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Lookout Pass, Schweitzer resorts opening lifts for skiers, snowboarders

WINTERSPORTS — Lookout Pass will open for skiers and snowboarders on Thursday and Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint will open Friday, becoming the first of the Inland Northwest’s five ski areas to start up the lifts for the 2015-2016 season.

Lookout Pass, off Interstate 90 at the Montana-Idaho border, plans to open Thanksgiving Day and operate through the weekend with discounted tickets and at least nine runs groomed, resort operators say in a media release.

Schweitzer began making snow earlier this month and also has received about a foot of natural snowfall, said Mountain Operations Director Bill Williamson in a news release. “With the cold temps last week, we were able to keep our snow machines turning, giving us another foot or so. It’s nice to see Midway in such great shape.”

“There is snow in the forecast and the weekend looks fantastic with sunshine and cold temps,” said Marketing Manager Dig Chrismer

Schweitzer plans to operate the Basin Express Quad with limited operations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with adult full day lift tickets at $40. The mountain will close mid-week and reopen the following Friday.

Lookout Pass plans to open all services and operate Lift 1, with top to bottom skiing on the front side of the mountain, plus Chair 4, the beginner lift, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets will be $28 for adults and 410 for juniors and seniors.

New Washington wolf pack news sparks rare poetic debate

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Today's news that a new wolf pack — the Loup Loup Pack — has been confirmed in north-central Washington near the towns of Omak and Twisp has sparked a trend on the newspaper reader comments thread that's rarer than an endangered species: opinions on wolf management that are worth reading!

Indeed, a few readers are responding to the news in Haiku.

Says Wedeln6969:

Today, I'd like to offer a "wolfku" which is a wolf themed haiku (5-7-5 syllable structure, no rhymes, no humans!)

wolf in winter

wolf puppy howls, branch
sees, quiet coy flame bragging
melting angels groan

I don't know exactly what that means, but this is remarkable for no other reason that some wolf zealots are disciplining their response to a measured number of lines and syllables.  Eureka!

Spokesfolk responds:

snug in LL Bean quilts, urbanites
text, chilled range rider shudders
mother cow drags entrails.

Ah, gore in beautiful poetic rhythm.  We're on to something here, despite the plea of Lysanders_muse:

wolf thy neighbor not
taste forbade enjoying haiku
please stop please stop now

Mtharves borrows a line from Aldo Leopold to launch this observation:

Eyes of green fire
Howls sounding through the moonlight
My neck hairs rising

Jamtowzer speaks clearly for the anti-wolf crowd:

Blam blam blam gray pelts
Ultimate predator wins
Problem solved, next pest.

Rosehips calls for moderation and coexistence:

hungry like a dog
master-mind of survival
keep your livestock safe

After that,  the usual taunting and ranting takes over and it gets boring.

Next pack, please.

Here's the rest of the news story about the state's 17th wolf pack:

The Loup Loup Pack was named for a place within the wolves’ range in the Methow Valley.

Confirmation of the new pack came after reports of public sightings of multiple wolves in the area. The wolves’ presence was later confirmed through surveys by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services.

Biologists will monitor the new pack over the winter. Next summer, they will try to capture one of the wolves and outfit it with a radio collar to track the pack’s travels.

Since the pack is in the western two-thirds of Washington, it is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves in the eastern third of Washington are under state management.

Washington’s wolf population has continued to grow. At the end of 2014, the state had at least 68 wolves in 16 wolf packs with a total of 5 successful breeding pairs.

Kokanee-eating bald eagles liven up Bayview area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Reviving the kokanee fishery at Lake Pend Oreille is attracting more than fishermen.

A good number of bald eagles are congregating in the Bayview area to hunt spawning kokanee, and those eagles are attracting bird watchers.

Norma Jean Knowles caught the photo above on a Monday visit. She said she was attracted to the area by the second annual Eagles of Bayview Photo Contest sponsored by Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

Lake Coeur d'Alene's spawning kokanee also are attracting bald eagles to Wolf Lodge Bay.  BLM counted at least 40 bald eagles there last week.  No official count is being conducted at Lake Pend Oreille.

