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At least a few morel gathering secrets can be shared

WILD EDIBLES — Last year was a lousy season for picking morel mushrooms in much of the Inland Northwest. This season has been stellar by all reports.

So here's a collection of universal mushrooming tips and wisdom from Kenny Morris, Yakima-area mushroom enthusiast, as told to Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic and summarized by me:

  • Hit the areas that have produced mushrooms in the past. If they’re not there, try another area.
  • Drive forest roads to look for "roadies" along the road to help peg the elevation where mushrooms are emerging.
  • Stop and search spots for 5-10 minutes. If you find none, try another spot, working uphill.
  • at one high-country pullout, and if he finds no morels — or, at some spots, if he finds only a few — he’ll be back in his rig to drive to the next likely spot.
  • Mother’s Day is an unofficial Opening Day for morel gathering.
  • Lupine is an indicator. If the green lupine base (not the colorful flowering top) is roughly six inches high, it’s morel time.
  • In early season, look around rocks and trees that will have been heated by the sun where morels often sprout in the warmer ground.
  • Follow the snowline. Wherever melting snow has been replaced by warming sunlight, the morels are apt to follow. In a spring like this one, with so little snow in the high country, it can be a case of following the rain or checking darker, cooler canyons and slopes. 
  • Check both sides of the ridge. If the sunny side isn’t getting morels, cross over to the shady side.
  • Wildflowers such as trillium or wild strawberries and certain types of trees, notably larch or white fir often are associated with morels.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Even the experts sometimes have to try numerous spots to find a payload.
  • Get tips from the Forest Service of areas burned by forest fires or controlled burns. Morels are known to emerge in high number in areas that burned the previous year.

Two other tips from expert mushroomers in the Spokane area:

  • Cut or pinch the stem off at the base, leaving part of the mushroom there. Some experts say they are more likely to grow back if you leave part of the "roots" in the ground.

  • Carry harvested mushrooms in a basket or mesh bag. This helps them from getting too moist, and it some experts believe it lets their spores fall through and spread around the area- causing more to grow in coming years.

Nisbet to lead wildflower walk on South Hill Bluff Tuesday

NATURE — Jack Nisbet, Spokane author, historian and naturalist, will lead a wildflower walk on the South Hill Bluff Trails on Tuesday evening. Some background:

Among Nisbet's books are "David Douglas: a Naturalist at Work" and "The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest."  Roughly eighty species of plants, trees and animals are named after Douglas, who first identified them in the early 1800s.

David Douglas died an untimely death in 1834, but trust me, it's a treat to do a nature hike with a Douglas expert like Nisbet.

  • Meet 6 p.m. at 37th and High Drive
  • Wear hiking shoes.
  • Bring water.
  • Free and open to the public, but donations to the Friends of the Bluffs welcome.

Scotchman Peaks group plans hikes, trail work

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are launching another ambitious season of guided hikes, outings, trail work — along with gentle advocacy for securing wilderness designation for a little piece of heaven northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The group's newsletter, Peak Experiencelists a number of upcoming attractions, starting in Sandpoint with the May 28  State of the Scotchmans program — always a worthwhile gathering. Guest speaker this year is Doug Scott, who was involved with writing the original 1974 Wilderness Act. He'll be speaking on the role of grass roots advocacy — how wilderness gets done.

The Scotchmans group is scheduling a long list of hikes for the season to acquaint people with portions of 88,000-acre proposed wilderness area.

New this year are Field Day Fridays, geared to doing something fun, educational and meaningful outside every Friday from June 12 through Sept. 25.

The biggest trail news is the impending start of rebuilding the lower mile of Trail #65 on Scotchman Peak, the most popular day-hiking destination in the area.

Consider lending a hand.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness endorsed by Missoulian

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recently won a critical endorsement for protecting 88,000 acres northeast of Lake Pend Oreille from Bonner County Commissioners.

Last weekend, the group continued to win mainstream acceptance for the proposal, with the editorial endorsement of the Missoulian:

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area should be next on Montana's agenda
Of all the wilderness proposals under consideration in Montana, the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area, which spans 88,000 acres of a roadless area on the Montana-Idaho border, is the one that appears to enjoy widespread support. Montana's federal lawmakers should work with their counterparts in Idaho to craft legislation to designate the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
—Missoulian

Researcher brings program on hummingbird banding project

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A researcher with the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University will be in Coeur d'Alene to present a program on a hummingbird banding project.

The program is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd.

Jessica Pollock, research biologist, will discuss banding these tiny birds and what studies have revealed about their biology and habitat.

