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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

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.

One month left to get a $95 home energy audit with Sustainabl​e Works

Spokane residents have one month left to receive asubsidized home energy audit with local non-profit general contractor Sustainable Works. With stimulus funds running out, the price of home energyaudits will increase to $195 at the first of the year. This is the final opportunity for Spokane residents to find out how to make their homes more energy efficient this winter at a greatly reduced cost. The purpose of the Sustainable Works programis is to help homeowners make home improvements that reduce their energy use andenergy bills. In additional to receiving a low cost home energy audit, participants can save on items like furnaces, air sealing, insulation, and hot water heaters that reduce their energy costs. To learn more about the program, or to sign-up, visit www.sustainableworks.com or call 509-532-1688. You must sign-up by midnight of December 31st to qualify for the $95 home energyaudit. New clients must pay for their audit by January 31, 2012.

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.

Obama administration urges new wilderness protections

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in Idaho, Washington and seven other Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior.

The administration apparently hopes that significant local support that's already been generated for these areas will prompt a Congress that can’t agree on the simplest things to approve legislation establishing new land protections.

The proposals include creating San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington and protections for the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of central Idaho.

The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.

Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land, the Associated Press reports. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been declared wilderness.

The proposal is the latest plank in what the administration is calling the America’s Great Outdoor’s initiative. Representatives from all 50 states were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The conservation plans are meant to protect public land, encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and bolster employment in tourism and recreation.

One last tree planting effort at Hangman Creek before winter

CONSERVATION — The InlandNorthwest Land Trust is calling for volunteers ond FRIDAY to “Beat the Frost” with a tree planting effort to help restore a riparian area along Hangman Creek just south of Spokane.

The group hopes to get 10-15 volunteers from noon to 3 p.m. Friday to help plant 200 trees at either the Bryant/Sayre property or the neighboring Hein property while the weather permits.

The trees will help stabilize the stream bank, decrease erosion and future solar radiation, and increase wildlife habitat along Hangman Creek.

What you will need: gloves, water, snacks (if you wish), and a shovel.

Contact: Brooke Nicholson, email outreach@inlandnwlandtrust.org or

call (509) 328-2939 to sign up and receive directions.

Inland Northwest Land Trust annual party is Monday

 CONSERVATION — The Inland Northwest Land Trust, which works quietly with landowners to preserve the landscape with conservation easements and other methods, will hold its annual meeting and Harvest Party Monday, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Community Building lobby, 35 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

INLT vital statistics:

44 conservation easements

29 partner projects

33.9 miles of shoreline protected

12,174 acres conserved

New conservation area opens up in Riverfront Park


Today was a celebration of the "new conservation area" in Riverfront Park without much evidence of the old YMCA building that was demolished amidst controversy.

Was it worth it? The opening of the area is beautiful. I don't miss the old building. It was a blight. I just wish there had been a better funding mechanism to tear down the YMCA other than diverting 4.3 million of Conservation Futures money. That's about $200 a square foot. Plus, the demolition went overbudget and the Spokane Park department is already under enough economic duress.  

After the jump, behold…

Advocates not resting as Senate blocks raid on top trails funding source

TRAILS — The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 to reject Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) amendment to siphon the only dedicated source of funding for walking and biking trails into bridge repair projects.

"The amendment was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, important news as we head into what is likely to be months of more attacks on the Transportation Enhancements program," said Jake Lynch of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Transportation Enhancements funds have been the largest and most cost-effective source of funding for trails, walking and bicycling during the last 20 years.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has posted a short story on both the vote and the amendment.

"This current budget battle has the potential to dramatically alter everything from how we get around to our economic, environmental and personal health for decades to come," said Lynch, who's based in Washington, D.C.

Follow the political threats to active transportation on the Rails-to-Trails Consevancy blog.

