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Human Planet TV series finale on Sunday

OUTDOORS ON TV — The last two episodes of fascinating six-film wildlfie series will show Sunday, 8 p.m.,  on the Discovery Channel.

Human Planet is the first BBC/Discovery Channel production to focus solely on human behavior and it's profound relationship with nature. The makers of Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet, investigate humanity’s ability to adapt and live in every corner of our diverse world. Each episode centers on a particular habitat. The filming techniques are cutting-edge.

Meantime, don't worry about missing some episodes on TV. The series is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

First wolverine confirmed in Wallowas

WILDLIFE– An Oregon state researcher has confirmed wolverine tracks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the first documentation of the species in Wallowa County.

According to the Columbia Basin Bulletin, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department researcher Audrey Magoun found the wolverine tracks in the snow on April 17 while hiking to a remote camera site set up to detect wolverines. She followed the tracks for about a mile until they left the river bottom and headed into the high country.

“From the size of the track, it is probably a male,” said Magoun who has dedicated her career to studying wolverine since she received her Ph.D. in 1978.

 “This is the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County,” said Vic Coggins, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district wildlife biologist. “We’ve always thought it was good habitat, and we’ve had reports but nothing we could verify until now.”

Read on for more details. 

Overnight storm lures powder hounds to 49 Degrees North

POST SEASON SKIING —  "Spring may be on the minds of many folks in the Spokane area, but the weather in the mountains of northeast Washington has been anything but spring-like," according to Brad Northrup of 49 Degrees North.  He sent this message and the photo just minutes ago to make us drool.

"The management team at 49° North Mountain Resort awoke on Friday to well over a foot of bone dry powder on Chewelah Peak and crystal clear skies.  Having recently shut down operations for the season, senior staff members did what they do best:  go skiing.

“There was at least a foot and a half of untracked powder on the upper mountain, and the snow quality was like that of February. We were all just grinning, and the consensus was that today was perhaps the best day of skiing any of us had experienced this year. 

"Although 49° North has ceased lift operations for the season, the mountain is open to snow mobile access on weekends, and is wide open for those willing to hike for turns. 

The resort finished the 2010-2011 season with a snowpack depth of 212”, and 373” of total snowfall, making the season one of the deepest on record. 

Discounted season passes for the 2011-2012 season are on sale through May 5, 2011.

Weather doesn’t put chill on spring mating season

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The snow that blanketed the region east of Liberty Lake this morning didn't do much to cool the heat of passion underway among game birds.

The mating season is in full swing for wild turkeys, quail and pheasants.

I caught this ringneck pheasant showing off impressive spring colors this morning near Post Falls as he drew attention from potential mates and defended his territory against intrusions from other males.

I hope your weekend goes as well.

Nutcrackers galore at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A startling report has been filed by a birdwatcher surveying species recently at the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge east of Colville.

Although Mike Munts of Arco, Idaho, observed nearly 50 species in two days at the refuge, one observation was remarkable.

For those who may not have been there , LPO is an amazing birding site. One of the few refuges that is predominantly forested it has some impressive birding for species many folks don’t encounter much. The scenery here in the southern Selkirk Mountains is not bad either.

One of the highlights was a flock of more than 200 Clark’s Nutcrackers at the refuge headquarters Sunday afternoon. I have seen hundreds possibly thousands of nutcrackers over the years but I have never seen a flock anywhere near this size before. At one point most of the flock took flight and the sky seemed to be filled with nutcrackers. Truly an impressive sight that I will remember for some time.

Glacier Park plows snowed under

NATIONAL PARKS — Winter has retained its grip on Glacier National Park this week, stalling efforts to clear Going to the Sun Road and turning back cyclists looking for vehicle free riding.

Storms dumped 8 inches of snow in West Glacier and 18 inches in both the higher and lower elevations on the east side.

Read on for more details, links and options.