Mount Spokane nordic trails clogged with blowdowns

TRAILS — Many of the region's trails are littered with blowdown trees after the Nov. 17 wind storm, and the most desperate situation is at Mount Spokane, where the 60 kilometers of cross-country ski trails are virtually clogged with timber.

Volunteers organized by the Spokane Nordic Ski Association were on the trails Saturday, busy with chainsaws and even a front loader. But much more needs to be done before a state park groomer could take advantage of any snow that might be coming.

Stay tuned for another volunteer opportunity coming up soon.

As if we needed another reason for water conservation…

WATER — "Drink before you're thirsty," says the savvy coach of endurance sports.

The same logic and science can be applied to conserving water locally and globally before there's an obvious need.

Here's the latest research to back me up:

International study finds world's groundwater resources unrenewable
The results of an international study that mapped the Earth's groundwater supplies found that most of those resources are not renewable and that only about six percent of the 23 million cubic kilometers of the Earth's groundwater supply is renewable over 50 years.
—Calgary Herald

Kayakers talk on tackling Great Slave Lake wilderness voyage

PADDLING – "Great Slave Lake Expedition," a program by wilderness paddling adventurers Harvey Brown and Rosemarie Bisiar, will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, at Mountain Gear Corporate offices, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

The couple flew in with inflatable sea kayak to begin their voyage across the remote lake in Canada's Northwest Territory.

Bald eagles returning to Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene has begun.  The eagles also are showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, but the birds that return to Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay are notably accessible for viewing.

Here's the first report of the season on the weekly bald eagle count at Coeur d'Alene filed Friday by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo:

Boy if anyone has asked me last week what I thought I would find on the first eagle count this week I would have responded with a resounding "zero"!  And boy would I have been wrong!!!  Only one year since counting began has this number been as higher!  That was in 2012.

The count today was 40 adults and 12 immature with lots of activity and eagles spread fairly well throughout the viewing area.  The one exception to this was Blue Creek Bay, no eagles there yet.

This bodes well for the eagle viewing season and for our veterans cruise December 5th!  One other cool thing to note was an immature eagle in Beauty Bay that had a lot of white plumage.  All immature eagles will have some white on the body and flanks, especially as they get closer to maturity, but this one just stood out because it was so light in color.

Leavenworth Hatchery workers avert near disaster to salmon crop

FISHERIES — Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery employees worked all night Tuesday and Wednesday to save 1.2 million fingerling salmon from debris-choked flood waters that swept down Icicle Creek.

“The last flood this bad was 2005,” said Travis Collier, Assistant Hatchery Manager. Nearly two and a half inches of rain fell, melting recently fallen snow to swell the river flows above 11,000 cubic feet.

The hatchery faced two primary problems: the volume of water, and the debris it carried, officials said.

Flood diversion channel was overwhelmed with water and water in the natural channel swelled to dangerous levels.

“We don’t know exactly how much water came through (the hatchery) because it washed out the gauging station,” Travis said.

Logs were swept downstream, clogging the water intake for the hatchery, slamming into the bridge at the spillway, breaking through the fence, and damaging the fish ladder. Tribal fishing platforms were destroyed and the hatchery building was flooding. Staff took on the hazardous work of climbing down into the flooded structure to drag out branches in an urgent bid to get water moving again in the system, Travis said.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release:

Water from the intake is piped first to a settling chamber. Because the intake was blocked, the settling chamber  was completely dry. Normal water flow in a 10 by 100 foot raceway is 900 gallons per minute. For an hour, no water was coming from the river at all. Hatchery workers switched on every well and re-used w water was available to keep water in the raceways where spring Chinook salmon are raised.

