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Alberton Gorge access on Clark Fork River being closed by wildfires

WILDFIRES — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will close the Alberton Gorge section of the Clark Fork River beginning Monday, Aug. 31, between Cyr and Tarkio Fishing Access Sites due to fire activity.

The West Fork Fish Creek Fire is burning in the immediate vicinity, posing human safety concerns and a need to keep people out of the area while crews use the river water for fire suppression efforts.

Cyr Bridge, Triple Bridge, Ralph’s Takeout and Tarkio access sites are all closed.

The river and access sites will reopen as soon as fire activity subsides, officials said.

Clark Fork Complex fires expand to 14,800 acres; Idaho Panhandle closures listed

WILDFIRES — The Clark Fork Complex of fires located in northern Idaho near Clark Fork includes Scotchman Peak (1,920 acres), Whitetail (1,734 acres) , Marten (2, 033 acres) Fires east of Lake Pend Oreille plus six fires in the Kootenai NF in Montana. 

A new emergency Forest closure order closed the 332 Road, the 1066 Road, and 10210 Road at the intersection with the 332 Road in addition to previous trail closures, including the poplar Scotchman Peak Trail.

IDAHO PANHANDLE WILDFIRE INFORMATION:

National fire information website:  www.inciweb.nwcg.gov                      

Closure details: www.fs.usda.gov/ipnf

Restriction information:  http://idahofireinfo.blogspot.com/  or http://firerestrictions.us/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USFSIPNF

Hunting and fishing information: (208) 334-2592 https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/fire

Following is closure information listed in Idaho Panhandle Wildfires update on Aug. 30, 2015:

TEMPORARY WILFIRE EMERGENCY CLOSURES ON IDAHO PANHANDLE NF

The following emergency closures are in place. See the Idaho Panhandle National Forest website for the full text and map of each closure. The public is prohibited to go into or be upon these areas, roads and trails:

§  Priest Lake Ranger District (RD) - Due to Upper Priest Fire: Road 1013 north of Lime Creek. Trail #308 and Trail #28. (Road Closure and Trail Closure)

Due to Tower Fire : An area closure has been established for the area contained within the following boundaries: north of Bear Paw Road and Forest Road 305, west of HWY 57, south of Dickensheet and Forest Road 310, and east of the Idaho Panhandle NF/Colville NF boundary between Hungry Mountain and the junction of Forest Roads 305 and 306. Please see the following map for more detailed boundaries. A portion of the Newport Ranger District of the Colville National Forest is closed.  

§  Bonners Ferry RD - Due to Parker Ridge Fire:  Parker Creek Trail #14, Long Canyon Trail #16 and Parker Ridge Trail #221. Previously closed trails remain closed. They include Parker Ridge Trail #221 (Sections 7 and 8 of T64N, R1W and sections 12, 13, 14, 15, 2, and 27 of R2W) and the Fisher Peak Trail. Under this closure order, the public is prohibited to go into or be upon this trail.

§  Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene River RD - Due to  Clark Fork Complex (Scotchman Peak and Whitetail Fires): The Scotchman Peak wildfire emergency closure has expanded significantly. Please see the Closure Order and Map on the Forest website for specific boundaries, roads and trails

§  Coeur d’Alene River RD –Due to the increasing number of wildfires in the area and concern for public safety, a temporary emergency wildfire closure has been issued for all public lands north of I-90, south of Forest Road 332, east of Highway 95 and west of the Idaho/Montana border. This emergency closure includes all National Forest System lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, and state endowment forest lands within the described boundaries. EFFECTIVE SUNDAY, 12:01 AM AUGUST 30.

Due to Solitare Fire: All lands, trails and forest roads within T52N - R1W sections 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 and T53N - R1W sections 32, 33, 34. Forest Trails 1525 (Solitaire Creek 4WD) and 6728 (Sob Creek 4WD).

Due to Whitetail Fire: Forest Roads #430, #332, #332A, #203, #203A, #203B, #203E, and #1533. Forest Trails #20 (Coeur d'Alene River NRT), 52 (Alden Creek), #448 (Deer Creek), #77, #122. There are also large area closures described in the closure order and map. (

§  St. Joe RD– Avery Complex (Crater, Marble Creek, and Chicadee Fires) and Snow Peak Complex

  • Due to Marble Creek Fire and Crater Fire: This closure area encompasess a large portion of the St. Joe Ranger District and nearby BLM and industrial timber lands. The closure area generally encompasses the areas surrounding Marble Creek, the Hobo Cedar Grove, Grandfather Mountain, Last Inch Camp, Crater Peak, Outlaw Point, Flemming Peak, and all lands in between. For specific closure areas please see the Closure Order and Map.

  • Due to Snow Peak Complex: This closure area encompasses a large portion of the St. Joe Ranger District bordering the Nez Perce Clearwater NF. The closure includes the Snow Peak area, Granite Peak area, Ruby Point area and the Yankee Peak area. Please see map for specific closure boundaries.

  • Due to Breezy Chicadee  -This closure area ties together the Marble Creek and Snow Peak emergency wildfire closures areas. For specific closure boundaries, please see the Closure Order and Map on the website.

