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State Parks considers letting farmers use rail trails

PARKS — A proposal to allow farmers and ranchers to occasional use Washington rail trails will be considered by the State Parks and Recreation Commission at a regular meeting Jan. 29 in Tumwater.

The policy proposal would permit certain limited non-recreational motorized use of state park long-distance trail corridors, such as the John Wayne Trail.

The trail corridors are legally set aside for non-motorized recreation only.

"In the interest of being good neighbors, State Parks is seeking additional flexibility and consistency—for example, allowing farmers to use the trail right-of-way to access their fields," Parks officials say in a media release.

"The policy would set guidelines for permits and is intended to ensure agency responsiveness to such requests, while providing oversight to prevent adverse effects on recreationists and to recoup the cost of any trail damage from allowed motorized uses.

The meeting is set for 9 a.m., Jan. 29, in the Labor and Industries Auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater.

According to the meeting agenda, the commission also will consider adoption of policy statements to provide direction for the agency’s real estate management activities in four areas: recreation business activities; enterprise lands; land transfers and exchanges with other government jurisdictions; and land leases from other jurisdictions.

State Parks manages approximately 124 developed parks, marine parks, heritage sites and properties, altogether totaling approximately 120,000 acres statewide. The agency manages leases on some properties, while holding others for future park and trail development.

In other business, the Commission will consider adoption of the 2015 director’s performance agreement, an annual work plan for the agency and director. Several reports will be presented, including reports on the agency’s Boating Programs, Interpretive Program, Discover Pass, current finances and 2015-17 budget requests and a legislative report.

Friends of Mount Spokane to fill board openings

PARKS — The Friends of Mt. Spokane State Park Board of Directors is looking for new members.

The panel of up to 15 members serves as a link between the park manager and park visitors, says Cris Currie, board president.

“It provides management recommendations to the park manager, organizes volunteer park projects and raises funds to help fulfill management plans for improved facilities and education within the park,” he said.

 The group meets 3-5 times a year and is looking for people who have a passion for the park and who can help represent recreational user groups as well as other interests including education, business and environmental protection, Currie says.

For an application, email a letter of interest to criscurrie22@gmail.com.

Hikers halfway on winter thru-hike of PCT

HIKING — Shawn Forry if Midpines, Calif., and Justin Lichter of Truckee, Calif., are attempting to be the first to complete a documented thru-hike of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail during winter.

Having started in Canada in late October, they're near Lake Tahoe this week, more than halfway toward their destination at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Pacific Crest Trail Association blogger Jack "Found" Haskel. They hope to finish in April.

"They’ve walked so far that the metal on their snowshoes is wearing thin," Haskel reports. "Soon, they’ll switch to skis."

From frostbite and drenching rain to friendships and stunning and quiet landscapes, their journey is remarkable. The feat requires skill, experience in snow-camping and winter travel plus avalanche awareness, and some luck. Many experts say it's crazy and dangerous.

Lichter, a ski patroller, has more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world and Forry more than 15,000 miles, according to the  Reno Gazette-Journal. The two also completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.

The light snowfall that plagued the region's ski areas in the early season was a boon to the PCT hikers, who've been snowshoeing 20-mile days since Christmas.

One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group optimistic, plans activities

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness based in North Idaho and Western Montana is celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on a high note this month. 

Recent passage of the Montana Heritage Act indicates that Congress is able — and even somewhat willing — to designate Wilderness, says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

The group has not yet succeeded in winning official wilderness designation for the 88,000-acre roadless area that straddles the Idaho-Montana border. But since the group was founded in 2005, it's attracted nearly 5,000 "friends," Compton said.

“Our new commission in Bonner County is very supportive,” said FSPW executive director Phil Hough, who's based in Sandpoint. “We’ve worked hard in our two Western Montana counties to gain support in a number of ways, including opening an office in Libby and helping create the Lincoln County Prosperity Forum Series."

  • The 10th anniversary celebration will begin in Sandpoint, Friday, Jan. 9, with live music, silent-auction and picnic-style food at Tango Café in the Columbia Bank. Get tickets here.
  • The FSPW  schedule of winter group hikes begins on Jan. 11 with an easy-to-moderate snowshoe trek up Lightning Creek.
  • March events in Troy and Thompson Falls will feature author and historian Jack Nisbet speaking on David Thompson’s explorations of the Kootenai and Clark Fork valleys in the early 1800s.

Stewardship has joined wilderness advocacy in the group's approach to securing protection for the peaks that overlook Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River. 

FSPW volunteers and staff have contributed hundreds of hours of work to:

  • Build or improve Scotchman Peak Trail 65 and Star Peak Trail 999.
  • Monitor weeds, conduct multi-day white bark pine surveys, work on stream restoration and assist with trailside tree planting for the national forest “Treasured Landscape” program.
  • Coordinate summer hike programs for adults as well as for young children.
  • Assist wolverine researchers by setting and monitoring remote camera stations in Idaho and Montana.
  • Create a Winter Tracks program to teach tracking skills and wildlife monitoring methods to area youth, including kids from Spokane.
  • Plan summer 2015 trail projects on the lower portion of the Scotchman Peak Trail and continue to work on trails in Lightning Creek.

Congress finally gives wilderness a nod

PUBLIC LANDS — Congress shook its inability to work across the aisle this week and passed public lands legislation that's been years in the making. 

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a defense spending bill containing a broad public lands package for the West.

In Montana, it provides new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front, a ban on mining near Glacier National Park and changes supporting oil exploration and grazing on federal land.

The bill adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and designating 208,000 acres along the Front as a conservation management area.

In Washington, the bill expands the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres.

It also creates a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes the B Reactor at Hanford.

It's not all perfect from anyone's point of view.  But many experts say it's better than stalemate.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where a vote is expected next week.

Value of getting together

The Missoulian has a story — Report tracks successes of conservation collaboration in Montana — indicating that collaborative groups have helped shake the shackles of a do-nothing Congress in public lands issues.

The story cites the "Collaboration at a Crossroads" report from the Wilderness Society, which examines 15 of the 37 active roundtables on land-use in Montana. Among them is the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, which worked on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act passed Thursday by the House.

Will Reese Witherspoon spur a backpacking boom?

HIKING — Industry insiders are wondering whether the soon-to-be-released movie "Wild" featuring Reese Witherspoon will provide the boost for backpacking that A River Runs Through It, featuring Brad Pitt, bestowed on fly fishing.

The buzz is already buzzing.

“The movie follows the book by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who traversed more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself.

Media outlets already are hyping backpacking destinations as they spin-off news about the book and movie.

Pacific Northwest writer Craig Romano, my co-author for the guidebook Day Hiking Eastern Washington, is quoted in a Fox News piece on hiking along with a list of "best hikes"  most of which I agree with, except I hate "best hikes" lists.

Here are Romano's recommendations for top North American hikes to add to your bucket list.

1. The John Muir Trail - Pacific Crest Loop
This 211 mile long section of Pacific Crest Trail features stunning cliffs, lakes, granite peaks and canyons. The trails pass through some of America's most stunning backdrops, including Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Hikers can take the trail going North or South but travel during the winter months is not advised.

2. Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park
Described as one of the most beautiful and "most dangerous" hikes in the country by the National Park Service, this nine-mile loop contains many rocky paths and a significant change in elevation. For this reason, the park discourages young children and shorter adults from attempting the seven to eight hour trek. Despite the difficult terrain, this trail can be very crowded on weekends so if you have some free time during the week, head over the Shenandoah and be the king or queen or your own mountain for the day.

3. Lincoln Woods Trail - New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest is home to over 1,200 miles of non-motorized trails for all levels of hikers. But for novice hikers, Lincoln Woods Trail affords great views on a popular route with relatively stable terrain. Summer hikers can take bait and tackle gar along to fish in the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. In the Fall, enjoy spectacular Northeastern leaf foliage colors, a favorite time of year for Romano.

4.Devils Garden Primitive Loop - Arches National Park

This difficult trek traverses over seven miles of rocky terrain but hikers are sure to witness some of the most breathtaking views Arches has to offer. The National Park Service estimates this hike will take between three to five hours to bring plenty of water. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy.