Their efforts succeeded but the hard work continues. Once the blockage was cleared the water coming into the hatchery was loaded with silt. Five inches of mud filled every raceway on Wednesday and must be cleaned out as the flood subsides. Exhausted employees continued to clear debris Wednesday morning, assessing what repairs will be needed.

Their hard work paid off: the salmon they have raised through drought and flood are alive today, still on schedule to be released in April, meeting the hatchery’s mission of mitigating for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam. Leavenworth Fisheries Complex Manager Dave Irving said, “Without their dedicated service, we’d have lost all the fish and had severe damage to the infrastructure. I appreciate their hard work under hazardous conditions. They have a real passion for fulfilling our mission.”

Pheasant release planned; last of season

HUNTING — Pheasants are scheduled to be released this week at up to 44 Eastern Washington sites that are detailed in the Fish and Wildlife Department’s Pheasant Enhancement Program website.

The first releases occurred in September in advance of the youth upland bird season. This week will mark the fourth and last release at most sites.

"We usually do not say when we release pheasants, but our last release of the year usually has been the week of Thanksgiving," said Joey McCanna, who coordinates the release of pen-raised pheasants in the Spokane Region. "All sites in Region 1 will receive pheasants."

He pointed out that there's also a good crop of wild birds holding out in good habitat around the region, although he's had reports that wild roosters have been flushing wild.

Chronic wasting disease detected in deer near Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — A buck white-tailed deer killed Nov. 1 in a hunting area about 25 miles east of Yellowstone National Park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The case of fatal neurological disease that infects elk, deer and moose hadn't previously been discovered close to the park.

During a July conference about another disease, the park’s chief of wildlife P.J. White said chronic wasting disease might already be in the park even though it hasn’t been detected.

The disease is similar to mad cow disease and not known to be contractible by humans.

CWD has not been detected in Washington.

Officials snuff out feral pigs near Potholes; eyes out for more

INVASIVE SPECIES — A pair of feral pigs reported by a bird hunter near Potholes Reservoir were recently killed along the Winchester Wasteway by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officer. The state has a no-tolerance policy for the non-native species known to be efficiently destructive to native habitats as well as livestock operations.

The source of the animals and how long they'd been roaming the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area aren't known, wildlife officials said.

The animals that were killed are described in a department report as a nursing sow and a subadult. That leaves open the possibility that there are more feral pigs out in that section of Grant County, although no pigs have turned up on trail cam images from a bait station officers set up.

The agency encourages sportsmen to report any sightings of feral pics to the Region 2 office in Ephrata,  (509) 754-4624 or, as Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman calls it, the toll-free "federal squeal-on-a-pig hotline," (888) 268-9219.

Northern pike in John Day Pool apparently was pikeminnow, officials say

FISHING — The "northern pike" reported to have been captured in the John Day Pool and mentioned in this blog this week was a mistake, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers say.

The so-called pike showing up in the John Day Pool mentioned in the Northwest Power and Conservation Council agenda apparently was a northern pikeminnow improperly identified on paper, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say. WDFW staffer Stacie Kelsey, who's involved with the state and tribal fish monitoring in the Columbia River, said she hadn't heard a report of a northern pike showing up that far downstream.

"I've received several contacts over the last couple of years about anglers thinking the pike and pikeminnow were the same fish," she said.

Stacy Horton, state policy analyst/biologist, wrote the agenda summary for the council meeting.

The Kettle Falls area remains the farthest downstream in the Columbia that northern pike have officially been confirmed, says Bruce Botka, WDFW spokesman.

Washington’s ski season starts today, at least at Mt. Baker

WINTERSPORTS – Washington state’s ski season begins today, Nov. 19, as Mt. Baker Ski Area opens with a good base of cold snow.

Many ski areas in Washington usually don’t open until Thanksgiving or later. Recent storms have brought fresh powder to the region, but the high slopes of Baker, one of Washington's volcanoes, is leading the way in snow accumulation.

Mt. Baker says it has a good base to start the season and would be running several chair lifts.