Snow Peak Complex fires block access to St. Joe areas, Mallard-Larkins

WILDFIRES — The Snow Peak Complex, comprised of 11 separate fires within the southeastern portion of the St. Joe Ranger District including the Snow Peak Wildlife Management Area, upper portion of the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area, and the Ruby Point to Yankee Peak area south of the St. Joe River, totaled 6,660 acres on Aug. 30, 2015.

The Snow Peak Complex area is temporarily closed to all public access.

Graves Mountain fire transfers to Kettle Complex as other Colville Complex fires nearly contained

WILDFIRES —  The Graves Mountain Fire northwest of Colville was very active on the northern perimeter on Aug. 29, with a spot fire across Deadman Creek growing to an estimated 500 acres to nearly 8,000 acres total. it is considered about 21 percent contained.

Graves Mountain Fire, the main fire in the 2015 Colville Complex fires, will be moved to management overseeing the the Kettle Complex Fires on Aug. 31 as other fires in the Colville Complex — Gold Hill (560 acres) and Marble Valley (3,100 acres) — are 96 percent contained.

Starting Aug. 31, follow updates on the Graves Mountain Fire on the Kettle Complex InciWeb page.

Clearwater-Nez Perce closes most of forest to public access as wind whips up fires

WILDFIRES — Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest officials closed more than 3.5 million acres to public access this afternoon as numerous fires totaling 80,000 acres on Friday spread significantly today in windy conditions.

Wind gusts in Lewiston registered up to 72 mph today.

The exception to the closure is the Palouse District, which has its office at Potlatch, Idaho.

In the Blue Mountains, a new fire blew up in the Tucannon River area near Dayton.

Here's the release just posted from forest officials based in Orofino:

Many of the widespread wildfires on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests made significant runs today, pushed by gusty winds and low relative humidities.

“The weather conditions that materialized today were even worse than predicted,” said Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert.  “I am extremely concerned about the safety of the people, communities and firefighters that may be in the paths of these rapidly-spreading fires.”

As a precautionary measure during extensive and severe fire activity, the Forests have issued an area closure prohibiting “human entry” into lands managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, with the exception of the Palouse Ranger District.

“I understand this will be inconvenient for some people, but our priority is public safety.  We will evaluate the situation on a day-by-day basis, but it will take a significant change in weather to improve our fire situation.”

Forest Supervisor Probert requests that all visitors re-locate to lands outside the Forests away from fire activity, and that all prospective visitors find alternate locations away from the closure area.
 
National forest system roads can be used to exit the Forest.  For state and county road information, contact the local sheriff’s office and Idaho Department of Transportation.

Fire managers are in the process of evaluating the spread of area fires and will provide revised acreage updates tomorrow.

See updates on the forests'  Fire Information website.

The Palouse District encompasses 500,000 gross acres of which there are about 145,000 net acres of National Forest System lands.

Potlatch timber company, which also has land in the region, closed its forests to public access in July because of extreme fire danger.

 

High winds pose hazard to recreationists near region’s numerous wildfires

Updated 8-30-15 with link to news of Clearwater-Nez Perce closures and update on Idaho Panhandle closures.

WILDFIRES — Be careful out there.  High winds forecast for Saturday pose a major hazard to people in the vicinity of the numerous wildfires throughout the region.

I've listed in my blog this morning's updates on many of the fires and fire complexes.  I'm not going to do this on a daily basis, but I've given the InciWeb and mapping links to help you monitor the fires that interest you the most.

On the bright side, U.S. 20 (the North Cascades Highway), which has been closed by fires west of Twisp for two weeks, could possibly reopen at noon on Sunday, Department of Transportation officials said today.

Check with the North Cascades Highway Hotline, (360)707-5055, for the latest updates on SR 20.

Following are links to recent posts with updates on many of the region's fires and details on trails and road closures.

Parker Ridge Fire expanding northwest of Bonners Ferry

WILDFIRES — The Parker Ridge Fire in the Idaho Selkirks northwest of Bonners Ferry continues to slowly advance after being started by lightning on July 27, but forecast high winds could expand the fire from its current 6,250 acres.

The fire impacts the popular Long Canyon-Parker Ridge hiking trails. Long Canyon is the last major unroaded, unlogged drainage in the Idaho Selkirks.

The Westside Road north of Copeland Road is open to local traffic only, as a significant number of hazard trees have fallen across the road. Closures remain in place for Parker Ridge Trail #221, Fisher Peak Trail #14 and the Long Canyon Trail #16. For safety, hikers are encouraged to redirect farther south.

Clearwater-Nez Perce fires total 80,000 acres, growing

WILDFIRES — Numerous fires totalling 80,000 acres are burning across the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, many of which are being grouped together and managed as complexes.

An area closure is "pending" south of Grangeville related to the rapid spread of the Tepee Springs Fire.  The southern border would be the Salmon River from the Forest boundary east to French Creek.  It extends north for approximately ten miles.  The southern segment of the Grangeville-Salmon River Road 221 is closed.

Here's snapshot of the major complexes and fires burning across the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.

