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Montana anglers lobby against stream access restrictions

FISHING — At least one busload and several carpools of anglers are heading to Helena on Tuesday to challenge proposed changes to Montana's stream access laws, according to the Missoulian.

“I've got high school friends I haven't talked to in 10 years that want to get on the bus,” Land Tawney, president of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, told reporter Rob Chaney.

Their target is House Bill 309 by Rep. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon, and Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby. The bill would allow property owners to close off waterways that are diverted for irrigation.

As written, the new rules would undo a recent Montana Supreme Court decision that clarified the difference between water channels that might be natural streams or manmade ditches.

Current law says “all surface waters that are capable of recreational use may be so used by the public without regard to the ownership of the land underlying the waters.”

Irrigation ditches are excepted from that rule.

Welborn and Vincent's bill would change the definition of ditches so that natural channels modified by irrigation features would be considered manmade - and therefore would be off limits.

Read on for the rest of the story on an issue that could impact a wide range of anglers.

Fans of South Hill Bluffs and trails to meet Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — If you enjoy the South Hill Bluff trails or the landscape, check this out.

 A High Drive Bluffs planning meeting is set for Tuesday. Any area neighbors or users of the trails are invited to join in developing a vision and action plan for the area, 7 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School, 333 W. 14th Ave.

Questions? Contact Diana Roberts, 477-2167 or <robertsd@wsu.edu>

High-tech panorama photos blow your mind

OUTDOOR IMAGES — If you haven't seen this panorama photo technology, check it out.  Click on the photo of an Utah's Double Arch and drag the cursor for seamless panning in any direction.

Click here for other 360 Degree Spherical Panoramas In and around Utah.

Permit application deadlines loom for Washington hunters

HUNTING — Washington hunters have two deadlines coming for special permit applications:

  • Spring black bear hunting permit applications are due by midnight March 10.
  • Multiple-season permit applications for deer and elk hunters are due March 31.

Read on for details and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife links for getting the job done.

Wildlife Commission did lot of listening in Spokane

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Wildlife managers, sportsmen and elected officials all bent the ear of the six panelists who attended the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting at the Spokane Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.

The hottest topic was the four-point minimum whitetail buck rule proposed for Units 117 and 121 in northeastern Washington. Twenty-five people sigend up to give their three-minute testimony on the topic Saturday morning even though it's been hashed out for more than a year.

More on that topic later. The commission won't make its decision until the April meeting in Olympia.

Meantime, I noticed at least one or more local Fish and Wildlife police in attendance, as is required when the commission meets. But they had their laptops and worked through the sessions.  Officer Dan Rahn said they had a moose complaint call Saturday morning before the sessions. Another officer  was called a way during the morning session on a different matter.

Winter weary pronghorns, deer slaughtered on Montana roads, railways

WILDLIFE — For three hours on a recent afternoon, Blaine County Undersheriff Pat Pyette and a deputy shot wounded antelope in Montana.

The herd had congregated on the only place clear of snow — railroad tracks used by BNSF Railway Co.

Pyette figures he and the deputy put down about 100 animals that day, about 5 miles east of Savoy. Parts and pieces from another 200 antelope were strewn across the tracks, enough to fill a dozen dump trucks, he said.

See the rest of this disturbing report from the Great Falls Tribune.


This student internship is outdoors dream job

OUTFIELD — If you know an outdoors-oriented student looking for a summer job, here's one with perks that caught my attention, including $2,000 worth of top-quality outdoor gear, a $2,500 stipend and expenses-paid backcountry trips in multiple states.

The Sierra Club is billing its summer youth ambassador job as the best student internship on the planet.

But the deadline to apply is March 16.

I talked to last year's intern for a story coming in Sunday's Outdoors section. Evan Geary, 23, a graduate of New York University in film, said his three months of outdoor experiences last summer spanned five states and included river rafting in California, backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and working with underprivileged kids on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.

The youth ambassador, who must be at least 18 and a student or recent high school or college graduate, is based at the San Francisco headquarters and travels to join organized Sierra Club groups and post video blogs about their experiences.

The intern should have a love of the outdoors and the knack for communicating that enthusiasm to others.

Sierra Club Productions equips the intern with video gear. Editing abilities are a plus, but the most important requirements are a good eye for a story and a gift for interviewing people who are passionate about the outdoors.

Internship details, video information

  • Get all the details about the Sierra Club Youth Ambassador Summer Internship at the Sierra Club website.
  • Deadline to make the video application is March 16.
  • The website also includes examples of the short videos Evan Geary made last summer as a Sierra Club intern – including the video he sent in with his application to bag the job.

