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Outdoor groups rally at state capitols against federal land grabs

PUBLIC LANDS — Sportsmen's groups and outdoors business have scheduled rallies at the Idaho and Montana capitols to protest efforts by some state lawmakers to take control of federal public lands. The groups contend state takeovers would ultimate result in the public losing access to millions of acres of land critical to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.

In Boise, noon-2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12, speakers will call for keeping public lands public and urge Idahoans to sign a petition supporting that stance. The rally is being organized by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

In Helena, on Monday, Feb. 16, rally speakers will include Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President and CEO David Allen, and former Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Mary Sexton, along with business owner Adrienne Marx and Randy Newberg, host of the popular cable television show, “Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg.” The event is being organized by Montana Wilderness Association and Montana Wildlife Federation.

  • Read a story about campaigns to speak out against the legislation in Western states.

In Montana, a coalition plans to present a petition to Gov. Bullock rejecting any efforts to seize American lands. So far, nearly 3,000 people have signed the petition. More than a thousand signed it within 24 hours of when the petition appeared online.

Here's more info from the coalition:

This week, Sen. Jennifer Fielder introduced the first of dozens of bills she and other legislators are working on this session that are aimed at transferring American lands into state ownership, a move that would saddle Montana with the $250 million price tag of managing the lands and force the state into selling those lands off to the highest bidder.

“This rally is about letting our elected officials know that Montanans flatly reject any effort to privatize lands that belong to all Americans and provide the backbone to a $3 billion state outdoor economy, an economy that keeps small towns like mine alive,” says Addrien Marx, a business owner in Seeley Lake and member of Montana Wilderness Association’s state council.

One of Fielder’s bills, to prohibit the sale of American lands transferred to the state, has already drawn strong criticism from Montanans for its disingenuousness.

“This is just a political stunt to shield Fielder’s agenda to seize public lands,” says Dave Chadwick, executive director of Montana Wildlife Federation. “If she succeeds in her public land takeover, future lawmakers will be forced to sell off those lands to keep from bankrupting the state.”

Another of Fielder’s bills would have the state conduct an economic study of transferring public lands to the state. Utah spent $2 million of taxpayers’ money in conducting a lands transfer study. The study concluded that such a transfer would tie Utah’s economy to the volatile oil market and force the state into industrializing public lands

In Idaho, the legislature is attempting to wrest control of up to 34 million acres of federal public lands. Currently, legislators are considering a measure so that “modifications to Idaho’s statutes and State Constitution can be made to effectuate these policy goals.” A related proposal would spend a half-million dollars of state funds (plus an additional quarter-million every following year) to actively pursue options for transferring ownership of federal lands in Idaho to the state.

According to organizers of the Boise rally:

Idaho cannot shoulder the enormous costs associated with fighting wildfires, maintaining roads and trails, treating noxious weeds and conducting habitat restoration on these lands. The transfer of federal lands to Idaho would result in one likely outcome: the fire sale of these lands to the highest bidder – billionaires and foreign corporations who may neither understand nor value America’s outdoor heritage. Once privatized, these lands will become off limits to most sportsmen in perpetuity.

Washington elk tag bags $50,000 at RMEF auction

HUNTING — Sportsmen recently bid $50,000 to $200,000 for elk hunting packages offered by seven states to raise money for wildlife habitat conservation.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raised a total of $655,000 for fish and wildlife agencies in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington. The states offered a total of seven elk tags and one big-game enhancement package for the recent Hunter's Rendezvous Auction held in Tucson.

Washington's any-bull tag for Eastern Washington fetched $50,000.  Idaho did not offer a tag.

“One hundred percent of the funds raised from the auction of these special big game state permits go back to the individual states,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “These permits are a public trust and returning all of the proceeds they generate at this national event to the states for the benefit of wildlife and conservation is just the right thing to do.”

The money supports on-the-ground conservation projects that benefit habitat for elk, deer and other wildlife, and assists state agencies dealing with budgetary challenges, he said.

These limited tags are very rare and deemed “special” because they often feature extended seasons that may cover an entire state with some exceptions. State agencies provide the remainder of their tags through general application, a draw system, and over-the-counter opportunities ensuring that the everyday hunter has the opportunity to hunt.

“The revenue generated from only one tag can make a substantial difference for all our wildlife and also for improving hunting opportunity,” Allen said.

State special permits auctioned by RMEF include:
• Arizona Special Elk Tag, $140,000
• Colorado Special Elk Permit, $34,000
• Montana Special Elk Permit, $28,500
• Nevada Heritage Rocky Mountain Elk Tag, $100,000
• New Mexico Enhancement Package, $200,000
• New Mexico Special Elk License, $50,000
• Pennsylvania Elk Permit, $52,500
• Washington East Side Elk Permit, $50,000

Wolf Advisory Group expands from 9 to 18 members

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Nine members have been added to the committee that advises the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on wolf recovery and management.

Their appointments, for two-year terms that run through 2016, bring the Wolf Advisory Group’s membership to 18.

Jim Unsworth, who assumed duties as the agency's director this month, said the new members will bring diverse personal and professional backgrounds to the group that makes recommendations to guide the department’s implementation of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

WDFW formed the group in 2013, with nine members representing the interests of wolf advocates, cattle ranchers, and hunters. Unsworth said the new members bring a wider range of perspectives and, for example, include a science teacher and a member of the state’s largest hiking association.

“Wolf recovery has been and will continue to be a very challenging issue, and the advisory group members will provide valuable advice on how to achieve the goals of the wolf plan,” said Unsworth.

