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Feds release plan for bull trout conservation in 5 states

FISHING — Stemming from a lawsuit won by environmental groups, a federal agency is proposing revisions to his protections for by bull trout. Here's a peak at the proposals from the Associated Press.  (The draft plan was released Monday and will be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday.)

BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials are releasing a plan Thursday to recover struggling bull trout populations in five Western states with the goal of lifting Endangered Species Act protections for the fish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes lifting protections individually in six recovery units spread over Idaho, western Montana, Washington, Oregon and a tiny portion of northern Nevada when specific requirements are met. The agency said the areas contain distinct populations of bull trout with unique characteristics.

“We think the approach is tactical and appropriate,” said Steve Duke, bull trout recovery planning coordinator for the agency. “We think it focuses on what still needs to be done, and it lets local agencies and those with managerial oversight focus on those areas without having to look at the larger distribution of bull trout.”

Bull trout are a cold water species listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states in 1999. Experts say cold, clean water is essential for the fish.

The plan doesn’t dictate actions but looks at ways to keep water in streams habitable for bull trout. It considers warming waters due to climate change that force some populations into upper regions of river systems, Duke said.

“We expect that to continue into the future,” he said.

The draft plan stems from the agency’s settlement last year of a lawsuit by two environmental groups — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.

Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies said he’s concerned the agency is looking to define bull trout differently in different regions so federal protections could be removed in some areas while fish are still in trouble in other areas. He said his organization would be against that plan.

“We’re optimistic they’ll listen to us,” Garrity said. “But we’re optimistic because we’ve sued them on bull trout about a dozen times and won each time. If they don’t follow the best available science, we won’t hesitate to sue again.”

Besides warming waters, the bull trout’s survival is threatened by non-native brook trout. If the species mate, it creates a hybrid fish.

Bull trout occupy about 60 percent of their former range, which has remained steady since the fish received federal protection in 1999, Duke said.

Their presence is often a sign of a healthy river system because of the high water quality the fish requires, Duke said. Water quality can decline for various reasons, including logging, he said.

The agency doesn’t believe logging is still occurring in a way that harms bull trout habitat, Duke said. But the plan identifies some areas harmed long ago by logging when it was done with little regard for stream health.

Public comments will be taken through July 20, which the agency plans to use to prepare a final plan by Sept. 30.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival to benefit Spokane Riverkeeper

ENVIRONMENT — The nationally touring Wild & Scenic Film Festival is coming to Spokane this week with versions of 12 environmental films in a benefit for the Spokane Riverkeeper.

The event is Thursday April 30 at the Garland Theater, 924 W. Garland Ave. Doors open at 6 p.m.; shows at 7.

Some of the films highlight rivers and environmental impacts involving energy development while a few shorts are geared to fun and entertainment.

Silent River” is about the struggle of locals in Mexico to clean up the Santiago River.

The Sacred Place Where Life Begins” documents the years-old fight of the Gwich'in People in Alaska over the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Spokane Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization aiming to protect the river for fishing, swimming and other uses.

The organization is sponsored by the Center for Justice and boosted by local support from numerous groups, said Riverkeeper spokesman Jerry White. Gonzaga University Environmental Studies seniors are organizing the film festival as a senior project, he said.

 Tickets: $12 in advance at eventbrite.com, $15 at the door.


Aldo Leopold film screens Tuesday, free

ENVIRONMENT — Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, at the Community Building Lobby. Admission is free.

The film showing sold out when it debuted in 2013 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.

This showing of Green Fire is courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and facilitated by the Inland Northwest Land Trust.

After the screening Kirk and Madeline David will lead a facilitated discussion about Aldo Leopold and his conservation ethic.

RSVP not required, but helpful. (509) 328-2939 or email Vicki at vegesdal@inlandnwlandtrust.org.


Bill to help get kids outside gets hearing in Olympia

OUTDOOR EDUCATION — A Senate committee will hold a hearing today, Feb. 11, at 1:30 p.m. on “No Child Left Inside,” a bipartisan bill (SB 5843) that provides $1.3 million for programs to get kids to away from their screens and back outdoors. 

A media release from the bill’s introduction by Sens. Ranker (D-Orcas Island) and Parlette (R-Wenatchee) note's that Washington’s NCLI has inspired federal legislation of the same name. 

Scheduled to testify at today's hearing are:

  • Oak Rankin of Darrington, whose community was devastated by the Oso landslide in 2014. This bill would enable funding for programs such as the Darrington Youth Outdoor STEM Pilot Project  which helps students learn about local natural resources.
  • Joshua Brandon, a veteran and program manager for Project Cohort, a program designed to support veterans’ mental health, in part through outdoor activities. The legislation’s grant program encourages funding for programs that tap veterans for program implementation or administration.
  • Courtney Aber who heads up YMCA’s BOLD & GOLD programs (Boys Outdoor Leadership Development & Girls Outdoor Leadership Development)
  • Martin LeBlanc of IslandWood, the Bainbridge Island-based outdoor education organization
  • Marc Berejka from REI

Sportsmen rally against public land transfers

Updated with note about new Washington legislation.

PUBLIC LANDS — Sportsman's groups are organizing a voice against efforts in Western states to eliminate federal control of public land.

Lawmakers in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming — and most recently, Washington — are spending considerable money and effort in attempts to get state control of federal public lands within their borders.

Read a few recent stories on these efforts:

I've contended this movement is more about political gain and corporate greed than it is about doing what's best for the wildlife, the land and the public. State governments are much more vulnerable to succumbing to special interests than federal land managers.

Last week at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, a campaign was launched against efforts by special interests to transfer or sell America’s federal public lands.

The growing coalition of groups and businesses includes the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wild Turkey Federation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Trout Unlimited, Dallas Safari Club, Mystery Ranch Backpacks, Sitka Gear, First Lite, Costa, Simms Fishing Products and Sage.

The coalition supports a grassroots effort by sportsmen to urge lawmakers to reject any actions that would deprive citizens of their public lands.

Most recently, a bill has been introduced in Washington — SB 5405 — that would form a task force to look into federal land ownership in Washington, with an eye to “to study the risks, options, and benefits of transferring certain federal lands in the state to an alternative ownership.”

Within Washington are 12.7 million acres of federal land, including 9.3 million acres of national forests, 1.8 million acres of national parks, 429,000 acres of BLM ground, and 182,000 acres of national wildlife refuges.

A new report, “Locked Out: Public Lands Transfers Threaten Sportsmen’s Access,” released by the campaign, details takeover attempts in some Western states that would jeopardize public access to the rich hunting, fishing and outdoor traditions provided by the nation’s public lands.

“America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands provide irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat and public access for hunting and fishing,” said Joel Webster, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “More than 72 percent of Western sportsmen depend on these lands for access to hunting."

The management of America’s vast system of public lands carries an enormous price tag, and state budgets could be stretched beyond their ability should they take over their ownership, with widespread industrial development and the eventual sale of these lands to private interests being the expected result, the campaign outlines. "If privatized, millions of acres of the nation’s most valuable lands and waters would be closed to public access, and an American birthright would be lost."  

Birding, fly fishing programs presented this week

 OUTGROUPS – Inland Northwest outdoors groups have drummed up some good stuff for their monthly free programs. Among this week’s offerings are:

• Trans-America touring and local bicycling programs will be discussed by three speakers, 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 10, at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Bicycle Club.

• Climate change impacts on Palouse Praire ecosystems, by Sanford Eigenbrode, professor in the University of Idaho's Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences program, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.

• Fly Auction, anglers donate hand-tied fly patterns for auction to benefit local fishing education and fisheries conservation programs, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.

• "Exploring South America — The Bird Continent", by Lucila Castro and Peter Morrison of the Pacific Biodiversity Institute, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon.

Wildlife groups sue for wolverine protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Making it three-in-a-row posts on environmental lawsuits —- a coalition of advocacy groups today challenged the government’s denial of federal protections for the snow-loving wolverine, filing a lawsuit that contends officials ignored evidence a warming climate will eliminate denning areas for the so-called “mountain devil.”

The two previous posts covered:

Here's the rest of the wolverine story filed today by Matthew Brown of the Associated Press in Billings:

An estimated 250 to 300 wolverines survive in the Lower 48 states. The elusive but ferocious members of the weasel family raise their young in deep mountain snowfields that many scientists say could be at risk of disappearing as the climate changes.

After proposing protections for the species last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August abruptly reversed course. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said at the time there was too much uncertainty in computer climate change models to justify protections.

Monday’s lawsuit charges that the agency acted illegally by ignoring the best available science on wolverines. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula by attorneys for Earthjustice representing eight wildlife advocacy groups.

The lawsuit names as defendants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agency director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said it is agency protocol not to comment on pending litigation.

Some wolverine researchers have predicted that almost two-thirds of the species’ denning habitat will disappear by 2085.

The case carries potential ramifications for other species affected by climate change — including Alaska’s bearded seals, the Pacific walrus and dozens of species of corals — as scientists and regulators grapple with limits on computer climate models.

Once found throughout the Rocky Mountains and in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, wolverines were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s due to unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns.

In the decades since, they largely have recovered in parts of the West, but not in other parts of their historical range.

They are currently found in portions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. Individual wolverines have been documented in Colorado and California, but there has no evidence of breeding populations in those states.

Larger populations of wolverines live in Alaska and Canada. Those animals were never proposed for federal protection.

Public has obligation to pick up tab for environmental lawsuits?

PUBLIC LANDS — At first, it sounds as though we should be outraged:

Three conservation groups in Montana have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide against federal agencies, primarily the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the last five fiscal years, $617,058.40 in attorney fees has been awarded to the three groups and their co-plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Forest Service alone.

The groups in the story — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council — are just three three groups in Montana, with many more in the nation following suit, so to speak, on issues such as timber sales and the Endangered Species Act. The ecosystems groups are so small they don't even have websites.