The youth ambassador will spend the summer video-blogging on different Sierra Club outings sponsored by Inner City Outings, Building Bridges to the Outdoors, and Volunteer Vacations programs.

Weekly avalanche advisory: beware of wind-loaded slopes

WINTER SPORTS — The Inland Northwest avalanche advisory issued this morning notes moderate to considerable danger for avalanche, especially on the wind-slab areas of the Selkirks and Lookout Pass area.

The heavy snowfall of the past week in the Lookout area has not posed much more than moderate danger except on slopes steeper than 35 degrees and above 5,000 feet, reports the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center .

“Exciting stuff happening in North Idaho this past week,” said Kevin G. Davis, Avalanche Center hydrologic technician in Sandpoint. “Generally great sliding conditions out there today.  A little trickier to the south of our forecast region with the tremndous snow accumulation.  Be cautious on steep windloaded slopes where stress to layers that formed Tuesday/Wednesday with new snow and wind have not completely settled.”

Six candidates named for IFG director

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission just announced the six candidates  the panel is considering for director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The candidates, who come from inside and outside the agnecy, will be interviewed by the commissioners this month before the replacement is named for director Cal Groen, who is retiring.

The candidates are Steve Ferell, Sharon Kiefer, Virgil Moore, Michael Senn, Ed Shriever and James Unsworth.

Read on for details on each candidate.

Photographer fined for baiting bighorn

WILDLIFE — A Montana photographer has been convicted of illegally feeding bighorn sheep near Big Sky Road in order to photograph them with the area's signature mountain — Lone Peak — in the background.

The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department says 35-year-old Ryan Molde pleaded guilty on Feb. 14, was fined $1,035 and sentenced to 180 days in jail with all but 10 suspended. Molde also was ordered to surrender all photographs related to the feeding and is prohibited from selling any in the future.

FWP Warden Jen Williams says Molde was given a written warning in 2010 for feeding game animals. She says the feeding may have led to three bighorn sheep being struck and killed by vehicles in the area where he was feeding them.

Have a little faith: Join Earth Hour event March 26

ENVIRONMENT — Artists and naturalists will be mingled in a local gathering that will link world-wide activities during the Faith and Environment Network's annual Called to Care event  on Earth Hour Day, March 26 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 127 E. 12th Ave. on Spokane's South Hill.

Earth Hour is an event initiated by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. 

The Spokane Group joined Earth Hour 2010 as 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action in celebration and contemplation of the planet we all have in common.

The local Faith and Environment Network engages people of faith and their congregations in caring for creation.

This year's event at the cathedral includes:

  • Artists and naturalists discussing the environment.
  • Dark Sky movement presentation on environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.
  • Music, readings and medications from various faith traditions.
  • Turning off lights at the Cathedral at 8:30 p.m. in tune with the global observation of Earth Hour.

Activities start at 4:30 p.m. A light supper will be provided.

Donation: $15 is suggested.

Info: Evita Krislock, 220-6532 or Thomas Soeldner, 607-7115.

4-point buck rule on commission’s Spokane agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear public comment on proposals for 2011 big-game hunting seasons when it meets Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center.

State officials didn't do sportsmen any favors by booking the meeting downtown at the Convention Center, where parking is expensive and problematic for people who want to drop in for a topic or two. The meeting would have been better suited to the Center Place meeting rooms at Mirabeau Park near the Region 1 Fish and Wildlife Department Office in Spokane Valley.

Meantime, a lingering proposal for a four-point minimum on whitetail bucks hunted in Units 117 and 121 in Stevens County will be open for discussion when deer and elk seasons are presented on Saturday.

Although meetings have been held on this issue in the past — and I covered it in several stories, including this column last August —  this is the last opportunity for public comment before the commission votes on proposed amendments to the big-game rules April 8-9 in Olympia.

Click here for a complete commission meeting agenda.

Click here for the notes and reasoning behind the proposed hunting rule changes.

Fly fishers, skwala hatch both ready to go

FLY FISHING — Any day now. Or maybe any week… The skwalla stonefly hatch is simmering in Montana's Bitterroot River.

The Skwalla nymphs are near the shore and will start to crawl out as soon as warmer weather and more sunshine settles in the valley.  Remember, it doesn't have to get warm at night.  and it can be snowing off and on.  Just as long as there's a little hint of spring during the daytime to get those buggers activated.

