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Snowshoes and snow bikes featured at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The Snowshoe Stampede at Schweitzer Mountain will be pedaling a new option on Saturday (Feb. 2).

A snow bike division has been added to the event that welcomes all sorts of walkers, gabbers, goers — and now, fat bikers!

The event features a scenic course Schweitzer's nordic ski area trails with 3- and 5-mile options, plus a chance to win cool prizes.

Bikes must be purpose built with tires wider than 3.7 inches and pressure no greater than 10 psi.  Bike or ski helmets are required.  A few bikes are available for rent at the Source, (208) 255-3062.

Event fees are $10 entry and $10 trails pass (if you don’t already have a Nordic / Snowshoe season pass).  Register from noon to 1 p.m. at the Hermit’s Hollow tubing yurt.

Snowshoe races begin at 2 p.m.

Snow bike event starts at 3 p.m.  

Video: humorous commercial bears viewing

WILDLIFE — Bear with me on this….

The ability of computer generated animation to mix fantasy with reality is a bit alarming, but also quite humorous in the case of this creative Canadian ad for a clothes washing machine reveals.

Time to chime in on hunting regulation proposals

HUNTING — Just as the public comment period on proposed fishing regulations closes today, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced it's taking public comment through Feb. 15 on proposed changes to hunting regulations.

On the list is a proposal, championed for several years by Jim Sutton of Spokane, to allow lighted nocks on arrows used for archery big-game hunting seasons.

Other changes include:

  • Restoring antlerless elk opportunities for archery hunters in Yakima County, specifically in Game Management Units 352 (Nile) and 356 (Bumping).
  • Providing more landowner hunting permits in exchange for more more public access to private land.

  • Adjusting seasons for big game hunting.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission, will discuss the hunting proposals and hold a final round of public comments during a March 1-2 meeting in Moses Lake.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the rule changes April 12-13 in Olympia.

Idaho losing money as nonresident hunters stay home

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials met with state legislators today to let them know there's been no relief in the downturn of nonresident hunters buying hunting and fishing licenses.

That's significant because nonresidents pay most of the bills for the state's wildlife management, and they also contribute substantially to the local economy, especially in rural towns.

The reduction in nonresident hunting is hurting Montana, too.

I wrote about this issue in August, as Montana and Idaho wildlife officials looked at the grim numbers from the low sales non-resident licenses before the fall seasons.

A detailed update from today's hearing at the Idaho Legislature has been posted by S-R Boise Bureau reporter Betsy Russell.  

Golden eagles falling victim to snare traps

Jaime and Lisa Johnson: Last Few Months &emdash;

WILDLIFE — A sudden spike in golden eagles being caught in snare traps in Montana this week is setting off alarm bells.  The eagles feed often on road-killed and winter-killed deer this time of year and are susceptible to bait. 

  • The image above was photographed this week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who found the golden eagle and several others feasting on a dead  deer near Lincoln, Mont. Some of the birds were so full of meat they could barely fly, he said.

The  Missoulian story linked below does not look into the potential for eagles to become victims of the increased emphasis on trapping wolves in Montana, but that's a possibilitly if the new surge of wolf trappers in Montana and Idaho isn't properly trained.

One of the golden eagles snared in Montana had been working for science, packing around a radio transmitter for nearly three years. Raptor View Research Center in Missoula had been tracking the eagle, learning the bird had summered in the Brooks Range of Alaska before heading south for Montana each winter.

Loss of 3 golden eagles to snare traps in Montana worries raptor groups

While it's not uncommon for golden eagles to get caught in traps, the big birds usually get caught in leghold traps.  However, in the past few days, biologists have been alarmed to find three golden eagles have been caught in snare traps in Montana, killing two of the birds and injuring the third. — Missoulian

Three events coming up for perking up your winter

WINTER SPORTS — This is no time to be a couch potoato:

Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival at Gonzaga University, Wed Jan. 30 from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Learn more at ibackcountry.org.