5. Florida National Scenic Trail
While hiking usually brings to mind mountainous terrain, Romano says there are great hikes to be find anywhere nature exists. "The Florida Trail is almost 1,400 miles and it has great sections for long distance hikers." If you're just starting, it might be better to stay out of the Everglades unless you're with an experienced hiker. Whether you're looking for wildlife, interesting marine species or a better understanding of the Florida ecosystem, the Florida Trail has something for everyone.

6. Forest Park - Portland
"People living in urban area have great hiking networks right in their backyards. Especially Portland," says Romano. He recommends Forest Park with its more than 80 miles of scenic Northwest wildlife. For hikers young and old, Forest Park Conservancy even has its own app with maps of hiking trails, weather updates and other details.

7. Mount Rainier National Park - Washington

"I've hiked all over the U.S. but some of my all time favorite trails are in Washington— I just love the diversity of mountains, wildlife, forested scenery and even wildflowers," says Romano. Among his favorites in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. All National Parks are popular tourist destinations. Rainier is the smallest of three making it a great destination for new hikers; Olympic is the largest and features more diverse terrain.

8. Porcupine Mountain State Park - Michigan

While most hikers tend to gravitate to the East or West Coasts, great trails can be found everywhere. On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, take a walk along Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain State Park. This scenic trail has high peaks, sparkling rivers, waterfalls and more. Campers will also find a fully loaded RV amenities area for over night adventures.

9. Appalachian Trail - Fitzgerald Falls near Greenwood Lake, NY

This scenic section of the Appalachian Trail is a perfect spot for city-dwellers. Just an hour and a half from New York City, Greenwood Lake is known for its pristine waters and summer aquatic activities. This 4.6 mile loop involves moderate climbing ability to reach the summit of Mombasha High Point. History buffs will enjoy exploring an abandoned settlement along the trail and on a clear day, views of New York City can be seen on the Southern horizon.

Read more of the buzz about the movie Wild:
—“Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who takes on an arduous solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail
—Reese Witherspoon Sounds Like A Feminist In 'Wild' Because She Is One

—'Wild' writer says actress Reese Witherspoon 'honored' her story

—Behind the scenes of Wild

Mining in the Cabinets: It’s a question of wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — I'm getting mixed reviews in comments and emails about my Sunday Outdoors story: Not-so-wild wilderness: Mining proposals threaten Cabinet Mountains streams, lakes and grizzlies.

Some people say I featured only wilderness activists and that there's really nothing to worry about regarding the mining proposals surrounding the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwestern Montana.

Besides, we all need the metals miners extract, they point out.


But the point of the story, and the sidebar focused on the impacts of the mining on grizzly bears, is that while state and federal agencies are poring over mounds of documents on the impacts of each mine proposal, no agency appears to be sizing up the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of both new mine proposals plus the re-starting of the existing Troy Mine plus the proposals for more motorized vehicle access in the Kootenai National Forest management plan.

The sum of these threats warrants public attention, hence the story.

The Forest Service declined to answer my prepared questions that focused on cumulative impacts.

"The process seems to overlook the wilderness as a whole.

“There’s no advocacy group for the wilderness in Sanders County. It wouldn’t be a popular position. But when I’m hiking in there, I also see lots of people form Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Missoula, and none of them seems to know about the mines.

"A lot of people in Sanders County don’t think people from other areas don’t have a voice in the issue because they don’t live here. But the wilderness belongs to everyone.

     — Jim Costello, SaveOurCabinets.org

"It’s wilderness: Either you’re for or against it."

     —Mary Crowe Costello, Rock Creek Alliance

Banff Mountain Films lineup listed for Spokane

ADVENTURE — The lineup of films for the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Spokane has been decided — just hours before the first films will be shown tonight starting at 7 p.m. at The Bing Crosby Theater.

Shows are sold out for all three nights.

World Tour host — better known as the World Tour road warrior — Holly Elliott met with Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear met this afternoon at No-Li Brewery to work through the options. They take a lot of care in getting a good mix of 7-9 films of varying lengths and subject matter each night. No repeats through the three-night run.

Elliott already has been on road with screenings in Montana, but Spokane is among the first of hundreds of shows across the globe through September. She says The Bing is one of her favorite venues for sound, intimacy and the atmosphere of the facility and the crowd.

Read on for the lineup in Spokane:


Vasu Sojitra - Out on a Limb

Tumwater Solitude

Cerro Torre (Best Film: Climbing)


Delta Dawn (Best Short Film)

Forgotten Dirt

The Little Things - Meghann O' Brien

Sufferfest 2 - Desert Alpine (People's Choice Award: Radical Reels)


Danny MacAskill - The Ridge


Love in the Tetons

Sculpted in Time - The Wiseman

And Then We Swam (Best Film: Exploration and Adventure)


Mending the Line (People's Choice Award at Banff)

Just Keep Running

Valley Uprising - The Golden Age (Grand Prize winner)




Happy Winter

Arctic Swell

Tashi and the Monk (Best Film: Mountain Culture)


Africa Fusion


Into the Empty Quarter

Wild Women - Faith Dickey

Sun Dog

International Selkirk Loop motor route detailed in new book

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — A photographic journey encircling the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and southeastern British Columbia has been compiled into a new book.

“Selkirks Spectacular” (Keokee Books) highlights the International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile scenic route named by Rand McNally as one of five “Best of the Roads.”

The book features more than 300 images by photographers Jerry Pavia and Tim Cady along with chapters written by Canadian Ross Klatte on the history, geology, communities, natural features, attractions, and the flora and fauna showcase this beautiful corner of the earth.

A book publication party with the authors and photographers is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, at The Pearl Theater, 7160 Ash St. in Bonners Ferry.

The book captures highlights from Lake Pend Oreille to Kootenay Lake to endangered woodland caribou and ruffed grouse as well as the region's mining and logging legacies.

The book has two front covers, one for the U.S. side and one for the Canada side. Halfway through, readers flip the book over and start again from the other side.

Free entry to Washington state parks Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — The Discover Pass is not required on vehicles at Washington State Parks on Tuesday, the  final free day of 2014 as the parks observer Veterans Day.

The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.

The Discover Pass legislation provided that State Parks could designate up to 12 “free days” when the pass would not be required to visit state parks.

The Discover Pass is still required to access WDFW and DNR lands on State Parks free days.

‘Trails to Trout’ topic at Trout Unlimited in Sandpoint

FISHING – Spokesman-Review Outdoors editor Rich Landers will present a program, Trails to Trout, at the annual meeting of the Panhandle Trout Unlimited Chapter Thursday, Nov. 13, at Di Luna’s on Cedar in Sandpoint.

Cocktail/bragging hour starts at 5:30 followed by dinner off Di Luna’s special menu.

Program starts at 7 p.m. with no admission fee.

Volunteers needed for Dishman Hills trail work

HIKING — The Dishman Hills Conservancy and Spokane Mountaineers plan to complete a new stretch of trail this weekend linking conservancy lands with the Glenrose Conservation Futures Area managed by Spokane County.

The Cliffs Trail needs another 500 feet of new construction to finish up on the 2,200 feet of trail volunteers already have completed.

Meet Saturday, Nov. 8,  at 8:30 a.m. at the Ponderosa Elementary School, 10105 E. Cimmaron Dr. in Spokane Valley to carpool to the work site.

  • Directions: From I-90 take the Argonne Exit and drive South on Argonne until it becomes Dishman-Mica Rd.  At a stoplight turn right on Schafer, pass Redeemer Lutheran Church, the 3rd road to the right will be Cimmaron.  Ponderosa Elementary is 2 blocks up Cimmaron on your right.

No trail construction experience necessary. "We have great on-the-job training in a low stress at-your-own-pace atmosphere," organizers say.

BRING:  Gloves, water, lunch, and clothes for the weather.  Most of the route is open grassland or scattered ponderosa.   A little daypack to carry things in is handy.  This will be an all-day project so bring what you need.

TOOLS:  Tools will be provided but if you have your own Pulaski, grub hoe, rake or the like, it would help extend our supply. 

RSVP: Lynn Smith, (208) 772-4337,  kslynndeb@hotmail.com.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal and state land managers offer fee-free entry days to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 8-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.  NOTE: National Parks are offering free entry only on Nov. 11.
  • Washington State Parks will waive the Discover Pass requirement on Nov. 11.

