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Local outdoor calendars standouts for gift giving

OUTDOORS — Two locally-produced calendars stand out like stars in the field of gift-giving choices for nature lovers.

The Spokane Audubon Society once again has produced its Birds of Eastern Washington calendar which is sold for the bargain price of just $10.

The 2016 calendar features images of 14 birds photographed in the region by club members with a good eye for nature and a standout skills with their cameras.  The money is used by the local chapter for nature education, citizen science, advocacy and recreation related to birds and their habitat.

A new Northwest Nights 2016 Calendar by Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin compiles a spectacular collection of shots featuring star-studded skies, the Milky Way and northern lights over classic regional landscapes including Palouse Falls, fire lookouts, Priest Lake and Mount Spokane.

Several of the photos have been published in The Spokesman-Review's Outdoors sections this year.

Goodwin, who's also the pastor at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, sells the calendar for $19.95.


Audel, of NatGeo TV’s Survive the Tribe, tells tales of natural history

NATURE —  Hazen Audel, a former Ferris High School biology teacher and more recently the host of NatGeo TV's Survive the Tribe, will present a program this week entitled “Fascinating Stories of Natural History and the People that Live Along Side Them” for the Spokane Audubon Society.

The program, open to the public, is set for Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at the Riverview Retirement Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

Audel is a natural communicator — don't miss this opportunity to hear him in person.

Before he was being featured by National Geographic, he started sharing his love of nature and adventure through The Wild Classroom, a non-profit online web series offering teachers and students quality, natural history educational videos for use in the classroom and home. 

He's been a wilderness instructor and guide for Outward Bound Outdoor School, Boulder Outdoor Survival School and he has guided nature trips to the Amazon, Central America and the South Pacific.

Hazen has recently finished filming, Primal Survivor, a major new series for the National Geographic Channel set to air in 2016. It documents his adventures living with and working alongside indigenous people in some of the most remote places in the world.

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Hazen is a Kootenai and Salish Native American and Greek by descent. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and went on to post graduate studies at the University of Hawaii. He also has a Master’s degree in teaching from Whitworth University.

Shaggy mane imposter could ruin mushroomer’s day

WILD EDIBLES — Out for a walk the other day, Rick and Terry Itami were excited to see a bonanza of wild mushrooms near Liberty Lake.

"I was sure it was a group of shaggy mane mushrooms on a side slope under some trees," he said. 

"Terry didn't want me to take a chance by eating them without being sure, so I sent photos to the local mushroom club. 

"They told me that these mushrooms are inky caps, which are in the same family as shaggy manes, but which can cause respiratory problems if you drink any kind of alcohol within three days of eating them.


See a more detailed explanation of shaggy mane and inky cap mushrooms.

Grandma’s advice helps hunter ward off grizzly bear attack

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In the past two months, I've written about hikers and hunters who have defended themselves in a grizzly bear attack by using bear spray as well as by using a handgun.

The latest case involves an alternative that's even more creative if not more desperate.

Hunter escapes attack by shoving arm down bear’s throat

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A bow hunter in Teton County is recovering after he survived a grizzly bear mauling by remembering a tip from his grandmother and shoving his arm down the animal’s throat. 

Chase Dellwo, 26, was hunting with his brother northwest of Choteau on Saturday when he came face to face with a 350 to 400 pound male grizzly, the Great Falls Tribune reports

Dellwo went to walk up a creek bed, hoping to drive a group of elk to a ridge where his brother was waiting. 

He was about three feet away before he realized he was near a bear that had been sleeping. With 30 to 40 mph winds with snow and rain, the bear hadn’t known Dellwo was coming. He said he only had time to take a few steps back before the bear knocked him off his feet and bit his head. 

“He let go, but he was still on top of me roaring the loudest roar I have ever heard,” Dellwo said. 

The bear then bit Dellwo’s leg and shook him, tossing him through the air. As the bear came at the man again, Dellwo remembered a magazine article his grandmother had given him. 

“I remembered an article that my grandmother gave me a long time ago that said large animals have bad gag reflexes,” Dellwo said. “So I shoved my right arm down his throat.” 

The advice worked and the bear left. 

Dellwo started to walk out, bloodied and disoriented.

"I saw a six point elk on the way out, that was disappointing," he said with a laugh.

He wasn't laughing at the time however.

"I forced myself to calm down and not to panic," he said. "I was lost. I cleared the blood out of my eyes. If I had allowed myself to panic I would still be in there."

Dellwo rejoined his brother who drove him to a hospital. He received stitches and staples in his head, some on his face, a swollen eye and deep puncture wounds on his leg. 