North Zone (Palouse and North Fork Ranger Districts)

Name:  Larkin Complex            Location:  Roughly 30 airline miles NE of Pierce
Total Acreage:  4990 acres        Containment:  0% Contained
Fires originally within the Complex (including Wolf Pack Fires):  14
Active Fires within the Complex:  Snow Creek Fire 2300 acres, Wolf Pack Fire 980 acres, and Heather Fire 1370 acres, Minnesaka 230, and Roaring 100.

Name:  Scurvy Mountain Fire        Location: 28 miles ENE of Pierce, Idaho
Total Acreage:  390 acres            Containment:  0% contained

Central Zone (Lochsa-Powell and Moose Creek Ranger Districts)

Name:  Lochsa South Complex    
Location:  South of Lochsa River from Warm Springs Creek to the Selway River
Total Acreage:  5535 acres        Containment:  0% Contained

There are structure protection plans for the Fish Lake Cabin.

Name:  Wilderness Complex    
Location:  Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (much of the Moose Creek Ranger District)
Total Acreage:  14,900 acres        
Point protection continues for Wilderness cabins, pack bridges and lookouts.

Name:  Boulder Fire            Location:  5 miles west of Lolo Pass
Started:  August 14, 2015            Cause:  Lightning
Total Acreage:  4800 acres        Containment:  0% contained
Major Events:  Fire moved north and east, and has not crossed the Montana border.  An area west of Lolo Pass in the vicinity of Granite Pass is closed.

South Zone (Salmon River and Red River Ranger Districts)
Name:  Red River Complex    
Location:  South of Elk City, Idaho
Total Acreage:  6600 acres        Containment:  1% Contained
Structure protection is ongoing at Cook Ranch, Mallard Creek Ranch, Green Mountain Lookout and Bargamin Creek Bridge.

Information for the Clearwater, Motorway, Selway, and Municipal Fire Complexes is available at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov

Nume

Grizzly Bear Complex Fires expand to 72,000 acres; wilderness closed

WILDFIRES The Grizzly Bear Complex Fires straddling the Washington-Oregon border in and around the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness about 20 miles southeast of Dayton have expanded to 72,421-acres — and stronger winds are forecast for today.  Umatilla National Forest, states and private land are involved. 

The fire has closed access to the wilderness.

To the north, the fire continued advancing overnight to Forest Road 300 between Deer Springs and Beaver Springs. Structures are being protected at the edge of the wilderness Slick Ear and Little Turkey area.

Firefighters will complete prepping structures at Ski Bluewood including protecting cell and ski lift towers.

On the southeast flank, spot fires have been controlled around the Troy community.

The complex includes eight fires after some of the original 17 lightning-caused fires burned together.
  

Carpenter Road fire expands to 55,900 acres in Stevens County area

WILDFIRES — The Carpenter Road Fire in Stevens County and the Spokane Indian Reservation has expanded overnight to 55,886 acres.

See details and updates on InciWeb.

The latest map (above) does not show the significant expansion in the past 24 hours. 

For mapping updates, see the Wildfire Activity Web Map.

Springdale-Hunters Road remains closed. 

Kettle Complex Fires at 62,000 acres; some roads, trails closed

WILDFIRES — Thursday’s winds did not affect the Stickpin and three other fires in the Kettle Complex as much as other fires in the region. Smoke blanketed most of the fires, and once again, air resources were grounded due to the poor visibility.

See details and updates on InciWeb.

For mapping updates, see the Wildfire Activity Web Map.

Closures:

  • Deer Creek-Boulder Creek County Road 602 remains closed because of significant hazards through the fire area. Highway 20 is recommended as an alternate route.
  • The portion of the Colville National Forest from the U.S.-Canada Border to Highway 20, between Highway 21 and US Highway 395 is closed.
  • All trails, roads, and access are temporarily closed due to extreme fire activity. No campfires, charcoal or chainsaw use are allowed.

Currently:

  • Stickpin Fire south of the U.S.-Canada border is at 50,400 acres.
  • Renner Fire 11,800 acres.
  • Roy Road Fire is 120 acres and being mopped up.


A community meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29, at 4 p.m. at the Malo Grange.

North Star Fire bearing down on Republic area, Nespelem

WILDFIRES — Extreme fire behavior stoked throughout the 150 mile perimeter of the North Star Fire in the past 24 hours and crews are working to protect the Republic area and the town of Nespelem on the Colville Indian Reservation.

See InciWeb updates and details.

For mapping updates, see the Wildfire Activity Web Map.

  • Highway 155 is closed from Nespelem to Omak because of Tunk Block Fire activity.
  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests lands are closed east of Tonasket and south of Highway 20.  
  • Highway 21 is closed from Bridge Creek Road north to the Reservation boundary is closed.
  • Colville Indian Reservation forest and recreational areas are closed to the public due to extreme fire danger.

A community meeting is set for today, Aug. 28, at 4 p.m. at Republic Elementary School.

 

Wildfires force evacuation of Essex, but most of Glacier Park open for recreation

WILDFIRES — The Flathead County Sheriff ordered a mandatory evacuation of Essex, Montana, and the surrounding area on Thursday because of increased activity on the Sheep Fire in the Thompson Complex fires near Glacier National Park.