Be ready.

Gobble, gobble: Wild toms starting to strut

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The recent cold snap hasn't caused wild turkeys to forget it's time to start posturing for the breeding season.

This photo was snapped this morning by a reader who lives in the foothills of Mount Spokane.

“The rest of the group (hens and young jakes) had already come through,” he said. “There must have been 30 or 35 of them. They have been hanging around on and off for a number of weeks.

“But this is the first day the toms have been together doing their thing.”

Boater busts theives online; earns reward

BOATING  — Peter Hunt of Oak Harbor, Wash., didn't go ballistic when he discovered his boat had been targeted by burglars. He went to the Internet, where he found the thieves selling the stolen items taken during a rash of boat burglaries – including his own chartplotter – on eBay.

Recently, he brought his internet investigation to the attention of authorities, who were able to arrest and convict an adult and two teenagers. More than $50,000 in stolen electronic equipment was recovered, including about  90 percent of the goods stolen at the Oak Harbor marina where Hunt moors his boat.

For his effort in breaking the crime ring – which had burglarized three marinas on North Whidbey Island as well as 30 cars - Boat Owners Association of The United States just announced paying Hunt $2,500 from its Theft Reward Program.

Check this out:  the top three items stolen from boats over the winter.

Plan now for the best July in years

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES — July might be the best month of the year for camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities, and this year's version will deliver even more than usual.

July 2011 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays — a bonanza recreational opportunity for the average working stiff.

Word is going around the Internet that this occurs only once every 823 years.

However, one of Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries readers checked that out with Snopes:

 “It is perfectly true that July 2011 has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. However, such a combination occurs far more often than every 823 years. The last occurrence was in July 2005 while the next occurrence will take place in July 2016. The message is just a revamped version of very similar- and equally erroneous - messages about August and October 2010. H/T: Keith Erickson for providing Snope.com report.

World-class powder dump smothers Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTSLookout Pass ski area has just been cited as having received “the most snowfall in the world” among reporting ski resorts during the past seven days.

The one week total:  6.5 FEET, most of which fell Sunday-Tuesday.

The distinction has just been distributed around the globe by Skiinfo.com, which collects daily reports and compiles stats from more than 2,000 ski areas in Europe and North America.

Earlier today I posted a photo with a first-hand report on Monday's epic powder day at Lookout.

Of course, the high country throughout the Inland Northwest has been enjoying the late-winter dump.

Stevens Pass was No. 5 and Schweitzer was No. 6 in the world, as you can see on this skiinfo list.

And just a little farther north, Fernie (see photo above) isn't doing so bad, either, reporting 32 inches in the past three days.

Moose getting by this winter — house to house

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A cow and calf moose wander through cameraman Scott Maben's Coeur d'Alene neighborhood this morning, stopping to do some pruning on the landscaping.

Idaho photographer gets farther afield

OUTDOOR IMAGES — Although her business is called Idaho Scenic Images, Linda Lantzy of Coeur d'Alene isn't tethered to the state.

I pointed out recently that her list of Top 12 Photos of 2010 included a shot of the North Cascades, which are tempting even to an Idaho photographer. I refered to her shots as “the best of 2010,” and she takes exception.”
“I must point out though, that I have never called myself or my work 'the Best of anything,' ” she said. “I am concerned how others will view such a statement if they think it came from me, the photographer. 
“Idaho Scenic Images is my legal business name here in the state of Idaho. I do, however, travel and photograph throughout the Pacific Northwest, something that unfortunately seems to confuse many.”
That said, there's no confusion about her photos. They're very nice, regardless of what state they're from.

Sprague Lake thawing; a few coots survived

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekend eagle feast of coots at Sprague Lake has subsided as more of the lake has become ice-free in the last few days.  Here's a Tuesday report from birdwatcher Greg Falco of Sprague:

Today Sprague Lake had more open water, about 5 percent open, mostly at the NE end.

There were at least 1,000 COMMON GOLDENEYE and 300 CANVASBACK. 

The scaup and other flocks were too far away to observe.  It was snowing as usual.

About 20 AMERICAN COOT survived the eagle feast.  No eagles seen today. 

A couple KESTREL may be new arrivals. 

My first flock of PINTAIL was seen south of Cheney.

Deadline looms for Montana elk applications

HUNTING — March 15 is the deadline for non-resident elk and dear license applications.

Remember, the prices have gone up this, as I noted in this post last week.

