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Wildlife Commission to hear hunting season proposals, wolf report

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Proposed hunting season changes and the annual status report on wolf recovery in Washington will be presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets March 7-8 in Moses Lake.

The most significant changes in hunting seasons include four new moose tags in restricted archery and muzzleloader hunts in northeastern Washington as well as reductions of elk tags in southwestern Washington in response to a hoof rot issue that's crippling elk.

The wolf report will include the agency's revised estimates for the number of wolves and the number of wolf packs in Washington and how the numbers relate to the state's wolf recovery and management plans.

See the agenda for the meeting, which will be held at the Moses Lake Civic Center, 401 S. Balsam.

Elk management on Idaho commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider the state Fish and Game Department's revised elk management plan when it meets Jan. 15-16 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

A public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. January 15, in the Trophy Room of the headquarters building at 600 S. Walnut St.

Routine agenda items include season setting for upland game, furbearers and turkey; a big game briefing; appointment of Winter Feeding Advisory Committee members; JFAC budget preview.

Environmental film, Fierce Green Fire, screens Monday at Gonzaga

ENVIRONMENT — The Gonzaga University Environmental Studies program is inviting the public to a free  discussion-stimulating presentation of the environmental film, “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet.”

The film will be screened at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, at Jepson Center, Wolff Auditorium.

  • In Sandpoint, the film will be shown Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center, 102 S, Euclid Ave., sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

Shown at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the film explores 50 years of environmental activism, from conservation to climate change.

Director Mark Kitchell – whose previous film, Berkeley in the 60s, was nominated for an Academy Award – will lead discussions between film segments. 

The film unfolds in five acts, each with a central story and character:

  • David Brower and the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon.
  • Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals.
  • Paul Watson and Greenpeace’s campaigns to save whales and baby harp seals.
  • Chico Mendes and Brazilian rubbertappers’ fight to save the Amazon rainforest.
  • Bill McKibben and the 25-year effort to address the impossible issue – climate change.

Scout leaders disciplined after toppling rocks in Utah park

PUBLIC LANDS — I've seen their embarrassing display of leadership in the home video (above) from the field as they toppled an ancient rock feature on Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.

I've also seen their lame attempts to justify their vandalism as ensuring the safety of visitors.

But the bottom line is that these two Boy Scout leaders are stupid thugs who have no business being role models for our  youth. 

If  you see an issue that needs attention on public lands, contact the management authorities.  It's illegal to destroy natural features.

Boy Scouts remove leaders who toppled rock formation in Utah park
The Boy Scout leaders who toppled a rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, and captured their actions on video that went viral online, have been removed from their leadership positions.
—Salt Lake Tribune;

California first state to ban lead ammo for hunting

HUNTING — California will become the first state to ban lead ammunition for all types of hunting, according to a bill signed into law signed today by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The ban is set to be fully phased in by July 1, 2019, in order to protect wildlife and humans from the dangers of consuming lead-shot meat.

Animal rights groups help spearhead the legislation in part to protect endangered California condors, which have been known to die from lead poisoning after consuming lead-bullet-tainted gut piles or meat from animals wounded by hunters.

  • The issues have been the source of debate and research for years.

Brown said the bill protects hunters by allowing the ban to be lifted if the federal government ever prohibits non-lead ammo.

According to the Associated Press, opponents of AB711 argued that non-lead ammunition is more expensive and could be banned federally because it is technically considered to be armor-piercing.

Supporters of the new law say the use of lead bullets also endangers humans who eat game killed with the ammunition.

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood says the ban makes sense because lead has already been prohibited in paint, gasoline and toys.

In a mixed day for gun owners, Brown vetoed a bill that would have banned future sales of most semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines, part of a firearms package approved by state lawmakers in response to mass shootings in other states.

The bill would have imposed the nation's toughest restrictions on gun ownership.

Brown also signed a measure from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which bans kits that allow people to turn regular ammunition magazines into high-capacity magazines.

He also signed two other pieces of legislation, which restrict the ability of mentally ill people to possess firearms.