Pikeminnow anglers fishing for dollars

FISHING — The 2011 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Season, which pays anglers a bounty of up to $8 a fish, will run May 1-Sept. 30 on the Columbia River from the mouth to the Tri-Cities and up the Snake to Lewiston.

Earn a bonus of $500 for catching a tagged fish.

A few anglers have earned more than $40,000 a season.

Boyer Park on the Snake River has been the tops among the 17 check stations for collecting pikeminnows from anglers in recent years.

Get details online or call (800) 858-9015.

Discover Pass approved by Washington Legislature

PUBLIC LANDS — Driven by the need to fund state parks, The Washington Legislature Thursday approved a new Discover Pass, which visitors will need to drive into state parks, state DNR lands and state wildlife areas.

The bill, SB 5622, goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

The $30 annual pass and a $10 day pass for those who don't buy it would raise $64 million, with $54 million going to state parks and the rest divided between two other agencies that manage state lands, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hunters, fishermen, boaters, campers and snowmobilers who already pay to use state lands through license fees or registrations, would not be required to have the pass, except for access to most state parks.

Also, parks would be required to have some days during the year designated for free access.

The bill passed the Senate Wednesday on a bipartisan vote, but in the final vote of approval, House Republicans voted against it.

Pontoon safety class offered by Spokane Fly Fishers

FISHING — Personal pontoon boats have launched anglers into a new realm of freedom and efficiency on lakes and stream. But after hearing reports of accidents and many close calls, the Spokane Fly Fishers has organized a Pontoon Boat Safety Class that involves a classroom session followed by field sessions on a lake and on moving water.

The evening classroom session is April 28 followed by the lake session on April 30.

The moving water session will be planned at that time, organizers say.

The class is open to a limited number of nonmembers. 

Contact: Don Tietz, (509) 292-8292.

10 ways people can boost migratory birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As spring migrants continune to arrive in our region, so has a list of helpful thoughts from the American Bird Conservancy.

Here's the ABC's top 10 things people can do to aid or protect declining birds in their homes and yards.

10. Join a bird conservation group such as ABC—learn more about birds and support important conservation work.

9. Support bird-friendly legislation—Example:  Congress is considering HR 1643, a proposed bill that provides for bird-friendly federal buildings.

8. Keep feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease and prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

7. Buy organic food and drink shade-grown coffee—increasing the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals.

6. Reduce your carbon footprint—use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances.

5. Donate old bird watching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to bird watching groups—they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.

4. Create backyard habitat—if you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract and sustain native birds.  

3. Eliminate pesticides from your yard—even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food.

2. Prevent birds hitting your windows by using a variety of treatments to the glass on your home. Collisions with glass constitute the biggest source of bird mortality, as many as one billion each year. See ABC’s new flyer.

1. Keep your cat indoors—this is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are not native to the U.S. and are responsible for hundreds of millions of bird deaths each year.  Some species have gone extinct because of cats! Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes.

Blowout blocks Salmon River, creates new rapid

RIVER RUNNING — The April 1 blowout of Black Creek is still blocking the main Salmon River with a logjam this week, and has also formed a big new rapid that’s raised the river level high enough to totally obliterate Salmon Falls, a major rapid a half-mile upriver.

This report comes from the Challis Messenger. A gallery of photos showing the new rapid and logjam are available here.

Salmon-Challis National Forest employees confirmed April 5 that a flood had carried rocks and other debris down Black Creek, forming a new rapid with a large drop and big holes, plus creating a logjam across the entire channel, making the Salmon River impassable about an eighth of a mile below the creek.

The Forest Service’s strategy is to wait and see if high water later this spring will dislodge the jam naturally, said North Fork District Ranger Russ Bacon.

Read on for more details from the Messenger's report, and quotes from a jet boater who checked out the new rapid and described it as "terrible."

