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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Wildlife officer stands out among Washington cops for not shooting

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — A Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officer has been named Officer of the Year by the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs for staring down a gunman and alerting his partner to impending danger .

Chad McGary, 28, of Othello, received the award last week at a ceremony attended by Gov. Chris Gregoire, department Director Phil Anderson and other law enforcement officers.

Read on for details of his encounter in a fishing license check that went bad and ended in gunfire.

Dam reaches goal of 93 percent fish passage

FISHING — Improvements in operating Rock Island Dam will allow survival of at least 93 percent of the young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream, according to the Chelan County PUD.

The utility had to be able reach the 93-percent survival goal to meet federal criteria for boosting spring chinook, steelhead and sockeye runs.

The fish-survival debate regarding the region’s Columbia River dams began in the late 1970s and ’80s, with federal and state agencies and tribes mandating what PUDs had to do to improve fish survival numbers.

Each dam has its own plan for reaching the goals.

Rock Island Dam is fitted with fish ladders that mature fish use to get around the dam on their homeward migration to spawn. But it has no bypass system for young, ocean-bound fish. Spill is the method used to transport the fish downstream.

Follow rare whale’s route along Oregon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Satellite technology is allowing whale enthusiasts to click here and join researchers in tracking a type of gray whale that spends summers off Russia as it makes its way along the Oregon coast.

Researchers attached a satellite tag to a 13-year-old, male western Pacific gray whale known as Flex on Oct. 4. The whale moved east across the Bering Sea and south through the Aleutian Islands into the Gulf of Alaska.

Read on for details.

Barred owls could be shot to help spotted cousins

ENDANGERED SPECIES — How desperate are federal wildlife officials in protecting the endangered spotted owl from the larger, more aggressive barred owls?

A story in the Oregonian says a draft environmental impact statement scheduled for release this summer most likely will recommend shooting barred owls.

Over the next year, in three or more study areas from Washington to northern California, authorized federal workers might kill 1,200 to 1,500 barred owls.

Other measures have failed to give the spotted owl an edge in attempts to get it off the endangered species list.

Adopting a lethal option is a wrenching decision that has split wildlife biologists and environmentalists, the Oregonian said.

WA angler charged with illegal guiding in North Idaho

FISHING — A Washington man has been charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly guiding fishing trips in North Idaho without an Idaho outfitters license, according to a Bonner County Daily Bee story.

Prosecutors charged 49-year-old Charles Osterholm of Deer Park last week following an undercover investigation by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.

Authorities launched an investigation after getting a tip that Osterholm was guiding clients without a license. In November, board investigators posed as anglers and booked a trip with Osterholm to fish for a day on Priest Lake. A subsequent search of the licensing database failed to turn up a valid license in Osterholm’s name.

Sandpoint avalanche clinic for all snowgoers

WINTER SPORTS — A free avalanche workshop for all snowgoers is set for Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint.

The topic to be tackled by the team of Forest Service technicians at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center“What we can learn from 10 years of avalanche accident review in North Idaho?

Contact: Kevin Davis, (208) 265-6686, kevingdavis@fs.fed.us.

Group or clubs can contact Davis regarding free avalanche classes.

ATVers want detour around Idaho Fish and Game laws

HUNTING — Some hunters who ride all-terrain vehicles to pursue their quarry have gone to the Idaho Legislature in a bid to expand where they can drive, according to a story just moved by the Associated Press.

Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, is giving the off-roaders some traction with a bill that would strip the Idaho Fish and Game Department's authority to regulate where hunters can ride their ATVs.

The agency limits ATV travel by hunters during hunting seasons to established roads on about a third of Idaho’s 99 hunting units, mostly in the open spaces of southern Idaho.

The agency has made the case through research that restrictions are needed to protect big-game herds from overhunting and too much disturbance.

But some ATV riders told the Senate and House resource committees today in Boise that they see the state agency in cahoots with the federal government to limit access to public lands.

Those people clearly have not paid attention to the evolution of Fish and Game's ATV restrictions.

Idaho sportsmen who don't use ATV's have been the strongest voice against unregulated ATV use during hunting seasons  — not Uncle Sam.

Read on for another news item, just moved, that impacts Idaho ATVers.

Skier’s death triggers avalanche of grief

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING – Last week’s news that a 40-year-old Seattle woman died exploring the outback slopes near Snoqualmie Pass has generated an outpouring of response on the Turns All Year website devoted to backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.

Monika Johnson, 40, apparently died Tuesday after ski-trekking to the top of Red Mountain, breaking through a cornice and falling hundreds of feet. Her body was found buried under a foot of snow two days later by a King County alpine search and rescue group.

