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Idaho Panhandle forests assessing road systems; meetings set

PUBLIC LANDS — North Idaho forest roads are being surveyed this year for their safety, environmental impact and value and the public is invited to comment.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest has 4,113 miles of road open to the public plus 4,000 miles of brushed-in or stored roads, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene. The number of overdue road maintenance projects continues to grow, while public use is increasing, he said.

"Roads that cannot be adequately maintained can be dangerous to visitors and threaten forest health," he said. "They can increase sedimentation into rivers and streams, degrading water quality and impacting fish and wildlife."

This year's travel analysis study will begin to help the the Forest Service prioritize limited resources to manage roads used by visitors, while protecting sources of clean water, he said.

“The travel analysis study is not a proposal or decision, but is intended to help inform possible future road management planning," said Mary Farnsworth, Idaho Panhandle National Forest supervisor. "We will need public input to inform the analysis, but this will not be a formal public comment process. Before any projects are implemented on the ground the public will have an opportunity to comment through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.”

A preliminary analysis of the current road system has been completed. Public workshops sharing the results and seeking public input are scheduled throughout North Idaho starting next week June (see below). The final transportation system analysis will be factored into future forest activities including forest restoration projects, timber sales and recreation improvement plans.

Additional information is available on the Idaho Panhandle NF’s Travel Analysis Web Page.

Comment using the online mapping tool through July 3.

Public workshops on the travel analysis are set for 5 p.m.-7 p.m. as follows:

  • June 9, 2015, St. Joe Ranger District, 222 S. 7th St., Suite 1, St. Maries.
  • June 10, 2015, Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District, Silver Valley Office,  173 Commerce Dr., Smelterville.
  • June 11, 2015, IPNF Supervisor’s Office, 3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d'Alene.
  • June 16, 2015, Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario Street, Sandpoint.
  • June 17, 2015, Bonners Ferry Ranger District, 6286 Main Street, Bonners Ferry.
  • June 18, 2015, Priest Lake Ranger District, 32203 Hwy. 57, Priest River.

Huckleberry picking banned in Idaho Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — In the latest  and worst-case scenario of federal government overreach, huckleberry picking will be prohibited on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests in 2015.

Although the formal announcement hasn't been made, Priest Lake blogger Pecky Cox spilled the berries today after beating the bureaucratic bushes for the scoop:

A long and complicated battle between Federal bureaucracies, State horticulture analysts and assorted restaurant and grocery interests has resulted in, once again, a Federal agency  taking charge of a long and historic family and commercial activity.  Picking Huckleberries in the National Forest will now be closed for the 2015 season by Federal Mandate.

The Department of Agriculture is the leading arm of the Federal Government that has pushed for  the new regulations on picking, using, consuming and selling the Huckleberry fruit taken from Forest Service lands.  The regulation has been under consideration for over two years and was signed Monday. 

The Huckleberry fruit, known best by it's heavy crops in Northern Idaho, has  been, a popular tourist attraction and a family activity for over a hundred years. The fruit is featured as a base for Huckleberry Pies, Ice Cream and the world famous Elkins Resort Daiquiri at Priest Lake, Idaho.  

Click HERE for the rest of Cox's article. 

Clean up at Little North Fork

Will Young looks for signs of washout as he tramps along an old U.S. Forest Service road.

It’s been years since logging trucks last lumbered down this dirt road, which gradually fades into an alder thicket. The road no longer serves either the timber industry or the public, but it’s still belching sediment into a nearby creek.

“You can see the erosion from the site,” said Young, an aquatics specialist for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, pointing to deep gullies in the roadbed. “That’s what we’re after.”

An unexpected $1.8 million appropriation will help Forest Service officials improve water quality in the Little North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River watershed, a popular recreation area northeast of Coeur d’Alene. The work targets eroding, impassible roads and plugged culverts. Becky Kramer, SR

How familiar are you with the Little North Fork area?

Snowmobilers, cyclists object to Panhandle forest plan

PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is holding a meeting Tuesday, April 29, at the Coeur d'Alene Resort to discuss objections filed against the Revised Forest Management Plan.

For example:

  • Objections regarding wilderness study areas were filed by Idaho State Parks, snowmobiling groups, Montana mountain bikers and the Blue Ribbon Coalition will be addressed, among four other categories.
  • Objections regarding wild and scenic rivers were filed by American Whitewater.
  • Shoshone, Benewah and Bonner counties objected about the plan's lack of coordination with counties.
  • Objections regarding management indicator species were filed by Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

The public is welcome to attend the meeting, but only the objectors, designated speakers and the Forest Service reviewing officers will be allowed to interact in the proceedings.  

