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Not a hero: Rancher’s federal land grab all about greed, arrogance

UPDATED 3:18 p.m. to properly attribute Taylor quote.

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington State Rep. Matt Shea has ridden out of his Spokane Valley district on his white horse to save us from the overpowering federal government as he stands in lock-step with a Nevada rancher who's stolen more than $1 million in grazing favors from public land.

Whom will Shea stand up for next? The guy who says he has a Constitutional right to rob the Post Office?

Shea says he was compelled to back Cliven Bundy as he joined Rep. Dave Taylor for a trip to the Bundy Ranch. As Taylor put it,“If we don’t stand up for our neighbors, there won’t be anybody left when they come for us.”

The confrontation stems around a Nevada rancher who doesn't recognize the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the owner of the public land he wants to graze his cattle on. Bundy has declined to pay about $1 million in fees while he lets his stock run amock where law abiding ranchers don't.

Trouble is, the BLM isn't the only voice saying Bundy is breaking the law.  So have the courts, twice.  

The courts, at last check, are our nation's way of settling points of law.

BLM backed away from confiscating Bundy's cattle — seizing the stock was authorized by a judge — when supporters came in and posed the climate for a violent confrontation.

So where do we go from here?  

The public owns the land, not the rancher. If every man who fabricates a disagreement with the government decides to run his cattle — or cuts his trees, builds his roads, kills his game, nets his fish, or fires up his bulldozer — the way he sees fit, the American icon of public land will be lost.

That, Mr. Shea, is what's worth standing up for.   Not one man's greed and selfishness, but rather the rule of law and the overwhelming advantages of regulated public land.

Extra day offered for lower Columbia spring chinook fishing

FISHING — Anglers will have one more day - Saturday (April 19) - to fish for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River prior to an updated assessment of the run size.

The chinook fishery will be open to boat and bank fishing from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock. Bank fishing will also be allowed from Rooster Rock upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers may retain one hatchery chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon approved the one-day extension after a week in which anglers caught 6,500 upriver spring chinook, boosting the total catch for the season in the lower Columbia River to 7,880 upriver fish

One more day of fishing is expected to bring the catch levels up to 95 percent of the initial harvest guideline of 10,157 fish, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Catch levels tend to skyrocket at this time of the year,” Roler said. “As in years past, fishing started out slow this season, but you wouldn't know that by what we're seeing out there right now.”

Prior to the start of this year's fishing season, fishery managers estimated that approximately 227,000 upriver spring chinook salmon would return to the Columbia River this year.

Anglers may get additional opportunities to catch spring chinook salmon later this spring, depending on how that estimate compares to the updated forecast planned in the next few weeks, Roler said.

“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look at providing additional days of fishing on the river later this spring,” he said.

The extended fishing season in the lower Columbia River does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, currently open through May 9 under regulations described on WDFW's website.

Video: Early-season fly fishing on North Idaho streams

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has produced a series of informational fly fishing videos that take the mystery out of rigging up and presenting flies to trout in the pre-runoff shoulder season.

This one's titled: Fly Fishing NF Coeur d'Alene / St Joe River - Pre-Runoff Rigs / Flies.

Says Visintainer:

Most of the fishing before it warms up will be nymph or streamer rigs, but as spring progresses the dry fly fishing will pick up too. Both the NF Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe Rivers get good hatches of bwo's, March browns, gray drakes, and skwala stones. Even if the hatches are not intense it can still get fish up. 

Spokane Mountaineers take another group higher

CLIMBING — More than 50 students and instructors followed the steps of tradition to the top of Stevens Peak last weekend during the annual Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School overnight snow practice near Lookout Pass. 

The on-snow practice gave them a chance to learn some of the finer points of climbing and camping in snow, roped team travel and avalanche awareness.  

Volunteer instructor Steve Reynolds snapped the photo above on Sunday morning as the group ascended the peak, with a primer on cornices along the way. Kevin Davis of the Idaho  Panhandle Avalanche Center had given the group a seminar on evaluating avalanche conditions the previous day.