Johnson, a physical therapist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, is being mourned by people who knew her for her compassion to the ill as well as for her love for breaking trail and free-heel skiing the ungroomed slopes. 

See a KIRO TV interview with her brother.

Her story has prompted a long thread of thoughts from friends as well as skiers who didn’t know her on the TAY website, generating more than 17,000 views.

 Here's just one example:

“Looking for a Magic Carpet to Paradise”

This is the title of a post by Monika on “partners wanted” in January.

It was an invitation for an opportunity to ride and ski with a skilled mountaineer who was willing to, perhaps ski with me. It was a missed opportunity.

She inspired me and I never met her. She encouraged me and she didn't know it.

 RIP

Outdoors blogger back in the saddle

OUTBLOGGING — I'm back from a week “in the field” and catching up on a ton of outdoor news and happenings. Clearly the outdoor world has not stopped in my absence.

Although I've been trickling in new info daily, I'll pass on more news and fun as I dig out from 900 e-mails and catch up on phone calls.

How was the field research you ask?  Wonderful if you enjoy — as I do — sea kayaking and camping among cacti, scorpions, whitecaps, whale breath and warm margaritas.

Methow valley winterfest will get your heart pumping

WINTER SPORTS – Nordic ski races and advance skiing camps, a Doggie Dash, biathlon clinics, art shows, comedy theater – and that’s just a sampling of the activities scheduled for this year’s Methow Valley Winter Festival near Winthrop, Feb. 18-27.

See the entire schedule and pre-register for the popular activities online

Read on for more details and links.

CLOSER TO HOME

It's not too late to sign up for the Spokane Langlauf 10-kilometer cross-country citizen race, Feb. 13 at Mount Spokane. This is the largest nordic ski race in the region and a hoot whether you're a serious racer to more interested in the Woolies or Woodies divisions.  Get infor and register online.

Photographer studies whitetails that are white-all-over

WILDLIFE ODDITIES — The occasional white turkey or white moose captures our attention like a snowflake in the desert. But the persistence of whiteness in a small band of northern Wisconsin whitetails has become book material.

If you haven't seen it, check out this year-old TV video report featuring photographer Jeff Richter. 

The highlight: a white buck with antlers in full white velvet. 

Apply for Idaho turkey, bear hunts by Feb. 15

HUNTING — The application period for  Idaho's spring turkey and black bear controlled hunts is open and runs through Feb. 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later. Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Information on spring hunts is available in Idaho's new upland game and turkey rules. Spring 2011 bear hunts are listed in the 2010 big game rules brochures. New controlled hunt numbers can be found online here.

Online applications can be made here.  You must have a 2011 Idaho hunting license to apply.

Smith River applications coming due

RIVERS — Floaters and anglers have until Feb. 15 to apply for the coveted permits to float Montana's Smith River.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department holds a lottery to issue permits required to float the 59-mile section of river south of Great Falls between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge. 

            Applicants can apply for a Smith River permit online through FWP’s automated licensing system, use a paper application available at fwp.mt.gov, or apply in person at any FWP regional office.

            Read on for a summary of changes in the application process.

City Parks offers nordic skiing, snowshoeing activities

WINTER SPORTS — The Spokane Parks and Recreation department offers a full slate of reasonably priced winter nordic skiing and snowshoeing clinics plus outings.

A Feb. 12 guided snowshoe hike at Liberty Lake catches my eye, but there's much more.

Check them out at the Spokane Parks website or call (509) 625-6200.

Banks Lake drawdown set for August

LAKES — Anglers and campers will see new ground at Banks Lake this summer.

Starting Aug. 1, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will lower Banks Lake by 30 feet to complete about $2 million worth of work at Dry Falls Dam and North Dam, according to a Columbia Basin Herald story.

“It sounds like a lot, but we have a footprint on what it will look like,” said Stephanie Utter, manager at the Bureau's Ephrata office. “It's not as bad as it sounds. It's a pretty deep reservoir and it will still have a lot of water in it.”

The lake has had only a few major drawdowns: in the 1960s and later for milfoil control in the early to mid-1990s.

The drawdown will allow construction and upgrades for recreational facilities, too.

At Coulee City, for example, plans call for work on the swim beach area and expand boat moorage sites, she said.

Big Rock access priority for Dishman Hills Association

CONSERVATION – Developing a parking area for the south-side access to the Big Rock conservation area near Tower Mountain is a top 2011 priority for The Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, which recently filled all 14 slots on its board.

After three years of negotiations, the non-profit group acquired the 80-acre parcel in Spokane Valley in 2009.

