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Study: Mount Adams glaciers shrink 50 percent since 1904

CLIMATE CHANGE — In the first comprehensive study of its kind, a Portland State University study has found Mount Adams' 12 glaciers have shrunk by nearly half since 1904 and are receding faster than those of nearby sister volcanoes Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.

Mount Adams, 54 air miles from Yakima, is another sign of gradually warming temperatures that — if continued as expected by researchers — will mean significant problems for the water-dependent Yakima Valley, according to reports by the Oregonian and the Associated Press.

The study lends urgency to an earlier federal report that shows the water content of Cascade Mountain snowpacks could dwindle by as much as 50 percent by the 2070s.

The latest work on glaciers on the 12,276-foot Mount Adams by a Portland State University geology professor and a student team was based on aerial photography, geographic information system mapping, buttressed by historic photos taken by hikers.

The results show Adams' glaciers have melted away 49 percent of their coverage area since 1904.

Over generally the same time period Mount Rainier's glaciers lost 24 percent of coverage area and on Mount Hood the decline has been some 32 percent.

Some scientists suggest Adams gets less moisture because it is just to the east of the Cascades crest.

Fly Fishing Film Tour in Spokane Feb. 8

“Reverb” Trailer from RT on Vimeo.

FISHING — The annual Fly Fishing Film Tour has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. 

The show will be returning to the Inland Northwest on April 20 in Sandpoint.

The tour has been a full-house attraction in recent years in Spokane, featuring an evening of edited versions of about eight fishing flicks. More coming as details are released.

Northern hawk owl grabs birding attention

WILDLIFE — Spokane wildlife photographer Tom Munson hunted the West Plains with his camera Monday and used a big lens and stacks of tele-converters to bag a very long distance image of a northern hawk owl. The critter from boreal forests has sent Spokane birders scrambling to add bird — roaming south of its normal range — to their year list.

See a much clearer version on Munson's excellent website (http://www.pbase.com/clinton62/galleries) featuring local bird rarities.
(While you're at it, check out the stunning photo he made of the Ross's gull that made headlines from Okanogan County last month.)
On Wednesday, birder Mike Britton got closer to the hawk owl and made the video above.
The still image of the northern hawk owl was made from a distance of about 350 yards, “so a huge crop and not a very good image,” Munson said. But he got it — a photo of a very shy rare bird for the region.
“I stacked a 2X and 1.4 converters so that made the lens 2184mm,” he said. Don't be surprised if he stalks the bird for a better shot before it heads back north.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Terry Little of Mead filed the following report of his FIVE OWL day west of Spokane, complete with location of the northern hawk owl plus a couple of snowy owls and some other finds that took him into the night:

Race series keeps nordic skiers waxing poetic

WINTER SPORTS – Cross-country skiers can test their performance over the course of the season and take a stab at winning cool prizes by entering the four-race Selkirk Nordic Series at Inland Northwest venues.

The series schedule includes:

Jan. 21: Cougar Gulch Race, 5- or 10-kilometer events, at Schweitzer. Info: (208) 255-3070.
 
Jan. 28: Chewelah Peak Challenge, a 7K freestyle at 49 Degrees North. Info: (509) 935-6649 ext. 638.
 
Feb. 12: Langlauf 10K, a classic-style race at Mount Spokane. Info: (509) 922-6080.

Feb. 18: Group Health Pursuit, a 10K classic race at Mount Spokane. Info: (509) 922-6080.

Although not part of the Selkirk series, the Group Health Pursuit continues on Feb. 19 with a skate race.  The Group Health event is of particular interest since it’s also a qualifier for teen competitors trying to reach the Junior Nationals. Expect to see a lot of good skiers both days. 

Selkirk Nordic Series participants accumulate points toward the final standings. Skiers must ski at least two races to qualify.
 
The top three men and women will receive Mountain Hardware soft-shell jackets and other prizes.
 
The top man and woman will receive a Garmin GPS monitor.
 
The series is sponsored by Fitness Fanatics, Mountain Gear, Group Health, Garmin, Spokane Parks & Recreation Department, EN&T Clinic and the race venues.
 