The Spokane Mountaineers climbing program has produced some of the world's top mountaineers, including John Roskelley and Chris Kopczynski, both of whom took the course as teens in the 1960s.

 

California to consider listing wolf endangered

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  A state board is considering endangered species status for the gray wolf endangered species status, giving it a chance at returning to California in significant numbers after a decades-long hiatus.

Just one wolf from Oregon has been tracked in recent years crossing into Northern California, renewing interest in returning the species to a thriving population. The California Fish and Game Commission will vote on giving the wolf legal protections at a meeting in Ventura.

Advocates such as Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity are hopeful for the wolf’s return.

“There’s already one wolf here,” Greenwald said Tuesday. “It’s not going to be long until there’s more.”

Ranchers remain opposed to the wolf’s reintroduction.

“Wolves directly kill livestock and in addition to that they can cause disease and other harm from stress,” such as weight loss in animals, said Kirk Wilbur, director of government relations for the California Cattlemen’s Association.

The last gray wolf in California was killed in 1924, clearing mountain ranges for cattle herds and other valuable livestock that fall prey to wolves.

Yet if the gray wolf is listed, ranchers not only couldn’t kill animals on their property, they couldn’t even chase them off, Wilbur said.

“If I see a wolf attacking one of my calves, I can’t do anything about that,” Wilbur said.

Nationally, wolves were near extinction not long ago. They were reintroduced with federal protections in the 1980s and ’90s, Greenwald said.

Wolves now occupy large parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes.

Federal protections have ended in those two regions, and there is a pending proposal to lift protections across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.

In 2008, a pack started moving into Oregon. That’s when the wolf now drawing interest for hopscotching into California became known as OR-7 — he was the seventh Oregon wolf fitted with a GPS tracking collar. 

Despite elk-loss research, Montana hunters protest increased quota on cougars

HUNTING — Here's an interesting twist to the turmoil about predators and their impact on Montana elk populations.

Even though research has indicated that mountain lions kill way more elk than suspected in the Bitterroot Mountains — way more than wolves — there's opposition to reducing the cougar population, and it's coming from mountain lion hunters.

Borthwestern Montana cougar hunters roundly criticized Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ proposed lion quotas for the next two seasons at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Helena last week, reports Brett French, outdoor writer for the Billings Gazette.

Read on for the details in the rest of French's story.

Kids Fishing day sign-up due April 18

FISHING – More than 1,000 fishing rods have been rigged up by volunteer sportsmen to hand out to about 950 kids ages 5-14 in the annual Kids Fishing event at Clear Lake on May 3.

Kids are scheduled for half-hour slots between 8 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. at Fairchild Air Force Base Recreation area.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to stock about 14,000 trout in net pens that the kids will be able to cast into from shore and docks.

For the $10 entry fee, each kid receives a Kids Fishing T-shirt, Zebco rod and reel and a chance to catch a limit of three trout. Volunteers will assist each kid.

Applications must be postmarked by Friday.

Download forms at tinyurl.com/1stcast

Video: Pre-runoff fly fishing tactics for cutthroat streams

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has produced a series of informational fly fishing videos that take the mystery out of rigging up and presenting flies to trout in the pre-runoff shoulder season.

This one's titled: Pre-Runoff Fly Fishing Tactics Part 1 - NF Coeur d'Alene / St Joe Rivers.

Says Visintainer:

The topics that I discuss in this video include:

  • walk/wade fishing back eddies with nymphs/streamers
  • fishing “soft” water along the bank
  • casting tip for dealing with steep/brushy banks.

When water levels go up in the spring, don't let walk/wade fishing these rivers scare you. Most of the time the fish are tight to the bank and you don't even have to get in the water.