Highway 2 is closed today between mileposts 176.8 and 185 around Essex. See updates here.  Firefighters are working to protect Essex.

BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently.

Meamwhile, most of Glacier National Park is open to recreation as the Thompson Fire continues to burn in remote south-central backcountry about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainages west of the Continental Divide.  

Limited backcountry closures are in place. Specific visitor information is available on the park's website.

Porcupine Bay added to Lake Roosevelt wildfire closures

WILDFIRES — The Porcupine Bay campground and boat ramp area have been closed today because of wildfire activity, National Park Service officials say.

The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area supervisor said in a statement:

This action is due to recent activity from the Carpenter Road fire that has brought it closer to Porcupine Bay. These closures are in addition with the closures instituted on August 20, 2015. Current and predicted red flag conditions are contributing to continued high fire danger. The National Park Service has instituted these closures to ensure the highest level of safety for visitors and employees, as safe evacuation from this remote location cannot be guaranteed.

Most of the boat access sites on the 150-mile long recreation area behind Grand Coulee Dam are closed, with notable exceptions that include the Kettle Falls, Fort Spokane and Spring Canyon sites.

The closed sites are Porcupine Bay, Hunters, Gifford, Cloverleaf, Daisy, Bradbury Beach, Colville Flats, Kettle Falls Campground, Kettle Falls day-use areas, St. Paul's Mission, Marcus Island, Evens, North Gorge, China Bend, Snag Cove, Napoleon Bridge, Kettle River, Kamloops Island, Haag Cove and French Rocks.

 

Rafters evacuated off main Salmon River as wildfires advance

WILDFIRES — The lower portion of one of Idaho's signature wilderness river rafting areas has been engulfed in smoke and danger from a fire that's blown up today on the Lower Salmon River upstream from Riggins.

Rafting groups are being evacuated, as S-R reporter Betsy Russell is detailing here with ongoing coverage.

See an animated satellite map and look at the middle left portion of Idaho for graphic images of how the fire has blown up today in dry, windy conditions.

Nearly toothless Idaho grizzly bear, 25, euthanized after series of cabin break-ins

WILDLIFE —  A 25 year-old male grizzly bear that had been breaking into buildings in search of food was euthanized Monday by Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists.

The grizzly bear had previously been captured as part of routine scientific monitoring, so its age and health status was known to biologists, the agency reported in a media release.  

“This bear started getting into trouble around buildings at the end of last season and given that fact that some of his teeth were missing and the others were pretty worn down, which is typical for a bear of this age, continuation of this type of behavior could be expected," said Curtis Hendricks,  regional wildlife manager.

While this bear had made no direct threats to humans, it habituation to human-related foods and decreasing ability to forage naturally increased the potential for physical conflict with humans and required immediate action, he said.

Elsewhere in Island Park, another younger grizzly bear who had become overly comfortable around humans and whose antics playing with a sprinkler had appeared on local television news,  was hazed with rubber bullets. 

About 1,150 grizzly bears are roaming the Yellowstone Ecosystem, a number that exceeds all Endangered Species recovery goals, the agency says. 

While the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears remain listed, all management actions such as this, are first approved by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Idaho Fish and Game and other recovery effort member agencies have requested that the USFWS once again remove the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species list.

Hunters, hikers must be flexible during wild wildfire season

UPDATED 3:20 p.m. with news of Porcupine Bay closure.

WILDFIRES — Check ahead and be careful when selecting a place to hunt, hike or boat in the next few weeks.

I provide key links to agency wildfire updates that include information about some of the vast land closures in today's Outdoors story:

Each agency also has specific information, such as this list of closures from the Colville National Forest:

While access closures are restricting where hunters can go as season open this month, state agencies won't be delaying hunting season dates.

Meanwhile, wildlife is being impacted by fires, too, but wildlife managers are mostly worried about the impacts today's fires will have on wildlife survival this winter:

See a map of Inland Northwest fire activity.

Idaho Governor’s Cup more than a golf-fishing tourney

FISHING — The Idaho Governor’s Cup is coming up on Sept. 10-12 in Sun Valley.

South Fork Lodge is posting info about ticket and package options here, reminding participants and their families that the event is more than a charity tournament tournament involving fly fishing, shooting and golf.

The Idaho Governor’s Cup was established in 1974 by then-Governor Cecil Andrus. It is a 501 (c) (3) organization with a mission to help Idaho kids stay in Idaho to pursue their higher education goals.

What began as a small golf tournament has grown into an annual event with approximately 600 participants and featuring golf, shotgun sports, fly fishing and a number of social activities including hiking. Each evening after the daily sporting events wrap up, participants enjoy great food, entertainment and plenty of networking.

Governor Otter put his own stamp on the event by deciding to alternate the location between Sun Valley and Coeur d’Alene.

The deadline has passed for entering this year's event in Sun Valley, but mark your calendars for next year's Governor’s Cup in Coeur d’Alene, Aug. 25-27, 2016.

Fire activity causes Colville Forest to close huge areas to public access

WILDFIRES — Much of the 1.1-million-acre Colville National Forest is off-limits to public access under six fire-related temporary closures, including the Vulcan closure posted today.

The closures restrict popular northeastern Washington forest areas for hunting, hiking and other recreation — including most of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

The closures are detailed on the forests "alerts and notices" webpage. For example, Sullivan Lake developed campgrounds remain open, but the roads, trails and area north, east and south of the popular lake are closed because of fire danger and firefighting activity.

Here's the official wording for the restricted areas where trails, roads and other travel are closed until further notice:

Vulcan/Trout Creek Closure

Colville National Forest land north of State Route 20, west of State Highway 21, South of the Canadian border and east of the Okanogan Forest Boundary is temporally closed to public access until further notice due to fire suppression activities and large fire activity.  Forest Order 15-21-08

Sullivan Lake Area Closure

The temporary closure includes the Sullivan Lake Ranger District south of the U.S.-Canada border, west of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests boundary, north of Forest Service Road 1936 (Paupac Road) and north of Forest Service Road 1935 (Harvey Creek Road) and east of Forest Service Trail 504, Forest Service Road 2200-241 (Sullivan Creek Road) and Highway 31 north to the Canadian border.  This closures does not affect Mill Pond, Sullivan Lake, Noisy Creek or Edgewater Campgrounds. Forest Order and Map 15-21-07

Swan Lake and southwestern Kettle Crest Closure

Colville National Forest land north of the Colville Indian Reservation, west of the Kettle Crest (district boundary), South of State Route 20 (Sherman Pass) and east of the Okanogan Forest Boundary is temporally closed to public access until further notice due to fire suppression activities and large fire activity.  This includes, but is not limited to Swan Lake, Ferry Lake, Long Lake Campgrounds, Snow Peak Shelter and all trails, road and improvements within the closure area.

NOTE: State Route 20, 21 and Highway 395 are not affected by this closure.  Any road closures will be reflected on the WADOT Website.

Stickpin Fire Closure

Colville National Forest land north of State Route 20 (Sherman Pass) to Canadian border, west of highway 395 and East of State Route 21(Curlew Highway) is temporarily closed until further due to fire suppression activities and large fire activity. Forest Order 15-21-05 PDF

NOTE: Highway 20, 21 and 395 are not affected by this closure.  Any road closures will be reflected on the WADOT Website.

  • All methods of travel and use are prohibited on National Forest System Roads and Trails north of State Route 20 (Sherman Pass) to Canadian border, west of highway 395 and East of State Route 21(Curlew Highway). 

Newport Area Closure

Due to extreme fire behavior on the Tower Fire, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for Browns Lake, North Skookum and South Skookum Campgrounds.

Closed along designated portions of National Forest area, East of the Forest Service Boundary along C 9445, north of C 4708 (Smackout Road), West of the BPA power lines  and south of the Abercrombie Trail as shown on the attached map, on the Newport-Sullivan Lake Ranger District of the Colville National Forest. Forest Order 15-21-14 and Map PDF

Baldy Fire Closure - Forest Order

Starting Aug. 5, Pursuant to 36 CFR 261.58(b), 36 CFR 261.53(e), 36 CFR 261.54(b) and (e), 36 CFR261.55 (a) and (b) the following acts are prohibited on designated portions of National Forest area, East of the Forest Service Boundary along C 9445, north of C 4708 (Smackout Road), West of the BPA power lines and south of the Abercrombie Trail as shown on the attached map, on the Newport-Sullivan Lake Ranger District of the Colville National Forest.

Idaho confirms fire danger won’t change hunting season dates

HUNTING — As early hunting seasons are starting to open, everybody's puckered up about the wildfires that are burning in the region and the dry conditions vulnerable to even more blowups.

Rightfully so.

But the calls to curtail hunting seasons are not reasonable.  Access closures will be severely restricting seasons as it is (story coming Thursday).  States have set season dates based on numerous factors and changing them causes a domino effect of problems and conflicts for hunters, businesses, agencies and wildlife.

Idaho Fish and Game has heard the rumors about hunting season changes.  Here's a just-posted media release expressing the agency's position:

Fires limiting access to some areas, but hunting seasons will go on

Hunters heading into the field need to beware of fire situations and possible area closures in their favorite hunting spots. They can get fire information and links to other websites at a designated fire page on Idaho Fish and Game’s website

Typically, fire season is waning when fall hunts begin, which could happen in parts of the state, but weather patterns in the Panhandle and Clearwater Basin are showing no relief from fires. Access to some areas, including federal, state and private timberlands, is closed, and hunters can expect some access restrictions in those regions. 

“I think the message to folks is this is not a typical fire year,” said Jason Kirchner, public affairs officer for the Panhandle National Forest. “There are going to be some areas closed all the way into winter. When the fires are out, those closures will shrink, but not disappear.”

Forest Service officials reported North Idaho has about 70 fires burning ­- the most since 1926 -  and people concerned about their hunting spots should check the fire page on Fish and Game’s website for updates and conditions.