City Council’s response to water rates

By now, I hope you've seen the story how most Spokane users paid less on their water bills this summer. It puts the controversy in perspective doesn't it? Tis the campaign season, after all, and people buy into misinformation since fear sells.

 

But the facts remain.

Spokane's utility billing department said 53 percent of bills were less than they would have been under the 2010 rate structure.

The reason some folks were upset:

- 37 percent paid up to $50 more during the two-month cycle.
- 7 percent paid between $50 and $100 more during the two-month cycle.
- 3 percent paid more than $100 more during the two-month cycle.

 So if you're the Hank Hill of watering your lawns, then you noticed an increased rate. After the jump is the more detailed response from City Council and for more data click HERE.

Veteran artist’s wood duck painting wins 2011-2012 Duck Stamp contest

WETLANDS CONSERVATION — Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest on Saturday with his acrylic painting of a single wood duck.

Hautman has previously won the contest three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2007. His art will be made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale July 1, 2012.

The federal migratory bird stamp program has raised $750 million for wetlands conservation since its inception in 1934. The money has been used, among other things, to preserve 5 million acres of wetlands habitat important not only to ducks and geese, but also to a wide range of other wildlife.

See a video about the Duck Stamp Contest here.

I'll be writing more about the current status of the Duck Stamp program and why waterfowl hunters and other wildlife and wetlands cconservationists should be paying particularly close attention this year.

Conservation lands generate billions of $ for national economy, study finds

CONSERVATION — The myth that "conservation lands" are locked up and useless to the public is debunked in dollars and sense by a new economic study  that documents how conservation, recreation and preservation lands support 9.4 million jobs and generate $1 trillion a year to the U.S. economy.

The study was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Let's hope that rational minds pore over details of these findings before succumbing to North Dakota's knee-jerk reaction to legislatively prohibit any "net gain" of protected lands.

This information needs to be considered by Congressmen attempting to water down laws protecting roadless and wilderness portions of public lands.

Read on for more details and comments from former public lands officials, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and others.

Metalhead flick featured at Spokane TU gathering

FISHING — If you're a steelheading fly-fisher and you haven't seen the BC fishing flick Metalhead, now's the time. 

Even if you have seen it, the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited suggests joining them and having some fun and watching the film as they show the movie Monday (Oct 24) starting at 7 p.m. at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Avenue in Spokane.

Metalhead is an exciting film from AEG productions. It features die-hard trout bums hooking up with impressive BC steelhead and having a dirt-bag adventure in the wilds of Canada's pristine steelhead country.

Cost: $7 bucks at the door - $5 bucks if you purchase beforehand from Silverbow, Swedes, Westslope or Castaway Flyshop out in Coeur d'Alene

Why: come have fun and support steelhead/trout conservation in Eastern Washington
 
Bring some cash for the raffle and join TU at the Saranac Public House from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. before the show for beverages (happy hour prices) and fishing stories.
 
Still have questions? Email me at jerrywhitefish@gmail.com

Local falconer’s Audubon program connects hunting, conservation

WILDLIFE — "Falconry and game hunting, a conservation alliance," is the title of a program to be presented by Spokane falconer Doug Pineo on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Audubon’s Society which meets at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. near Upriver Drive.

Pineo's involvement in falconry dates back decades, and he was involved with the movement that brought the peregrine falcon back from the brink of extinction.  He recently retired a shoreline specialist with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Wetlands declining, report confirms

CONSERVATION — America's wetlands declined slightly from 2004-2009, underscoring the need for continued conservation and restoration efforts, according to a report issued last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is merely affirmation of an old story. The federal agency's Status and Trends Wetlands reports from previous decades have documented a continuous albeit diminishing decline in wetlands habitat.

Read on for more details.

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Fest starts tonight in Sandpoint

OUTDOOR FILMS — The largest environmental and adventure film festival in North America, is coming to the historic Panida Theatre in Sandpoint tonight and Saturday, sponsored by the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy.