BLM regroups in confrontation with deadbeat rancher’s grazing

PUBLIC LANDS — A Nevada rancher who owes the federal government more than $1 million in fees for illegally grazing cattle on U.S. Bureau of Land Management has won a temporary reprieve by summoning a protest by his right-winger brethren, some of which were armed militia-types.

IS this this future: The most heavily armed among us can take over public lands?

Nevada rancher's standoff with BLM re-energizes old debate
Time Magazine examines the Bureau of Land Management's conflict with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and what precedent the federal agency's decision to call off the gathering of Bundy's cattle illegally grazed on federal lands for the past two decades will set.
—Time.com

Click continue reading for the latest story on the confrontation from the Associated Press:

Mica Bay Boater Park closed for tree removal

BOATING — The Mica Bay Boater Park on Lake Coeur d'Alene has been closed temporarily until hazardous trees can be removed, according to the Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office.

Closure of the popular lake access site  will continue while operators work to fell and remove at-risk trees.  The order is expected to be lifted by mid-May. 

The BLM explains in a media release:

Last fall, after several diseased western larch fell and grazed a camp host's trailer, managers conducted a safety inspection of the trees in the recreation area and prepared an analysis outlining options to ensure the safety of users at the site.  Western larch is typically noted for being resistant to diseases such as root rot but throughout the north-facing ridge bordering the site, many trees have been compromised.  Because of the potential risk of failure that could cause a threat to people and/or property, managers determined that removal of the trees was necessary before the public begins to actively use the site for the summer season. 

Mica Bay Boater Park is a popular day-use area for boaters on Lake Coeur d’Alene and is also accessible by foot for groups looking for a secluded picnic spot or quiet place to pitch their tent.  

See information on alternate boater parks or picnic areas managed by BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office. 

Study: mercury contamination affects even fish in national parks

FISHING — National parks in the Western United States and Alaska are some of the most pristine landscapes and waters on the planet, yet results of a four year study indicate that mercury contamination affects fish even in these protected areas.

It's important to note that 96 percent of the affected fish had low levels of contamination and are considered safe for human consumption.

However, the National Park Service says:

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in 21 protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Read on for more details from the NPS.

Wenaha River trail in full bloom for hikers

BACKPACKING — This has been a perfect week to backpack the Wenaha River trail into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

Here's what Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner, had to say after returning from a weekend trek into the area

Went down to the Wenaha this weekend. Perfect timing! No rattlers, ticks, or poison ivy yet and an incredible color show!

The Wenaha River Trail was mentioned in my Sunday Outdoors story on April hiking opportunities as one of my top early-season picks for hikers looking to stretch their legs for a day or several days.

You'll find more details on the hike and the area in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.

UI summer science camps let nature be teacher

NATURE — The University of Idaho is offering summer science camps that allow youths grades 6 through 11 to go outdoors for hands-on discovery.

Enrollment is open for students interested in spending a week The McCall Outdoor Science School on the shores of Payette Lake learning from University of Idaho graduate students, exploring the mountains, lakes and rivers of central Idaho and releasing their inner scientist.

  • River Science Boys’ Expedition: June 22-27, Grades 6-9, $387.50
  • W.O.W.S. (Women Outdoor with Science): July 6-11, Grades 6-11, $387.50

These are five-day field science expeditions where students explore the rugged Idaho mountains, go whitewater rafting and learn what university climate, water and alternative energy researchers are studying.

  • Beyond MOSS: July 13-18, Grades 6-9, $297.50

This five-day program goes beyond the school year MOSS program for those who have been to MOSS or who will be coming soon.

  • Adventure Day Camp: June 17-August 1; Grades 3-5 and 6-9, Cost varies

This day camp focuses on learning, playing and enjoying nature while letting imagination drive discovery.

The McCall Outdoor Science School is an outreach of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources. The residential science school engages Idaho students in year-round learning through our school partnerships. The college also hosts an on-site graduate program for university students who serve as teachers while working towards their graduate degrees.