Women's Souper Bowl ski and snowshoe event, this Sunday Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. at the Mt. Spokane Cross Country Ski Park. Details at souperbowlspokane.org.
Langlauf race coming up Sunday Feb.10 Enter now — early registration closes Feb. 6. Check it out at spokanelanglauf.org.

Fly Fishing films coming Feb. 5 to the Bing

Fall Run by Todd Moen from Todd Moen Creative on Vimeo.

FISHING — Thirteen action-packed fly fishing films are being packaged into a two-hour performance headed to Spokane in early February and to Sandpoint in April.

The 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour is booked at the Bing Crosby Theater on Feb. 5. Doors open at 6 p.m.; films at 7.

Click here for a list and trailers of most films edited into this year's road show.

See the Sunday Outdoors story about the film festival.

See the Outdoors story about Fly Fishing Guide Hank Patterson, a spoof that's getting raves for fly fishing comedy videos

Tickets cost $15 on the tour's website, but are available in advance for $13 at:

The F3T also is coming to Sandpoint April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Panida Theater followed by a different show  — The International Fly Fishing Film Festival — on April 20.

All proceeds from both shows Sandpoint shows go to the Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Pend Oreille Water Festival (classroom and field trip event for all 5thgraders in Bonner County where they are taught about fisheries and water quality!)

Volunteers helping keep Idaho state parks open in lean times

PARKS — Idaho’s state parks are staying open thanks in part to thousands of volunteers, the state’s parks chief told lawmakers this morning.

See S-R reporter Betsy Russell's story on the hurdles Idaho parks are facing.

Comment closes Tuesday on Washington fishing rule proposals

FISHING —  An update on proposed changes to sportfishing rules will be presented by state fish managers to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Feb. 8-9 meeting in Olympia.  See the preliminary meeting agenda here.

Fishing rule proposals affecting Eastern Washington angling include:

  • Liberalizing limits for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the main stem and tributaries of the Snake and Columbia rivers, including Lake Roosevelt.
  • Changing regulations on motorized boats on the Yakima and lower Grande Ronde.
  • Prohibiting use of internal combustion motors at Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County.
  • Converting North Silver Lake in Spokane County to a year-round fishery for warmwater species.
  • Prohibiting trout fishing in Methow River stretches to protect steelhead.

Public comments on the proposals are being accepted on the agency’s website through Tuesday (Jan. 29).

The commisison is set to vote on the proposals at a March 1-2 meeting.

Washington outdoor recreation plan needs public input

OUTDOOR REC — If you enjoy the outdoors, you owe it to yourselff to participate in the online Washington State Outdoor Recreation Survey.

So far, about 800 comments have been filed on the easy to navigate Town Hall website

In addition to the survey, which can help channel planning and funding in the future, the site is asking the publicv to post their stories and photos showing how outdoor recreation impacts you and your family.  The information will be used in the final report.

  • In the last statewide survey conducted in in 2005-2006, WALKING was rated the most popular outdoor recreation activity in Washington.

The state’s outdoor recreation strategic plan, called the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), needs to be updated every 5 years to maintain the state's ability to receive federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The funding is used for grants to local communities to build parks and trails, and conserve wildlife habitat.

Pack rafting project seeks donations

RIVERS — Here's an appeal from Montana experts in the field of packrafting — a combination of rafting and backpacking:

We'll produce videos to help educate the public on safe, responsible backpacking, but we need a little help with funding. What do you get? Info on the equipment & techniques of packrafting so you can safely plan and execute your own packrafting adventures.

Check it out. 

Hunters, conservation groups swept up in gun controversy

SHOOTING — Hunters and wildlife conservation groups are finding it difficult to stay out of the nation's gun control controversies.

Even the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation felt pressure from the gun lobby to pull out of a huge sportsmen's show in the East when the show organizers prohibited exhibits by makers of AR-15 assault-style rifles.

The site of the Reed Exhibitions show in Pennsylvania is 250 miles from the site of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut.