Pollock has been banding hummingbirds for 10 years in Idaho and British Columbia.

The program is sponsored by the for the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society.

Scotchman Peaks’ brewing support, time to toast

PUBLIC LANDS — You know you've arrived when someone names a brew in your honor.

MickDuff's Brewing Company's new Goat Hope Ale is debuting in honor of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and the group's efforts to protect an 88,000-acre wild area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.  The suds are named for the mountain goats that often great hikers who make the trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Last month, the Scotchman's wilderness proposal was endorsed by the Bonner County Commission.

Now it's time to tap into the party on Thursday, April 9, starting at 5:30 p.m. at MickDuff's, Third and Cedar in Sandpoint.

Live music and one handcrafted keg of extra-hoppy, golden-pale ale will be available through 8:30; proceeds from all pints of Goat Hop Ale will go directly toward working for wilderness.

Check in regularly with the FSPW to join them on hikes, trail work days, kids outings and education days throughout the year.

49th annual Buttercup Hike at Dishman Hills

HIKING – The 49th Annual Buttercup Hike in the Dishman Hills Natural Area is set for Saturday, April 11, starting at 1 p.m. from Camp Caro, 625 S. Sargent Rd.

The three-hour educational walking tour will be led by Michael Hamilton, former Dishman Hills Conservancy president, retired geologist and resident naturalist.

Wildlife refuge inspires photo contest

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Challenging yourself to make a good outdoor photo is a great motivation to look closer and longer at wildlife, nature and landscapes.

The Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge once again are encouraging shutterbugs to pause on the refuge southeast of Colville.  The group's annual photo contest continues until Aug. 15.

  • See some of the top entries from the last contest above.

By the middle of April, many of the roads on the 40,198 acre refuge will be open, and the photo opportunities will expand, said organizer Joel Anderson.

Contest categories are animals, plants, human use and scenic.

Contact Anderson at onionjoel@gmail.com for rules and entry forms.

Top 25 outdoor reader photos from March

OUTDOORS — The Spokesman-Review Readers Outdoor Photos web page hasn't just been popular — it's become a regular pit stop for a breath of fresh air.  

Here are my picks for the Top 25 photos uploaded onto our gallery in March.  What do you think?

I can't wait to see what's catching your shutterbug eye in April.  We already have a good start.

Bonner County commissioners endorse Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Updated 5 p.m. with quotes and more detail.

PUBLIC LANDS — Bonner County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for the U.S. Congress to designate the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness.

This is another milestone in an effort to protect a worthy spread of  mountain real estate northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

“The Scotchmans is a perfect area for wilderness,” said Cary Kelly, chairman of the three-man board.

“There’s not a lot of timber that could be used because of the soil composition and terrain and no big mining interests. There’s not really any opposition other than from the element that doesn’t want any federal rules on our forests.”

The entire 88,000-acre wilderness area proposal straddles the Idaho-Montana border in the Kaniksu and Kootenai national forests.

The steep, rocky, mountainous area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille has been recommended for wilderness by Forest Service management plans that were debated for more than a decade and approved in January.

The Idaho side of the proposed wilderness area encompasses about 14,000 acres of national forest land, including Bonner County's tallest mountain. Scotchman Peak, elevation 7,009 feet, is a popular hiking and mountain goat viewing destination overlooking Clark Fork.

“It’s one of the few areas that commissioners can support as wilderness,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of the exception to the rule.”  

The Sandpoint-based Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness was founded in 2005 to work with the region's communities, elected officials and outdoors enthusiasts to find common ground for protecting the roadless area.

“We appreciate the leadership and support from the Bonner County Commission,” said Phil Hough, the friends group’s executive director.

Individual commissioners in adjoining Sanders County, Montana, have shown support for the wilderness, he said. Other formal endorsements have been approved by the Sandpoint City Council and Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce as well as the current and former Montana governors, he said.

“For a county commission to offer unanimous support for wilderness, while not unheard of, is pretty unusual,” Hough said. “It’s a reflection of the widespread support for the wilderness among residents of Bonner County and around the region.”

Kelly said the Bonner County board has supported the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal since 2006, but the time was ripe for a formal endorsement.

 “Only Congress can designate wilderness, and the (friends) group is trying to move forward with the proposal in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“Most attempts at declaring wilderness probably are not very popular with a Republican conservative House and Senate. But we’re looking at the exception to the rule and the commission is urging Idaho congressmen and senators to try to support this proposal.”

Brad Smith, North Idaho conservation association with the Idaho Conservation League, was at the meeting and reported the vote on his ICL blog.  Smith posted the following resolution approved by the board of commissioners:

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide outstanding views and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors of Bonner County, Idaho; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks contribute to the economic vitality of the region through recreation, tourism and as an attraction which draws individuals and businesses to our area; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide habitat to a diversity of native flora and fauna; and

WHEREAS there is broad public support amongst residents of Bonner County to protect the Scotchman Peaks; and

WHEREAS protecting the Scotchman Peaks will benefit current and future generations of Bonner County by endowing them with an enduring resource of wilderness.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Bonner County Board of Commissioners call upon the United States Congress to enact legislation designating the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness area, consistent with the boundary delineated in the revised Land Management Plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

S-R Readers’ Outdoor Photo Gallery captures March moments

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Newspaper editors knew the great outdoors would provide inspiration when they put out the call for your images, but the photographic talent readers are sharing has surpassed all expectations.

The Spokesman-Review Readers Outdoor Photos web page hasn't just been popular — it's become a regular pit stop for a breath of fresh air.

Equipped with cameras ranging from smartphones to SLRs with monster lenses, readers aren't just sending snapshots of big fish.  They're providing a broad perspective of what's up outside, one photo at a time.

Since the online feature debuted a year ago, more than 650 images have been uploaded at spokesman.com/outdoors

People are telling us where they're going, what they're doing outdoors and what catches their eye.

The photos offer insight on the changing of seasons, the emergence of wildflowers and the return of migratory birds.

The Spokane River, with all of its moods and the recreation it provides, is a popular subject. So are sunsets — the kind that make you vow to be out there next time weather serves up such a beautiful end of the day.

But some photos are coming from west in the scablands, south in the big-river canyon lands and northeast from high in the wilderness where readers are sharing sights many folks would never see.

Our March 2015 Readers Outdoors Photo Gallery may be the best overall monthly collection since the online feature debuted last year. 

I tried to pick  the top 10 and failed miserably at narrowing it down that tight. 

I'm posting my picks for the top 25 images (above) from the photos uploaded this month, and I'm still leaving out a lot of shots that caught my interest.

Some of the images are excellent because of their photo quality. Others are great because they capture a moment to enlighten us about the outdoors. Some are appreciated real-time field reports on conditions.

The images capture the flows of rivers and waterfalls from downtown Spokane to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague.

They chronicle where the snow is, and where it isn't anymore.

Photographers looked this month up to capture porcupines and birds in trees as well as the full moon. They gazed down to picture the first flowers bursting from the soil, marmots venturing from their holes, lady bird beetles swarming in the duff and amphibians emerging from the recently thawed pond mud.

It's not surprising that people head out with cameras at night chasing the Northern Lights, although the quality of the results has us begging for more solar flares

More enlightening, perhaps, is how many hikers and even cyclists leave the warmth of home to enjoy the quiet under the stars.

Check out the good work readers are posting. Upload your own.

Collectively you're creating a picture story of the outdoors around the Inland Northwest that no other single person could tell.

Bill to help get kids outside gets hearing in Olympia

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

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

Scheduled to testify at today's hearing are:

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

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.

Birding, fly fishing programs presented this week

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Video: Terror in the trees as hawk hunts squirrel

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Through the tranquility of autumn leaves falling from the trees, life and death situations play out in our forests on a daily basis beyond human eyes.

This video of a red-tailed hawk hunting a tree squirrel is pieced together to depict an actual predator-prey encounter. The photography is absolutely stunning.  Check it out.

Global warming likely to dramatically affect birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles and loons will take a big hit while blue jays are among the species that could prosper as the earth's climate heats up.  But overall, the outlook is grim.

Half of all bird species in North America — including the bald eagle — are at risk of severe population decline by 2080 if the swift pace of global warming continues, the National Audubon Society concluded in a study released Monday.

The scale of the disruption we’re projecting is a real punch in the gut,” said Gary Langham, chief Audubon scientist.

Outdoor groups revive monthly programs

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

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

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

Photo: Nighthawk takes a break

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As many times as I've seen common nighthawks swooping and scooping bugs out of the sky with their distinctive staccato chirps, I've never seen one resting on the ground.

Check this instructive photo from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

"We often times see these birds in flight, but don’t get the chance to see them landed very often!

"They have huge mouths, their small beak makes it look small – but it goes back to their eye!"

Reptiles, amphipbians, wildfire programs at Sinlahekin celebration

WILDLIFE — Free programs on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians, geology, wildfire history and prescribed burn management will be featured this weekend, Aug. 23-24, as the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary celebration continues in northcentral Okanogan County.

It’s the fourth summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series to spotlight the state's first wildlife area. All sessions begin at Sinlahekin headquarters, south of Loomis.