Blood moon compliments colors of Bryce Canyon

SKYWATCHING — In case the clouds —  or the need for sleep — obstructed your view of last night's lunar eclipse, here's the scene as seen in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers rendezvous in Spokane

HUNTING/FISHING — Local members of the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are inviting interested sportsmen to tip a cold one with them starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Post Street Ale House, 1 N. Post St.

“This is an informal gathering and a great chance to drink some beers, meet other passionate outdoorsmen, share ideas about BHA and the world of hunting, fishing and conservation,” the group says in a release.

Among other things, local members are laying the ground work for the 2015 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers National Rendezvous, which will be held in Spokane in February or March of 2015.

Group leaders attending the Wednesday gathering include Land Tawney, BHA executive director, Josh Kuntz, chapter  and events coordinator and Caitlin Twohig, executive assistant.

Video: Pre-runoff streamer fishing tips for St. Joe River

FISHING - Put on an extra layer of fleece and get ready to fly fish the pre-runoff period on area rivers — as well as the post-runoff period before prime flows return.

How do you fish these “shoulder” seasons?

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has produced a series of informational fly fishing videos that take the mystery out of rigging up and presenting flies to trout in the pre-runoff shoulder season.

In the video above, Visintainer zeroes in on taking cutthroats by chucking streamers into “soft” water along the high flows of the St. Joe River.

Access to Little Salmon River hinges on angler respect

FISHING — A popular stretch of the Little Salmon River at Riggins, Idaho, will be accessible for the spring salmon season thanks to an agreement forged by Fish and Game staff and the local landowner. 

The only “catch” is, salmon anglers have to be on their best behavior, Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say.

In other words, anglers who have the attitude that they have a right to go get to the river regardless of who owns the property could ruin the deal for everyone.

All property on both sides of the Little Salmon from its confluence with Rapid River downstream to milepost 193 is now privately owned, but the 18-month lease targeting the west bank of this river reach will give anglers access to many coveted salmon fishing holes.

“The Department of Fish and Game is obviously pleased with the agreement we’ve reached with the landowner that continues to allow salmon and steelhead fishing access to the Little Salmon River across his private property,” said Virgil Moore, agency director. “The continued use of this segment of the river relies on all of us honoring the access rules outlined in the agreement and respecting private property.”

The local landowner was equally pleased. “We are delighted to have worked with Fish and Game staff to develop this agreement,” property owner Ralph Sletager said. “The agreement provides great fishing access for the public and addresses our concerns as property owners.”

A Little Salmon River access map and rules brochure will soon be available on the Fish and Game website, and also at the Lewiston, McCall and Nampa Fish and Game offices.

Read on for details:

Angling closure lifted on portion of Lake Rufus Woods

FISHING — There's more room for anglers to roam on Lake Rufus Woods starting today, according to the following release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. An area downstream of Grand Coulee Dam closed after the 9/11 attacks has been reopened.

Action:   Open the closed waters section on Rufus Woods Lake to recreational fishing. 

Effective Date: April 15, 2014 until further notice.

Species affected:   All species   

Location:   From Grand Coulee Dam downstream to the State Route 155 Bridge.  

Reason for action:   Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, this section of Rufus Woods Lake was closed to public access and recreational fishing for security purposes. Public access has recently been restored, and recreational fishing will now be permitted. This same change in fishing rules was also adopted by the Colville Confederated Tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Department.        

Other information:   Fishing rules and license requirements in effect downstream of the SR 155 Bridge apply to the newly opened section. Consult the current Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet for fishing rules and license requirements in effect on Rufus Woods Lake.  

Northeastern Washington fishing lakes to get more trout

FISHING — More fish will be stocked in northeastern Washington lakes this spring, a benefit of the relicensing agreement for Boundary Dam.

A new, long-term recreational fishing program that will increase fish numbers stocked in Pend Oreille and Stevens counties lakes kicks off  this month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said. 