Click here for a localized story on RMEF and the National Wild Turkey Federation by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Click "continue reading" to see an Outdoor Wire industry perspective posted Jan. 25, with insight into the troubles for small outdoor businesses caused by the sportsman show boycott.

Avalanche conditions changing with weather

WINTER SPORTS - Weather is causing changes in snow stability that backcountry skiiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers should be aware of when traveling in the mountains today and this weekend, according to the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's weekly report on mountain snow conditions.

"On easterly aspects we have a layer of buried surface hoar that is unstable and mostly isolated to sheltered slopes but it can be found from NE, E, to SE slopes with varying degrees of weakness," said Kevin Davise, avalanche forecaster. "Due east seems to be where it is weakest.  Other slopes are mostly stable but as temps go up today watch for weak layers developing on any steep slope."

Lake trout to be netted for study at Priest Lake

FISHING – Coinciding with a debate about future management of the Priest Lake mackinaw fishery, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is joining a comprehensive study of the lake trout population.

The University of Idaho College of Natural Resources and the Kalispel Tribe will help in estimating the number of lake trout in Priest Lake and identifying growth and survival rates and food habits. 

Large-scale commercial netting equipment will be used, similar to that being used in Lake Pend Oreille.  From March through May, deepwater trapnets and short-duration set gillnets will be used to capture, measure, and mark lake trout with an individually numbered tag. 

A portion of the fish will be killed for age and stomach analysis but many fish will be marked and released in the lake so more data can be obtained from the anglers who catch them.

Public meetings on managing Priest Lake mackinaw are planned for late February, IFG officials said.

 Read on for more details from an IDFG media release.

Snowmobile route near Browns Lake closed for logging

WINTER SPORTS — A portion of the popular Kings Lake groomed snowmobile route in Pend Oreille County is being closed for the rest of the 2013 season because of a logging operation.

The Colville National Forest and Stimson Lumber Co. announced the closure today as routes will be plowed to accommodate truck traffic.

The snowmobile route provides access to the north shore of Browns Lake.

“While this closure along with the two other we have in the valley this winter will be an impact to the groomed snowmobile routes the area has to offer, there are still a number of options for snowmobiling,” said Gayne Sears, district ranger. The Washington State Parks Sno-Park website features maps of the options. 

The two other closures in place are:

  • Cee Cee Ah Creek Road, because of a large storm washout.
  • the National Forest portions of the Middle and East Branches Le Clerc Creek Roads, and the Hanlon Cutoff Road due to winter logging operations.

Details from Nan Berger, recreation staffer in Newport:

Only a portion of the entire route is closed. The national forest roads closed are as follows: 1920000 (CCA Road) from the jct. with 1920306 (approx. 10.0 mile mark) to its jct. with 1920306 (approx.. 12.0 mile mark); 5030000 (Browns Lake Road) from the jct. with County Road 3389 (Kings Lake) to its jct. with 5080000 (Sheepherder) at approx. 3.5 mile mark. 5080000 is closed from the jct. with 5030000 to east boundary of section 13 (T34NR44E) approx. 3 mile mark.

Info: Newport Ranger Station, (509) 447-7300, or the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500. 

Paddle sports clubs reach out to disabled vets

WATER SPORTS – A program to create an environment of healthy adventure for healing active duty and veteran service members through paddle sports will be introduced in Spokane on Monday, Jan. 28.

The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club is teaming with Team River Runner, a national non-profit group, to open canoeing and kayaking opportunities for disabled vets, said Celene Olgeirsson, SCKC spokeswoman.

The program starts at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave., in Spokane Valley.

Info: 509-209-3066

Missoula’s Wave needs emergency fix

PADDLING — The artificial wave that has become a fixture in downtown Missoula and attracted kayakers from across the nation needs emergency repairs.

Brennan’s Wave was completed in 2006 and has served as a site for the U.S. Kayak Team’s Olympic Trial and the Montana Whitewater Championships, according to a story in the Missoulian.