Crystal Mountain had tentatively planned to open its gondola and another chair on Friday, but the resort announced today that stormy weather had knocked out power and crews were busy cleaning up debris.

Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort had hinted it might open Saturday, its website has been changed to read like most of the region's resorts — hoping more snow falls so they can open the day after Thanksgiving.

Nordic skiing also is underway in Washington.

As reported earlier, Methow Valley groomers were out midweek to pack snow from storms. Today Methow Trails began their earliest season ever by grooming throughout the day in Mazama, Sun Mtn, and Winthrop.

"Trail conditions are improving with every pass we make," the website says.

Firm conditions this morning with a hard freeze last night. The snow will soften slightly as day time temps will rise slightly above freezing. The best skiing can be found mid morning from the Mazama corral trailhead with tracks set in the meadows. Skating on Thompson road up at Sun Mtn mid morning would also be a good option. Stay tuned.

Heller Bar boat ramp plan changed to avoid fishing area

FISHING — Plans to improve the boat launching area at Heller Bar on the Snake River are taking shape this month with revisions that should placate angler concerns about interference with a good shoreline fishing area.

Fishermen were alarmed in September when they saw Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife surveyors scoping out the possibility of putting a new ramp upstream from the existing ramp and downstream from the mouth of the Grande Ronde River in a stretch that's ideal for wade angling.

The $325,000 project, first proposed in 2012, would add a second boat ramp as well as upgrading the entire area, said Bob Dice, Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex manager in Clarkston.

"We looked at launch sites upstream and from an engineering perspective it would have been difficult to place a new ramp up there considering water depth, current flow and the risk of the thing being buried with sediment from the Grande Ronde River," he said.

Dice also factored in comments from bank fishermen who were not fond of the upstream ramp site option.

"The best location for a successful installation is next to the existing ramp on the downstream side," he said this week. "We didn't want to disturb or alter the upstream side where boats and rafts pull up to the beach."

Tentative plans call for repairing the upstream side of the existing ramp to allow vehicles to pull onto the ramp from the beach.  "That will allow one-way travel for vehicles loading rafts or supplies for power boats," he said. "As it is now, if they pull down there, they have to turn around to get off the beach, which causes some issues.

"We will be required to install an ADA parking spot near the top of the ramp for a vehicle with a trailer and one for a vehicle only.  We felt there would be sufficient room to do this and there is a couple of things we can do to improve the paved area at the top of the ramps for better vehicle flow.

"The rest of the access site will get a new gravel surface, new signs, a new informational kiosk and potentially some new fire rings at areas where folks traditionally camp."

Agency engineers say construction likely will begin in early 2017 after required permits are secured.

Campers have the edge in surviving urban blackouts

CAMPING — This week is serious business if you have a tree through your roof.

Otherwise, just get out the coolers, barbecue and camp cooking gear and carry on.

What are you cooking up while the town is dark?

Idaho deer tags nearly sold out

HUNTING — With whitetail hunting in full swing and reports of good hunting, nonresidents or Idaho hunters interested in a second tag may want to buy sooner rather than later.

Only about 1,300 white-tailed deer tags remained in the nonresident quota today, and all nonresident general deer tags have already been sold.

In recent years, nonresident hunters have had the option of waiting until the last minute to buy tags before their hunts, says Roger Phillips, Idaho Fish and Game Department spokesman. "Many nonresident hunters, especially in North Idaho, hunt during the Thanksgiving holiday, but with brisk sales, it’s possible the remaining quota may already be sold by then," he said.  

Fish and Game has had its highest sales of nonresident tags in seven years. Part of that is because of an improved economy that’s attracted nonresidents back to Idaho, but it’s also due to improved big game hunting. Sales of resident deer tags are also up this year, but they are not limited by a quota.

Idaho hunters can also buy nonresident tags as second tags, which have also become increasingly popular in recent years. But when the remaining nonresident deer tag quota is sold out, either to nonresidents or as second tags for residents, no more will be available this year.

Hunters buying a tag online must allow time for the tag to be mailed to them.