You can apply online

Powder hounds loved Monday at Lookout

SKIING — It took a day for the pow pounders to surface with stories from Lookout Pass.

“We picked a good day for a vacation on Monday,” confessed Spokane skier Bill Fuzak. “The photo was shot at Lookout Pass, in the trees off the Northstar lift in about 32 inches of new snow.

“I am on my Profit 115s (dimensions 153-115-143) and still not fat enough.My buddy Kimbo May is on a double rocker tele ski.

“I had to learn to breathe on the way up, rather than on the down — like swimming rapids.”

Poaching trophy bucks costly in Ohio

HUNTING — Trophy white-tailed deer are highly valued in Ohio, and they have laws to prove it.

A good case in point came out of the courts this week as an Ohio man was ordered to pay $23,816 in restitution under a 2008 law for illegally taking a trophy buck.

James Alspaugh, 39, also paid $400 in fines for shooting off a roadway and going on private land without permission, plus court costs. He must spend a couple days in the slammer and will lose his hunting rights in 36 states for a couple of years.

But it's the restitution for the trophy buck that stands out.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife says the non-typical trophy deer, scored according to Boone & Crockett guidelines, netted an impressive 218 7/8 points.

Spring is on its way — honest

WILDLIFE — Calm down, calm down.  The first day of spring isn't until March 20.

Everything will be better by then.

Conservationists boost rewards for bagging poachers in Washington

POACHING – Turning in a poacher in Washington can be rich experience, thanks to a commitment announced minutes ago by Conservation Northwest.

The Bellingham-based group says it’s partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to boost the reward for people who help Fish and Wildlife police solve cases that involve the illegal killing of rare wildlife.

The reward is being increased from $500 to as much as $7,500 for information that leads to the conviction of anyone who has killed a gray wolf in Washington, and up to $5,000 if a protected grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx or fisher were killed.

The state currently is investigating at least two wolf poaching cases.

In addition, several Oregon groups have pooled funds to offer a $10,000 reward for information that would solve the case of a wolf killed illegally along the Oregon-Washington border in the Blue Mountains.

The fund Conservation Northwest has pledged also will pay up to $3,000 for “egregious violations involving deer or elk, such as spree killing,” said Mitch Friedman, the group's executive director.

Read on for more details.

Palouse Falls has look of lace in bitter cold

OUTDOOR SIGHTS — Penny Lapsley of Moses Lake didn't let last weekend's bitter cold keep her from a sight-seeing tour to Palouse Falls State Park. 

Indeed, the icy conditions were the attraction, as you can see from her photo of the falls flanked by ice — a scene fair-weather visitors never enjoy.

Sportsman urge EPA to spare Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine

FISHING A coalition of more than 360 fishing, hunting and sporting organizations from nearly every state in the nation U.S. have signed a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, from potential watershed damage by the proposed Pebble Mine.

“Bristol Bay is the single most important wild salmon fishery in the world,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It generates roughly $450 million a year in economic impact and sustains about 12,000 jobs.”

On Feb. 7, the agency announced plans to assess the southwestern Alaska watershed, famous for its salmon and trout fishing, to study how open pit mining and large-scale development projects would affect water quality and fisheries.

The sportsmens groups will be in Washington, D.C., this week lobbying lawmakers and urging EPA to go a step further to guarantee a future for the fisheries.

Read on for details.

Wildlife photographer comes to aid of red-tailed subject

WILDLIFE — A simple piece of twine created a life-ending situation for a red-tailed hawk in northwestern Washington until a hawk-eyed photographer focused on the situation.

Check out the Everett Herald story featuring images by photographer Stu Davidson of Snohomish from his recent close wildlife encounter on Fir Island near Conway in Skagit County.

Washington wolf status uncertain as pupping season looms

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington biologists don't have a good handle on the state's fledgling gray wolf population going into the denning season.

Poaching and loss of radio-collared wolves has hindered the monitoring.

Wolves are likely to have another crop of pups in the northeast corner of the state. A breeding pack may be forming in the Blue Mountains.

The biggest unknown is the Methow's Lookout Pack — which 2 1/2 years ago became the state's first known breeding pack in 70 years.

Check out this story by Craig Welch of the Seattle Times for an update.

Big week for outdoor-related programs, meetings

OUTDO — It's a big week of mostly free activities in Spokane, including nature photographer Art Wolfe, Canadian singer-songwriter conservationist Sid Marty, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, whitewater rafting vendors, youth hunting clinic, snowshoing tours and more.

Check them out here.