“I want everyone to know that it wasn’t the bear’s fault, he was as scared as I was,” Dellwo said

Hunter kills well-publicized collared grizzly bear near Wallace

HUNTING — The well-publicized Montana grizzly bear caught, radio-collared and released to near Idaho on Aug. 4 has been shot and killed by a hunter near Wallace, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.

The bear was shot Wednesday evening, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

The bear was killed at the bottom of Kings Pass and Beaver Creek Road about 6 air miles north of Wallace, Idaho, the Sheriff reports.

An Idaho Fish and Game officer and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer are on the scene, Cooper said, noting that he did not know more details, including who reported the shooting.

Grizzlies are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Black bear hunters are supposed to know the difference between legal black bears and grizzly bears before shooting.

Legal baiting for black bear hunting was going in in the area, Cooper confirmed.

The 2-year-old male grizzly had been relocated by Montana and federal biologists as part of a periodic program to boost the Cabinet Mountains grizzly population.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the bear appeared to be on the search for food, a task hampered by dodging fires, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear had been captured on video in recent weeks checking out rural residences and old bear bait barrels that lured him with scent even if they were empty of animal fat and other bait.

"We knew it was bear season," Cooper said. "We'd been putting out a trap to try to catch him and  move him to an area where he'd be safer and not so accessible to people, but we didn't make it."

More on this unfortunate development as soon as details are available.


Bears looking high, low in search for calories

WILDLIFE  — Wildlife officials were warning the public about hungry bears probing lowland areas for food before the black bear attack on a woman in her home near Kalispell and another grizzly killed by a vehicle — both in the past week.

Bears are desperately looking for food in the wake of a poor berry year in a drought-weary region. 

“We’ve got grizzlies getting into everything from seed spuds in the fields outside of Ashton (Idaho) to apple trees in people’s yards," said Charlie Anderson, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer. 

The North Idaho and northeastern Washington areas also are experiencing significant lowland bear activity, officials say.

The bear attack on the woman near Kalispell could be related to bears being lured into an area by bird seed, wildlife officials say in an initial statement.

Here's an explanation and a plea from IFG bear experts:

Before bears enter into hibernation, they go through a period where they try to gain as much weight as possible.   The Latin term for this time is “hyperphagia” and basically means to pig out.   Bears are incredible omnivores and will seek out a surprising diversity of foods in order to gain the needed stored energy to survive the winter. Certain grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem actually gain much of their needed winter weight by gorging on up to 40,000 army cutworm moths per day.  These moths head to mate on the high talus slopes east of Yellowstone National Park and are among the bear’s highest calorie food!

It is important that anyone living in bear country not only keep their garbage stored properly, but makes sure that natural food attractants like windfall fruit are kept picked up.   Even keeping an immaculate orchard is no guarantee of preventing problems, numerous reports exist of bears climbing into trees to pick apples or breaking off limbs.  Making sure that bears are not surprised by humans is a good first step in reducing conflict.  Turning on yard lights and making lots of noise are also good way to alert a bear of your presence.

Turnbull Refuge invites community to planting party on Saturday

CRITTERS – Volunteers are invited to a community work party to plant streamside habitat at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Oct. 3.

The event is sponsored by the refuge, Spokane Audubon Society and Friends of Turnbull.

Hamburgers will be provided for a potluck lunch.

Info: 235-4723.

Humpback whales venture into Columbia River

MARINE MAMMALS — As another anomaly to this year of weird weather and water conditions.

Humpback whales are visiting the Columbia River this week.

Scientists say they’ve been spotted near Astoria, Oregon, just downstream from the bridge to Megler, Washington.

Biologist Deborah Jacques, who studies pelicans, told Oregon Public Broadcasting she’s never seen humpbacks so far from the ocean.

The whales are drawn upstream by food and they have been joined by large numbers of hungry pelicans and sea lions.

Professor Bruce Mate of Oregon State University says El Nino ocean conditions are driving many sea animals toward shore looking for food.

Butterflies featured in slide show, chapter startup

NATURE — The huge variety of colorful butterflies found in the region will be featured in a slide show by enthusiasts drumming up interest in a new Spokane-area chapter of the Washington Butterfly Association.

The ”show and tell” program is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the Spokane Public Library, Downtown Branch, 906 W. Main, Meeting Room 1A.

Assembled by several local experts, the program will review themes from this year's local butterfly sightings, said John Baumann of Spokane, who has been elected the association’s president.

If a chapter is formed, themes of upcoming meetings could include butterfly photography, butterfly gardens, how to identify butterfly species, and nature education for children, he said.

”I have been engaged in some butterfly species surveys for the local wildlife refuges and the Kalispel Tribe, and have had good luck locating species not previously recorded in some of our area counties,” Baumann said.

Info: baumann.jp56@gmail.com

Bull elk battle to death east of Coeur d’Alene

UPDATED 1:45 p.m. with details about elk and salvaged meat.  UPDATED 2:30 p.m. with quotes from landowner Joe Lenz.

WILDLIFE — Wow, talk about powerful stories: Two bull elk died after a bloody fight in which both were gored multiple times, their antlers got locked and they ended up tangled in a barbed wire property fence, according to news reports from North Idaho.

One bull died from injuries sustained in the struggle, including a possible broken neck, and the larger one was in such bad shape it had to be put down by a property owner. Dawna Lenz told the Coeur d'Alene Press the elk were spotted first thing Friday morning on her 410-acre property up Alder Creek near Wolf Lodge.

"People from Coeur d'Alene come out here all the time to view the elk," Lenz told the newspaper Monday. "We generally in the morning have anywhere between 40 and 80 head, and then again in the afternoon at certain times of the year"

  • See story by David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Contacted this afternoon, Wayne Wakkinen, regional wildlife manager for the Idaho Fish and Game Department said:

  • With the help of the landowners and their tractors, Idaho Fish and Game was able to salvage 1,017 pounds of meat from the two bulls and deliver "one heck of a pickup-load of protein" to the area food bank.
  • The antlers also were salvaged and will be available to the public the spring auction IFG holds each spring somewhere in the state to sell wildlife skins and parts staffers collect in the course of their enforcement and conservation work.
  • One of the elk, which was dead in the battle, was a six-by-six point bull about 7-8 years old.
  • The larger of the two elk, which was still alive but had to be euthanized, was a 6-by-8-point bull around 4 years old.

The antlers weren't locked, but they were tangled and tied together in the barbed wire as the two bulls fought. Joe Lenz said about a tenth of a mile of four-strand fence was damaged in the battle.

"I've lived here all my life and never seen anything remotely like that," said Lenz, a rancher. "All four strands were damaged in that stretch, so they took out about a quarter mile of fence total. I'd say there was a bout 50 pounds of wire tangled in their antlers alone.

"They were big animals, probably 1,200 pounds or more on the hoof apiece.  They were bigger than most any hunter would take in a lifetime."

Dawna Lenz said some people have wondered if the landowners got to keep the meat.

"We're so happy that so much meat is going to the needy," she said. "'No,'" I tell people, we didn't get the meat, but Joe got to keep the mess!"



Grizzly still in CdA River area; news reminder — fed bear is dead bear

WILDLIFE — The collared 2-year-old grizzly bear from Montana is still roaming the Coeur d'Alene River area north of Kingston. Idaho Fish and Game has been unsuccessful, as they expected, in getting the bear to take the bait and walk into a culvert trap for the second time in six weeks, so it's still in the area, clearly looking for food.

Kingston-area resident Sandy Podsaid has posted new video from two game cams on his property showing the grizzly looking for food and snooping around empty barrels that have been used previously for baiting black bears.

Area rural residents can help themselves and the grizzly by managing garbage and food for pets, livestock and bird feeders to avoid attracting the bear.

Two stories in the news remind us that allowing bears and other wildlife to get into human food can have dangerous consequences for the public and almost certain bad results for the animals.

  • Culling is one of several options on the table for dealing with aggressive mountain goats on  Scotchman Peak.
  • A black bear in Glacier National Park was euthanized by rangers last week because it had developed a habit of visiting the Lake McDonald Lodge area for food.

The bear revisited the area despite repeated attempts by park rangers to haze the bear away from the area with rubber bullets and bean bag rounds.

On Sept. 10th, the bear was observed peering into windows at the employee dorm. Park staff captured and relocated it to a remote area.

But the bear returned to the Lake McDonald area, breaking into a vehicle to obtain food.

Goodbye, bear.

Autumn scenery already colorful — and crispy

HIKING — The first day of autumn 2015 is Sept. 23, but fall colors already are brightening the mountain landscapes.

However, a close-up look on Sunday near Stevens Lakes up from Mullan, Idaho, was like crunching through a dry bowl of corn flakes. 

It's been a rough summer for native plants. They're giving us their best shot at fall colors, but the stress is there as though we're looking into the wrinkled face of a disaster survivor.

CdA River grizzly had been captured, released Aug. 4 north of Noxon

WILDLIFE — A Montana grizzly bear that had been trapped, collared for research and released northwest of Noxon has wandered to the Coeur d’Alene River area north of Interstate 90 where Idaho wildlife officials say they’ll attempt to trap it again.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the 2-year-old male grizzly appears to be on the search for food, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear was videotaped Wednesday by Kingston-area resident Sandy Podsaid, clearly showing that it was a collared grizzly. 

On Aug. 4, the grizzly had been captured in a culvert trap by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staffers about 20 miles north of Whitefish. The bear was transported and released the same day near Spar Lake north of SR200 near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bear was captured and released as part of the practice of Montana and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to occasionally bolster the struggling grizzly bear population in the Cabinet Mountains, Wakkinen said. The grizzly is federally protected as a threatened species by the Endangered Species Act.

“The bear was 165 pounds and healthy when it was captured,” he said. “The bears they select for augmentation over the years are young bears that have not history of problems or conflict with humans.  These aren’t problem bears.”

GPS tracking from the grizzly’s collar indicates steady movement to different areas since its relocation, Wakkinen said. “It appears that the bear has been bounced around by wildfires and fire-fighting activity,” he said.

The bear has been reported in the Coeur d’Alene drainage several times since Sept. 4.

“A bowhunter reported that he was annoyed by squirrels that were suddenly yakking at him and when he stood up, the grizzly was feeding near him about 15 yards away, not paying attention to the hunter,” Wakkinen said.

 “Then a fisherman sent in a photo on Tuesday saying a grizzly swam across the Coeur d’Alene in front of him.”

Since the bear seems to have lost its natural wariness of human activity, state and federal wildlife officials have decided they’ll try to recapture the bear and move it out of the area.

“That won’t necessarily be easy; it may be impossible,” Wakkinen said.  “The bear hasn’t really settled into one area, so trap placement is difficult. 

“And the bear has a very recent unpleasant memory of being caught in a culvert trap, so it may be reluctant to go inside one again.”

The grizzly hasn’t been reported getting into a homeowner’s garbage or pet food, yet, but that possibility is a major concern for wildlife managers.

“We’ve had a definite uptick in reports of black bears in lowland areas looking for food, even right out of Coeur d’Alene,” Wakkinen said. “Given this year’s conditions, bear biologists aren’t surprised.

“It’s important for people to keep their garbage, pet food and bird seed away from the reach of bears.”   

The grizzly bear videotaped in a yard north of Kingston appeared to be sniffing around looking for food, Wakkinen said.

The video shows the bear poking its head into barrels, which according to Podsaid were used to hold grease and other bait for hunting black bears.  "The barrels were empty, but they still had scent," he said.

The bear also ran up to his mule, he said, "but I was yelling and cussing and the mule stomped and blew and the bear stopped, but it didn't immediately go away."

A link to the video has been posted on the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Facebook page.

Grizzly bear reported by sheriff on Coeur d’Alene River

UPDATE 9-11-15: Click here for new information about the grizzly and the situation here.

WILDLIFE — A rare grizzly bear sighting has been confirmed up the Coeur d'Alene River around milepost 9, officials say in a warning especially to hunters. 

  • Grizzlies can be attracted by elk calls.
  • While black bears are legal game, grizzly bears are federally protected.

Also, property owners can avoid attracting the bear by cleaning up garbage and pet and livestock feed.  The dry summer and lack of berries has forced bears into the lowlands.  They're hungry and looking for food, which means they might find trouble.

Although Idaho Fish and Game officials were not immediately available for comment, the bear apparently is wearing a collar that helped them identify its origin.  Here's the information recently posted on Facebook by Shoshone County Sheriff Mitch Alexander:

"A heads up out there, A confirmed grizzly was reported to Fish & Game and had been seen up the main Coeur D'Alene River at about mile post 9 Saturday by a bowhunter. A video which I can not share was taken by a guy at his home on mile post 4.

Fish and Game said this collared bear was from the Cabinet Mountains of Montana. Be careful out there, this is now the third grizzly in our area in the last few years that I have personal knowledge of."

Grizzly sightings near Whistler could signify bear range expansion

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Grizzlies appear to be slowly sniffing out new digs in the Pacific Northwest.

Grizzly bear sighting in SW British Columbia raises hopes, prompts warnings
The sighting of a grizzly bear with two cubs near Whistler has raised hopes that the species is recovering in that area of British Columbia. Officials are warning hikers in the area to be aware of the potential of running into the bears.
—Vancouver Sun

Meanwhile, the prospects of reintroducing grizzlies into the North Cascades of Washington is still being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

Nature, fly-fishing groups revive monthly programs

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

  • Hobby Beekeeping, by Ken Crawley, 7 p.m., Tuesday, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Secrets of the Clark Fork, by Steve Temple, 7 p.m., Wednesday, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Birds and Beasts of the Kalahari, by Ron Force, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Audubon.

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

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.

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.