Other regional nordic ski races include:
 
Jan. 21-22: Methow Valley Pursuit, 15K classic interval start followed by 30K skate pursuit on trails between Winthrop and Mazama.
 
Feb. 26: Selkirk Cross-Country Ski Challenge, 35K, a free self-timed competition starting at 9 a.m. at Selkirk Lodge area of Mount Spokane.
 
March 3: Black Jack Loppet, freestyle and mass start events at Black Jack Ski Area, Rossland, British Columbia.

Morton says governor’s appointee isn’t an East Sider

RECREATION — East Siders don't are having a tough time this week handling appointments to Washington panels.  

Okanogan County commissioners wrote a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire criticizing the appointment of Jay Kehne to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission because they said he didn't reflect their values, particularly about wolves.

Tuesday, Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, asked the governor to rescind her recent appointment of Seattle resident Ted Willhite to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.

“Mr. Willhite is listed on the board roster as being from Twisp and his appointment fills a spot intended to represent the interests of Eastern Washington,” Morton said. “But this is preposterous! Mr. Willhite owns a second residence near Twisp, but he lives and works in Seattle. This is not fair to our side of the state and it shuns good Eastern Washington candidates for service on this board who would eagerly and honorably promote and protect our interests.”

The mission of the board is to provide leadership and funding to help protect and enhance Washington's natural and recreational resources.

“The board has four Western Washington members and only one from our side of the state, Yakima,” Morton said. “The governor needs to set this right. I await her response.”
  

Holiday season is over; hunting season isn’t

How a hunting family might set up a a reindeer Christmas yard display.

UPDATE: See video of snowy owl being treated at WSU

BIRDS — A video released by WSU Veterinary School today offers insight into a migration spectacle as well as the treatment being offered for a migrant snowy owl injured in November by a collision with a car near Davenport.

Snowy owls are making news as they've showed up in ones and twos all over the northern United States this winter as they migrate in larger than normal numbers from arctic homes to winter hunting grounds.

The beautiful, white birds are a common winter attraction in this region, especially in Lincoln and Stevens counties. But their easiness around civilization can be detrimental when they leave the tundra.

Snowy owls spend most of their lives in treeless habitats, where they’ve evolved to launch their rodent hunts from the ground or low perches such as fence posts.

Many snowy owls migrate thousands of miles over wilderness only to meet doom in a vehicle collision as they cross a road.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Curt Wood picked up an injured snowy owl from the roadside just northeast of Davenport on Nov. 25. (This is the owl in the photo and video with this blog.)

The bird was taken to the Washington State University Veterinary School, where it’s being treated for a fractured wing and dislocated elbow.

“It’s probably not going to be releasable,” said school spokesman Charlie Powell. “It’s a little too warm during summer to keep him comfortable, but snowy owls are very easy to place in zoos, so it will be in good hands.”

A few days later, officer Wood picked up another ailing snowy owl, also near Davenport on the Sunset Highway. He had to make a stop in Wilbur first, so he let the local third-graders get a close look at the migrant before bringing it in to the Ponti Veterinary Hospital.

Wood said the kids were intrigued by the white owl.

Unfortunately, the Ponti clinic staff said they were unable to save the bird.

Landowner secures conservation easements on 3,900 acres in Stevens County

CONSERVATION — Working with the Inland Northwest Land Trust, a landowner has protected 3,900 acres of forest land in Stevens County west of Horseshoe Lake with conservation easements.

The latest of two easements assures 2,540 acres will remain a working forest with wildlife habitat on land owned by Beryl Baker.

In 2009, Baker protected 1,363 acres of the timberland that's been in his family for nearly 50 years.

The land includes 68-acre Baker Lake fed by Beaver Creek and other seasonal tributaries in the Little Spokane Watershed.

The land provides wetland habitat and year-round habitat for deer, elk, moose, bear, cougar and other animals. It's the biggest land package to be preserved by the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Land Trust, which is responsible for managing the easement in perpetuity.

Timber will continue to be harvested in a sustainable fashion under the easement, the INLT says.

Baker, who grew up on a Kahlotus-area wheat farm, purchased the property in 1966 after seeing an ad in the Wall Street Journal. “I needed a change from banking in Seattle,” he said.