Environmentalists win $1.25 million grazing suit in Oregon

PUBLIC LANDS — Environmental groups have won $1.25 million in compensation for attorney fees and costs in their years-long battle against cattle grazing in Oregon's Malheur National Forest and it's impacts on threatened steelhead habitat, according to the Capital Press.

Last year, a federal judge ended a court battle between environmentalists, ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service over the effect grazing had on threatened steelhead habitat.

Sierra Clubbers lead strolls in local natural areas

OUTDO – Sierra Clubbers are leading a series of evening walks with an environmental emphasis through Spokane-area natural areas that runs through September.

Hikes so far have been in Riverside State Park and on Mount Spokane.

Read on for the remaining list with details on each hike and the contacts.

Canada mines taint Elk River fishery in B.C., threaten downstream fisheries

FISHERIES — A new study says a metal-like element called selenium is leeching from coal mines into the Elk river drainage in southeastern British Columbia, threatening fish habitat in Canada and downstream in Montana.

The study found five coal mines in the Elk River Valley are causing toxic pollution, and four of the coal mines are planning expansions.

The Elk River in the area near Fernie, British Columbia, is a fishing stream prized by fly fishers.

The Missoulian reports a new coal mine proposal and three exploration projects are also under way.

The executive director of a conservation group called Wildsight says the selenium affects reproductive organs in fish and could lead to a population collapse.

The Elk River joins the Kootenai River at Lake Koocanusa.

The study was commissioned by Glacier National Park and carried out by the University of Montana’s Ric Hauer and Erin Sexton.

Expect more information on this alarming development.

Women, climate change topic of Gonzaga environmental series talk

ENVIRONMENT – Sustainability expert Gloria Flora will be in Spokane this week to discuss how women worldwide are confronting the challenge of climate change.

The free public lecture titled, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Women and the Global Response to Climate Change” at 5:30 p.m., Friday (March 22) in the Wolff Auditorium of Gonzaga University's Jepson Center.

The lecture is part of the Gonzaga Environmental Studies Speaker Series — which recently sponsored Dr. Jane Goodall — and is sponsored by the Gonzaga environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies departments.

Read on for more details about Flora and her quest to keep flora and fauna functioning on earth.

North Idaho cutthroat need help from cool heads

FISHING —  Warmer water temperatures being recorded in North Idaho streams and rivers are creating unhealthy conditions for trout, especially the region's westslope cutthroats, Idaho environmental officials said.

A recent analysis by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality shows that nearly 900 miles of streams in Kootenai and Shoshone counties are reaching temperatures up to 80 degrees in warmer months, well above the optimal temperature of 55 degrees or colder for trout species that attract legions of fly fishers.

The biggest factor to the warming trend is excessive sun exposure and lack of tree cover that provides shade and protection, Kajsa Stromberg, DEQ spokeswoman, told the Coeur d'Alene Press in a story published Tuesday.

In addition, Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game studies over the years have documented major losses of deep holes and stream structure trout would seek to survive such conditions. Historic mining, logging and road-building practices contributed to the problems.

The region most affected by the warmer waters is the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River Sub basin, a region with a national reputation for producing great cutthroat trout fishing.

The warmer temperatures have a variety of negative impacts on trout, from making the fish lethargic to heightened risk and exposure to potentially threatening disease.

THE GOOD NEWS is that the DEQ is proposing a plan to lower water temperatures and improve access to colder, deeper waters to help reverse the warming trend.

  • The strategy includes building more rock structures and logs to narrow and deepen channels and improving access fish have to cold-water channels and natural springs. The plan, now open for public review and comment, would also protect more of the region's shoreline trees from timber harvest managed by the U.S. Forest Service and provide incentives to private landowners.

The agency is taking written comments on the proposal until April 10, followed by a public hearing. The agency will also submit its draft plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for review.

THE BAD NEWS is that the online reaction to the CdA Press story on this issue was dominated by comments suggesting the DEQ's proposal is an example of government waste or a “liberal” reaction to climate change. 