Residents who are interested in buying a nonresident white-tailed deer tag as a second tag can get details at https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/second-tag.

Burn off turkey dinner with Dishman Hills guided hike

TRAILS — Take a nature break on the day after Thanksgiving with a guided group walk suitable for families through the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

Jeff Lambert, Dishman Hills Conservancy executive director, will lead a hike of 2-3 miles at a moderate pace while identifying geological and natural features of the area.

The Dishman Hills will provide a free trail map and REI coupons to the first 30 people who arrive.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Dishman Hills Natural Area winter parking lot at 320 S. Sargent Road in Spokane Valley.

Bring water and sturdy shoes. Note: The upper parking lot and bathrooms are closed.

Info: Jeff Lambert at 999-5100.

Boyer Park recreation area to be expanded on Snake River

WATERSPORTS — The Port of Whitman County is moving ahead with plans to expand Boyer Park, its popular dock-and-campground facility located on the Snake River at Almota, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

The project includes adding 13 camping sites with 40-foot recreational vehicle pads and 110-amp electrical services, as well as four wooden cabins on a paved road by the beach. The RV overflow area will also be paved, the asphalt in the existing campground will be repaired, and irrigation will be installed in the day-use area.

Palouse River Rock, based in Colfax, bid $578,200 for the entire package.

The port intends to purchase about $50,000 in playground equipment in addition to the contracted work.

Groomed nordic ski trails open today after storm

WINTERSPORTS — Cross-country skiers are waxing up TODAY and hitting groomed trails in a couple of the region's most consistent early season destinations.

  • The Rendezvous Ski Trails near West Yellowstone are being groomed this week for the first time of the season after a good dump of snow.
  • SilverStar Resort near Vernon, British Columbia, an early season favorite for national team nordic skiers, has 13 trails open and groomed this week.
  • Methow Trails based in Winthrop, Wash., reports the first significant storm of the season has dropped enough snow for groomers to begin packing trails on the Mazama, Rendezvous and Sun Mountain areas. The goal was to pack and preserve the snow through the warming temperatures predicted for today so the next storm would have a base that would allow the ski trails to be formally opened.

It’s official: CdA angler catches Washington record opah

FISHING — An opah, also known as moonfish, caught by a North Idaho angler on Sept. 27, 2015, has been confirmed as a Washington state record.

Jim Watson of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, caught the large-eyed, orange-red colored, disc-shaped giant–while fishing with anchovies 45 miles offshore of Westport in Grays Harbor County.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed its weight at 35.67 pounds and measured 37-7/8 inches.

“Catching the fish was a lot of work, but fun. They really fight, and it took a while,” said Watson. “The captain and crew came unglued, because you just don’t see these fish very often.”

Watson shared the fish with the charter crew, family and friends.  “It was not like any fish I’ve tasted, but it was really good,” said Watson. “Every bit of it went to good use.”

Opah are the only fish found to be warm blooded throughout their bodies, a discovery first reported in the journal Science in May.

The new opah record exceeded the previous by 7.49 pounds. That record was held by Rick Shapland on a fish that was also caught in the Pacific Ocean off of Westport in 2013.

Northern pike control in Columbia likely to be stepped up

UPDATE 11-19-15:   The northern pike found in the John Day Pool and mentioned in the NPCC agenda apparently was a northern pikeminnow improperly identified on paper, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say.  The Kettle Falls area remains the farthest downstream in the Columbia that northern pike have officially been confirmed, they say.

FISHING — State and tribal fish managers are in Portland today requesting continued funding from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for controlling non-native northern pike that are seeping into the Columbia River.

A northern pike was captured in the John Day pool recently, increasing the urgency the fisheries managers generated last year as pike began showing up in spawning numbers in the upper reaches of Lake Roosevelt.

One of the first confirmed pike holding up in Lake Roosevelt was caught by an angler in 2011. The way the catch increased caught fish managers' attention this year.