Trent Baker, the spokesman for the nonprofit organization that funded the wave’s construction and oversees an endowment for its maintenance, says the wave has a giant crack in its middle chute.

The Missoulian reports runoff flows in the Clark Fork River likely caused the erosion.

Baker’s nonprofit has $20,000 to put toward fixing the crack but the repairs are expected to cost $50,000.

The group is seeking donations.

Researcher not surprised that grizzly checked out Missoula

WILDLIFE — New kid on the block in Montana …

Data from radio collar tracks Montana grizzly's trek near Missoula

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said he wasn't surprised to learn that a female grizzly bear had traveled on the fringe of Missoula in the fall of 2011, as his department has been predicting the big bruins would be expanding into the area for years. — Missoulian

Safari Club holding benefit banquet in Spokane

HUNTING – The Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International will hold its 31st annual benefit dinner and auction Feb. 9 at the Mirabeau Park  Hotel in Spokane Valley.

More info: (509) 993-3098.

Backcountry film festival benefits winter recreation


The Backcountry Film Festival’s road show of human-powered outdoor recreation films will be back for the third year at 7 p.m., Jan. 30, at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center.

The festival films also will be showing Feb. 8 in Coeur d'Alene and Feb. 22 in Bonners Ferry, sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

The seven featured films are the top 2012 picks by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and sponsored in Spokane by Gonzaga and local outdoor clubs as a fundraiser for efforts to maintain nonmotorized access to the region’s top winter backcountry. See a trailer here.

  • In addition, the short film FreeRider will be shown and the Spokane festival night, featuring Washington splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller during his quest to snowboard Washington’s 10 highest summits.

John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance said proceeds of the Spokane event at GU will be used for efforts to keep backcountry skiing on the front burner of public land planning at two important sites for muscle-powered recreation:

Read on for more details:

Groups skeptical of Kretz wolf relocation bill

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf supporters and even some cattleman's groups say an Eastern Washington lawmaker's bill aimed at moving wolves to the west side of the state is damaging their efforts to relocate wolves to the southern Cascade Mountains, according to a story in the Capital Press.

Avista begins drawdown of Lake Spokane

RIVERS – The annual drawdown of Lake Spokane, the Spokane River reservoir also known as Long Lake, has begun, Avista Utilities announced today in a media release.

Starting today, operators expect to lower the reservoir up to one foot a day for two or three weeks until it reaches its winter elevation of 13-14 feet below maximum summer elevation of 1,536 feet.

Under the right weather conditions, which include sustained periods of single-digit temperatures and little or no snow on the exposed lakebed, the drawdown is expected to help control Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic weeds found in Lake Spokane. The drawdown also allows property owners to complete state and locally permitted repair and construction projects along the lake shoreline.

The lower winter elevation will be maintained until runoff conditions begin. Water levels can change with weather conditions in the upper Spokane River drainage.

For updates on changes at Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and Coeur d’ Alene Lake, check the Avista website or call: Washington (509) 495-8043; Idaho, call (208) 769-1357.

Two new fly tying classes at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — Two more fly tying classes have been added to the already busy schedule of instruction being offered by Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley, (509) 924-9998.

Preregistration required.

NW Top Producing Nymphs

  • What: Learn some of the best nymph patterns for the region
  • When: Jan. 30
  • Cost: $40.
  • Instructor: Wayne Jordan

Beyond the Basics Fly Tying

  • What: Learn more advanced patterns and techniques
  • When: Feb. 11-12,  6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $50.
  • Instructor: Mark Poirier

Sled dog racing hits full stride this week

WINTER SPORTS — Sled dog racing hits high gear in the Inland Northwest starting this week — and skiers should note that skijoring is a category insome sled dog racing events nowadays.

The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race starts today (Jan. 23) and runs through Jan. 26 in the Wallowa Mountains based out of Joseph, Ore. Known for its challenging elevation gain, the event includes a full-scale 200-mile race for teams of 12 dogs — a Yukon Quest qualifying race. Also scheduled is a 100-mile race for 8-dog teams, a new 62-mile, 2-day mid-distance "pot" race.