“I feel fortunate finding a way to protect the property that has been in my family almost 50 years from division and commercial development. The property can only be used for timber production and wildlife habitat. This will provide the animals with a permanent home.”

“Rural areas are some of the last wild places left untamed in Eastern Washington and landowner Beryl Baker will make sure they stay that way forever,” says Chris DeForest, INLT Executive Director.

Bill would make Discover Pass valid for two vehicles

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee Monday (Jan. 9) voted unanimously to refer a bill to the Ways and Means Committee that would make the Discover Pass transferable between two vehicles.

The Discover Pass was established by the 2011 Legislature as a vehicle access requirement for state parks and most other state lands in an effort to raise funding for state park management.

Under the proposed legislation, the cost would remain the same, but the pass would be transferable between two vehicles at the same address.

The Discover Pass is required on vehicles to access state parks, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, and any recreation lands or water-access sites managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under current law, the Discover Pass costs $30 annually and $10 for a daily pass per vehicle.

The current fine for not displaying a Discover Pass on a vehicle while on state recreation land or a water-access site is $99.

Read on for more details from reporter Maida Suljevic of the Washington Newspaper Publishers News Bureau in Olympia.

State considers NRA license plate to boost hunter ed

HUNTER EDUCATION — Washington drivers could license their cars with a National Rifle Association logo if the Washington House of Representatives passes a bill that would create an NRA special license plate.

The Seattle Times reports  some of the money from the sale of the plates would help fund a hunter safety program.

The Department of Licensing currently offers 47 different special license plates for various causes such as endangered species, although the Licensing agency keeps most of the money. 

While some of the plates are sponsored by state agencies, many are coordinated by groups, such as those for veterans and bicycling advocacy.

Tough volunteers set bait for wolverines in North Idaho

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — More than 40 volunteers showed up for a training course on Dec. 3 to learn how to use their expertise in backcountry snowshoeing or ski touring to help researchers study wolverines.

It's already paid off.  Read on for the big news from last week.

Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologists taught them how to rig up bait and install wire gun-cleaning brushes in the bait tree to snag hair for DNA testing as the critters climb up for the free meal. They also learned about trail cams and traveling safely through avalanche terrain.

Now they're out doing it in the wilds of the Cabinet mountains northeast of Lake Pend Oreille, as you see by the photos. The going's tough, but that's why many of them signed up. There's nothing better that having a purpose for going into the winter backcountry.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness is providing the backbone of the financial support and the base of volunteers that came to the classes before heading into the field. 

Oh, yeah. The big news:

After checking their first round of rare forest carnivore monitoring stations last week, Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists discovered a wolverine had been caught on camera in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho.  The biologists have confirmed the wolverine visited the station twice.  The story is to be continued… but click “continue reading” below to see one more photo of what volunteers are going through to support this research.

Video: Shooting mishaps compiled

SHOOTING — Someone has gone to the effort of compiling video clips of shooting mishaps, including a lot of people getting thumped by high-powered guns.

Some incidents are humorous, some sad, some downright scary for the lack of thought and muzzle control.

It includes the the well publicized indicent of a firearms instructor discharging a handgun in class and several richochet near misses.

The clips also indicate that a lot of women are the butt of firearms shooting jokes, and they have the bruises and black eyes to prove it.

WA state parks free visit days start this weekend

PARKS — The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday three-day weekend, Jan. 14-16, will be the first of 10 Washington State Parks “free access days” in 2012. 

The Discover Pass will not be required for vehicles at state parks.

Most of State Parks free days are in alignment with free days offered by the National Park Service.

The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.

The Discover Pass legislation provided that State Parks could designate up to 12 “free days” when the pass would not be required to visit state parks. The free days only apply at state parks. A Discover Pass will still be required to access DFW and DNR lands.

In addition, Sno-Park permits will continue to be required on vehicles at designated lots such as the three at Mount Spokane plowed during winter by the Sno-Park Program. 

Following are the 2012 Washington State Parks “free days:”

  • Jan. 14-16 – Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
  • March 18-19 – Washington State Parks’ 99th birthday (March 19).
  • June 9 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Sept. 29 – National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 10-12 – Veterans Day weekend.