A netting program to assess the pike distribution in Roosevelt was launched this year.

The co-managers of Lake Roosevelt, including the Spokane and Colville tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, are concerned about the continued expansion of the voracious predator in Lake Roosevelt and the resulting in impacts to native fish populations.

"In addition, pike pose an enormous threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River," the co-managers say in their presentation summary.

The Council already has declared actions to preserve Fish and Wildlife Program effectiveness by aggressively addressing non-native and invasive species as its third highest emerging priority.

Background: See the northern pike presentation by the Kalispel Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Colville Tribe and WDFW from the June 9, 2015 Council Meeting in Coeur d’ Alene, ID.

Background: See a summary of the northern pike presentation by the Kalispel Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Colville Tribe and WDFW from the June 9, 2015, Council Meeting in Coeur d’ Alene.

Tangled buck freed by Idaho officer; video goes viral

WILDLIFE — Last week I posted a video showing the bold effort of a man releasing a frantic entangled buck that calmed down to let the rescuer help. Now here's the rest of the story from Idaho Fish and Game:

It wasn't an average day at the office for Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer John McLain when he encountered a white-tailed buck tangled in baling twine, but his average days don't go viral on the Internet, either.

In August, McLain received a call about an entangled buck near Orofino, and he went to investigate it. Finding the buck, he turned on his body-mounted camera and thought, "this might be a video of me getting my butt kicked, or it might turn out alright."

Fortunately, it was the latter, although not without some drama that he captured on video. Upon seeing McLain, the buck panicked, but the twine had wrapped around its front leg and prevented it from fleeing. The buck quickly exhausted itself, and that's when McLain went to work carefully cutting the twine from its leg and antlers.

Once freed, the deer remained on the ground for a few seconds, then bound away and appeared uninjured by the experience.

It wasn't the first time McLain dealt with entangled deer during his nine years as a Fish and Game conservation officer. Another time, he untangled a deer from a soccer net, and in a sports-related coincidence, another deer wandered into a batting cage in Orofino. When McLain tried to help it get out, "I kind of went for a ride," he said.

After posting his video to his Facebook page, he watched in amazement as the world took notice.

"I knew it would get some shares, but when it hit 100,000, I was like ‘Wow,'" he said.

So far, the video has been shared more than 147,000 times and liked more than 69,000 times. He received hundreds of friend requests and personal messages because of it.

Wildlife rescues are common for Fish and Game's Conservation officers, who may be called on to deal with all types of situations. They can be as routine as herding a wild animal out of town, to as bizarre as tranquilizing a bull elk to remove porcupine quills from its nose.

"It happens," McLain said. "I just happened to catch this one on video."

State to acquire another chunk of 4-O Ranch near Grande Ronde River

WILDLIFE HABITAT — Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday approved spending $3.7 million to purchase of 2,061 acres that nearly wraps up a multi-phased plan to transfer the 12,000-acre 4-0 Ranch to the state's Chief Joseph Wildlife Area.

 The state Fish and Wildlife Department's plan to acquire this land in Asotin County completes about 90 percent of a six-phase project to acquire the ranch and expand the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area above the Grande Ronde River.

The land will be especially effective in preserving critical habitat for threatened salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as deer, bighorn sheep and elk, wildlife managers say.

The department has secured state and federal funds to purchase the property, currently owned by 4-O Land & Livestock, LLC.

Montana approves sage grouse habitat restrictions


THREATENED SPECIES – The Montana Land Board has approved restrictions meant to protect sage grouse habitat.

The board voted unanimously Monday to prohibit breaking up native range and eradicating sage brush in the bird’s habitat, the Associated Press reports.

A waiver is possible for land-break requests of 20 acres or less by farmers seeking to square up field edges or to install irrigation systems.

Sage brush treatments that drop the canopy cover to 30 percent or less of the total area treated will require a plan to improve the habitat.

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation director John Tubbs says the agency receives very few requests to break blocks of native range or eradicate sage brush.