The Cascade Quest Sled Dog Race runs Feb. 1-3 based out of Lake Wenatchee. It includes four events: an 8-12 dog 100-mile stage race, a 6-dog 75-mile stage race, a 2 to 6-dog 24-mile recreation-class race and a purebred race. 

The Priest Lake Sled Dog Races run Feb. 1-3, based at the Priest Lake Airstrip, with a range of events including skijoring for skiers with their dogs. See the video above for a description of all the events.

Backcountry film fest benefits winter recreation

The Backcountry Film Festival’s road show of human-powered outdoor recreation films will be back for the third year at 7 p.m., Jan. 30, at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center.

The festival films also will be showing Feb. 8 in Coeur d'Alene and Feb. 22 in Bonners Ferry, sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

The seven featured films are the top 2012 picks by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and sponsored in Spokane by Gonzaga and local outdoor clubs as a fundraiser for efforts to maintain nonmotorized access to the region’s top winter backcountry.  See a trailer here.

  • In addition, the short film FreeRider will be shown and the Spokane festival night, featuring Washington splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller during his quest to snowboard Washington’s 10 highest summits.

John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance said proceeds of the Spokane event at GU will be used for efforts to keep backcountry skiing on the front burner of public land planning at two important sites for muscle-powered recreation:

Read on for more details:

Idaho lawmakers want ultimate public handout: federal land

PUBLIC LANDS — In another example of their self-centered approach to the outdoors and the world, Idaho lawmakers are suggesting they are going to waste state time and money making a stab and taking over federal lands within Idaho's borders.

You're not expecting public support on this, are you?

Click "continue reading" to see the Associated Press report on Monday's Statehouse meeting in Boise.

Idaho tax checkoff supports non-game wildlife

WILDLIFE  – Idaho residents have a rare chance to support the state’s wildlife when they file state income tax returns.

Check the square to donate any amount of your refund to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. State wildlife management for fish and animals is funded by license sales to hunters and anglers. No general taxes go to wildlife programs for fish, game or nongame.

The only two ways to support animals that are not hunted, fished or trapped is by donating on your Idaho income tax form or buying an Idaho wildlife license plate.

Women step out into winter at Souper Bowl on Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS – Sign-up is under way for an annual event known for encouraging women to take an adventurous yet enjoyable step into winter.

The Women’s Souper Bowl VIII – which includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities, treats, prizes and lunch – is set for 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Feb. 3 based out of Selkirk Lodge at Mount Spokane.

Activities end in time to avoid conflict with TV’s “other” Super Bowl.

Events are open to women of all ages and athletic ability. Free snowshoe rentals and lessons are available on site; discounted cross-country ski rentals available in advance.

New this year:

• An adventurous guided snowshoe trek from the hairpin turn back to the lodge.

• Round-trip shuttles on buses sponsored by REI. Buses will pick up and return at Global Credit Union offices in downtown and in Spokane Valley, with stops at Mt. Spokane High School. Cost: $5.

Back by popular demand are the Poker Ski and the Flamingo Road snowshoe trek, both on the nordic trails from Selkirk Lodge.

Tickets: A $30 minimum suggested donation is requested for the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant for registrations received by Friday. A $10 additional fee will be requested for late registrations.

Organizers say 280 women came out for last year’s event, enabling volunteers to raise $12,872 for the Free Restaurant.

Preregister: souperbowlspokane.org.

Well owl be! Planning pays off for photographer

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Some wildlife photos happen spontaneously, the product of being ready to capture a surprising moment. 

Other great photos are the product of planning, such as this great horned owl image by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson:

We knew where this guy was, so we packed up the camera gear, tripod, light stands, lights, Radio controls and did a 5 mile hike in 8 inches of snow to get to where he was roosting.
A three second burst of images and it was all over….