Since 1994, the association has acquired about 500 acres in the Tower Mountain- Big Rock area, said Michael  Hamilton, association president.

The Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area adjoins Spokane County’s 875-acre Iller Creek Conservation Futures Area, which extends uphill from the Ponderosa neighborhood west of Dishman-Mica Road.

The 2009 deal created about 1,300 acres of Dishman Hills association and county land dedicated to natural-area protection and public, nonmotorized recreation, Hamilton said.

To continue these endeavors, the group needs to continue to cultivate new supporters and donors.

For information on membership and tax-deductible donations, contact Michael Hamilton, 747-8147.

The DHNA’s current slate of trustees includes David Cole, Paul Flanary, Karen Jurasin, Chris Kopczynski, Beatrice Lackaff, David Lill, Bob Ordner, Mary Weathers, Peter Wolbach, Andrew Ashmore, Michael Hamilton, Jeff Lambert, Kris Wolbach and Suzy Dix..

Dishman Hills activities

The group’s traditional Buttercup Hike through the Dishman Hills is set for April 2 followed by the second annual REI-sponsored service day for the natural area on April 9.

Yosemite a Slurpee on steroids in winter

NATIONAL PARKS — This video offers a fascinating glimpse at the flow of frazil ice in the stream below Yosemite Falls. National Park Service rangers say this is just one of many attractions that occur in national parks only during winter before the summer crowds arrive.

Scholarship available for youth fly-fishing academy

FLY-FISHING — The Spokane Fly Fishers area offering to sponsor a youth, 12-16 years old, at the 2011 Northwest Y outh Conservation & Fly Fishing Academy, set th is year for June 19-25 at Hicks Lake near Lacey, Wash.

The $275 sponsorship covers the academy, food and lodging, but the student is reponsible for transportation.
 
The academy is organized for boys and girls by the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited and the Washington State Federation of Fly Fishers. Classes include fly casting, fly tying, knot tying, reading water, safety, macroinvertebrate sampling, and fly fishing.
 
Applications for the Spokane Fly Fisher's sponsorship are not due until April 15, but now's the time to get on the stick: the application requires a teacher's recommendation.
 
Contact: Mike Keegan 455-4433 or Dan Ferguson 325-8885.

Chance to take a shot at biathlon

WINTER SPORTS — Among the many activities ranging from snowshoeing to a Doggy Dash ski-joring race, two “Try Biathlon” events are scheduled near Winthrop, Wash., during the Methow Valley Winter Festival.

The valley’s biathlon team coaches will put on the events Feb. 23 and Feb. 26 to assure that everyone has fun and that safety is a priority in this event that pairs cross-country skiing and target shooting.

The events debuted last year during the Olympics — when the U.S. Biathlon Team was riding high on the medals podium — and were a hit with people of all ages and abilities, organizers said.

This year, the Methow's Winter Festival features biathlog adn many other activities for kids, since the festival starts President's Weekend and continues for 10 days, running up to spring break for many schools.

Snowshoeing topic at Fernan meeting

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoeing past and present will be the topic of the free program Tuesday at the Panhandle Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Club meeting. It starts at 7 p.m. at the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger
District office, 2500 E. Sherman in Fernan Village.  Park in the back lot and walk down the stairs to the meeting room.

Snowshoeing tips help you walk on (frozen) water

WINTER SPORTS — Working on an upcoming story on snowshoeing, I've compiled these tips to help you get started if you're thinking about heading up to Mount Spokane this weekend for the Women's Souper Bowl activities — or maybe you're just heading out on your own.

Snowshoeing tips

  • Take food and water when you’re snowshoeing. You can burn a lot of calories and easily become dehydrated, even on the coldest days. Hot coffee, tea or soup in a thermos is a great mood lifter to chase away chills.
  • Bring basic safety equipment in case of an emergency, including a map, compass, weatherproof fire-starter and a space blanket. A GPS and cell phone are other options, but cold weather can quickly drain batteries.
  • Get an early start. Daylight doesn’t last long in winter. If you start late, you’re more likely to wind up in the dark if something goes wrong. Let someone you can trust know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Plan a route that heads uphill first. It will make your return trip quicker and less strenuous.
  • Watch the weather. Blizzards can cause whiteouts that erase your tracks and make route-finding difficult even on marked trails. Temperatures also can drop drastically during winter.
  • Dogs love snow, but it takes a lot of effort for them to get through deep snow. Plan the distance of your trip according to your companion’s ability. Frequently check for ice build up between their toes.
  • Your boots will be covered with snow, so make sure they’re warm and waterproof. Wear gaiters.

