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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Forest Service updates snowmobiling travel plan

WINTERSPORTS — Snowmobiling rules send mixed messages and where the machines are allowed to roam, groups say.

USFS releases updated over-snow travel management plan
Snowmobiling groups applauded the U.S. Forest Service's proposed update of its over-snow travel management plan that keeps access decisions at the local level, but Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Idaho-based group that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in 2005 over its management of over-snow travel said the plan did nothing to address inconsistencies found in the previous plan.
 —Missoulian

Pull together against weeds at Iller Creek Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — Local hikers are pulling together to reduce the noxious weed infestation at the Iller Creek unit of the Dishman Hills Conservation Area in Spokane Valley.

The Inland Northwest Hikers are recruiting volunteers for a spotted knapweed pulling party on Saturday.

“We’ll move up the east ridge trail and pull as we go to the Rocks of Sharon,” said co-organizer Bob Strong.

“Bring sturdy work gloves and a trowel if you have one. Bring lunch and at least two quarts of water — it's going to be sunny and warm.”

 Meet at 9 a.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church to carpool to the trail head. Directions: From Sprague/Appleway in Spokane Valley, turn south on Dishman-Mica Road. Go past 32nd Avenue and turn right (at the traffic light) on Schafer Road to the church parking lot on the right.

Small-town OHVers detour from mainstream of public land users

PUBLIC LANDS —Apparently my name is mud in Ione this week.

Last week, I reported that Colville National Forest officials were investigating a May gathering of four-wheel drive enthusiasts who illegally drove off designated roads open to motor vehicles and ripped up a seasonal wetland area in a powerline easement near the Pend Oreille County town.

I posted on my blog a link to a Facebook video someone shot of the mudding event and used a Forest Service photo of the aftermath to publicize that agency officials were investigating the case.

“It is against the law to tear up forest roads and meadows, and the legal and financial consequences can be steep,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman in Colville. 

  • See today's Outdoors column on Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' bill to overturn the Travel Management Rule governing motor vehicle use on national forests.

Comments to my stories have ranged from “Thanks for bringing this sort of activity to the public’s attention,” to “I’m suing you for everything you’ve got!”

This is roughly the range of comments also being received by Forest Service officials who are trying to enforce laws that protect public lands.

In this May incident, the off-road travel and mudding was part of a popular annual charity ride. That doesn’t make it legal, but as one emailer pointed out, “What are you going to do, cite the whole town of Ione?”

I received several emails berating me for being an environmentalist who's interfering with their manner of enjoying public lands.

For the record, I'm not the only person who recognizes that some rules need to govern motorized vehicle use on national forests. Following the posting of my stories on the Cedar Creek mudding incident, I received a letter to the editor.

“As motorized users and sportsmen, we cannot tolerate the ATV and 4x4 mudding incident that took place near Ione, Wash., in May,” the letter begins. “Driving an ATV or 4x4 on our public lands is a privilege and our access is threatened by those who cause resource damage.

“We understand that access to public lands comes with responsibility, and like the vast majority of motorized users, we follow the rules. When senseless damage like this happens it leads to loss of access and trail closures and loss of trust.”

The letter was signed by 11 groups including five regional ATV clubs and one ATV dealer.

Here's a link to the entire letter and the groups that signed on to it.

QUESTION:

Why don't more northeastern Washington OHV enthusiasts partner with landowners for a place to stage OHV events on private land? Charge an entrance fee and make it a festival like they'll do this weekend at the St. John sprint boat races or as they do on private land near Odessa each spring for the Desert 100 dirt bike race.


Documents:

Grizzly bear at home on the range

WILDLIFE WATCHING — No cowboys were trying to rope this stray and put their own brand on it Tuesday, for good reason.

Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson had been sitting in a blind near a fox den before he headed toward  home near Lincoln.  

“As I drove along a back prairie road, I noticed a strange dark-colored cow being chased by the other cows. As I got closer I realized….. that’s no cow….  Weird to see grizzlies on the prairie.”

He apologized for the quality of the image but said he had to document the sighting.

Head 'em up!   Move 'em out!

Fascinating funji delicate, pink; will it kill you?

NATURE — This week's damp June weather is a gift from God for mushroom gatherers, and Priest Lake is a hot spot for variety.

Indeed, Pecky Cox, producer of the everything-about-Priest Lake website, found this beauty in her neck of the woods on Wednesday.  Can you positively identify it? 

A coral mushroom?

Would you ask you readers,” she wrote. “It's not yellow like the other one. OK to eat? Smells like dirty socks the way it's supposed to… but pink-ish?”

Washington game plan focus of meeting for hunters

WILDLIFE — A proposed plan for managing game animals in Washington will be presented in a public meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court.

The plan will help Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials guide management of species from deer to wolves.

Key issues considered in the draft plan include:

  • Promoting hunter recruitment and retention;
  • Managing predator/prey relationships;
  • Maintaining hunter access to timberlands;
  • Managing wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species; and
  • Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot.

Final recommendations for the six-year plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September. 

Also in August, the agency will hold meetings on possible changes in Washington’s hunting rules for the 2015-17 seasons. 

Access reopens to most Western Montana rivers

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has lifted flood related closures at most western Montana access sites along the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers.  Only Woodside Bridge, along the Bitterroot River near Corvallis, remains closed.

Additional access site closures and restrictions around western Montana are possible as runoff continues. FWP officials urge caution if venturing on or near rivers during high water. 

For updates, visit fwp.mt.gov and choose “restrictions and closures.”

Father sets bar high as hiking/parenting role model

HIKING — What's  your excuse for not getting your son or daughter out on the trail lately?

James Geier, a retired law enforcement officer, celebrated Fathers Day by hiking with his 18-year-old son, Jonah, in Arches National Park. Even though Jonah is not able to hike, his dad gave him a tow on trailer so he could enjoy the experience of traveling three miles into the Utah backcountry, climbing 480 feet over slickrock trails and up red rock steps to share with his dad a worldwide symbol of strength and endurance.

“Perseverance,” his daughter Laura wrote of the outing. “Shared by both the Arch in withstanding time and change, and the resolve of a father to hike his disabled son to the Arch to experience the incredible symbol of natural beauty and strength.”

 

50 years after Wilderness Act: still much to discover

PUBLIC LANDS — Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act of 1964 is full of eye-opening insights.

QUIZ:

The Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico border through California, Oregon and Washington to the Canada border passes through how many official wilderness areas?

  • Three
  • Nine
  • 12
  • 48

The answer is at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, most people associate wilderness areas with national forests.  But the Forest Service isn't the only federal agency that manages officials wilderness, which can be in national parks as well as lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the  U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM manages 245 million acres in the U.S., primarily in the West (in addition to administering 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate). Of that land, 27 million acres are managed as national conservation lands including National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic RiversNational Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert. 

BLM manages 8.7 million acres in 221 units as wilderness, with no roads and no motorized vehicles or mechanized equipment allowed.

Check out the video below featuring BLM staffers explaining the basic question:  “What's Wilderness?” See more videos of young BLM staffers exploring Utah wilderness here

Answer: 48.

Western tanager lights up a gloomy day

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “It was 37 degrees and raining at our home this morning,” reports Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, without a hint of complaint. “ The best part of rainy June days is that the Western tanagers show up in force! I lost count at 30+ tanagers on our feeders this morning!”

Western tanager plumage resembles the colors of a flame. The species certainly stokes my enthusiasm to head out with a spotting scope.

Idaho spring chinook fishing winding down

UPDATED 1:55 p.m. with announcement of Sunday closings by Idaho fish and Game:

 

 

FISHING — