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Volunteers to be trained for wolverine research

WILDLIFE — A training workshop will be held Saturday in Sandpoint for volunteers planning to help wildlife researchers monitor wolverines, lynx and fishers in North Idaho this winter.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the Idaho Conservation League and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE) once again are forming the core of the effort to put up bait, tend motion-activated cameras and harvest hair left by visiting critters for DNA sampling.

More than 140 volunteers helped last year in the effort overseen by Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers.

On Saturday, volunteers will be trained in some new proceedures from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Forest Service Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario St.

Since much of the work requires volunteers to ski or shoeshoe into the backcountry, an optional avalanche awareness presentation is included.

Info: (208) 265-9565

South Fork Salmon River targeted for gold mining

RIVERS — The Idaho Conservation League has petitioned the U.S. Forest Service, asking the agency to reconsider allowing more gold exploration near the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River.

See the story:

Idaho group asks USFS to reconsider gold mining near Salmon River

Idaho Statesman (AP); Nov. 21

Idaho group drops lawsuit over Salmon River dredging

RIVERS —  An Idaho conservation group has dropped its lawsuit challenging state approval of a plan to dredge a stretch of the Salmon River for gold, according to the Associated Press.

The Idaho Conservation League backed away from its lawsuit last week mainly because the Mike Conklin of Grangeville also scrapped his plans to dredge the river.

ICL sued days after the state approved a mining lease for Conklin. In September, Conklin was awarded a five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board for exclusive access to a half-mile stretch of river downstream of Riggins.

In its lawsuit, ICL argued the state needed to approve a reclamation plan before approving suction dredge leases.

ICL officials say they also won state assurances that if Conklin changed his mind, he would have to go through the entire lease process again.

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlson: We Need More Like Simpson

Second District Congressman Mike Simpson continues to make a case to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives some day. He believes in solving problems and making government work. We need more like him. He recently spoke candidly to the Idaho Conservation Leagues’ annual retreat at Redfish Lake. What he said was a breath of fresh air to those who are beginning to wonder if either political party will figure out that real solutions to the nation’s challenges will require compromise and bipartisanship. Simpson not only figured it out a long-time ago, he has taken steps to form a working coalition of like-minded Republicans and Democrats. His frustration is that outside of the “Gang of Six” in the Senate he sees little else that gives any hope that the Senate, which has failed to pass a budget for three straight years, will be of similar mind/Chris Carlson, The Carlson Chronicle. More here. (AP file photo of Mike Simpson & Butch Otter)

Question: Are you surprised that a congressional statesman hails from Idaho?

ICL Head Lauds ‘Reasonable’ Repubs

On his Facebook wall, Rocky Barker/Statesman writes of Rick Johnson/Idaho Conservation League applauding the formation of a "reasonable Republicans" group, having worked with three of the four  all-Republican Idaho congressional delegates on several issues. Johnson: “I've seen this first hand as we've worked with business leaders—Republican business leaders—who support Boulder-White Cloud, Clearwater, Panhandle and Owyhee wilderness areas. Or working with a major industrial player to craft mercury rules. Or working with business leaders who see local option tax as key to Idaho economic development. Boise Foothills, is another issue where Republican business leaders are simpatico with conservation and protecting Idaho's greatest asset: our quality of life.” More here.

Question: How important to you are the efforts of the Idaho Conservation League & Kootenai Environmental Alliance to you?

Wild Night for Wilderness Sept. 30 in Sandpoint

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

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

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

Info: (208) 265-9565.

Idaho Panhandle forest planning issues to be detailed by conservationist

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

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

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

Four organizations leading group hikes to choice wildlands

HIKING — It's not too late to join organizations leading Inland Northwest group hikes this summer. Check them out:

Please confirm with field trip leaders before attending any of these group hikes.

“Bears and Beers:” living with wildlife talk in Sandpoint

WILDLIFE — Bonner County logged 770 complaints about bears last year — 740 more than any other county in Idaho.

Question is: Does North Idaho have a bear problem, or a problem with human habits in bear country?

Explore the issue while sipping a brew on Thursday during a free after-work presentation starting at 5:30 p.m. at Ivano’s Wine and Martini Bar in Sandpoint. 

“Bears and Beers – Living with Wildlife,” a talk on coexisting peacefully with bears and other wildlife will be presented by Becky Haag, Idaho Department of Fish and Game environmental biologist.

Haag will discuss the current status of bears in the area and give tips on how to bear-proof homes and campsites.

This is the first in a series of Idaho Conservation League’s After Hours discussions.  Info: (208) 265-9565.

Read on for more about North Idaho bears.

ICL group hikes range from Lake Pend Oreille to high Selkirks

HIKING — A June 4 hike along the proposed Pend Oreille Bay Trail kicks of the summer-long series of free guided North Idaho dayhikes organized by The Idaho Conservation League.

The hike series, which overlaps with a series of hikes offered by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, is geared to introducing people to the wealth of backcountry trail attractions in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Read on to see the list of hikes currently scheduled or go to the ICL North Idaho Hikes website to register for trips and see if more trips have been added to the season schedule.

Sandpoint Earth Day Festival a hit with kids

ENVIRONMENT — Friday is Earth Day, and Sandpoint groups are making a point to get the whole family involved.

Sandpoint’s Earth Day Festival is set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center (corner of Pine and Euclid).

Family activities include a talk by Earth Day co-founder Doug Scott, information from more than 20 local conservation groups and vendors, displays and games for the kids, electric car demos, great local food.

And then there's the no-host beer and wine bar.

The event is sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

Info:  (208) 265-9565.

Backcountry Film Festival reset for Friday at GU

WINTER SPORTS — The Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival, canceled in February by a storm that closed the school, is rescheduled for Friday at Gonzaga University.

Several winning festival films will be shown at the Jepson Center, Wolfe Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7.

Admission is $5 or $3 for students. Tickets will be available at the door, or in advance through Gonzaga University Outdoors website: http://commerce.cashnet.com/guoutdoors
For directions to the Jepson Center, go to www.gonzaga.edu/about/campus-map.asp.
Read on for details about the films.

ICL Makes Hay In Conservative State

Item: Idaho Conservation League models enviro success in tough political climate: ICL is major force behind enviro wins in very conservative state/Dennis Higman, New West

More Info: The ICL, founded in 1973, can point to an impressive track record of this steady-as-you-go approach. It includes preservation of the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in the ‘70s, the Idaho Clean Lakes and Water Quality Act in the ‘80s, a revised Idaho Forest Practices Act in the ‘90s and, more recently, helping pass the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness Bill, the first wilderness designation in Idaho in 29 years. Currently, ICL is in the forefront of the controversial effort to establish the Boulder White Clouds Wilderness in Idaho, or CIEDRA, (Central Idaho Environmental Development and Recreation Act) sponsored and championed by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R).

Question: Do you generally have a positive/negative view of the Idaho Conservation League statewide and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance locally?

‘Sudden City’ Planned Near County Line

Even in these times when multimillion dollar homes sit vacant on Lake Pend Oreille, some folks think they can make it big on waterfront real estate—even waterfront that doesn’t exist! Take Clagstone Meadows, for instance. This 12,000-acre “sudden city,” as it’s been called, would obliterate many acres of wetlands to enlarge small existing lakes on the property and create waterfront lots for custom homes and cottages. The proposed development is on Stimson Lumber Co. land just north of Kelso Lake and the Kootenai County line, in a woodsy marshland below Long Mountain/Susan Drumheller, Idaho Conservation League. More here.

Question: Do you support the development of ‘sudden cities’ in North Idaho?

ICL: How Big Is That Oil Spill?

I’m more likely to learn of interesting websites while I’m on the web, but today I found this website over morning coffee while looking at the Idaho Statesman. This website, created by Andy Lintner of Royal Oak, MI, opens a Google map of the spill in the correct location. How to use the site isn’t totally obvious, but in the blank above enter a location (such as Idaho) and then hit “move the spill.” It’s pretty dramatic. Placed over Idaho, the spill goes from Boise way past Challis. To understand what’s happening in the world around us, putting things into a context we can relate to is always a challenge.  This site does that very well. /Rick Johnson, Idaho Conservation League. More here. (AP File Photo: A Brown Pelican is cleaned at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Buras, La.)

Question: How closely have you been following the story re: BP’s oil spill?

ICL Blog: R.I.P. Rathdrum Prairie

Can you say “sprawl?” As if there isn’t enough of this unsightly and wasteful use of land, the Kootenai County Commissioners just assured everyone that sprawl and leap-frog development will continue as usual. Rest in peace, Rathdrum Prairie. So long, rural character. After nearly a year of deliberations on the county’s draft comprehensive land use plan—the blueprint for growth in the county—commissioners Rick Currie and Rich Piazza voted last week to throw out all density guidelines in the plan. Essentially, this means the plan gives no guidance whatsoever for how many homes per acre (or minimum lot size) should be allowed in rural areas versus urban or suburban areas. This is where the rubber usually meets the road in a land-use plan/Susan Drumheller (pictured), Idaho Conservation League. More here.

Question: How much longer will it be before the Rathdrum Prairie is covered w/houses?