Birds show signs of spring fever

BIRDWATCHING — The ever-vigilant eyes of area birdwatchers are finding more to see every day.  Here's this week's report from Charles Swift in Moscow:
 
I had a smallish mixed flock of Bohemian and cedar waxwings on campus this morning. There might be more Bohemians around - there are several favored locations around campus that I haven't checked recently.
 
Also on Wednesday, the local pair of kestrels on the University of Idaho campus were copulating - presumably still pair bonding at this point but another sure sign of spring.
 
And with the lack of snow and mild temps, I bet there will be some early killdeer here on the Palouse any day.

Fishing seminars featured at Boat Show

FISHING-  Even without the boat displays, anglers can justify going to the Spokane National Boat Show just to sit in on the varied list of fishing seminars. The show is on today and running through Feb. 5 at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

Bass, walleye, trout, steelhead, salmon and more are covered by the local group of fishing experts. The seminars start today and run through Feb. 5.

Check out the entire seminar schedule.

Dine for birds with CdA Audubon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you have a love for birds, make time in your Valentines Day for the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society's Midwinter Banquet, Feb. 14, at the Greenbriar Inn, 315 Wallace Ave., in Coeur d’Alene.

Cost: $35. Reservations due by Feb. 7 to Coeur d'Alene Audubon, P.O. Box 361, CDA, ID 83816.

Have a raffle item to donate? Contact Eula Hickam (208) 661-3228.

Last call to apply for Idaho’s “Big 4” rivers

RIVER RUNNING — Applications to get coveted permits for floating the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon rivers for this coming season must be submitted online by Monday.

The shift by the Forest Service to online applications includes a few other new twists:

  • Reservations will be accepted only at the national public lands recreation website: recreation.gov.
  • Each applicant must have a unique e-mail address to create an online profile.

Officials say the new system will be faster and allow applicants to file for more launch options. Safety alerts and notices can be sent to river permit holders as their trips draw near.

Boaters also can use the Forest Service website to make reservations for preseason and postseason launches for the Middle Fork and wild main Salmon rivers.

Shore still hot for Roosevelt rainbows

FISHING — Friends who trolled from a boat for trout at Lake Roosevelt Wednesday worked 8 hours and bagged only nine trout total for three of them.  Nice fish to be sure, but that's an unusually lean day at the lake's top trout fishery this time of year.

So I joined two of them this morning to see what the action was like from shore — or what there is left of it.  The big runoff the past 10 days has left the lake very high. Places we were fishing on the shore two weeks ago are well under water.

But the fishing was fantastic with a basic rig: sliding slip-skinker, swivel, 30 inches of leader, No. 2 hook baited with marshmallow and piece of nightcrawler.

The first in our group caught his limit in less than an hour.  We all were home before 11.  I had my five fish filleted and vacuum-packed by noon — saving one beauty for a fresh-trout dinner tonight, of course.

My rainbows ranged in length from 16 to 20 inches (15-19 inches fork length).  And that's using a tape measure for accuracy.

I was able to give the English setters a good run and still be back at work by 1:15 p.m.  Nobody missed me.  

Washington eyes parking solution to state park funding

OLYMPIA — With the governor's sobering budget proposal offering no state funding for Washington's state parks, adminstrators are looking under every rock for money — and they're also looking at every car.

A Seattle Times story, “Could Vehicle Fees Keep State Parks Open,” examines the problems state parks are facing at the Washington Legislature in this grim budget crisis year.

WA mandatory hunter reports due Monday

HUNTING — Washington hunters must file their season's hunting activity report by Monday for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased in 2010.

Whether successful or not, hunters are are required to file the reports by phone or online or face a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2011 license.
 
Read on for details.

Fly-tying class geared to beginners

FLY FISHINGSilver Bow Fly Shop is offering the last chance before spring to take a beginner fly-tying class.

Learn to tie 6 reliable fly patterns with techniques that can be applied to many more.

When: Feb. 7-8

Where:  Silver Bow Fly Shop

Instructor:  Angela Morgan

Cost:  $75, includes all the tools and materials for use during class.  Discounts offered for tying gear after the class. Pre-register, 924-9998.

First salmon of season shows in Columbia

FISHING – It’s a harbinger of spring, or perhaps a harbinger of spring chinook salmon fishing.

An 18-pound lower river stock spring chinook was picked up in the lower Columbia commercial sturgeon fishery on Wednesday. The fish, checked by Oregon fisheries officials, is the first documented spring of a season that’s forecast to be good.

By the way, the fish sold for $16 a pound, fisheries officials said.