The program, funded by Seattle City Light as part of its new operating license for Boundary Dam, will stock approximately 12,000 pounds of trout and kokanee in local lakes annually for the next 40 years.

“This enhanced fish stocking program will provide the additional springtime opportunity that northeast Washington anglers have been asking for,” said Bill Baker, WDFW fish biologist of Colville. 

The program continues and expands stocking of rainbow trout, tiger trout, cutthroat trout, and kokanee in 17 lakes. Most fish will be stocked as spring and fall fry and fingerlings, but catchable-size fish  (10-12 inches) will also be stocked.

The 2014 stocking list includes:

  • 11 lakes in Pend Oreille County — Big Meadow, Carls, Crescent, Deception, Frater, Lead King, Ledbetter, Leo, Little Lost, Nile, and Yocum;
  • Six lakes in Stevens County — Cedar, Deep, Gillette, Heritage, Sherry and Thomas.

This new program also includes monitoring to help fine tune the effort. Anglers who see staff or creel counters on the lake or dockside are encouraged to tell them about catches so the program can be evaluated.

Video: What it’s like to walk into a rattlesnake den

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spring and fall are the best times to find rattlesnakes congregated by a den, if you happen to stumble upon one.

Montana resident Michael Delaney took this video — clearly he was wearing leather boots and chaps — and offered this insight:

The den is only about 1/2 mile from our house, and we just came across it one time. The best times to find them at the den are in the spring when they're coming out and in the fall when they're going back in. During other times of the year you usually won't see anything there. Then den is right next to a tall creek bank, I think they use the cracks and holes from erosion as their den. 

IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH about snakes, do yourself a favor and don't watch this video.

I post this to illustrate what you could walk into in portions of Eastern Washington and Idaho… and why you would want to back out immediately.

Trucks ready to haul salmon around Wanapum Dam

FISHING – As construction workers race against the biological clocks of salmon to make fish ladders at Wanapum Dam operational, state fishery managers say they are standing ready with an alternate plan to truck spring chinook up the Columbia River.

Shortly after discovering a 65-foot-long fracture in a spillway pier Feb. 27, dam operators lowered the water level behind the 185-foot structure by a record 26 feet, leaving the fish ladders high and dry.

Sometime this week, the first of an estimated 20,000 spring chinook salmon are expected to arrive in the area near Vantage on their upriver run to spawn. Nearly 4,000 of those fish are wild, naturally spawning fish, and the entire run is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Grant County Public Utility District, which owns the dam, has been scrambling to modify the fish ladders to make them operational by April 15, but also worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to develop a backup plan. Fish ladders at Rock Island Dam also are affected. Work to modify the ladders is estimated at $7 million.

“The stakes are very high, especially given the number of wild spring chinook involved,” said Jim Brown, regional WDFW director for northcentral Washington. “Grant County PUD is doing a great job, but all of us have a role to play in getting those fish upriver to spawn.”

Under the current plan, WDFW will intercept salmon at Priest Rapids Dam and truck most of them around Wanapum Dam, 19 miles upriver. Working in rotation, experienced drivers will haul the salmon in eight tanker trucks, each capable of moving up to 1,500 fish a day.

At the same time, a smaller number of hatchery-reared fish – identifiable by a clipped adipose fin – will be fitted with coded and radio tags and released from the Priest Rapids facility to negotiate the newly configured fish ladders at Wanapum Dam.

“The tags will allow us to track those salmon, and determine whether they are able to get over the dam on the reconfigured fish ladders,” Brown said. “That will tell us when it’s safe to suspend the trucking operation, and allow the fish to move past Wanapum on their own.”

That plan was unanimously approved by the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee, a multi-jurisdictional organization established in 2004 to oversee hydroelectric projects in the mid-Columbia region.

Chelan PUD is also extending the fish ladders at Rock Island Dam, 38 miles upriver, to accommodate the drawdown in the Wanapum Pool. That work is also scheduled for completion today.