DNRC also will have to consider additional criteria when evaluating grazing leases. A corrective plan will be required if sage grouse habitat is being harmed.

Idaho to set fishing seasons at meeting in Hailey

FISHING — Idaho's fishing seasons for the next three years will be set by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission during a Nov. 18-19 meeting in Hailey. 

Routine agenda items include setting the 2016-2018 fishing seasons, approving the 2015 Strategic Plan and considering land acquisitions.  Commissioners also will hear updates on the FY 17 budget, upcoming legislative process, wolf plan and plans related to sage grouse. 

Fishing proposals include increasing the statewide “possession limit” to three times the daily bag limit after the second day of the season.  Currently, the possession limit is equal to the bag limit.

In the Panhandle region, a proposal for Lake Pend Oreille would reduce the rainbow trout daily bag limit from six to two fish, only one over 20 inches.

Idaho wolf trapper courses set for Friday, Saturday

PREDATORS — Wolf trapper certification classes are being offered by the Idaho Fish and Game Department in the Panhandle Region on Friday and Saturday.

Certification is required before a person can purchase wolf trapping tags. The course includes 6.5 hours of instruction including both classroom and field experience followed by a written exam.

Courses are offered periodically throughout the year, but most are offered in the fall and early winter when people are preparing to spend more time in the field.  This also coincides with the time of the year when wolf hides are prime and have the most value.

Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman, said a class has been scheduled for Friday, Nov. 20, followed by another complete class on Saturday, Nov. 21, at the IDFG Panhandle Region office in Coeur d’Alene.

Advance registration is required on the IFG website

Cost is $8 per student. 

Note when registering that IFG also offers a general furbearer trapping class that is different from the wolf trapper certification class.  The general furbearer trapping class does not qualify people for the purchase of wolf trapping tags.

Says Cooper:

The Wolf Trapper Certification course is instructor-led.  Instructors are experienced trappers who are trained and certified to provide students with both classroom study and interactive, hands-on training. Course topics cover a wide variety of topics related to wolf biology, wolf behavior and management as well as specifics regarding wolf trapping.

Instructors and IDFG staff leading the class have expertise in furbearer management, trapping laws and ethics, responsible trapping, proper equipment and trapping techniques. Proper care of a hide for maximum value and harvest reporting requirements are covered as well. 

On-site demonstrations in the field include making trap sets free of human scent, rigging snares, placing diverters to avoid non-target catches, and trap site selection.

Students successfully completing the wolf trapping course receive an Idaho Wolf Trapper Certification Card that enables them to purchase wolf trapping tags. Certified wolf trappers may purchase up to five gray wolf trapping tags per trapping season. Tags must be validated and securely attached immediately upon taking a wolf.

Info:  (208) 769-1414.

National park toilets don’t sit well with Asian visitors

PARKS – America's national parks aren't meeting the needs of this year's flood of tourists from the East.

The influx of Asian tourists in Jackson Hole has resulted in some cultural problems involving pit toilets around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

About a dozen of the 42 vault toilets in the park had broken seats this summer, Grand Teton park spokesman Andrew White says.

Park officials discovered that tourists from Asian countries were squatting, with their feet on the lids, while using the facilities. The weight was causing toilets to snap where the hinges connect the lid to the bowl.

White says Asians typically squat on toilets in their home countries.

Visitation from Asia is anticipated to keep climbing.

Reports to The Spokesman-Review from Yellowstone Park visitors this season include tales of bus loads of Chinese — apparently trying to set records for selfies with wild creatures — were notably out of sync with park rules related to wildlife viewing.

Grand Teton plans to put up signs that will illustrate proper use of a lidded, elevated toilet.

Yellowstone no longer quiet in fall; October visits record set

PUBLIC LANDS — A few decades ago, people willing to brave frosty nights and fewer services would be rewarded with uncrowded opportunities to view wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.

Nowadays, even October can't be considered the shoulder season.