A peek at animals that turn white in winter

WILDLIFE — Critters have many adaptations for handling the rigors of winter. 

Some hibernate, some constantly look for food. Some develop thick winter coats to stave off the cold while some others change color to be better predators or less vulnerable prey.

Creatures that change colors include two hares – the snowshoe hare and the white-tailed jackrabbit – and three members of the weasel family —  the least weasel, as well as the long-tailed and short-tailed weasels.

Montana and Washingtton also have the white-tailed ptarmigan, a bird that turns pure white in winter.

Bruce Auchley of Montana, Fish Wildlife and Parks has more details on the weasels and hairs.  Read on…           

Snakepit closes as owners battle illness

OUTDOOR RECREATION — This is sad news for Coeur d'Alene River anglers, floaters and users of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

Future of historic Enaville Resort (Snakepit) uncertain as owners battle cancer — story by D.F. Oliveria/Huckleberries.

Colville travel plan appealed by 3 regional conservation groups

PUBLIC LANDS — Getting no satisfaction from a letter of concern to the forest supervisor, three Washington-based conservation groups have appealed a Colville National Forest travel plan designating where ATVs, motorcycles and other off-highway vehicles can go at the south end of the 1.1 million acre forest.

The Lands Council, the Kettle Range Conservation Group and Conservation Northwest filed the appeal last week, charging among other things that the plan rewards lawbreaking OHV riders by legitimizing trails that were illegally made.

The groups sent a letter to Supervisor Laura Jo West on Dec. 22 expressing several concerns about the South End Project.

The supervisor replied that her decision would stand as is.

Kids cash in on S-R’s Outdoor Writing Contest

OUTDOORS — Kyle Hansen, a sophomore at West Valley High School, received his first check for writing outdoor prose on Saturday. You can see he wasn't disappointed in this photo from his parents. 

Hansen won the top award in The Spokesman-Review's 2011 Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students. Three other students won runner-up cash awards.

Get details and see the work of all four of the finalists here. The stories were published in The Spokesman-Review on Dec. 25.

 All of the finalist entries will be forwarded to a national youth outdoor writing contest for published work.

The annual contest is in its 25th year.

Audubon presents documentary on ivory-billed woodpecker

BIRDING — Ghost Bird, a documentary about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker — thought to be extinct until researchers scored some earth-shaking video — will be presented Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Spokane Audubon Society general meeting program.

See Ghost Bird trailer here.

These monthly meetings and free programs open to the public are at the Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

See detailed directions.

If you're interested in local birding, you should check out the SAS website. Members have just posted a delicious assortment of winter-spring field trips in the surrounding area.

Volunteers kill 462 elk in Theodore Roosevelt Park this fall

WILDLIFE — With no large predators, the elk roaming Theodore Roosevelt National Park have been too much of a good thing in North Dakota.

Volunteers help park managers by stepping up to kill 462 elk in the park this fall during  the second year of the effort to drastically reduce the elk population.  Last year they killed 406 elk in the park.

According to a story by Brett French of the Billings Gazette, the goal is to have a herd of 100 to 400 animals to lessen competition for forage among elk and other wildlife in the park, like deer, bison and feral horses.

What's in it for the volunteers?  Satisfaction of hunting in paradise and a lot of hard work backpacking out the game in a park that forbids off-road travel. 

Although the volunteers get a portion of the meat for their work, most of the meat is donated to area Food Banks, which are enjoying the windfall:  The Park Service has donated about 20,000 pounds of meat to the needy plus 25,000 pounds to area Native American tribes.

Volunteers will be able to apply this summer for the fall 2012 work on the park’s website.

Ferry County Rail Trail skiers make do

WINTER SPORTS — The mountains are in need of new snow for skiers an the hopes of river runners.

But at the valley level north of Republic, Wash., there's boundless optimism for the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners Ski Day on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the old rail car loading area at the north end of Curlew. In the event of inadequate snow they plan on leading a walk along the Kettle River to the old railroad tunnel.

But for now, they're waxing poetic.  

Here's the Curlew Trailhead snow report from noon today, Jan. 8th:

2 inches of new and someone already skied it today!