Brown said fishery managers are counting on the success of those measures to move fish upstream, because the trucking option will become less and less viable as larger runs of migrating salmon move into the area.

Starting in June, salmon managers are anticipating a run of up to 80,000 summer chinook, followed by 400,000 sockeye salmon and 300,000 fall chinook salmon.

“We can handle the spring chinook run with tanker trucks if that becomes necessary,” Brown said. “But there simply aren’t enough trucks, trained personnel, or hours in the day to move the number of salmon we’re expecting later in the year.”

Spring gobbler seasons open in region

HUNTING — It's 5:49 a.m.: Washington's spring gobbler general hunting season just opened.

I hear turkeys talking out here in the woods, but I don't see them.

Patience.

Lunar eclipse good excuse to sleep out tonight

CAMPING — The “Blood Moon” will treat sky watchers who can stay up past 11 p.m. tonight.  The weather forecast indicates the viewing of the lunar eclipse will be good.

And if you have a warm sleeping bad, it might be a good night to doze off under the stars.

  • The bloody red color the moon takes on during an eclipse is caused by refraction of sunlight by the Earth's atmosphere.

Tonight will be the first in the rare sequence of four total lunar eclipses expected in the next two years.

See details of the eclipses, and their role in Christian lore, in this story by USA Today.

Biologist to speak on Idaho bull trout

COEUR d’ALENE SPORTSMEN’S BREAKFAST
Tuesday, April 15 at 6: 30 a.m.

Breakfast.. $7.50 includes tax and gratuity
Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr., Coeur d’Alene

Tom Whalen, Senior Conservation Officer will give a presentation on the bull trout education and enforcement program. 

Stop in for breakfast, have a cup of coffee, and visit with IDFG staff and sportsmen like yourself.

Questions?  Nancy at Idaho Fish and Game, (208) 769-1414

Lake Roosevelt drawdown forecast bad news for fishery

FISHING/BOATING — There have been worse years for spring drawdowns at Lake Roosevelt in the past decade, but as my recent story explains, anglers can expect a high percentage of the trout and kokanee to be flushed through Grande Coulee Dam when the drawdown goes below 1,240 feet.

The level of Lake Roosevelt is about 1246 today and dropping at the rate of about a foot a day as Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet flood control elevations.

The forecast for the level at the end of April is 1,235 feet.  This could be revised.

It's important at this point to compare the lake level with the levels at which boat ramps are dewatered.  Spring Canyon near Grand Coulee and Seven Bays downstream on the Columbia from the Spokane Arm are the deepest launches on the 125-mile long reservoir.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Washington increases elk tags, cuts deer permit fees

HUNTING —  Elk hunting permits will be increased in the Colockum and Yakima areas along with antlerless deer permits in northeastern Washington under 2014-15 hunting regulations adopted by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday and Saturday in Olympia.

The continued growth of many state deer and elk populations will support increases in the number of hunting permits issued this year, Dave Ware, Fish and Wildlife Department  game manager, said at the public meeting.

“After a five-year stretch of mild winters, surveys show that most big game populations are stable or growing,” Ware said. “That bodes well for hunting opportunities this year.”

The commission approved additional permits in three key areas:

  • Colockum elk herd: With the herd continuing to exceed population objectives, WDFW will increase the number special permits, primarily for antlerless elk, to 1,016 from 374.
  • Yakima elk herd: The commission approved 130 additional permits for antlered elk and 1,440 for antlerless elk in response to the herd's continuing growth in central Washington.
  • Northeast white-tailed deer: Buck harvest levels have increased as the herd starts to rebound from harsh winters of 2007-08. WDFW will make 120 additional antlerless special permits available this year to youth, senior, and disabled hunters.

The only significant reduction made in special permits this year is in the Mount St. Helens area, where the elk herd has reached WDFW's management objective after six years of elevated permit levels.