Columbia spring chinook still lagging

SALMON FISHING — Anglers in the Columbia Gorge reservoirs will get seven additional days to fish for a lagging spring chinook salmon run. Washington and Oregon officials on Wednesday added April 25-May 1 to the fishing season for the Columbia between Bonneville Dam and the state line upstream of McNary Dam.
Fishing for salmon was scheduled to close beginning Monday.
Even though fish counts over dams are minimal, Washington is opening Snake River chinook seasons in phases this week, with Idaho's seasons opening on Saturday.
All Thomas  of the Vancouver Columbian reports that only 1,803 spring chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam through Tuesday compared with the 10-year average of 48,532.
Only a few sportsmen have been fishing the mid-Columbia pools. State biologists estimate about 50 chinook a day will get caught in the pools during the extended season.
The Columbia has been colder, higher and dirtier than normal for April.
Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said those three environmental factors could be slowing passage at Bonneville Dam.
By May 1 the states should know if the spring salmon run is below forecast or late.

Streamflows are starting to drop, the river is clearing and the water is warming, so if the fish are they they ought to start moving soon.
Fishing in the lower Columbia is closed.

Snow, slides clog St. Joe River Road

RIVERS — Spring is dawning for river runners and anglers on Idaho's St. Joe River.  Here's a road and access report from Terry Miller, who scouted it out with his vehicle and kayak Monday.

The road is clear on Marble Creek to past the "class IV" rapid. Can make it in 2-wheel drive with a little clearence.

The main Joe road is closed by a mud slide at the cable crossing at the bottom of Skookum Canyon. 4x4 can get past the slide but the road starts to snow up at the next bend.

I drove up the Northfork road. The road is mostly washed out between the 1st and second tunnels. Drove around it in the work truck but was very sketchy. It would have been better in the Subaru. At mile 3 past the second tunnel snow is on the road. I think a 4x4 could go farther as there were tracks but did not go any farther.

Water was low but clear, blue/green that puts a smile on your face!

Washington Walleye tournament series starts in May

TOURNAMENT FISHING — The 2011 Washington State Walleye Circuit includes five tournaments with cash prizes coordinated by NorthWest Walleyes:

May 7-8: Rod Meseberg Spring Walleye Classic at Potholes Reservoir.

May 21-22: Bil Wallys/Vally Marine Spring Walleye Classic at BanksLake.

June 4-5: MosesLakeWalleye Classic.

June 25-26: Washington State Governor's Cup at LakeRoosevelt, based in Kettle Falls.

July 30-31: Washington State Walleye Championship at LakeRoosevelt, based in Kettle Falls.

Writer compares Mortenson with Sir Edmund Hillary

OUTDOORS — Joel Connelly of Seattlepi.com wrote this commentary today, contrasting Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's efforts to build schools in Central Asia  with the style of another famous climber — Sir Edmund Hillary.

Read my earlier post with links to Mortenson's response today to charges by 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer.

Fishing is foundation for ideal family tradition

FAMILIES OUTDOORS — If you're lucky enough to still have kids around the house, don't let another season go buy without building some sort of outdoor family tradition: Something they can count on year after year, whether it's in person or in their memories. Something based around fishing — streams, lakes, docks, boats, trips to the mountanis or out of state — is ideal.

Fishing guide Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service has this observation:

"As we get older, those happy memories are an important part of our satisfaction.  I had a father-son team out on the boat for the kid's birthday.  This was his third year in a row!  It reminded me of the great times that I had as a kid with my Dad, on opening day of trout season."

Steamboat Rock gets jump on wildflowers

HIKING — While wildflowers are just getting brave enough to emerge, the Columbia Basin, as usual has a jump on the much of the region.

Here's a report from John Echelbarger, who hiked Sunday at Steamboat Rock State Park on Banks Lake.

"There was a nice variety of wildflowers and some that have not bloomed here yet.

"Buttercups, Grass Widows, Yellow Bells I have seen around spokane.

"Shooting Stars, Violets, and Blue Bells I saw for the first time this year. More sun over there. Perfect weather and quite a beautiful hike."