Dave Ware, the department’s wolf policy lead, said more than 50 people applied for the new positions following the department’s announcement in October that it was seeking to expand the group. Ware said WDFW placed a priority on selecting people from diverse backgrounds who have the ability to share information about the advisory group’s discussions within their own networks of contacts.

The Defenders of Wildlife, which opened an office in Washington for the first time less than a year ago, has a new representative in the group.

Ware said the nine people who served as original members or alternates will continue to serve through 2016. Their continued presence will lend stability and continuity to the advisory group, he said.

The group’s next meeting is planned for March, with details to be announced on the Wolf Advisory Group website:
Washington Wolf Advisory Group members (new members in boldface) and their affiliations are:

  • Bob Aegeter of Bellingham, Sierra Club
  • Shawn Cantrell of Seattle, Defenders of Wildlife
  • Tim Coleman of Republic, Kettle Range Conservation Group
  • Dave Dashiell of Hunters, Cattle Producers of Washington
  • Don Dashiell of Colville, Stevens County Commissioner
  • Tom Davis of Olympia, Washington Farm Bureau
  • Dave Duncan of Ellensburg, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation
  • Tom Erskine of Camas, Washington Trails Association
  • Jack Field of Ellensburg, Washington State Cattlemen’s Association
  • Diane Gallegos of Tenino, Wolf Haven International
  • Janey Howe of Colville, science teacher and part-time range rider
  • Molly Linville of Palisades, independent cattle rancher
  • Nick Martinez of Moxee, Washington State Sheep Producers
  • Dan McKinley of Spangle, Mule Deer Foundation
  • Dan Paul of Seattle, Humane Society of the United States
  • Mark Pidgeon of Bellevue, Hunters Heritage Council
  • Lisa Stone of Shelton, hunter
  • Paula Swedeen of Olympia, Conservation Northwest

Hunters applying for Idaho spring bear, turkey hunts

HUNTING — Applications for Idaho spring black bear hunts must be filed by Feb. 15 and spring turkey controlled hunt applications must be in by March 1. 

Other Idaho spring dates to note:

  • April 1 — Leftover controlled hunt tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale.
  • April 8 —  Youth turkey hunts open.
  • April 15 — Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start, with some controlled hunts opening later.

Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor; Fish and Game office; with a credit card by calling 1-800-55HUNT5; or online.

Spring 2015 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2014 Big Game Seasons and Rules book.

Spring turkey controlled hunt information is available in the 2014-2015 Upland Game, Furbearer and Turkey Seasons and Rules book. Both are available at all license vendors, Fish and Game offices and online.

Legal scholars: Utah’s push for US land would hurt public

PUBLIC LANDS — Utah’s push to wrest control of 31 million acres of federally controlled land would lead to less public access, less public involvement in land-use decisions and more drilling and strip mining, according to a new report by legal scholars.

The report, by the University of Utah law school’s Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment, also concludes the move could lead to a better chance of imperiled plants and wildlife winning protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The report was co-authored by Bob Keiter, the Stegner center’s director, and John Ruple, who served in the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office under former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

The story comes from the Salt Lake Tribune via the Associated Press:

“The public would have less, not more, input into land management, and all who utilize what are now public lands — industry and recreation interests alike — would likely see the cost of access increase substantially,” Ruple said. “In short, the public would suffer from this misguided effort.”

Utah Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton disputed the report’s finding that state control would lead to diminished public access and rampant drilling and strip mining.

“One of the largest economic drivers (in Utah) is tourism and recreation,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It is in the state’s interest to preserve, protect and promote that activity, just as much as mineral development. It’s all about balance.”

Utah’s Republican governor and legislators argue local officials would be better land managers and state control would make money for the state. They passed a 2012 law demanding the federal government hand over the land by 2015, but the federal government failed to do so.

The land demand does not include national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments, with the exception of the roughly 3,000-square-mile Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah and its underground coal reserves.

The Stegner report concludes the 2012 law does nothing to ensure that the public continues to enjoy the same level of access and involvement in decision-making as guaranteed under federal law. The report urges the Legislature to establish management priorities and mandate resource inventories for transferred lands and to enact a state version of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

“Enactment of such statutes in states seeking to take over public lands would send a much-needed message about transparency, accountability and commitment to the public interest,” they wrote.

But Rampton said the state has no interest in approving NEPA, the landmark 1969 federal law that requires analysis and disclosure of project impacts on public lands.

“The review is so drawn-out and provides no certainty, but rather extenuates uncertainty,” he told The Tribune. “The feds can’t act quickly because they have to deal with this process and when they finish the process, they have to deal with litigation.”

Republican lawmakers in December said a report, produced by three state universities, shows it won’t be a financial burden for Utah if the state manages to succeed in its push to take control of the land.

But Ruple said Utah would have to substantially increase energy production to cover the costs of managing lands and to protect the revenue stream counties now enjoy from federal royalties, which amounted to more than $180 million in 2013.

“Instead of a potential surplus, we see a potential deficit,” he said. “The only realistic option is more development.”


Wyoming county, group team up to oppose federal lands bills
Sweetwater County commissioners urged the state legislators representing the Wyoming county to not support either of the two federal lands bills currently before the state Legislature. In addition, on Thursday the Wyoming Sportsmen Alliance distributed a handout to legislators taking the same stance.
—Casper Star-Tribune;

Wyoming legislators should OK study of state management of federal lands
There are two bills under consideration by the Wyoming Legislature this session dealing with federal lands, one that demands the federal government hand over lands within the state's borders and another that would study management of federal lands by the state, and while the seizure bill goes too far, studying state management of federal lands would be worthwhile, if only to allow the public users of state lands to document their concerns about such management.
—Casper Star-Tribune

Prosecutor still mum on charges for Whitman County wolf shooting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A Whitman County man who shot a gray wolf last fall told investigators the animal did not pose an imminent threat to humans or livestock.

Officers investigating the October 12 shooting say Jonathan M. Rasmussen and his wife did not indicate the wolf posed a threat at the time of the shooting south of Pullman, according to a report released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife after a public records request by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Fish and Wildlife police say they found evidence of unlawful taking of wildlife and recommended a misdemeanor charge be filed.

State Fish and Wildlife officials turned over the case to Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy on Nov. 19. The prosecutor's office confirms that the case is still under consideration and no charges have been filed.

Under Washington state endangered species protections, it is illegal to shoot a wolf unless it is attacking livestock or people.

Updated: Yellowstone elk increase as wolf numbers decline

Updated Feb. 5, noon, with info about corresponding decline of Yellowstone wolves.

WILDLIFE — Wildlife officials have tallied a 24 percent increase in the size of an elk herd that migrates between Yellowstone National Park and Montana.

But they say it’s too soon to know if the change marks a turnaround for a population long in decline.

The 2015 winter survey of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd counted 4,844 elk. That’s almost 1,000 animals more than the last count in 2013 and the highest number since 2010.

Park biologist Doug Smith says a higher survival rate for newborn calves last year likely helped boost the population.

The well-known herd peaked at almost 20,000 animals in 1994, just before carnivorous gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995.

Also taking a toll on the herd have been hunters, other predators and harsh winters.

Research has shown that the elk were overpopulated in the mid-90s and that the park's ecosystems, including aspens, have benefited to a more natural balance since wolves were reintroduced.

However, sportsmen's groups say a 75 percent decline in the area's elk herd is overkill.

Variable factors?

Wolf factor

The park's wolf population has dropped substantially since 2007. Park-wide, the number of wolves in Yellowstone declined from 171 in December 2007 to 82 in December 2012. Most of the decrease has been in packs on the northern range, where it has been attributed primarily to the decline in the elk population there. Disease, primarily distemper and possibly mange, have also been factors in the population decline. Wolves also have been killing each other in territorial contests.

Here's a Feb. 5 story with more details from the Associated Press:


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials tallied a 24 percent population increase this winter for a well-known elk herd that migrates between Yellowstone National Park and Montana, but said it was too soon to know if the change marks a turnaround for a herd long in decline.

The 2015 winter survey of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd counted 4,844 elk. That’s almost 1,000 more animals than the last reliable count, in 2013, and the highest number since 2010.

A higher survival rate for newborn calves last year likely helped boost the population, according to biologists Doug Smith with Yellowstone and Karen Loveless with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The herd, which is widely known among hunters and wildlife watchers, peaked at almost 20,000 animals in the early 1990s. That was soon before carnivorous gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, helping drive down elk numbers that also took a toll from heavy hunting, other predators and harsh winters.

State wildlife officials responded by first reducing and eventually eliminating in 2011 a late-season elk hunt near Gardiner that at one point issued permits for more than 1,000 elk annually.

Loveless said this winter’s jump in the herd’s numbers is not enough to immediately justify any additional hunting.

“I’d want to see at least a few years of population stability before we were to increase the (elk) harvest,” she said.

The 2015 winter survey counted more than 1,130 elk inside the park and more than 3,700 in adjacent areas of Montana.

Wolf numbers on the herd’s range have dropped by roughly half in recent years, from 94 to 42 of the predators. Park biologists said the decline suggests wolves could be beginning to respond to fewer elk.

A study is planned next winter to gauge the accuracy of the annual elk survey, Smith said. Participants will include researchers from the park, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Certainly the news is good. The numbers are up. Is it a true indication of a trend? I can’t say,” Smith said. “We want to know what’s going on with these elk. They are iconic in this region.”

Last year’s survey was not completed because of poor weather conditions.

Photo: winter gathering place for elk

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As hard as they are to find during hunting season, here's proof that a few elk survived the guns, highways and wolves of Western Montana.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson counted more than 450 elk in four herds along winter range areas near Lincoln, Montana, in one day this week.

Updated: More groups speak out against states’ federal land grab

Updated Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m. with news of final Idaho report on federal transfer proposals.

PUBLIC LANDS — The evidence, logic and sentiment is mounting against the sham some legislators are continuing as they court private interest groups by stumping for state take-overs of federal public land. 

The movements in several Western states are being exposed as a threat to public access of prized outdoor destinations as well as a waste of legislative time and taxpayer dollars.

The cause has rallied a growing number of sportsmen's groups and outdoor business.

Here's the latest in the news:

Idaho legislators should stop wasting time on federal lands transfer
There has been enough time and effort expended on Idaho legislators' study of taking over management of federal lands and/or the outright transfer of those lands to the state. Given what the past two years of such study has yielded, i.e., that the campaign for such a transfer originated outside the borders of the Gem State and that the Idaho Statehood Act and Constitution specifically forbid "any further or other grants of land for any purpose" from the federal government, to name a couple, it's time the issue be laid to rest, and state legislators focus on the real issues faced by Idahoans.

A guest editorial by Jonathan Oppenheimer, senior conservation associate for the Idaho Conservation League.
—Idaho Statesman

That's just a hint at the slippery slope state control of public recreation and multi-use lands could lead to:

Idaho state parks seeks bill to allow corporate sponsors
Although Idaho law doesn't specifically ban the use of corporate sponsors for Idaho state parks, it doesn't specifically allow it either, and state parks officials are seeking a bill to do so.
—The Spokesman-Review

Finally — for now — here's a story about the final committee report on Idaho lawmakers' two-year effort to be land barons:

Public lands takeover advice: Don’t sue feds

By William L. Spence / Lewiston Tribune

BOISE - Idaho lawmakers still want to improve management practices on public lands, but they say suing the federal government isn’t the right strategy to accomplish that goal.

After nearly two years of study, the Idaho Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Task Force adopted its final report Friday, Jan. 30.

The document concludes suing the government to try and acquire ownership of public lands "would be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor, without a great deal of certainty as to the outcome While not eliminating litigation as an alternative, the committee found it is not the preferred path to resolve federal land management issues."

The task force has held nearly a dozen public meetings since 2013, taking comments from people across the state.

The report notes there was "consistent support for continued public access" to the federal lands, and little support for selling such lands. People also felt "current management of federal lands isn’t producing the array of multiple-use benefits" originally contemplated.

The economic rationale for owning the land was limited, according to the report.

While there was substantial debate on this issue, a study from the University of Idaho’s Policy Analysis Group found net revenue from state management of federal timberlands would have ranged from a loss of $6 million to a profit of $129 million per year, depending on harvest levels and timber prices. If highway maintenance, recreation and rangeland management costs were added in, the state would lose anywhere from $24 million to $111 million. That would be partially offset by as much as $58 million per year in income tax revenue from the thousands of jobs that would be created.

An alternative analysis estimated Idaho would lose $1.5 billion over the first decade of state ownership, and that upward of 2,500 mostly rural jobs would be lost.

The primary lesson from the committee’s work, according to the report, was that "much more work needs to be done to improve the management of federal lands in the state."

Consequently, the task force is recommending that the state establish a commission or office to continue monitoring the issue, while also pursing collaborative opportunities with the federal government that allow the state to play a greater role in the management of public lands.

The recommendations will be presented to legislative leaders for possible action this session.



New Idaho board spending $4,600 per wolf in control effort

PREDATORS — Idaho’s new wolf depredation control board reported to state lawmakers today that since it was launched July 1, it’s spent $140,000 to kill 31 wolves, all of which were attacking livestock, according to a report just posted by S-R Idaho capital reporter Betsy Russell.

Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, said, “That’s $4,600 per wolf. As the wolf population grows, how are we going to sustain this type of expense?”

Pray tell?

Washington lawmakers join federal land transfer bandwagon

PUBLIC LANDS — 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.”

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman fleshes out the state Senate perps involved in this waste of time and money.

Read a few recent stories on these efforts in several other western states:

News of the Washington bill comes shortly after national sportsmen's groups and businesses launched a campaign to oppose state movements to take over federal lands, with the high likelihood that they would later become privatized in some way.

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. This is land we can't afford to be vulnerable to special interests.

“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 Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “More than 72 percent of Western sportsmen depend on these lands for access to hunting."

Chronic wasting disease found in Utah bull elk

HUNTING — A bull elk shot in a private northern Utah hunting park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), Utah Department of Agriculture officials confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune Friday.

Confirmation of the neurological disease's presence means the approximately 20 wild deer and two moose fenced in on the Broadmouth Canyon Ranch in Liberty will have to be killed to be tested, reports outdoor writer Brett Prettyman.

The entire herd of elk — more than 60 animals — at the Howe's Elk Ranching operation near Blanding, where the CWD-positive bull came from, will also have to be destroyed and tested.

"The bull came from the farm in southeastern Utah as part of a group of 11 bulls," said Utah state veterinarian Warren Hess. Hunters at the Broadmouth Canyon Ranch killed nine of the bulls, and tests on one of them came back positive, he said. As a result, ranch owners killed the last two bull elk. "We are waiting for the results on those animals," Hess said.

Broadmouth Canyon Ranch is owned by the family of former Utah State University football player and National Football League All-Pro Rulon Jones. The state has had issues with fence breaches at Broadmouth Canyon in the past. The family also operates an elk hunting ranch in Idaho and two hunting ranches in Mexico.

Hess said the department is not aware of any movement of elk from the Utah ranch to the Idaho ranch, which is in the Blackfoot Mountains.

Hess said Howe's Elk Ranch is under quarantine while the state works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to seek compensation for the elk. The CWD-infected bull had been at the Liberty hunting park for less than three weeks when it was killed. The state mandates testing of all animals killed at private elk farms or hunting parks, and the bull's results came back positive just before Christmas.

"There wasn't a long exposure and so far that is the only animal to test positive," Hess said. "We have two areas of concern: the park itself and the deer inside the park and the chance of them being infected and getting back out."

It is unknown where the elk at Howe's Elk Ranch picked up CWD. Hess said records show there has been no movement of elk into the the Blanding ranch for the past five years.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials are making plans to hunt the deer and moose in the Broadmouth Canyon Ranch enclosure to test for CWD and to prevent them from escaping and reaching other wild animals.

"We will work with the Department of Agriculture to minimize the risk of contact between domestic and wild animals," said DWR's mammals coordinator Leslie McFarlane, who oversees the state's wildlife disease program.

Chronic wasting disease is not new to Utah wildlife. The disease is sometimes compared to mad cow disease, but is not deemed to be transmittable to humans.

It first showed up in Utah in 2002 when a buck mule deer killed during the rifle hunt near Vernal tested positive. A doe mule deer found dead in a field near Moab in 2003 was the second known case of CWD in Utah. Since then, according to McFarlane, there have 62 cases of CWD in Utah. Two elk have been confirmed to have CWD.

A map showing the distribution of CWD in Utah between 2003 and 2013 shows no evidence of the malady near Liberty where the Broadmouth Canyon hunting park is located.

DWR biologists conduct annual CWD testing in areas where it is prevalent and at random locations across the state to monitor Utah's herds.

"We will increase our monitoring around the two facilities by looking at live animals that appear sick and doing tests on road kill," McFarlane said. "If people see sick animals we would ask that they let us know."

Hess said operators at both elk facilities have been working with the Department of Agriculture to address the issue.

East slope Cascades wildlife area management plan released

CONSERVATION — The Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation and Access Plan — a guidebook for managing 230,000 acres of state lands — has been released by the Washington state departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The recreation plan covers lands from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.

The plan addresses recreation in the Naneum Ridge State Forest, managed by DNR, the Colockum Wildlife Area, and the Quilomene and Whiskey Dick units of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, managed by WDFW.

Following is a summary from a release posted by the two agencies:

The recreation plan culminates a 3-year planning process and collaborative effort between the agencies, local user and community groups, and a volunteer advisory committee, which included members from a wide range of interests. Committee members donated more than 1,200 hours of volunteer time in 20 public meetings.

“The public played an integral role,” said Brock Milliern, statewide recreation manager for the agencies. “By planning proactively we can ensure that recreation develops here in a way respects the local desire to maintain rural and agricultural activities, meets the agencies’ needs, and expands sustainable recreation and economic opportunities for the public and surrounding communities.”

The plan will guide DNR and WDFW in sustainable management of the recreation planning area for the next 10 to 15 years.

“This was a huge effort by the committee members, the public and the agencies to find balance among competing interests for fish, wildlife, land management and compatible recreation,” said Mike Livingston, regional director for WDFW. “This plan sets us up to achieve that balance.” 

Recreation Opportunities
As the plan is implemented, DNR and WDFW will continue to consult with local groups to expand safe and sustainable recreation opportunities for the public and surrounding communities.

Opportunities include:

  •  Providing and maintaining the Green Dot road network, which offers a system for public vehicle and off-road vehicle use and access to recreation opportunities throughout the planning area. WDFW will offer more Green Dot roads on its lands in Kittitas County.
  •  Providing trail opportunities for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking in the forested portions of the Naneum Ridge State Forest and the Colockum Wildlife Area, including a north-south trail in the northern and western sections of the planning area that will offer greater access to recreation.
  •  Providing off-road trail opportunities for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and 4X4s, through discussion with user groups and the public.
  • Developing a non-motorized winter trail system and a new non-motorized parking area in the Stemilt Basin area.
  • Continuing to provide snowmobile access in the planning area.
  •  Improving road and trail linkages to public land west of the planning area, including the Wenatchee National Forest.
  • WDFW plans to pursue partnership opportunities with local governments and non-profit organizations to design, develop, manage and maintain a shooting range facility.

Wasting moose could cost N. Idaho man up to $20K in penalties

POACHING — A North Idaho man authorities say shot and killed two moose and left one to rot is facing felony charges of taking and wasting wildlife.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports in a story on Sunday that 59-year-old Richard L. Bolin Jr. of Dalton Gardens is scheduled to appear in Bonner County Magistrate Court on Feb. 27.

Authorities say that hunters reported to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in September 2012 that Bolin shot and killed two moose in the Lost Creek drainage, the Associated Press says.

Authorities say Bolin later told a conservation officer he mistook the second, larger moose for the smaller moose he shot first. The first moose was left to rot, as was part of the second.

Bolin faces civil penalties of up to $20,000.

Lake Roosevelt bighorns to be collared for research

WILDLIFE — Bighorn sheep near in Lincoln County near Lake Roosevelt will wearing new neck gear for research later this month.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans use a helicopter contractor capture to bighorns from the Lincoln Cliffs herd on Feb. 10, weather permitting.

Up to 20 of the wild sheep will be ear-tagged and nine will be equipped with GPS tracking collars, said Carrie Lowe, state wildlife biologist. The sheep will be released so biologists can better monitor their movements, productivity, and survival.

The sheep will be captured with nets shot from the helicopter, then transported to a staging area for handling and blood sampling by a ground crew.

The department is working to secure permission to access private land in the Lincoln and Whitestone Rock areas near the Lake Roosevelt shoreline for the work.

Wildlife area closed Feb. 1 to protect wintering elk

WILDLIFE — Under a state plan adopted eight years ago, about 44,000 acres of wildlife land in Kittitas County east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1 through April 30 to protect wintering elk.

The winter closure includes portions of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, which is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The closure only restricts motorized vehicle access; the public may still access the area by foot, horseback, or mountain bike, wildlife officials say.

The area subject to the closure is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River. This is the eighth year of the seasonal closure of the wildlife area lands, said Scott McCorquodale, WDFW regional wildlife manager.

About 2,000 elk - nearly half the Colockum elk herd - winter on the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene sections of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

"Vehicle traffic can disturb these elk and reduce their use of habitat near roads," McCorquodale said. "Reducing vehicle traffic on the wildlife area also may encourage wintering elk to remain on the public land rather than straying to nearby private lands."

The winter closure is included in the new Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation and Access Plan, developed over three years by WDFW and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and released today. The plan addresses recreation and public access for roughly 230,000 acres of DNR and WDFW land stretching from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.

One road that receives minimal winter traffic, will remain open to the public. The road travels south from Quilomene Ridge Road along Jackknife Ridge to the northern boundary of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. From there, a three-mile stretch of road through the park ultimately connects with Old Vantage Highway. Washington State Parks manages the park road under a permit system, providing free permits onsite.

The three-month seasonal closure is consistent with winter-range closures elsewhere in the state, including the Oak Creek and Wenas wildlife areas.

Seasonal closures also occur on critical big-game winter ranges in several other western states, including Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming. 

Wyoming balks as feds plan sheep grazing cuts to save bighorns

WILDLIFE — Federal efforts to reduce chances that domestic sheep will spread disease to beleaguered bighorns is hitting a fence in Wyoming.

Some Wyoming lawmakers are pushing to protect domestic sheep in the state from a possible federal effort to remove them from public lands, the Associated Press reports:

Here is the latest from AP, although the story does not point out that the federal action has been prompted by massive die-offs of bighorn sheep in states such as Washington and Montana.

The U.S. Forest Service recently curtailed domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest in Idaho to protect bighorn sheep from disease. The agency is developing a larger plan to consider whether it needs to curtail domestic sheep in Wyoming and other western states to reduce the threat to bighorns.

Domestic sheep producers in Idaho and elsewhere last year appealed the Forest Service’s decision to curtail grazing on the Payette National Forest to a federal appeals court in San Francisco. Wool growers’ associations in Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho have joined the fight.

Amy Hendrickson, executive director of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, said Thursday the prospect of coming federal cuts to grazing allotments has created great concern among sheep operators in the state.

“It’s hard for a lot of our producers to make management decisions, decisions what to do, because they just don’t know whether they’re going to be able to graze or not,” Hendrickson said.

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, is sponsoring a bill to codify in Wyoming law a plan that state agencies have used for the past 10 years to resolve possible conflicts between wild and domestic sheep. Recognizing the plan in state law will put the state on firmer legal ground if it has to fight any federal effort to evict domestic sheep producers, he said.

State management agencies, hunting groups and grazing interests worked together to devise the Wyoming plan in 2004. It ranks sheep areas in the state according to their value, placing the greatest restrictions on domestic sheep in the prime bighorn areas.

“For the last 10 years, we’ve been operating under a handshake,” Hicks said. “In Wyoming it works really well, to the point that the agencies have adopted it.”

The Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, a wild sheep conservation group, intervened together against environmental groups that filed a federal lawsuit alleging that domestic sheep grazing threatened a small bighorn herd on the Medicine Bow National Forest. A decision in that lawsuit is still pending.

Hicks sponsored legislation that became law two years ago specifying that if concern over bighorns in the Medicine Bow National Forest threatened existing domestic sheep operators that the state would remove the wild sheep.

Sen. Stan Cooper, R-Kemmerer, is sponsoring similar legislation this year that would specify the state would remove a herd of bighorns from the Darby Mountain area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest if the federal government proposed to cut domestic sheep operations there.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last summer expressing concerns about the Forest Service’s development of its forthcoming sheep plan.

The governors told Vilsack that new grazing allotments had to be identified before any domestic sheep producers were displaced from grazing allotments. Members of Congress from around the West have voiced similar concerns to agency officials.

Jessica Crowder, policy adviser for Mead, said Thursday that the Region 4 office of the U.S. Forest Service, headquartered in Ogden, Utah, is preparing the sheep risk assessment. Crowder said she expects the Forest Service will share more information with states in the West in coming months.

Attempts to reach Forest Service officials for comment on the pending plan were unsuccessful on Thursday.

Lauren M. Rule, an Oregon lawyer, represents environmental groups challenging domestic sheep grazing on both the Payette and Medicine Bow national forests.

Rule said Thursday she doesn’t see how codifying Wyoming’s existing sheep plan would help the state if the Forest Service proposes cuts in grazing. She said the existence of a state sheep plan in Idaho didn’t stop federal action to reduce grazing there.

Bird flu strikes Okanogan game farm; pheasants to be destroyed

HUNTING — An outbreak of avian influenza in a private game farm in Okanogan County is forcing federal and state agriculture officials to kill up to 5,000 ducks, geese, chickens, pheasants and turkeys.

About 40 birds at a game farm for private hunting and bird-dog training in Riverside, Washington, were sick and died over the weekend. The birds tested positive for bird flu on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Washington announced it would kill birds from the flock and establish a six-mile quarantine around it to contain the disease.

The flock represents the largest number of birds the state has had to test and possibly kill during 2015 bird flu outbreaks.

"As recently as November, the flock owners had tests run on their birds which, at that time, showed no sign of avian influenza in the flock," Agriculture officials said in a statement.

Other outbreaks of the avian flu have been reported in Clallam, Benton and Franklin county, but involved much smaller numbers of poultry. Washington state has now lifted a quarantine in the Tri-Cities but one in Port Angeles remains. No new cases have been found in either location.

An outbreak in California led to 146,000 turkeys being killed at a commercial operation. Several countries including China have banned poultry and eggs from the United States.

Idaho director weary of wolf-facts distortion

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Since Idaho's main wolf biologist, Jim Hayden, made a routine presentation on the status of the state's wolf population to the state Fish and Game Commission two weeks ago, the spin on the numbers has been dizzying — and distorting.

IFG Director Virgil Moore says enough already: It's time for advocacy groups to stop crying wolf.

Here 's an op-ed piece Moore has released to lay out the facts the agency has compiled about Idaho's wolf population.

By Virgil Moore/Director, Idaho Fish and Game

It’s important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view.  But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren’t true, it’s also important to set the record straight. 

Here are the facts:

  • Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves.  Idaho’s wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.
  • After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho’s wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock. 
  • After 4 harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined.  Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.
  • Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient.  Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are “teetering on the brink of endangered status once again.”  That’s hogwash.  And it’s the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Confirming a pack meets U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s narrow definition of a “breeding pair” is costly and labor-intensive.  With vast reductions in federal funding to the state and Nez Perce Tribe for wolf monitoring, Fish and Game has focused our effort on demonstrating Idaho has at least 15 “breeding pairs” to comply with federal recovery requirements.  Idaho closely surveyed 30 packs and confirmed that 22 of them met the breeding pair standard at the end of 2014.  Because Idaho has shown it is well above federal recovery levels, we may rely on less intensive monitoring for the other 70 + packs as we complete our final 2014 population estimates.  One can assume these 70+ packs include some additional breeding pairs.  We will publish our annual monitoring report in March.