That strategy, designed to bring the herd into balance with available habitat, has reduced the herd by 25 to 30 percent. At WDFW's request, the commission approved a reduction of 400 permits this year.

Fee reductions for some special permits and tags, which were raised in 2009, were approved by the commission. Ware said WDFW proposed those reductions to encourage participation in certain hunts and address concerns raised about the cost of certain permits.

Under the new fee schedule adopted by the commission, the cost of a second-deer tag will be reduced to $43.40 from $68, while the price of a multi-season deer tag drops to $139.10 from $182.

The cost will also be reduced for second-deer “damage tags” used by hunters working with property owners with damage-prevention or kill permits.

Disabled hunters will benefit from a streamlined process for issuing hunters with disabilities special-use permits. The commission also approved rules that will enable the hunters to use modified hunting equipment such as crossbows equipped with a scope.

In other business, the commission approved WDFW's proposal to acquire 640 acres near Wenatchee to provide a migratory corridor for deer, elk and other wildlife. Working in partnership with Chelan County and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, WDFW secured the property with funding provided by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other transactions approved by the commission will allow WDFW to:

  • Accept the transfer from the Washington State Department of Transportation of a one-acre inholding to WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.
  • Exchange three-quarters of an acre with the City of Sumner, which will allow WDFW to construct a parking lot near a water-access site on the Puyallup River.
  • Acquire a pipeline easement to improve the water supply at the Aberdeen Hatchery in Grays Harbor County.

Minutes of the meeting and an audio transcript will be posted on the commission's website.

Deep Creek hike has potential for discovery

HIKING — My story about the visual pleasures of day hiking in April was published in the Sunday Outdoors section.  One of the hikes mentioned was Deep Creek Canyon in Riverside State Park.

As if to emphasize the timeliness of hiking that area, Crystal Gartner and members of the Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club were on the trail finding more to see than spring wildflowers.

If nesting bald eagles might tickle your fancy, take this hike — No. 82 in Day Hiking Eastern Washington — and be sure to hike all the way to the benches on Pine Bluff.

Hint:  Bring binoculars!

Yakima River blows out; fly fishers look elsewhere

FISHING — Bad timing on my part…. My story about fly fishing the Yakima River's skwala stonefly hatch was published on Sunday, a few days after the river blew out and became unfishable.

With the rivers still high on Sunday, even the guides from Ellensburg Angler were posting photos of being with their families at Columbia Basin Lakes, which are in prime condition for trout fishing this month.

Says Mike Canada of Ellensburg Angler:

The Yakima river is still out of shape unfortunately, we have been out scouting some other fisheries. Stefan has been out chasing carp, and bass in the basin area, while Caiden and I have been camping and chasing trout in the seep lakes area…. Enjoy this beautiful weather we are getting right now.

 

Moses Lake to host High School Bass Fishing Challenge

FISHING — The Moses Lake High School Bass Fishing Team is challenging other high school teams to a May 10 tournament on May 10 — a week before the Washington State High School championships at Lake Chelan.

Winners at the state championships qualify for regional championships and a berth to the World Championship competition.

Students must be associated with a team in order to participate.

Another high school team challenge by R.A.Long High School's team will be held at Riffe Lake in Lewis County June 14.

The Moses Lake team won the state team championship last year.

Check it out on the Washington State Bass Federation web site: ( Go to youth heading then look for the high school page).

Additional information is on the TBF/FLW National High School web site

‘That’s a wrap!’ at most ski areas

WINTERSPORTS — Bob Legasa caught a photo of this happy crowd of skiers getting in their last licks on the sunny slopes of Schweitzer Mountain Resort Sunday.  Most of the region's ski areas shut down their lifts for the season on Sunday afternoon.

The notable exception in this area is Silver Mountain, which still has skiing to offer from top to bottom. Siler has announced plans to open the lifts for “Silver Saturdays” only — April 19 and April 26, the weekend of the legendary Leadman — a triathlon done Kellogg style.