Sessions are scheduled on both Saturday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 24, about the Sinlahekin’s wildfire history and prescribed burn management.

On Saturday afternoon, Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin will lead a session on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians of the Sinlahekin, including close-up views and handling.

On Sunday morning, local geologists Don Hruska and Gary Mundinger will provide a primer on Sinlahekin geology for independent exploring of the Sinlahekin’s geologic features.

Click here for more details for the Aug. 23-24 weekend sessions, a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27), and directions.

Photos: birder focused on pileated woodpeckers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birder/photographer Ron Dexter has made sure improvements to his property in the foothills of Mount Spokane haven't spoiled the neighborhood for some of his most colorful neighbors.  In posting these photos, Dexter said:

A pair of pileated woodpeckers has nested in a snag in the woods behind us at least 3 times now. The loggers were careful to not knock the snag down, so the woodpeckers may add more holes in the future.

These are the largest woodpeckers in the United States, possibly the world. Their length is up to 18" and wingspan up to 30".  An ornithologist dissected one and counted approximately 2,500 carpenter ants in the stomach. So you can see, they help save the forests and maybe your house.
 
They chop out large rectangular holes in trees to get to the ants and grubs, but their nest holes are shaped like a raindrop as you can see in the photo. They actually spend the majority of their feeding time on the ground or on fallen trees, snags or stumps that contain grubs, ants. etc. 

I see and hear them every year in our woods. They are in the area year round.

  

Open house, guided hikes at Dishman Hills Saturday

CONSERVATION — Here's a prime opportunity to become acquainted or reacquainted with the Spokane Area's standout wild gem.

Members of the Dishman Hills Conservancy will be leading short hikes each hour, noon to 5 p.m., on Saturday, Jully 26, to help the public become familiar with the Spokane Valley natural area and see changes that are underway.

The open house activities will be based out of Camp Caro — south of Appleway on Sargent Road.

Ski area expansion prompts Mount Spokane land classification proposals

PUBLIC LANDS — Land classification proposals that could make or break a plan to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday, July 24, in Bellingham.

In 2010, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park proposed expanding its ski area within the state park to provide more intermediate terrain needed to remain competitive. Conservation and wildlife groups have contested the expansion.

The ski area concession encompasses 1,425 acres of the 14,000-acre state park.

In 1999, land classifications were adopted for the park, but 850 acres was left unclassified in an area designated for potential alpine ski expansion.

The ski area has proposed installing a lift, which already has been purchased, and expanding skiing with seven new runs over nearly 280 acres of that area.

State Parks staff is releasing a report this week that proposes four land classification options. One of the options would designate the land a “natural forest area,” which would preclude any development and most recreation.

An environmental impact statement on the land classifications is to be released this week. Public comment will be taken through mid-August. The commission is scheduled to choose an option on Nov. 20.

The Lands Council based in Spokane plans to argue that the report has flaws, including the stance that the area does not include old growth forest.

“I guess we’re still in a little bit of a battle,” said Mike Peterson, executive director.


Documents:

Travel: Alaska cruise brings a tale of a whale

   I was standing in an alcove on an upper deck about to step out onto the deck of the Carnival cruise ship, the Miracle, when the doors opened and a family blew in. 

 

   A man and this three sons, each holding an ice-cream cone, lunged forward like the wind had reached out and given them each a shove. The youngest—maybe four years old, definitely no more than 5—was so full of big news he didn’t care that he didn’t know me. 

 

    He  ran up to me and said, “We saw the tail of a whale!”

 

    I was impressed. We’d left Seattle the afternoon before and it was just the first morning of our Alaska cruise. 

 

    “Is this true?” I asked his father. “Or is this just a whale of a tale?”

 

    The man laughed and said it was true. They’d been walking along the deck when the whale popped up and showed his fluke, his whale tail, before disappearing back into the sea.

 

    The little boy couldn’t contain himself.

 

     “The whale breathed up (his arms shot up in the air and the ice-cream wobbled on its cone) “and then he dived down like this” (he scooped his free hand up and then down) “and then his tail came up!”

    As an afterthought he added, “Daddy let us have ice cream for breakfast. 

 

    Wow. A wave from a whale and an ice cream cone for breakfast. The little boy had just described my perfect day.

 

    I asked the man if this was their first Alaska cruise and he said it was. He said they live in Texas and they’d come to see Alaska. And whales. They really wanted to see whales and here, just a day into the trip, they’d already had their own private show.