The National Park Service reports just more than 252,000 people visited the park last month. That is 29 percent more than the previous October record.

The total number of visitors to Yellowstone so far this year has exceeded 4 million.

Each of the park’s five entrances showed an increase in vehicles for the month of October compared to 2014 levels, with the largest increases at the South, West, and North entrances.

The park also saw a big increase in the number of buses and bus passengers during the shoulder season months of April, May, and October.

The Park Service says the record visitation in October may be the result of unseasonably warm weather during the month and marketing.

Ducks Unlimited dumps credibility along with writer who criticized donor

UPDATED with reader observation that DU has purged Don Thomas from archives.

ACCESS — Why should the average sportsman worry about a writer who lost his job?

Why should you care that a sportsmen's conservation group dismissed columnist Don Thomas because he put the spotlight on a wealthy man's mission to bar public access to a public stream?

Look around you, especially in Montana, where rich people hunting for their piece of paradise have been locking up land by the millions of acres.

Read the following explanation by Thomas, chew on it for a bit and then send DU your two cents here.

I support DU's mission to conserve wetland habitat.

I do not support DU's inclination to massage the egos of rich guys who don't see the merit in championing the rights of average sportsmen.

Ducks, Politics, and Money, by Don Thomas

As many of you know, I have been a regular contributor to Ducks Unlimited magazine for nearly twenty years, serving as their Field Editor and writing the back page column in every issue. Not any more.

In October, 2015 I wrote a piece for Outside Bozeman magazine, A Rift Runs Through It, about the long Montana legal battle to secure and maintain public access to the Ruby River in accordance with the state’s stream access law. (I will make a copy of that text available to anyone on request.) To summarize a complex issue for those unfamiliar with the case, wealthy Atlanta businessman James Cox Kennedy engaged in extensive litigation to prevent such access, only to be denied repeatedly in court due to the efforts of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association. While the article was not complimentary to Kennedy, no one has challenged the accuracy of the reporting.

James Cox Kennedy is a major financial contributor to Ducks Unlimited. On November 10, a Ducks Unlimited functionary informed me that my position with the magazine was terminated because of Cox’s displeasure with the article.

Several points deserve emphasis. The Ruby River article had nothing whatsoever to do with ducks or Ducks Unlimited (DU hereafter). The article did strongly support the rights of hunters and other outdoor recreationists to enjoy land and water to which they are entitled to access, and DU is a hunters’ organization. By terminating me for no reason related to my work for the magazine and the organization, DU has essentially taken the position that wealthy donors matter more than the outdoor recreationists they purport to represent.

As an outdoorsman and conservationist who supports the North American Model and the Public Trust Doctrine, I find DU’s action reprehensible. As a journalist, I find it chilling. Wildlife advocates today face ever increasing pressures to abandon these principles in favor of the commercialization of our public resources, largely from wealthy individuals like James Cox Kennedy. If every journalist reporting on these issues faces this kind of vindictive retribution, the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat-not to mention the hunters and anglers of ordinary means who form the backbone of groups like DU-is bleak indeed.

This issue is not about me or my professional relationship with Ducks Unlimited magazine. It is about integrity and the future of wildlife in America. If you share my concerns-especially if you are a DU member-I encourage you to contact the organization, express your opinion, and take whatever further action you might consider appropriate.

Don Thomas
Lewistown, MT

UPDATE:  For the record, DU editors have denied that Cox Kennedy requested that Thomas be booted out of the DU family.  On the other hand, a reader has just sent me the following message on the latest development:

I was Googling up Don Thomas articles since I really didn't know him as a writer, and it appears that DU didn't just fire Don. They have un-personed him in the finest Orwellian tradition.

DU has removed all references to Don from its website. Every link to an article by or about him is dead. This really goes far beyond disagreement.  To edit a website to pretend that a writer with a dissenting voice was never there to begin with … well … DU just zeroed out their credibility.

I have requested a clarification from DU on whether this was a deliberate purge or a glitch in the way web stories are archived.

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.