleman Lane in Spoakne.

Cost: $40, includes steak dinner, beverages and DU Membership

Info: Dave Cote 939-5351; Mike Condon 995-0707.

Conservation funders meet with local groups tonight

CONSERVATION — Local trail-user groups and conservationists are celebrating the major funding efforts of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program with a reception 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., TONIGHT (June 6) at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council Auditorium, 6116 N Market.

The state-funded organization works to leverage public funds for parks, wildlife and working farms, performing a major role in funding outdoor recreation across the state.

In the Spokane area alone, WWRP has provided more than $16 million for conservation and recreation projects. Ranging from the Little Spokane River, Quartz Mountain, Antoine Peak, Mount Spokane and the Centennial Trail, WWRP grants have helped maintain a high quality of life in this area. 

Click here for a complete list of WWRP projects in Spokane County

RSVP for tonight's reception.

New WDFW site details potential wildlife land acquisitions

PUBLIC LANDS – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife unveiled a new web page this week that details a wish list of private properties the state is aiming to purchase to preserve fish and wildlife habitat.

The site includes a virtual tour of 21 proposed land acquisition projects that could take years to complete.

One proposal for Spokane County seeks $1.85 million to purchase 920 acres on Mica Peak adjacent to Inland Empire Paper Co. land to prevent subdividing and fragmenting wildlife habitat protected by adjacent Inland Empire Paper Co. land.

Some of the proposals cover more than 10,000 acres at costs of more than $8 million, including areas in Douglas County, Benton County and a group of areas along the Grande Ronde River in Asotin County.

The agency relies on state and federal grants and help from non-profit groups for most of its acquisitions.

 Among the top grant sources are the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dishman Hills group invites public to ‘Dream’ on

PUBLIC LANDS — The Dishman Hills Alliance is inviting the public to celebrate their latest step toward securing conservation land or easements for a "Dream Trail" through the length of the Dishman Hills.

A dinner celebrating the recent 269-acre Glenrose-area Conservation Futures purchases will be held May 12 starting with socializing at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Moran Prairie Grange, 6106 S. Palouse Hwy.

The Dishman Hills Natural Area Association played an important role in securing the conservation land before it could be carved up for development.  Members of the alliance will toast their success in the decade-old effort to keep a corridor open through the hills for non-motorized travel as well as for wildlife migration.              

Then they'll talk about future plan to made the Dream Trail come true.

Part of the plan involves getting more friends to join the effort

Cost for the dinner celebration is $20 for members. The group is offering a special $10 membership online.

Reardan Audubon wildlife viewing enhancements to be dedicated

WILDLIFE WATCHING – The Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area just north of US 2 at Reardan, is being enhanced with information kiosks that will be dedicated April 29 in a public ceremony starting at 2 p.m.

The 277-acre wildlife area was acquired in 2006 with state grant funds and support from Spokane Audubon Society and the Inland Northwest Land Trust.  The wetlands, seasonal ponds, grasslands, channeled scablands and 80-acre lake support about 200 bird and other wildlife species, 12 of special concern in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Lincoln County area was popular with birdwatchers long before public acquisition. A hotspot for spring migrants, birders put it on their annual field trips list, calling the wetlands Audubon Lake.

The ceremony will be held at the wildlife area’s southside parking lot. From the intersection of US 2 and State Route 231 in the town of Reardan, go north to Railroad Avenue, then drive east to Audubon Way. 

At 3 p.m. refreshments will be available at Reardan Community Building, 110 N. Lake St., courtesy of Friends of Reardan Audubon Lake.

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.

Sustainable Works Open House on March 1st

Sustainable Works has a new home in Hillyard they're inviting you to an open house at the new location, 5315 N Market St. Drinks and food will be available and the event goes down Thursday, March 1st, 4:00pm-6:00pm. It's a great opportunity to check out the new spot, meet their staff and learn more their program. RSVP to Luke Tolley at luke.tolley@sustainableworks.com or 509-443-3471.

Little background: Sustainable Works is a non-profit focused on creating quality jobs and improving the environment with residential and small commercial energy retrofit projects facilitated through community engagement and participation. Sustainable Works utilizes a $4 million Community Energy Efficiency Program Grant to retrofit up to 2,000 homes and small businesses in moderate-income neighborhoods in Spokane, Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties over the next 2 years. This activity should produce approximately 120 full-time jobs and $12 million in retrofit work, as well as reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons.

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.