 

    Several years ago, after my first cruise up the Inside Passage, I decided I want to make the trip every summer. For the rest of my life, if I can swing it.  No two Alaska cruises are ever the same. People from around the world plan and save for years and travel a lot of miles to get there. But living in the Northwest, we’re already halfway there. It’s easy to get on a ship in Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia, to spend a week looking at some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. 

 

    I’m working on my Alaska-every-summer plan. This year I was solo but in the company of people of all ages: men, women and children—(lots of children) and large family groups, all ready to go see the sights. And we were off to a good start.

 

    The boy’s happiness was contagious. I looked at my watch. It was still early, they’d be serving breakfast for another couple of hours… I filled a cone with vanilla ice cream and stepped out onto the deck. The wind whipped my hair as I licked the cone and swept my eyes across the horizon.

 

    I’d already decided it wasn’t going to take much to turn this into a perfect day. I had my ice cream cone. Now all I needed was a glimpse of the tail of a whale. 

    And like the little boy, I didn’t have to wait long at all.

 

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Send your kids to “wildlife” camp near Coeur d’Alene

NATURE — WREN, a Coeur d'Alene-based environmental education and conservation nonprofit organization, is accepting applications for its July 11-12 wildlife camp for youths ages 11-13.

The campers will meet in Coeur d'Alene before heading to wildlife education field trips in the lower Coeur d'Alene River chain lakes one day and Farragut State Park on the other.

Instructors are professional wildlife biologists and educators.  Fun, hands-on activities include field trips, live raptors, a butterfly survey and outdoor games. 

A living history presentation about the animals Lewis & Clark discovered and other features are new for this year’s camp.  Students will also explore wildlife tracking and bird identification.  They will learn how scientists study wild animals and their habitats.  

Pre-registration is required.  Cost: $75. 

Info:Jenny Taylor, (208) 755-4216. 

Birders count 82 species at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary with various activities to help introduce the public to an area that's been wildly upgraded in recent  years.

This is a great time to visit the refuge.  See upcoming events, including the first ever bicycling event at the refuge.  I have a details story coming up in Sunday Outdoors.

Earlier this month, refuge biologists Mike Munts led a birding tour.

We did the bird tour for the refuge 75th anniversary today (June 7). Ten people came out for a great day of birding. We saw/heard 82 great birds during the day.

  • A total of 206 bird species have been documented at the refuge over time, Munts said.
  • Another birding tour is planned for Saturday, June 28. 

Following is the list of species the group identified:

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal*
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck*
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe*
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer*
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Western-wood Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Warbleing Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Black-billed Magpie*
  • Common Raven
  • Tree Swallow
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • House Wren
  • Pacific Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Western Bluebird
  • Veery
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • McGilllivray’s Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Sparrow
  • Western Tanager
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark*
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Red Crossbill

*Birds Munts saw at Horsethief Lake after the field trip

 

Fascinating funji delicate, pink; will it kill you?

NATURE — This week's damp June weather is a gift from God for mushroom gatherers, and Priest Lake is a hot spot for variety.

Indeed, Pecky Cox, producer of the everything-about-Priest Lake website, found this beauty in her neck of the woods on Wednesday.  Can you positively identify it? 

A coral mushroom?

"Would you ask you readers," she wrote. "It's not yellow like the other one. OK to eat? Smells like dirty socks the way it's supposed to… but pink-ish?"

Study: Midwest farming linked to decline of monarch butterflies

ENVIRONMENT — The Heartland is no longer the land of milkweed and honey for monarchs.

Study links farming methods in U.S. to rapid decline of Monarch butterflies
A new study published last week in the Journal of Animal Ecology said a change in farming practices in the Midwest of the United States that led to a rapid decline of milkweed, where monarch butterflies lay their eggs in the spring and summer, is tied to the marked decline in the number of the butterflies.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Lone fawns rarely deserted by Mother Deerest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

"Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer," says Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. "This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration."

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing to the benefit of other wildlife.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive. Nature provides for them.

But nature shouldn't have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring,  fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

"While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned," he said.  "An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn."

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.

Hanging around a fawn or calf you might discover in the field likely will likely push a doe or cow farther away and deter it from returning.

"IDFG has had fawns brought in by people who say, 'I stayed there and watched it all day, and the doe never came back,'" Cooper said. "Without realizing it, the presence of a person likely kept the doe in hiding."

"If you find a seriously injured animal; or, in those extremely rare instances where you know with certainty that a wild animal has lost its parent, intervention may be appropriate.  Contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for instructions on the next step."

It is illegal to confiscate young wildlife and attempt to raise them on your own, he said, noting that cute babies can become a burden or a danger to people as they mature.