God help us if such ignorance is allowed to guide our stewardship of natural resources.

Main reasons the BIA sees proposed casino not harming Fairchild

The key section of the recently released Bureau of Indian Affairs environmental impact statement summarizes why the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and project doesn't impede or endanger the operation of Fairchild Air Force Base, west of town.  A major argument cited by critics was the fear that future Base Relocation and Closure reviews would lead to a reduction in operations at Fairchild.

The proposed casino would be about 1.5 miles away from the main gate of Fairchild.

The attached document (linked below) is the third chapter which is the BIA comments and responses.

The pages worth looking at are 3-13 through 3-18.

Here's the summarized response:

“For the reasons described above and in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, the Proposed Project would have no impact on Fairchild AFB’s military value based on the evaluation criteria historically used by past BRAC committees to develop recommendations for base realignment and closure.

 As described in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, implementation of the Proposed Project would not encroach upon Fairchild AFB’s available air space or impede its ability to implement the operational and training mission of the installation because:

1) with the implementation of mitigation recommended in Section 5.0 of the Final EIS the Proposed Project would not create an air navigation hazard or otherwise impede Fairchild AFB operations;

2) the Tribe has agreed to accept any inconveniences associated with AFB operations during operation of the Proposed Project; and 3) the Fairchild AFB has confirmed that it will not alter its flight patterns in response to complaints from the Tribe related to nuisances on the project site.  Therefore, with identified mitigation measures contained in Section 5.0, the Proposed Project is not considered an “encroachment” that would make Fairchild AFB vulnerable to closure” 


Documents:

National Park group honors Dicks for conservation

PUBLIC LANDS — Retiring Congressman Norm Dicks has receive a conservation award from a national parks group.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has awarded its highest honor, The George B. Hartzog Award, to Rep. Norm Dicks, D-WA, for his career-long support of America’s national parks and the National Park Service.

Hartzog, Parks director from 1964 to 1972, expanded the National Park System and worked with Congress to achieve comprehensive funding of the national parks.     

Dicks has served on the Interior appropriations subcommittee since being elected to Congress in 1976. 

While he supported a wide range of parks from the Everglades to Yosemite, Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula is a notable gem in Dicks’ district.  He was an early supporter of removing the dams that significantly impacted the park ecosystem and blocked the passage of anadromous fish. 

The Congressman was a key player in securing the passage of the Elwha River Restoration Act in 1992.  After passage of this act, Dicks helped secure 15 consecutive appropriations to make dam removal a reality.

In a press release, the parks retiree group called that “an unheard of accomplishment.”  

The Elwha Dam is gone, and the Glines Canyon Dam will be gone next year.  The Elwha River will be free flowing, and the restoration of a major ecosystem, within a nationally and internationally recognized park, is on its way.

Upon receiving the award, Congressman Dicks said, “this is a great honor and I deeply appreciate the recognition for one of the most enduring causes of my career on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee — improving and expanding our National Parks. These are the ‘crown jewels’ of the American landscape and I am proud of what we did in Congress during my tenure to improve the visitor experience at all of our park units.”                                                                                                                                       

Idaho forest dryness spikes; fire danger extreme

PUBLIC LANDS — “We were sitting pretty good a couple of weeks ago, but there's been marked increase in field dryness,” said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forest public affairs officer, getting word out that potential for forest fires have changed remarkably in just the past week.

“Monitoring stations in the North Fork Coeur d'Alene, near St. Maries and in the Selkirks are registering in the top 3 percent of dryness ever recorded.”

Forest Service plans for annual fall controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat and clear out forest understory to reduce fire danger next year are on hold until conditions are less volatile, he said.

“Even if it wasn't so dry in the Panhandle, the smoke that's moved into the region would be enough to put off our controlled burning plans because of air quality requirements,” he said.

“At least the smoke is a good reminder that there are fires all around us. We haven't had any significant fires, but we're not out of the woods yet.”

Volunteers to pick up NF CdA River Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — The crowds that trashed the prized North Fork Coeur d'Alene fishing waters this summer have subsided back to the places they leave their garbage the rest of the year.