As trained scientists, Idaho Fish and Game stands by our data and our wildlife management plans.  We manage wolves to ensure we keep state management authority and address conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

I hope people who truly care about wildlife conservation ignore the exaggerations and misinformation and help Fish and Game focus on the real issues affecting Idaho’s wildlife.

It appears as though Moore is referring in part to the Center For Biological Diversity, which is a go-to quote source for Associated Press reporters looking for "balance" in a news report on wolf management.

As Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman points out, "Earlier this month, the Center for Biological Diversity claimed that Idaho’s wolf numbers had “dropped to levels where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it would consider protection under the Endangered Species Act,” and that the USFWS “must step in to save the wolf population before it’s too late.” 

(Subsequently, the Arizona-based group petitioned the service to relist wolves in the Lower 48 as threatened.)

Montana tries profit incentive to boost wolf control

PREDATORS — Montana hunters and trappers aren't killing enough wolves to keep the population down to state management goals. So…

Montana hunters, trappers may now export wolf pelts
In order to keep hunters and trappers interested in wolves, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks successfully requested tags from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, that allow the export of endangered species while adhering to management practices that ensure the continuation of the species.
—Missoula Independent;

Man who shot wolf, didn’t report, opts for jury trial

PREDATORS — A North Idaho man says he will take his chances with a jury rather than pay a $200 fine for shooting a wolf without a hunting tag.

“It’s going to be really hard to find a jury in North Idaho that finds me guilty for shooting a wolf to save my stinking dogs,” Forrest Mize told The Coeur d’Alene Press in a story today.

Mize, 53, faces a misdemeanor charge of possessing a wolf without a tag, not for the shooting of the wolf, which is a game animal in Idaho that can be legally hunted.

The same charges would apply if he'd have shot a mountain lion without a tag and kept it. Shooting an animal in self defense or defense of property is allowed if it can be proved, but state law says the animal must be turned over to authorities.

Here are more details from the Associated Press:

Mize said he was hiking with his pets last month when they came upon the wolf. Mize said he feared the animal was about to attack, so he shot it with the gun he was carrying for protection.

He said he decided he wanted to keep the pelt, and so he bought a hunting tag and took the carcass to a taxidermist.

But wildlife officials say it’s illegal to shoot a wolf without a tag and then buy a tag afterward. Authorities said Mize should have simply reported shooting the wolf and the circumstances involved.

Because Mize didn’t have a valid tag when he killed the wolf, wildlife officials confiscated the pelt, which can be worth hundreds of dollars.

Mize turned down Kootenai County prosecutors’ offer Tuesday of a $200 fine if he pleads guilty.

“I did the right thing, I just did it in the wrong order,” Mize said. “I’m not going to buy a tag (in advance), because I don’t hunt for wolves.”

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh confirmed the offer was made.

Cheap .22 ammo top attraction at Portland sportsmen’s show

SHOOTING — Remember when Jim Zumbo and fishing demo tanks stocked with real fish were the big attractions advertized by sportsman show promoters?

Times have changed:  A promotion getting big attention for the  Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show in Portland next week is a chance for 15,000 gun owners to score a brick of cheap .22 rimfire ammunition.

Each day of the show, Cascade Farm and Outdoor of Walla Walla will sell 6,000 short bricks (300 rounds) for $20 each, or 6.7 cents per round, reports Oregon outdoor writer Bill Monroe.

"They're CCI, 36-grain, copper-plated, hollow-point cartridges.That's how many permits will be issued on a first-come basis to show attendees – exhibitors included – allowing them to buy inexpensive short 'bricks' of .22 caliber long rifle ammunition."

Details are posted online. The show runs Feb. 4-8 at the Portland Expo Center.

Shooters are well aware that .22 rimfire ammo, the most popular recreational shooting caliber, has been in short supply for years. Panic buying and hoarding apparently was prompted by consumer hysteria that President Obama somehow had the power to confiscate guns and stockpile ammo.

"Few major sources in the Portland area had any (.22 ammo) at all in a cursory check this past week," Monroe said. "Prices for those that did ranged from 16 to 20 cents per round. American ammunition manufacturers are racing to keep up with demand, but some retailers are importing .22 ammo from Mexico."

"Brick" is a term for a small container, usually cardboard, holding smaller boxes of .22 ammunition, usually 40 or 50 rounds. Years ago, a brick was always 500 rounds. Today total cartridges in a 22 brick varies from 300-500 rounds.

20 moose tags added to North Idaho hunts

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has set seasons for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats for 2015, adding moose tags for the Panhandle Region and adding new hunts farther south for bighorn sheep.

The new rules will include the following changes:

  • Panhandle Region: Add 20 additional antlered moose tags and additional hunting opportunity for antlerless moose hunts.
  • Clearwater Region: Extend season for bighorn sheep late controlled hunt in Unit 17; Split mountain goat hunt area creating two hunts and adding two tags.
  • Southwest Region: Add new hunt for bighorn sheep controlled hunt with two tags in Hunt Area 19A;  Reallocate tags for California bighorn sheep controlled hunts in two hunt areas.
  • Magic Valley Region: Add a new controlled hunt for one antlered moose.
  • Southeast Region: Add an archery only controlled hunt with two tags for moose, reorganize hunt areas and reduce antlered moose tags by two; Reallocate controlled hunts for antlerless moose, reorganize hunt areas and reduce tags by five.
  • Upper Snake: No Changes
  • Salmon Region: Expand hunt area 29 to include Unit 37 for antlered moose controlled hunts; Combine bighorn sheep hunt areas 28-2 and 28-3.

Specifics of these changes will be available in the new rules brochure available at license vendors, Fish and Game offices and online by the end of February.

Deep-well irrigation impacts in Eastern Washington discussed

ENVIRONMENT — Duck hunters and anglers are noticing the difference, and it's nothing new to cattle ranchers and farmers.

Ground water levels are getting lower in much of Eastern Washington and deep-well irrigation is part of the issue.

Sportsmen can get up to speed on what's going on by attending this program sponsored by the Columbia Basin Geological Society:

Long Term Water Level Trends in the Odessa Subarea, Eastern Washington

Who: By Guy Gregory, Washington Department of Ecology

When: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m. social hour, 7 p.m. presentation

Where: Jack & Dan’s, 1226 N Hamilton St.

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."  

Dog guards hunter’s body in Ridgefield refuge duck blind

UPDATED, adding breed of dog.

HUNTING DOGS — A yellow Labrador retriever protecting its owner wouldn’t let a manager at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge near Longview, Wash., approach the duck blind where the hunter had fatally collapsed.

Waterfowlers have to admire the devotion of the dog, counter-productive as defensiveness might be in some cases.

The Clark County sheriff’s office says Ridgefield police removed the aggressive dog using a catch pole Tuesday evening and medics confirmed the 54-year-old man was dead, presumably of natural causes.

The Columbian reports the man went hunting at 5 a.m. but didn’t check out at dusk, so the manager went to check on him. A duck he had shot was inside the blind with him.

The yellow Lab was held for a family member to retrieve.

End of upland bird seasons tough day for hunting dogs

HUNTING — Eastern Washington's upland bird hunting seasons for partridge and quail ended at 5:15 p.m. today.

That means my English setter is going to be a little less than fulfilled every day from now until the mountain grouse seasons open on Sept. 1.

Even the Seahawks' Richard Sherman could take a lesson from Scout on the disciplines of focus and determination in the field.

Scout would rather hunt than eat, as you can see from the photo. When I've had the privilege of owning a good hunting dog, my goal has always been to get it out on birds twice a week during the seasons. I fulfilled that commitment to his blood line pretty well this year with brief exceptions for elk season and a New Years break for skiing.

By the end of the hunting seasons, Scout is lean and hard like the basalt cliffs he contours in pursuit of chukar scent.

He'll get an unwanted chance to fatten up for a few months. We'll both have to chew on the taunting but promising memory of a flock of chukars cackling from a rock band above us as we descended from their haunts for the last time this season.

Washington Wildlife Police showcased on TV

Updated with revised date for broadcast.

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Rugged Justice, a new six-episode Animal Planet network series on the work of Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers, will debut on TV on Sunday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m.

Filmed last fall, the show follows wildlife officers as they patrol “unforgiving mountain terrains, twisted rainforest back roads and densely populated coastal areas … more than 42 million acres of rugged terrain, half of it heavily forested and filled with wild animals – and often-dangerous people,” according to a press release from the cable channel.

The WDFW Law Enforcement’s Facebook page said, “It’s safe to say that our typical, regulated, hunting and fishing license-holding public knows what we do as a Program, but this series will highlight the Enforcement Program’s relevance to the greater public.”

State proposes Whitman County land acquisition

WILDLIFE — The state may acquire a 94-acre parcel in the Palouse grasslands to help assure mule deer, pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and other wildlife have a corridor connecting with other protected habitats in Whitman County.

 The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking public comment through Jan. 30 on a proposal to acquire the Pheasants Forever-Knott Property and for fish and wildlife habitat restoration and public recreation, including hunting.  The land would be donated by Pheasants Forever, a wildlife conservation group that's already secured the property.

Officials also are proposing to acquire 10 acres in Whatcom County for the Lower Nooksack River Project.

  • Information on both properties is available on WDFW’s website. The webpage also includes projects pursued in 2014.

The two proposals represent critical components of larger landscape restoration efforts in the Palouse prairie habitats of Whitman County and the lower Nooksack River, said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW land conservation and restoration section manager. Both projects would complement existing adjacent WDFW Wildlife Areas, she said.

The Whitman County parcel helps join the state's Revere Wildlife Area and the Escure Ranch area along Rock Creek managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Whitman County property is being donated by Pheasants Forever. The Lower Nooksack River is funded through a National Coastal Wetlands Grant. 

Washington's Fish and Wildlife agency owns or manages about one million acres in 33 wildlife areas, along with 700 public water-access sites to boost wildlife and outdoor recreation.


North Idaho man cited for keeping pelt after shooting wolf

A North Idaho man who said he shot a wolf that appeared to be crouched down as if to attack his three dogs on the southern end of Rathdrum Mountain has been cited for possessing an untagged wolf.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports in a story on Tuesday that officials also seized the wolf pelt from 53-year-old Forrest Mize, of Rathdrum.

Mize said that on Dec. 30 he was hiking with his three female Labradors when he shot the wolf with a .22-caliber weapon he carries for protection.

“I guess I’m not surprised that we are seeing wolves up there,” said Chip Corsi, regional director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, noting the abundance of deer, elk and moose in the area. However, it’s unclear whether the wolf shot by Mize was alone or a member of a pack, he said.

Corsi declined to elaborate on the citation, saying officials are still investigating.

Officials said even if a wolf shooting is ruled to be defensive, the person isn’t allowed to buy a tag afterward to keep the pelt, which is what Mize did.

Possessing a wolf pelt without a tag is a misdemeanor.