The goal is "to discuss objection issues and seek resolution prior to finalizing and implementing the revised plan," said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman. 

  • A full meeting agenda and background on the IPNF Revised Forest Plan are available on the IPNF website.

The IPNF is currently operating under a forest plan that was completed in 1987 and has developed the revised forest plan to reflect changes in land use, science and public demands for the national forest. The objection resolution period is the final step in the process of revising the forest plan before a decision is made to implement the new plan.

 

Panhandle hunters report seeing more elk

HUNTING — During the first week of the main big-game hunting seasons, Idaho Panhandle hunters reported seeing a lot of moose and grouse and they saw more elk and elk sign than the past few years, according to reports for Idaho Fish and Game Department hunter check stations.

The number of elk calves seen varied. Some hunters reported a lot of calves with groups of cows while others reported few or no calves.

But hunters saw a lot of spike elk, which typically means good overwinter calf survival.

Most deer taken in early October in the Panhandle are incidental to elk hunting. Deer hunting success is gauged by what happens during the November 1 to December 1 part of the deer season.

Idaho sets 2013 big-game hunting seasons, rules

HUNTING — A general cow elk season will not return in North Idaho, but controlled permits for antlerless elk hunting will be increased statewide under the 2013 hunting seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion and gray wolf adopted today in Boise by the Fish and Game Commission.

The new seasons also include an increase in pronghorn tags and expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons. 

Wolf hunting on private lands in the Idaho Panhandle will be allowed year round.

  • Details of the 2013 big game hunting seasons will be posted on the Fish and Game website. The 2013 Hunting Seasons printed brochure will be available at license vendors in late April.

Read on for highlights of rule changes provided by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

Minor changes offered for North Idaho big-game hunting rules

HUNTING — The general season cow elk hunt is not proposed to return in the Idaho Panhandle this fall as Idaho Fish and Game managers stay fairly conservative with their recommendations for 2013 big game seasons.

Increases in controlled hunts for antlerless elk and deer are proposed, but for the most part seasons will stay the same as last year for mule deer, whitetails and elk.

Biologists will be on hand to explain the season proposals and gather public comment during an open-house meeting 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on March 7 at the Best Western Plus on the corner of Highway 95 and Appleway in Coeur d’Alene

Proposals for Idaho's 2013 big-game hunting seasons and an online comment form have been posted on the Fish and Game Department's Website.

Jim Hayden, IFG regional wildlife manager, said the elk seasons would resemble last year's hunts in North Idaho with minor tweeks to the controlled huntfor antlerless elk:

"The net result for next year's antlerless elk hunting would be no cow harvest in Units 4, 4A, 6, 7, and 9, lower than average harvest in Unit 1, and near average in Units 2, 3, and 5, where depredations are becoming a bit of a concern."

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will set final big game hunting season rules at the quarterly meeting in Boise on March 18. 

Speak up, get on the list

As the old saying goes, the world is ruled by those who show up.

Two years ago, IDFG mailed out a questionnaire on hunting seasons in Unit 1 to a random selection of Unit 1 elk hunters.  The process provided a statistically valid cross-section of hunters’ opinions, and proved to be a tool IDFG jused in decision-making.  That effort is being expanded this year, and 1,000 hunters who purchased hunting licenses in the Panhandle Region will receive a survey in the mail.  Their comments will help make decisions for the 2013 seasons. 

Proposed Wolf Limits Up From 2 To 5

The numbers resemble the parameters for wild turkey hunts — but it’s the 2012 Idaho Panhandle wolf hunting and trapping proposals that have just been released by Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene:

Hunting

  • Bag limit, five wolves (up from two last year).
  • Season on public land, Aug. 30 – March 31 (same as last year).
  • Season on private land, July 1 – March 31.

Trapping

  • Bag limit, five wolves (up from three last year).
  • Season, Nov. 15 – March 31 (same as last year).
  • No trapping in Units 2 and 3 (same as last year).

Question: Anyone have the feeling that Idaho doesn't like wolves?

Panhandle Wolf Kill Higher Than 2010

Wolf harvest in the Panhandle is at 25 to date, slightly higher than we had in all of the 2009/10 season. During 2009, we had 24 hunter kills by the end of March. (There were also 4 illegal kills in 2009, giving us the final tally of 28.) The wolf trapping season has been open for 3 weeks. Only 1 wolf has been reported taken by trapping in the state so far (in the Clearwater), although many trappers may have still been deer hunting (season closed last Thursday)/Rich Landers, Outdoors. More here.

Question: Are you glad/sad that the Panhandle wolf kill is higher this year?