So it’s time for a river cleanup.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, the North Fork Coeur d’Alene River Watershed Advisory Group and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are organizing a public clean-up day including a free BBQ lunch and prizes for the “most interesting” garbage collected.

  • The river cleanup event will begin at 9 a,m. 
  • Volunteers check-in at Albert’s Landing, 2 miles north of Kingston on Old River Road.
  • Barbecue and prize drawings will start at 1 p.m.

Info: Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District at (208) 769-3028.

”We are thrilled to host this much-needed river cleanup,” said Kajsa Stromberg, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality scientist and WAG facilitator. “All summer-long, there have been boaters, floaters, campers, and other visitors enjoying the North Fork and now we have cans and garbage piling up along the river banks and filling up its deep pools. Sometimes the river shines with all the cans.”

Fish suffering from Forest Service road neglect

PUBLIC LANDS — Shrinking budgets at national forests are putting the squeeze on native fisheries.

Cutbacks in maintaning mountain roads have left a backlog of work totalling more than $1 billion in the national forests of Washington and Oregon alone, the Forest Service officials report.

The result is erosion, clogged culverts, road blowouts, blocked fish passage, and spawning areas smothered in silt.

Northwest Public Radio has an excellent report on the situation.

Trashing the CdA River, one raft at a time

RIVERS — At the risk of sounding like a liberal, greenie, environmental wacko, I must say I'm disgusted by the number of beer cans and even bottles the summer river tubers and rafters deposit in the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River on a hot summer day.

Seems like the Pack It In-Pack It Out slogan is replaced by Put It In-Puke It Out.

I'll let you know when Bud Lights outnumber cutthroat trout.

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.

JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.

The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution.  The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.

Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.

Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

Daily Show sets hook on Simplot connection with two-headed fish in Idaho

FISHERIES — Maybe there's no connection with the two-headed trout being found in Idaho streams and the six selenium mines operated by the J.R.Simplot Co

I mean, who would believe anything in the New York Times.

Maybe there's no involvement with the giant agribusiness and the silence on the research by Idaho politicians who've married into the Simplot family.

But this special video report by Jon Stewart's reporter Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show last night sure makes an angler think about the possibilities, and have a good laugh about how things operate.

Mutated fish:  another good reason for catch-and-release.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit,  by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

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.

Idaho Rep. Simpson ranked among top “enemies of the Earth”

ENVIRONMENT — Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, has made the Los Angeles Times list of Congress's 10 most powerful and outspoken opponents of clean air, clean water, conservation and climate action.

 Simpson has stepped to the front lines of his party's war on Mother Nature by adding dozens of anti-environment riders to must-pass budget legislation.

See the entire list and some entertaining background.

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.

Oregon Conservation Fund a misnomer, groups say

PREDATOR CONTROL — Oregon's new fund to boost predator control is appallingly misnamed environmental groups say.

Even Governor John Kitzhaber complained of the name when he signed the measure into law, according to a Northwest Public Radio report.

Few people would balk at contributing at face value to the “Wildlife Conservation Fund.”

But Brooks Fahy of Eugene-based Predator Defense calles the name is a sham. It's “offensive, because it's just the opposite. It should be the 'Wildlife Destruction Act,” Fahy told correspondent Chris Lehman.

The newly created Wildlife Conservation Fund targets hunters. Starting in January, hunting license buyers can volunteer a donation when they apply for their license.

Most of the money will be funneled toward an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture predator control program, Lehman reports.

Among other things, the federal agents kill problem coyotes and bears, a program supported by many sportsmen, ranchers and timber companies.

Environmental groups urged Governor Kitzhaber to veto the measure. The governor signed the bill, but said he was concerned about quote “truth in labeling” when it comes to the name of the fund.

On the web:

Oregon House Bill 3636


Governor Kitzhaber's Statement

Environmentalist’s Letter to the Governor.

  

Conservation groups lost political capital in wolf issue

CONSERVATION — The environmental movement is facing serious challenges in the current political and economic climate. 