Mortenson speaks on charges regarding Three Cups of Tea, charity

OUTDOORS Greg Mortenson, the climber, philanthropist and author of Three Cups of Tea, has finally come forward to comment on the charges made agaist him Sunday by 60 Minutes and fellow author and climber Jon Krakauer.  

Mortenson's interview to address the world-wide buzz about falsehoods in his books and questions about the money his fundraising has forwarded to schools for girls in Central Asia has just been released and is available at Outside Online.

The 60 Minutes report suggested that Mortenson exaggerates many of the claims in his books and uses money donated to his Central Asia Institute for promoting the sale of his books.

See Krakauer's detailed documentation of the charges here.

Click here for today's S-R story on the reaction of local universities that have hosted Mortensen recently, paid his $30,000 speaking fees and helped him raise money for the charity.

Joel Connelly of Seattlepi.com wrote this commentary today, bringing to mind the efforts of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Outside editorial director Alex Heard will be on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight talking about his interview with Mortenson.

Hikers with dogs learn pointed lesson on South Hill

HIKING — Two people I know own dogs who recently encountered the defense mechanism of a porcupine along the  South Hill bluff trails below High Drive.

Let's think about this: Vet visit to remove quills, $150.   Leash, $7.

Go figure.

Sandpoint Monday Hikers on the go for 20 years

HIKING — The  list of area hiking clubs that ran with my Sunday Outdoors feature on hiking clubs left out one with some history, said Rosalyn Clark of Sandpoint.

The Bonner County Monday Hikers have been heating their heels on roads and trails every Monday since 1991.

“We’re loosely organized, but we have eight  or sometimes 30 to 50 on an outing,” she said.

“Every Monday we decide where we’ll hike the next Monday, rain or shine. We’re mostly older people, but not all of us. You just need to have Mondays free.”

Info: rosiebob@gmail.com

Meeting today deals with Lookout Pass ski area expansion

SKIING — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests has scheduled a meeting today to discuss the proposed Lookout Pass Ski Area expansion.
The meeting is set for 5 p.m. at the Forest Service office in Smelterville, Idaho.
The Forest Service and Lookout Pass Ski Area are taking additional public comment as officials as they begin processing the application to expand the area for the ski resort's special use permit.
Representatives from various backcountry user groups have been invited to give their insights, said John Latta of the Spokane Mountaineers. Of particular concern the backcountry skiers is a plan to expand lift assisted skiing to the Copper Lake basin.

‘Rush Week’ targets Panhandle’s newest aquatic invader

INVASIVE SPECIES – Sandpoint-area residents are organizing this week to pounce on an new unwanted aquatic invader to Lake Pend Oreille.

A public work party to stop the spread of flowering rush will begin Saturday, 1 p.m., at Sandpoint City Beach.

Like other aquatic invasive plants, flowering rush crowds out native vegetation and interferes with swimming and navigation. Yet, in some places, it's sold as a decorative plant.

According to the Bonner County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, the infestation is still at a manageable level, but the group is devoting the week to coordinating with school groups to tackle flowering rush infestations in Boyer slough, Denton Slough, Clark Fork Delta and Dover.

Read on for details.

Late spring heavenly for self-propelled travelers at Mount Spokane

WINTER TRAVEL — The lifts are closed for the season, but snowshoers and backcountry skiers are finding good reasons to hit the slopes at Mount Spokane.

State Park manager Steve Christensen took time yesterday to snowshoe to the mountain summit over a couple inches of new snow on a hard base.  

"It as perfect for snowshoeing — solid and fast," he said.

Steve Reynolds of the Spokane Mountaineers skinned up his backcountry skis and found the conditions less than ideal but promising.

He said the upper 500 vertical feet of the mountain was as icy over the weekend as he'd experienced it in 35+ years and hundreds of trips.

However, the slopes are ripe for the first shot of sunshine that turns the boiler plate to corn.

Volunteers spiff up Sandpoint’s Sand Creek

STEWARDSHIP — About 40 volunteers chipped in Saturday to remove trash from the shoreline along Sand Creek in downtown Sandpoint during the annual Sand Creek Clean Up.

The helpers were organized by the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

The event removed a truck full of garbage in a little more than an hour, and prevented the trash from fouling Lake Pend Oreille and the beauty of the spring and summer seasons in downtown Sandpoint.

Tonight: Last of two public meetings on Pend Oreille River northern pike

FISHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department  will hold the second of two area public meetings tonight to discuss non-native northern pike in Pend Oreille River and other Eastern Washington waters, and take public input on options to control them and minimize their impacts on native fish.

A pair of Sunday Outdoors stories detailed the dilemma with the boom fishery and the plans for more gillnetting surveys, which start next week.

Tonight's meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley

Read on for more details about the meetings and surveys that are monitoring the boom of pike in the river.

Wild horse foal first in a century at Flathead Lake

WILDLIFE — The first wild horse born on Montana's Wildhorse Island in more than a century stands next to her mother last week in the photo above.

The unexpected birth pushes the population past the maximum called for in the management plan for the state park, but Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the foal will live out her life on the Flathead Lake island.

The horses often are visible to boaters on the lake.

Lewiston ranked among Top 10 sportsman’s towns; Spokane not listed

HUNTING/FISHNG — Bend, Ore., is tops and Lewiston, Idaho is sixth in Outdoor Life magazine's just-released list of the “Top 200 Towns for Sportsmen” for 2011.

Lewiston dropped from No. 1 in the rankings in 2009 and No. 4 last year despite great runs of steelhead and salmon.  What the…?  The town must be going to the dogs.

But Spokane is even worse off, ranking No. 184 in 2009 but dropping off the list this year.

The magazine bills the annual ranking as an exhaustive list of the best places to live for those who love the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing, plus a high quality of life and suitability for families. The magazine also gave greater consideration to towns that boast low unemployment rates, high household incomes and low cost of living.

Other Inland Northwest towns in the list and their rankings include: 32 Sandpoint, 38 Kalispell, 56 Moses Lake, 60 Orofino, 61 Dillon, 79 Coeur d'Alene, 82 Missoula, 85 Salmon, 99 Winthrop.

Washington's only entries in the list are: 103 Port Angeles and 150 Shelton.

Click here to see the complete list  and detals of the top 200 outdoor towns.

‘2-Fer’ Tiger Musky Tourney coming to Silver, Newman lakes

TOURNAMENT FISHING — The Cascade Musky Association has scheduled its third annual 2-Fer tiger musky tournament at Silver and Newman lakes for May 21-22.

The open tournament starts at Silver Lake and concludes the next day at Newman.

The $20 per angler entry fee includes both days.

The event is limited to 35 boats.

For times, registration and information, contact:

Wolf ruling highlights success, not failure

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Much has been written since Friday when President Obama signed the federal budget which included a rider that removed Northern Rockies gray wolves from most endangered species protections.
Our story on the rider had a helpful Q&A.   I followed with a blog post that spelled out more details.
Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman commented that Environmental groups over-reached on wolves .
Personally, I believe we should be celebrating the amazing recovery wolves have made since being reintroduced in 1995. It's remarkable, and worth a toast.
Here's what the federal government's wolf recovery point man said:
"The bottom line is science is being followed. The heavy lifting is over, and that's cool. My upbringing was to complete your job; when we started there were 10 wolves near Glacier. Now there's 1,700 in six states and they're being delisted. That’s pretty rewarding."
Ed Bangs, who is retiring as wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June, about his 23 years working on wolf reintroduction.
- Helena Independent Record
Read on for a comment I requested for a Washington wildlife biologist, whose opinion I respect even though this biologist does not deal specifically with wolves.

Cancelled: NOLS Wilderness First Aid course at REI

The in-depth  Wilderness First Aid Class at REI, which I announced in a post this morning, has been cancelled. 

Keep an eye out for the next time it's offered in this area. 

The course is taught by instructors from the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Medicine Institute.