The fee waivers do not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.

Beware of Zombies: Riverside Park trail to get scary on Oct. 25

PARKS — The third annual Return of the Zombies hike is set for Oct. 25 on what's billed as "the scariest half-mile hike ever" in Riverside State Park.

Hikers of all ages are invited to hike the haunted trail between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Riverside State Park Foundation.

The route begins at the park's Seven-Mile Airstrip, 7903 W. Missoula Road, in Nine Mile Falls. See directions.

Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for youths age 3 – 12 and free for children under 3.

  • The Washington Discover Pass is not needed on vehicles for this event.

Adults are issued a flashlight, and kids ages 3 to 12 receive a glow-in-the-dark bracelet. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pets are not allowed. 

At this outdoor version of a haunted house, participants hike a half mile through the woods at the park, while volunteer “zombies” provide the scary atmosphere. Participants should be prepared to walk over uneven terrain and wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing. Organizers will be selling hot chocolate and coffee. A DJ will be entertaining at a warming fire.

Info: Cherie’ Gwinn, 465-5066 or cherie.gwinn@parks.wa.gov.

Nature hikes make us happy, study confirms

HIKING — British and American scientists have published new research showing that group nature walks help us combat stress while boosting mental well-being.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England evaluated 1,991 participants in England’s Walking for Health program, which organizes nearly 3,000 walks per week for more than 70,000 regular participants. They found that the nature walks were associated with significantly less depression in addition to mitigating the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress.

“Stress isn’t ever going to go away, so it is important to have a way to cope with it,” said Sara Warber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and senior author of the study. “Walking in nature is a coping mechanism—the benefits aren’t just physical.”

The findings were published in the September issue of Ecopsychology.

Program: Topping Colorado’s 14ers in 60 hours

HIKING — Ultra-athlete Ben Clark will give a presentation tonight in Spokane on his quest to scale 14 Colorado Fourteeners — peaks topping 14,000 feet in elevation — in 60 hours.

The free show starts at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division St.

Nolan's 14 is an unofficial race challenge to bag the famous collection of high Rocky Mountains peaks. The challenge goes about 100 miles through the Sawatch Range accumulating 90,000 vertical feet

With a 15 percent finish rate, only seven people have completed the challenge since its inception in 1998.

Clark's first two attempts in 2013 and one this year were ended by severe weather conditions.

This program centers on his imminent next attempt.

Raise a cold one to youth outdoor education

OUTDOORS — Join the North Idaho folks from Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE) and NoLi Brewhouse for the kick-off of a community fund-raiser for youth outdoor education programs. 

The event is set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Idaho Pour Authority, 203 Cedar St. in Sandpoint

This fun after-hours event will include great raffle prizes, a seasonal beer line-up from No-Li and the opportunity for to support a great cause!

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year links to National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Idaho Panhandle forests seek citizen advisors

PUBLIC LANDS — Applicants are being sought to fill up to seven vacancies on a 15-member Resource Advisory Committee that helps guide decisions on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

The committee’s duties include recommending projects and an average of more than $500,000 a year in funding to improve forest health, watersheds, roads and facilities on or adjacent to the forests.

RAC committee members will be officially appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture for a term of 2 years; shall not receive compensation; and must be able to commit the time necessary to carry out the committee responsibilities of potentially several full-day meetings each year.

Members must reside within Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, Shoshone or Benewah County "to the extent practicable."

Past projects include noxious weed control, road realignment, trail construction and improvement, timber management support, and the restoration of fish passage to restore native species.

One or more vacancies will be filled for each of the following categories.

Category A:

  • organized labor or non-timber forest product harvester groups;
  • developed outdoor recreation, off-highway vehicle users, or commercial recreation activities;
  • energy and mineral development, or commercial or recreational fishing interests;
  • commercial timber industry; or
  • Federal grazing permit or other land use permit holders or represent non-industrial private forest land owners within the area for which the committee is organized.

Category B:

  • nationally recognized environmental organizations;
  • regionally or locally recognized environmental organizations;
  • dispersed recreational activities;
  • archaeological and historical interests; or
  • nationally- or regionally-recognized wild horse and burro interest groups, wildlife or hunting organizations, or watershed associations.

Category C:

  • state-elected office holder (or a designee);
  • county or local-elected office holder;
  • American Indian Tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the committee is organized;
  • area school officials or teachers; or
  • affected public-at-large.

Info: Idaho Panhandle National Forest website.

Contact: Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle RAC Coordinator at (208) 765-7211 (email: jdkirchner@fs.fed.us).

Applications are being accepted until all positions are filled.

Long-distance hikers gathering at Stampede Pass

HIKING — Backpackers who've walked the walk are giving programs of enduring value this weekend during the 21st annual gathering of the American Long-Distance Hiking Association-West at Stampede Pass, Wash.

Openings are still available for the Saturday programs by hikers who've accomplished incredible "feets"  and possibly for the full Friday-Sunday event to be held at The Mountaineers Meany Lodge

The site is a unique ski lodge on a private ski mountain. Camping is available as well as a main lodge that sleeps 90 people, a great room that can fit 130 people for the presentations, forums, meals and awards. 

The is the group that presents the Triple Crown Awards to hikers who have completed the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails.


Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is National Public Lands Day.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

It’s winter high in Glacier Park; Sun Road closed

NATIONAL PARKS — Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road continues to be closed today after winter-like conditions shrouded the high country earlier this week.

Be ready for anything when heading to the mountains.

Geology to be highlighted in hike along South Hill bluff

HIKING — Here's a chance to get some exercise and hear a geologist explain how massive floods around 14,000 years ago shaped the landscape around South Spokane, not to mention Eastern Washington.

The Friends of the Bluff and the Cheney-Spokane Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute are leading a three-hour hike to various spots along Hangman Creek below High Drive starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14.

A $3 fee will be charged.

The story of the Ice Age Floods is recorded in the sandy cliffs along the creek, also known as Latah Creek. Gene Kiver, EWU professor emeritus of geology, will lead the field trip. 

Kiver did much of the original research on High Drive bluff’s Ice Age Floods sediments revealing the secrets hidden in the bluff’s sandy cliffs.

Pre-register:  Kent Moline, kent.moline@gmail.com, (509) 230.5207 or Melanie Bell, mbell4242@comcast.net, (509) 954.4242.

Panhandle Forests respond to forest plan objections

PUBLIC LANDS — Regional Forest Service officials have responded to formal objections to the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s Revised Forest Plan released earlier this year.

  • See the response document attached to this blog post.

The document of responses is the final step in the new objection process and provides the final decision for the 22 objections received from various groups.

Based on the responses, Northern Rockies Regional Forester Faye Krueger will be making modifications to the plan before signing the final decision that would conclude a forest planning process that began in 2002.

“This objection response is the outcome of a deliberative and extensive review of concerns raised by objectors involving complex regulatory and management issues,” said acting Associate Deputy Chief Greg Smith.

Forest officials say they should be able to complete the instructions this winter if the additional work indicates the forest does not need to go back out for public review.

The forest will begin implementation of the revised forest plan 30 days after the final Record of Decision is signed.

"The Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle Zone plans are the first two of the 1982 Forest Plans to go through the objection process," Krueger said. "We are still learning how the objection process works and the Forest Service is applying what we have learned here to the other Forest Plans, nation-wide.”

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s plan revision process has been ongoing since 2002 and has included numerous public meetings, open houses and more than 100 community based work-group sessions.

A draft forest plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with multiple alternatives was released to the public in January 2012 and was followed by a 90 day public comment period.

After incorporation of public comments and the selection of an alternative the final Revised Forest Plan, final EIS and draft Record of Decision were released to the public in September 2013, which marked the beginning of the objection process.

Completion of the objection process is the final step before the forest finalizes the Record of Decision and begins implementation of the revised plan.

View the Revised Forest Plan and any of the supporting documents on the Idaho Panhandle NF’s Forest Plan Revision webpage, or contact a Forest Service Office.


The Bob has a deep, dark wilderness secret

PUBLIC LANDS — As many times as I've been into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in my home state of Montana, I've never explored this deep, dark, wilderness secret. 

The Missoula Independent reports that Tears of the Turtle, the deepest known cave in the continental United States, is protected from being too popular among spelunkers because to reach it one must trek 22 miles through the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

The deepest known point of the cave is 1,629 feet below the surface.

See more cool photos here.

What’s the best way to celebrate 50 years of Wilderness Act?

PUBLIC LANDS — The editorial writers of the Missoulian offered this opinion:

Montana should celebrate Wilderness Act anniversary with more wilderness
Montanans enjoy access to 16 wilderness areas within their state, and with the 50th anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act that allowed for the protection of those areas, they should push for approval of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act to protect additional acres of the Big Sky State for perpetuity.

Wilderness panel discussion, hikes based out of Sandpoint

PUBLIC LANDS — A great combination of thought and exercise to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is planned for Friday and Saturday based out of Sandpoint sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League, the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education.

The Wild Weekend for Wilderness includes a panel discussion about the historical and cultural significance of wilderness in America, the history of wilderness politics in North Idaho, the Forest Service's role in identifying lands suitable for wilderness and the management of proposed and designated wilderness areas including the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

North Idaho backcountry experts, including a wilderness ranger, will lead hikes on Saturday to North Idaho areas that qualify for wilderness designation.

The celebration concludes Saturday night with a party including live music, libations, food, giveaways and anniversary cake.

Here's the schedule:

  • Friday evening panel discussion, Why Wilderness, 5:30 p.m. at Panhandle State Bank, 414 Church St.
  • Saturday guided hike to Chimney Rock.  Sign up here or call (208) 265-9565.
  • Saturday guided hike to Scotchman Peak. Sign up here.
  • Saturday guided hike to Harrison Lake. Sign up here.
  • Saturday "Wild Night," 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m., includes food, music by The Yaaktastics at Evans Brothers Coffee, 524 Church St.

By the way, Congress signed the historic document called The 1964 Wilderness Act 50 years ago today.

The act initially protected 54 areas in 13 states totaling 9.1 million acres of backcountry in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Since President Lyndon Johnson signed the act, the system has expanded to 757 wilderness areas in 44 states totaling more than 109 million acres.

South Hill bluff trails access to be closed

TRAILS – An access to South Hill bluff trails at 57th Avenue and Hatch Road is set to be closed this week.

The area is large enough for a dozen vehicles and is popular with hikers and bikers as well as people looking for unobscured views of full-moon rises and blaze-orange sunsets.

“The decision to close the spot was made by the developer of the Tuscan Ridge development project,” said Pradeep Hatcher, City of Spokane information assistant.

The private land, owned by developer Yong Lewis, adjoins public land owned by the city. Approved in 2007, the proposed development is controversial with neighbors.

“The developer has safety concerns as the project moves forward,” Hatcher said. “A report on the integrity of the hillside is pending, so the developer wants the area closed off to be safe.”

The area is set to be closed this week, she said. “The closure could last for the duration of the Tuscan Ridge project, or at least for a significant portion of work.”

The Friends of the Bluff conservation group has applied to the  Spokane County Conservation Futures Program to consider acquiring the Tuscan Ridge property for an addition to the popular South Hill bluff trails that stretch from the Hatch Road area north to Polly Judd Park near 14th Avenue. 

No decision has been made on acquiring the access site for public use.

Model perfect fit for Beartooth Wilderness photo

BACKPACKING — I'm very picky about models for my outdoors photos.

For example, this ad for our newspaper Outdoors sections features writer Jim Kershner, who joined me on a multi-day backpacking trek over the high plateau of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

Had I been with any other hiking/angling buddy, there likely would have been a fish in the picture. That would have cluttered up the scene and detracted from the clean look of the ad.

Thanks, Jim, for a job well done.

Hiking trail record breaker speaks at library tonight

HIKING — A world-class hiker who's put her pen where her feet were is giving a program about her latest book TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at the Moran Prairie Library.

Jennifer Pharr Davis first hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail as a 21-year-old college graduate, all on her own.

Her most recent book, Called Again, tells the story of setting the 46-day record for the trail and growing closer to her husband (her support crew), in the process.

The program she'll be presenting speaks to inspiration, love and endurance in tales from the trail.