Considering bills in state legislatures and in Congress, some conservationists believe they've lost considerable political capitol in their tough stance to prolonging endangered species status for the gray wolf int he Northern Rockies.

“But where some see those challenges as symptoms of larger issues - more money in politics or more polarization in Congress - others see a clear need for the environmental movement to change tactics or face serious consequences,” according to the Bozeman Chronicle in a series of stories titled Conservation at a Crossroads.

The paper has taken an insightful look at the state of the regional conservation movement.

More Coverage

The Lands Council prepping for annual banquet

ENVIRONMENT — A few tickets remain available for The Lands Council's 16th annual April Showers auction and banquet on April 16 at The DoubleTree Hotel in Spokane.

The event always features good food and wine along with live and silent auction items in a fundraiser to benefit the group's efforts to preserve, protect and revitalize Inland Northwest forests, water & wildlife.
 
  • Tickets: $60 per individual or $400 per table of eight.
  • Reservations: Amanda Swan, 209-2851.

Have a little faith: Join Earth Hour event March 26

ENVIRONMENT — Artists and naturalists will be mingled in a local gathering that will link world-wide activities during the Faith and Environment Network's annual Called to Care event  on Earth Hour Day, March 26 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 127 E. 12th Ave. on Spokane's South Hill.

Earth Hour is an event initiated by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. 

The Spokane Group joined Earth Hour 2010 as 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action in celebration and contemplation of the planet we all have in common.

The local Faith and Environment Network engages people of faith and their congregations in caring for creation.

This year's event at the cathedral includes:

  • Artists and naturalists discussing the environment.
  • Dark Sky movement presentation on environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.
  • Music, readings and medications from various faith traditions.
  • Turning off lights at the Cathedral at 8:30 p.m. in tune with the global observation of Earth Hour.

Activities start at 4:30 p.m. A light supper will be provided.

Donation: $15 is suggested.

Info: Evita Krislock, 220-6532 or Thomas Soeldner, 607-7115.

Gifts greenies are giving their kids

WILDLIFE EDUCATION — Here’s a list of cool educational stuff to consider getting a kid 4-9 years old for a holiday gift, regardless of whether you’re an environmentalist or someone who’s afraid of that title but still loves the outdoors.

The list that comes from imaginechildhood.com includes items designed to turn the outdoors into a classroom. With some parental nurturing, they’ll help kids understand how animals live and survive in the wilds, identify passing tracks, read about their living and migration habits, use a compass to document the direction they are travelling, and a pocket scope to watch the animals from afar.

Like most people, I already have most of the items in my house, including the worn copy of Owl Moon, which was a favorite children’s book in our family (for the parents AND the kids). I thought if it this morning as I walked the dogs before sunrise and heard a great horned owl hooting in the nearby ponderosa pines

Read on to check out the items, which are available online or in one form or another from area retailers.

Homeowners can learn how to go green in Sunday tour

Homeowners on Sunday can learn about techniques for going green, such as a custom-built straw bale home, a green kitchen remodel or an urban chicken coop designed with reclaimed materials.

The projects are on display throughout Spokane County as part of the second annual Green + Solar Home & Landscape Tour and Information Fair.

The free information fair will be held 2-6 p.m. at Eco Depot, 1326 East Sprague Ave., Spokane.
In addition, tickets are on sale for tours of new and remodeled projects showcasing differing sustainable design styles, construction strategies and lifestyle choices. Tickets range from $8 to $25 and can be picked up at Green Salon & Day Spa, 227 West Riverside Ave., Spokane.

The $8 rate is for those who wish to take a bicycle tour of five projects on the South Hill. Sunday is SpokeFest, the annual bike event with a series of route choices for riders.

The tour is sponsored by the Washington Department of Ecology, the Northwest Eco-Building Guild and the Emerging Green Builders.

Tour booklets and tickets are on sale at Auntie’s Bookstore, Eco Depot and the Main Market Co-op. Tickets can be purchased at Green Salon & Day Spa on Sunday morning.
Information: http://sustainableseptemberspokane.org.