  • Get recorded updates on fire-related access issues in the Idaho Panhandle at (208) 765-7383 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fish and Game’s Clearwater region has issued fire restrictions on all wildlife management areas, lakes, reservoirs and fishing access areas owned or managed by Fish and Game across Latah, Clearwater, Nez Perce, Lewis, and Idaho counties. Restrictions ban campfires, driving off road and operating chainsaws and other power tools. For details, see Fish and Game’s fire page.

Other parts of the state are seeing normal to below-average fire seasons, and while fires are burning in Central Idaho, access closures are fairly localized. As we move into fall, fire activity typically decreases as nights get longer and cooler. The likelihood of fires flaring lessens, but it’s still a possibility, said David Olson, public affairs officer for the Boise National Forest.

“We know hunters want to get out,” Olson said. “We have to balance hunter interest with public safety.”

Firefighters are waiting for a “season ending” weather event, which according to the Forest Service is about 2 inches of rain or snow. There’s typically a 50/50 chance of that happening by mid-September, and a better chance of it happening by early-to-mid-October when most general-season, any-weapon hunting seasons start.

However, there are early controlled hunts underway and most archery hunts start Aug. 30, so hunters should be prepared to postpone their hunts or move to different areas if their hunting spots are affected by fires. 

There are lots of places available for people to hunt in the Panhandle, and “there’s still going to be a lot of opportunity for big game after we have that big weather event,” Fish and Game’s Panhandle Regional Supervisor Chip Corsi said.

Idaho Fish and Game rarely alters hunts or offers rain checks for controlled hunt tags because of fires.

Fires typically affect only a portion of a hunting unit and are usually put out, or controlled,  before the hunting season ends. Hunters affected by a fire closure can choose between adjusting their schedules to hunt later in the season, or exchange general tags to hunt in a different area. Exchanges must be made before the season begins.

Hunters with controlled hunt tags may also exchange them for general season tags before the controlled hunt begins, but controlled-hunt fees would not be refunded

In limited cases, Fish and Game will offer rain checks or refunds when access to a hunting unit is blocked by fire. A person requesting a rain check must submit his or her tag to Fish and Game with a letter describing how fires blocked their ability to hunt. If the rain check is granted, a 2016 tag is offered for the same species and hunt area as the hunter held in 2015.

For more information about rain checks, call (208) 334-2592. Send written requests to Fish and Game Licensing, P.O. Box 25, Boise ID 83707.

Denver Post cans outdoors columnist, ends traditional hunting-fishing coverage

OUTDOOR MEDIA — The Denver Post, based in one of the country's top outdoor markets, has ended the tradition of featuring a hunting-fishing columnist.

The Post isn't the first newspaper in a major outdoors market to make this decision. 

The Seattle Times hasn't covered hunting in a regular fashion for decades, owing to an in-house gun/blood paranoia policy that essentially blackballs coverage of a legal sport and industry that's important to the region's economy.

The Denver Post's current outdoor writer lost his job this week unceremoniously — the paper's classless editors wouldn't even publish his last column. 

It follows here in its entirety.

By Scott Willoughby

(Former) Denver Post outdoors editor

The best stories have always originated in the outdoors.

Be it the fireside tale that never grows old no matter how many times it’s told, or a modern classic born of the latest adventure, the wild outside has always offered the ideal backdrop for compelling drama.

Like the rest of the world, the genre has evolved over time, taking us beyond the campfire to the Ted Trueblood era of Field & Stream, establishing local newspaper legends like Charlie Meyers, Bob Saile and Ed Dentry before making its way to the cutting edge of social media and contemporary brands like Yeti Coolers that urge through advertising: Be the guy with the story about the bear.

Along the way, it found folks like you and me: Drawn in by nature’s allure, hooked by the sensations of adventure, dedicated to enriching and sharing the experience so that others might come to understand our collective passion for the outdoors and embrace it as their own. The stories are the things that connect us best to the land, the water, the wildlife and one another.

There will always be a place for compelling outdoor stories and storytelling in Colorado, just no longer here on these pages. Or perhaps just no longer here by me.

As of this week, The Denver Post has decided to do away with its traditional Outdoors pages, and by extension, my position as Outdoors writer, photographer and columnist. I’ve been invited to continue writing stories about Rams, Buffaloes and Falcons, but like those college sports mascots, the gesture feels symbolic at best. In all likelihood, this is the final column, outdoors or otherwise, I’ll be asked to write for The Denver Post.

Among those outside the paper already aware of this decision, the disappointment has been universal. The pervading sense of loss has less to do with me personally than to Colorado’s collective outdoors community as an entity. In the absence of an uprising — and likely even in its presence — the voice of that community expressed for so long on these pages will soon fade to black. So many stories are left untold.

It can be easily argued that these stories of wild places and the people drawn to them are more important now than ever. As our sprawling world grows ever more crowded, battle lines drawn over resources in greater demand, such places offer respite and reward that can’t be found or recreated anywhere else. And they require the voices of those who know and love them best to keep the fire lit.

My ambition is to continue down this path, although where it leads is anyone’s guess right now. After two decades dedicated to the cause of Colorado outdoors, the mission and message remain as compelling as ever. It’s the job I was born to do (and yes, I am open to offers).

First though, my heartfelt thanks are due for the opportunity I’ve had to do the job I’ve most aspired toward. While there is much more to achieve, for a time, at least, I could lay claim to the best job in Colorado.

But like the campfire that gave birth to so many stories and outdoor traditions, this chapter is about to go up in smoke. I have no doubt the fire has not gone out, however. The flame will reignite and grow. The stories — maybe even some told by me — will linger. And new ones will emerge.

The void is great. But the tale is never-ending.

Mountain biking skills classes offered at Camp Sekani

MOUNTAIN BIKING — Certified mountain biking coaches from Evergreen East cycling club are offering a wide range of mountain bike skills classes starting this weekend into October at Camp Sekani near Upriver Dam.

  • A fundamentals class is set for Sunday, Aug. 30, followed by a repeat on Sept. 20 and a women’s-only class on Oct. 3.
  • A two-part intermediate class is set for the evenings of Sept. 14 and 21.
  • An Intro to Freeride class is set for Sept. 12 at Silver Mountain.

Costs range from $50 to $100.

Preregister for the classes online, evergreeneast.org/skillsclasses.

Winners of Cabela’s waterfowl calling contest listed

HUNTING — Last week’s 2015 Cabela’s Waterfowl Classic Calling Contests attracted contestants from as far away as 1,000 miles to strut their stuff on the Post Falls stage.

No word on whether geese and ducks were flocking to the site, too. But no one would have been surprised. The callers were reportedly very good.

Prizes included gift cards and decoys and calls.

Winners of the 2015 Cabela’s Post Falls Waterfowl Classic Goose Calling Contests:

Novice:

1st Place - Garrett Wheeler, Coeur d’Alene, ID

2nd Place – Taylor Taige, Spokane, WA

3rd Place – Michael Mitchell, Newman Lake, WA

2-Man:

1st Place - Mike Callian, South Lake Tahoe, CA, and John Plughoff, Yakima, WA

2nd Place – Carson Mackey, Selah, WA, and Dusty Brown Silverton, OR

3rd Place Tie – Craig Brewczynski Spokane Valley, WA, and Matt Tremblay Pullman, WA with Garrett Wheeler Coeur d’Alene, ID, and Andrew Graham, Cheney, WA

Open:

1st Place - Dusty Brown, Silverton, OR

2nd Place – John Plughoff, Yakima, WA

3rd Place – Mike Callian, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Virtual fly-through reveals scope of Washington wildfires

WILDFIRES — The video below is a Google Earth virtual fly-through of most wildfires burning in Eastern Washington, updated through noon today, Aug. 24. The fires are having a growing impact on closing public road and trail access to private and public lands and recreation areas throughout the region.

Kenji Kato posted the YouTube video from information compiled from public MODIS+VIIRS Fire Data from the US Forest Service for the Chelan Complex Fire, the Okanogan Complex Fire and other fires in North Central Washington State.

The fly-through starts above the United States, then zooms in on the Pacific Northwest, then Central Washington, before flying in on the fire areas.

Raw data, including Google Earth data, used to create this video can be downloaded from the US Forest Service here.

Photos confirm California’s first wolf pack in nearly a century

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon wolf, OR-7, first explored the landscape in California in 2011-2012 and now the first settlers have moved into Siskiyou County.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released remote camera images last week as evidence of five gray wolf pups and two adults in Northern California.

The first wolf pack documented in California in nearly a century has been named the Shasta Pack for its proximity to the prominent Cascades volcano.

After trail cameras recorded a lone canid in May and July, CDFW deployed additional cameras, one of which took multiple photos showing five pups, which appear to be a few months old and others showing individual adults. Because of the proximity to the original camera locations, it is likely the adult previously photographed in May and July is associated with the group of pups, officials said.

“This news is exciting for California,” said agency Director Charlton H. Bonham in a statement. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.”

Indeed the news was greeted with enthusiasm by wildlife advocates, but also with concern by hunters and livestock producers:

  • “This is an Endangered Species Act success story in the making,” Pamela Flick, with the Defenders of Wildlife conservation non-profit, told the San Jose Mercury Times.
  • “If the public wants wolves maybe they should support the people that are helping feed the wolves,” Jim Rickert, who owns a ranch nearby, told the Sacramento Bee.

Wild wolves historically inhabited California, but were extirpated. Aside from these wolves and the famous wolf OR7 who entered California in December 2011, the last confirmed wolf in the state was here in 1924. OR7 has not been in California for more than a year and is currently the breeding male of the Rogue Pack in southern Oregon.

In June 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list gray wolves as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The gray wolf is also listed as endangered in California, under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Gray wolves that enter California are therefore protected by the ESA making it illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect wolves, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct in California.

State wildlife officials are completing a Draft Wolf Management Plan and will release it soon on its Gray Wolf webpage. It's being hammered out with participation of many stateholders, as was the case with Washington's 2011 Gray Wolf Management Plan.

Though wolves rarely pose a direct threat to human safety, CDFW is recommending that people never approach, feed or otherwise disturb a wolf.