Fingers crossed for 2 more inches over next 48 hours…

National Weather Service Forecast - Okanogan Highlands

REST OF TODAY
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. HIGHS IN THE LOWER TO MID 30S.

TONIGHT
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS IN THE 20S.

MONDAY
CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF SNOW IN THE MORNING…THEN A CHANCE OF RAIN OR SNOW IN THE AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE MID TO UPPER 30S. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 30 PERCENT!!

MONDAY NIGHT
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS IN THE 20S.

Asian duck drawing crowds in California

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A duck normally only seen in Asia has somehow turned up in California, drawing excited bird watchers from all over the U.S. and Canada to a wildlife refuge in the state’s Central Valley, the Associated Press reports.

Wildlife officials say a male falcated duck, a bird common in China, was first spotted at the refuge on Dec. 8.

Since then, thousands of birders have observed it paddling among mallards, pintails and geese, said Lora Haller, who works at the Colusa Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center.

Most falcated ducks breed and live in China, and smaller populations live in Japan, North Korea and South Korea. The ducks can also sometimes be found in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Haller said.

The celebrity bird has a silvery plumage with iridescent green and bronze on its head. “Falcated” or “curved and tapering to a point” refers to the male duck’s long wing feathers near the body that overhang onto the tail.

A ducky day for a Lab

HUNTING — I had the privilege to hunt the Lower Coeur d'Alene River area with a yellow Lab named Gunner this weekend. It was a good day.

Lookout Pass Free Ski School underway today

WINTER SPORTS — The Lookout Pass Free Ski School started its 72nd year this morning to a swarm of enthusiasm. More than 500 kids age 6-17 had been registered in the program last week.

The resort's professional instructors are being joined by Ski School volunteers to ensure that each kid gets started on the road to skiing and snowboarding with a quality lessons.

Classes just started at 10 a.m. and the resort's learning terrain is swarming with little ones.

Expect too see lots of little ones on the slopes on Saturday morning for the next several weeks.

And, of course, many of them will continue skiing or snowboarding when they're not-so-little ones.

Wear boots for Best-Hand ski and snowshoe fundraiser

WINTER SPORTS — The Panhandle Nordic Club's annual Best Hand Ski and Snowshoe fund-raising event will go as scheduled on Saturday regardless of the snow conditions at Fourth of July Pass.

Current conditions are NOT for skis or snowshoes, the club reports.  Expect ice and maybe some mud.

CLEATS ARE ADVISED.  Unless a miracle provides some snow.

But the cause is good. The club maintains the facilities and coordinates the grooming for the trails at the pass.

VIDEO: Aerial action at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

WINTER SPORTS — A flip-photography contest prompted local slope shredder Blake Sommers to create this nifty glimpse of folks giving a workout to the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  Check it out.

What’s on the horizon for salmon fishing in 2012?

Seattle Times outdoor writer Mark Yuasa takes his best shot at answering that question from the early forecasts for the Washington Coast and Columbia River. Read his story here.

What’s on the horizon for the outdoors in 2012?

Tacoma News-Tribune outdoor writers take a shot a answering that question from a Western Washington perspective.  Read their story here.

National Parks offer free three-day weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Jan.14-16.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Martin Luther King weekend fee waiver is the first scheduled for the year.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been offered the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Corgi found 4 days after swept away by deadly avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — A family consumed by grief after a husband and father was killed by an avalanche in Montana last week got something to pick up their spirits:

Their dog, buried in the avalanche, surfaced and was found alive four days later.

Read on for the remarkable story from Brett French of the Billings Gazette.

Winterfest packs two-days of events, activities at 49 Degrees North

WINTER SPORTS — No place in the Inland Northwest will have more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities this weeked than the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North.

The events are in the downhill ski area as well as on the nordic ski trail system.

From the endurance test of the hill climb and ski down, telemark lessons and gear demos to the night-time nordic ski tours and snowshoe walks and even a paintball biathlon race, this is one  ambitious ageda, sponsored by the resort and Mountain Gear.

Note FREE nordic trail ski passes on Saturday and $5 passes on Sunday.

Read on for the entire list of events: