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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Looking for solitude? Head for a nordic ski trail in April

WINTERSPORTS — A glorious day was to be found on the Schweitzer Mountain Nordic Trails on Sunday.

What wasn't to be found?  Many people.

“Glorious day of spring skiing at Schweitzer,” said Jette Thorslund Benedetto, who was skiing with Kurt Stellwagen. “We had the XC trails all to ourselves. Views were everywhere and the snow wasn't bad at all.”


Ducks Unlimited to honor Whitman County landowner

CONSERVATION – The Spokane chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fundraising banquet April 11 at the Lincoln Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Bob Zorb of Spokane and St. John, who was unable to travel for the national ceremony in Washington, D.C, will receive DU’s national private lands conservationist of the year award at this Spokane event.

Get tickets online at ducks.org/washington.

Hunters losing access to land at alarming rate

HUNTING — Nearly 23 percent of hunters polled said places they tried to hunt in the past year had been restricted or placed off limits to them, according to HunterSurvey.com

Compared with the previous year’s results to the same question, hunters who lost land access grew by less than 1 percent, a statistically insignificant bump. But their numbers still reveal that nearly one in four sportsmen nationwide is potentially affected by losing access to hunting land.

“Finding a place to hunt remains one of the biggest challenges to hunters and hunter recruitment” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com.

“As available lands for hunting diminish or change ownership, some hunters will inevitably grow frustrated and pursue other activities.”

More than half (52 percent) of those respondents who lost access to a hunting location said their time spent hunting last year was reduced as a result—a 7 percent increase over the previous year—while 11 percent said the lost land kept them from hunting altogether.

Only 7 percent of those respondents said they acquired access to another property where they were able to hunt more than planned.

Southwick pointed to the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which was part of the 2008 Farm Bill, as a key example of programs designed to improve access to hunting and fishing lands and waters.

VPA-HIP was intended to provide three years of funding to augment state land access programs that provide incentives for private landowners to open their lands to hunting and fishing. The program ended prematurely, however, due to federal budget cuts.

With slashes in government funding and private properties increasingly restricted, land access will continue to be an issue for many sportsmen.

Bicycle ‘Ride Around Washington’ coming to Palouse

BICYCLING — RAW — the popular Ride Around Washington organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club — is focusing its 2012 on the region from Chewelah south through Spokane and around the Palouse. 

The seven-day, 400-mile supported bike tour isn't until Aug. 4-10, but it's already 92 percent SOLD OUT.

Download the 2012 RAW Ride Guide for a detailed description.

  • The guide is a masterpiece of organization, with checklists worth reading for any bicycle tours.

Online-only registration for RAW opened on January 10, 2012.  It was 92 percent sold out on March 27. 

Cyclists may join the Cascade Bicycle Club when registering for the event or in advance by visiting the membership page.

Lookout Pass ski expansion eyed by backcountry skiers

SKIING — The Phase1 plans for the proposed expansion of Lookout Pass Ski Area is being watched by the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition.   Here's the group's latest update, and a map.

In a related topic, the coalition posts this update on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests response to a request for a comprehensive winter plan.

Champion elk caller advises hunters to work now on confidence

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Seven-time world champion elk caller Corey Jacobsen and fellow Elk101.com pro staffer Cameron Haines had polished answers to a couple of questions posed recently by Roger Phillips of the Idaho Statesman.

Tip: don't wait until September to get your act together.

Read on for the Q&A.

Bear Aware websites offer tips on bear sprays and more

BACKPACKING — The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee stresses the importance of following proper bear avoidance safety techniques and recommends bear spray as an effective tool for personal safety when recreating in bear country.

Bear spray has the potential to reduce human injuries and the number of bears that are killed as a result of conflicts with humans. The active ingredient in bear spray is an extremely strong irritant that turns the tables on an aggressive bear.

IGBC bear spray recommendations and other useful information can be found on the IGBC Website or read on for tips on buying and using bear spray.

See peregrine chicks hatching in downtown Boise nest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Just over four weeks after a peregrine falcon layed her eggs in a nest box overlooking downtown Boise, three chicks hatched over the weekend. 

Today, all area bird-loving eyes have been on the peregrine cam  awaiting the hatching of the fourth egg.

The nest box is a project of The Peregrine Fund.

Governor signs Discover Pass into law

STATE LANDS — Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed legislation authorizing the Discover Pass, a $30 annual vehicle permit ($10 daily) that soon will be required for access to Washington state parks and other state lands.

Starting July 1, the Discover Pass will be required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, campgrounds, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads.

Holders of certain types of fishing and hunting licenses, registered campers in state parks and other users are exempt from some Discover Pass requirements. For details, see the Discover Pass website

The pass will be available to purchase in mid-June.

Read on for details from today's signing.

Marmot counters needed at Olympic National Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you're game for an Olympic National Park hike of five to 20 miles and eager to go count housecat-sized rodents, park officials may want you for its “citizen science” marmot monitoring program.

For the second year, the park is looking for volunteers to visit designated survey areas to tally Olympic marmot numbers and distribution to boost marmot research.

Last year, more than 80 volunteers participated, coming from as far away as Los Angeles.

Park spokesman Dave Reynolds says applicants must be capable of hiking and camping in remote areas, navigating off-trail and working on steep slopes. Volunteers will get one day of training.

The application deadline is May 1 but applications may close earlier if the park gets enough eligible volunteers.

Deadliest Catch crew coming to Spokane

COMMERCIAL FISHING — Take a break after trying to catch rainbows and Sprague Lake this summer and spend “A night with Captian Sig and the Hillstrand Brother,” — a live traveling show from the Deadliest Catch TV series — July 24, at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane.

The commercia crabbers are out of Alaska's Bearing Sea, away from the Discovery Channel and on the road across the U.S.
Tickets go on sale Friday.
It's a live interactive event in which the crew tells stories, answers questions, gives insight behined the scenes filmed in the series and shows video not shown on TV.
Read on for details.

Robert Kennedy Jr. to speak on clean water in Spokane, Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an international leader in the cause for clean and healthy waterways, will be in Sandpoint on May 18 and Spokane on May 19 to promote cleaning up and protecting two of the inland Northwest’s signature waterways.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s support for local organizations like the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and Spokane Riverkeeper is deeply inspiring,” says Jennifer Ekstrom, Lake PendOreille Waterkeeper.

“His presence is clearly a help to our efforts to raise public awareness about the critical issues we work on every day.”

Kennedy will speak at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint  at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday May 18th. Tickets for the Sandpoint appearance are $15 general, and $5 for students.

On Thursday May 19, he will speak at 7:30 p.m. at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in Spokane, where admission will be $17 general and $7 for students. (Spokane tickets include a $2 historic preservation fee.)

Read on for more about Kennedy and his background in water issues and the Riverkeeper projects.