The state is posting on its website answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Trail cameras first spotted a suspected gray wolf in May and June and biologists set out to retrieve scat samples and set up additional cameras, wildlife authorities said. Two adult wolves were then captured on film. The whole pack was confirmed on Aug. 9.

The adult wolves are suspected to be from Oregon but wildlife authorities do not believe they are descended from OR-7, the one that wandered into California in 2011. DNA samples have been sent to a lab in Idaho to determine the clan's origin.

“We’re very interested in where did these wolves come from and who did they descend from,” Kovacs told the Sacramento Bee.

Fall chinook fishing should pick up at Hanford Reach

FISHING — "The fall chinook fishery in the Hanford Reach is off to a slow start as is typical for this fishery," reports Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in the Tri-Cities.   But more salmon are on their way up the Columbia.

From Aug. 17-23, WDFW staff interviewed 49 boats (103 anglers) fishing for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach.  Anglers reported harvesting 7 adult fall chinook and releasing 1 sockeye.  Staff sampled 25 percent of the boats fishing for salmon this past week.  Estimated harvest for the week was 28 adult chinook and 8 jacks.

Fall chinook counts at John Day Dam picked up over the weekend to over 2,000 fish per day. Counts at McNary are averaging more than 500 adult fall chinook per day.  Based on the long term trend, fall chinook should start passing Bonneville Dam in good numbers this week.

WDFW staff also interviewed boats fishing for bass, northern pikeminnow, and walleye.

  • Bass: 16 boats, 35 anglers, 125 bass, 1 pikeminnow -  1.1 hours/bass
  • Pikeminnow: 5 boats, 8 anglers, 18 pikeminnow, 3 bass, 1 walleye -  1.9 hours/NPM
  • Walleye: 3 boats, 6 anglers, 16 walleye – 2.2 hours/walleye

Spree poachers waste 3 bucks near Reardan; tips sought

POACHING — The public is being asked to help solve the killing of three buck deer in a disgusting spree-poaching case near Reardan.

The three whitetail bucks, their nearly fully grown antlers still in velvet, were poached during the night of Aug. 10 at the intersection of Schwartz and Littell Roads, north of Reardan.

"The poacher shot and killed three bucks and took only the heads and antlers off of two of them," said Curt Wood, Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer for Lincoln County.  "The third buck was apparently not found by the poacher, and nothing was taken from it.  One of the bucks was chased around the field, and eventually was run over by the vehicle, in an attempt to kill it." 

Officer Wood is seeking information to bag the poacher that robbed valuable natural resources from wildlife watchers and hunters. Any information provided will be kept confidential, if desired, he said 

"The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will pay a monetary award or issue bonus points for deer and elk permits, if the information provided leads to the arrest of the person(s) responsible," Wood said in an email.

"Pretty disgusting poaching case," he said. "I don’t believe that I’ve seen a spree type poaching case this early in August in the 20 years that I’ve covered Lincoln County. 

Contact Wood through the agency's Spokane Regional Office, (509) 892-1001, or at the toll-free poaching hotline (877) 933-9847.

Reports can also be made online at reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov.

Photo released of Hog Canyon Lake littering suspect

PUBLIC LANDS – A state wildlife officer is on the trail of the slob who dumped a large amount of trash at a popular Spokane County fishing lake.

Now it’s time for the public to step up and help.

Curt Wood, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police officer, is trying to identify the subject pictured here.

The image was captured on a surveillance camera as the man was leaving the Walmart store in Airway Heights on June 17, 2015, at 2:22 PM. 

On June 20, the officer discovered a large amount of trash that was left around a fire ring at the WDFW access area at Hog Canyon Lake near the Fishtrap area. 

Wood recovered a receipt from the trash, which led to the discovery of this Walmart surveillance photo. 

One tip would help Wood get to the bottom of this disrespect for public property.

Any tips toward the identity of this suspect should be forwarded to Wood by calling the WDFW office in Spokane Valley, 892-1001. Information also can be left on the state’s poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847 or by email, reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov

Idaho leftover controlled hunt deer, elk tags available Tuesday

HUNTING — Nearly 300 deer and 150 elk controlled hunt tags not issued during the recent second drawing for deer, elk, antelope and black bear will go on sale first come, first served on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Leftover tags are available for purchase at Fish and Game offices, license vendors, online or by calling (800) 554-8685.

No leftover tags are available for pronghorn or black bear.  See a list of available leftover tags.

Momma bear, 5 cubs, play in kiddie pool

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This video of a black bear sow with FIVE cubs seeking relief from summer heat is worth enduring the entry commercial for a few minutes of wildlife observation.

Momma bear immediately recognizes the cool water haven in a New Jersey family's backyard, but the cubs are more cautious, some of them testing the waters by dipping a paw and backing in slowly.

As they cool and become more comfortable in the setting, all the bears, including Momma, become more active and playful, leaving NONE of the toys and playground equipment in the family's backyard untested.

A lot of black bear learning is going on in this scene … some of it not so healthy for the future of the bears living at the edge of human development.

  • Moose like kiddie pools, too, as we've noted in the Spokane area for years.   See the story and photo from this month in Spokane Valley.