Opponents of the lawsuits cite the Equal Access to Justice Act, which they say is unfairly rewarding lawyers of environmental groups by often awarding attorney fees paid for with tax dollars.

Environmental groups say the law holds the federal government accountable, and that attorney fees play a critical role in their efforts to protect wildlife and habitat.

“We could never afford to pay that (attorney fees) on our own,” said Mike Garrity, executive director for the alliance. “I’m not going to apologize for successfully suing the government. How come no one is asking why the Forest Service has such a big problem following the law?”

Idaho sage grouse ruling eyed for lawsuits elsewhere

PUBLIC LANDS — Sage grouse are generating considerable interest throughout the West as groups see their dwindling numbers as ways to address a wide range of public lands topics such as mining, oil drilling and livestock grazing.

A small portion of a federal judge’s ruling in Idaho against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management concerning grazing permits in sage grouse habitat is being eyed as a potential lever by environmental groups considering similar lawsuits in other states, the Associated Press reports today.

Most of U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 21-page decision late last month involved his ruling that the agency violated environmental laws in issuing permits on four grazing allotments in south-central Idaho, considered test cases for about 600 other permits.

But he used three pages near the end of his decision to rule on a separate matter that the agency incorrectly used a congressional budget rider to issue additional grazing permits in south-central Idaho with no environmental analysis at all.

“This is a clear shot across the bow of the BLM,” said Todd Tucci, an attorney for Advocates for the West that represented Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit. “I will bring this argument to any federal court in the country and feel very comfortable about my likelihood of success,” he told the AP.

Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project said the BLM has used the rider to issue hundreds of grazing permits across the West. Winmill’s decision only pertains to Idaho, but conservation groups in other states are viewing the winning lawsuit as a possible template.

“This is a legal victory that is certainly going to get a lot of scrutiny from environmental groups moving forward,” Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians says in the AP report

Idaho BLM spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto said the agency would do the environmental assessments on the four allotments as instructed by Winmill. But attorneys with the BLM said that because the ruling didn’t address the other 600 permits, there was no final judgment.

The BLM attorneys, in a statement sent to The Associated Press by Gardetto, said, “What this means, for practical purposes, is that Judge Winmill’s latest order is not immediately appealable, and there is currently no time frame for BLM to appeal.”

On the other part of the ruling, Gardetto said the agency is analyzing how it will affect the BLM’s grazing permit renewal process.

Land Trust names new director; sets fall outing

CONSERVATION —  The Spokane-based Inland Northwest Land Trust has named a new executive director to oversee its private-land conservation efforts in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Garry Schalla has assumed the post held by Christopher DeForest, who has moved to a field-related position. Schalla previously was the executive director of the Okanogan Land Trust.

The nonprofit group, founded in 1991, has preserved in conservation easements 15,000 acres of private land on 47 properties.

 "Coming to Spokane and INLT, I am really excited to work with an experienced and professional staff. I believe that my addition will strengthen an already great team," he said.

Upcoming Land Trust events include:

  • Wild Edibles Hike with Rich Leon, 10 a.m. on Oct. 12 at Liberty Lake County Park. Sign-up, (509) 328-2939.
  • Meet, Greet & Eat, learn about the Land Trust, 1 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Community Building, 35 W. Main Ave.

See a story updating the Land Trust's accomplishments.

Read about one of the Land Trust-affiliated success stories: Dawson family’s Forest Service Award.


Leave it to beavers to be ecology teachers

ENVIRONMENT – "Picnic with the Beavers," a hands-on environmental field learning day, complete with beavers and geared to families, is set for next Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at Liberty Lake State Park.

The event is coordinated by The Lands Council.

Read an S-R story about one local effort to put beavers to work on the region's landscape.

Sign up for the Picnic with the Beavers: (509) 209-2851.

Outdoor groups revive monthly programs

OUTTEACH  – After a summer hiatus, Inland Northwest outdoors groups are reviving monthly free programs. Among this week’s offerings are:

  • Bicycling Trans-Washington, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Bicycle Club.
  • Audubon Adventures, birding and nature activities for kids grades 3-5, by Eula Hickam, 7 p.m., Tuesday, (Sept. 9) at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Fishing Local Lakes, by Jeff Voigt, 7 p.m., Wednesday, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Washington Loons, by Ginger Gumm, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, which is  used by several groups for free monthly programs.

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.

New EPA director debunks environmental regulations as “job killing”

In her first speech as the new adminstrator of the EPA, Gina McCarthy addressed a crowd at Harvard Law School.

From the AP:
“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs? Please, at least for today,” said McCarthy, referring to one of the favorite talking points of Republicans and industry groups.

“Let’s talk about this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake,” she said of efforts to address global warming.

As you know, the jobs vs. environment claim is a popular talking point. Especially, as the Obama climate plan is getting rolled out, Congress describes it as a job-killer. Here's the good stuff from her speech:

The truth is cutting carbon pollution will spark business innovation, resulting in cleaner forms of American-made energy…

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" 


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.