The festival’s award-winning environmental and outdoor adventure films were chosen from among the favorites at the annual film festival held in the Sierra Nevada foothills each January.

Event raffle prizes include items from sponsor organizations and a grand prize donated by Boulder Hut Adventures — a trip for two valued at $2,000.

It's a great Canadian mountains getaway, assessed in winter by helicopter… I've been there!  Check out my video of the backcountry skiing ops provided by a Sandpoint family that operates Boulder Hut.

Get tickets in advance online here or at REI Spokane at 1125 N Monroe.

Wild Night for Wilderness Sept. 30 in Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — “Wild Night For Wilderness" – a community celebration of the great outdoors, is being organized into an evening of music, slides and updates on the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, at Evans Brother’s Coffee in Sandpoint.

The evening also includes a taste of local libations — featuring locally brewed beer by Laughing Dog and locally crafted wine by Pend d’Oreille Winery — plus free appetizers, door prizes and music by Baregrass, a popular local dance band.

The event, sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education and Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness,  will have a no-host bar, $5 cover at the door.

Info: (208) 265-9565.

Photographer’s free program features Owls, woodpeckers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Distinguished wildlife photographer Paul Bannick will present a free multimedia presentation based on his book "The Owl and the Woodpecker" TONIGHT (Sept. 26), starting at 5 p.m. in the  Wolff Auditorium, Jepson Center, Gonzaga University.

The event is sponsored by Gonzaga Environmental Studies.

Ducks Unlimited raising wetland funds at Northern Quest BBQ

CONSERVATION — With waterfowlers gearing up for the fall general season start (Oct. 15), the West Plains Chapter of Ducks Unlimited is sponsoring BBQ buffet dinner and fundraising auction Oct. 6 at Northern Quest Casino.

Many species of wildlife benefit from the work of DU and the generosity of sportsmen and other conservationist to preserve and restore wetland habitats.

Buy tickets online by Oct. 1 for a chance on $100 Duck Bucks to use on the Live Auction!

Read on for details.

DU encourages waterfowls to double up on Duck Stamps

WETLANDS CONSERVATION – Ducks Unlimited is asking duck hunters and other waterfowl enthusiasts to “double up for the ducks” by purchasing two federal duck stamps this year.

“The federal duck stamp has been an important tool in waterfowl habitat conservation for 77 years, but its ability to purchase and conserve important waterfowl habitat has been greatly diminished by inflation and rising land prices,” DU CEO Dale Hall said. “The purpose of the ‘Double Up for the Ducks’ campaign is to show that hunters support the program and are willing to pay more for the duck stamp in order to conserve waterfowl habitat. We view the duck stamp as an investment in conservation, not as a tax on hunters.”

This effort is part of a larger campaign currently being led by Ducks Unlimited to increase the price of the federal duck stamp.

Read on for details.

Volunteers to give Dishman Hills some TLC on Saturday

CONSERVATION — Friends of the Dishman Hills Natural Area in Spokane Valley are welcoming all volunteers to the end of Summer National Public Land Day event to spruce up this popular urban 'wilderness.'
 
Meet Saturday, 9:30 a.m. at Camp Caro (parking off Appleway and Sargent Road).

Activities will concentrate within the DHNA itself and two other trailheads.

Items to bring:

  • Work Gloves
  • Water
  • Snacks (if desired as none has been allocated for this event)
      

Arrangements have been made between the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association and Spokane County Parks and Recreation for the bathrooms to be open on Saturday. Eat a good breakfast to get you through the morning, but there's a rumor that doughnuts will be availablefor volunteers in the morning upon arrival at Camp Caro.

Idaho Panhandle forest planning issues to be detailed by conservationist

PUBLIC LANDS — As the Idaho Panhandle National Forests gear up to revise their forest management plansfor the next 15-20 years, conservationists are sizing up the potential impacts on recreation and wilderness.

Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League will give a presentation about the Panhandle plan revision and possible impacts on the Selkirk Mountains. The program is set for MondaySept. 19, 7 p.m., at Mountain Gear's Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield. See map.

Chimney Rock, Harrison Peak, the Lion's Head, Long Canyon and the Idaho side of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness are among the premier recreation sites included in the planning area, he said.

Pullman adopts stream conservation project; holds festival Sept. 17

CONSERVATION — Pullman is working with private landowners and students to beautify and maintain the several that flow through the Palouse town.

The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute in partnership with the City of Pullman will kick off the

  • Spokane River Cleanup seeks team leaders for Oct. 1 event

    STEWARDSHIP — Organizers of the annual Spokane River Clean Up, set for Oct. 1, hope to at least match the 800 volunteers who collected six tons of debris from along the rive shores last year.

    In addition to the effort in the Spokane River Gorge and the University District, the cleanup will have groups working in the Spokane Valley, too.

    Volunteers should pre-register.

    To sign up as a team leader, contact Stephen Barbieri, (509) 953-6437 or email stephenbarbieri@msn.com

    A click a day: Help The Lands Council win a grant

    CONSERVATIONThe Lands Council of Spokane is ranking high in a national online contest for a grant from Tom's of Maine the help reforest areas of Spokane — to provide much-needed shade, reduce traffic noise and beautify our city.

    But the group needs more supporters to go online daily through Sept. 13 and click to give the effort a vote.

    The Lands Council website has details on the contest and how you can help the reforestation campaign — but mainly, go here to vote for the Lands Council.

    Washington lands $4.6 million in federal fisheries habitat grants

    FISHERIES — The Inland Northwest netted millions for fish and wildlie habitat restoration from a total of $53 million grants recently awarded from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund primarily aimed at boosting endangered species.

    States must contribute a minimum match of 25 percent of the estimated program costs of approved projects, or 10 percent when two or more states or territories implement a joint project.

    In Washington, state partners will receive $4.6 million in grants benefiting dozens of species.

    The Eastern Washington projects include:

    • Methow Watershed, $3.5 million, for Phase 8, in Okanogan County, Wash., to secure 2,700 acres and additional stream frontage protecting spawning and rearing habitat for listed salmonids, landscape corridors for listed carnivores and their mule deer prey, and habitat for at least 23 at-risk species covered by the Plum Creek Habitat Conservation Plan.
    • Northern Blue Mountains Bull Trout Recovery, $712,650,  (Asotin and Columbia counties) to conserve bull trout habitat through a combination of land acquisition and conservation easements on at least five key properties totaling 2,872 acres along the northern rim of the Umatilla National Forest in both the Touchet River and Asotin Creek watersheds. These efforts will also protect important winter range for populations of elk and deer in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington, thereby providing the primary food source for natural re-colonization by gray wolves.

    Western Montana partners landed $4 million for funding a conservation easement on 9,300 acres of the Stimson Forestlands Conservation Project in Missoula County to benefit fish and wildlife.

    See a complete list of the National 2011 grant awards under these programs.

    Friday Quote: Pine bark beetles are like a canary in a coalmine for climate change

    Friends who live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado recently complained that pine bark beetles were bringing devastation to the forests around Steamboat Springs and throughout the Rocky Mountain West. According to recent reports, Colorado and Wyoming have lost 3.5 million acres of mountain forest to the bark beetle, with up to 100,000 trees on average falling every day.

    As bad as the problem is, scientists with the US Forest Service say the problem is likely to get even worse in coming decades as coniferous forests adjust to climate change. Warmer winters allow the beetles to survive and multiply.
     
    Like a canary in a coalmine, the bark beetles are just one of the many early warning signs of accelerating global climate change. Climate change is here. It is affecting us now, in numerous ways, both seen and unseen. Even those who deny the reality of climate change are having trouble denying the accumulating evidence that something is going terribly wrong with our natural world.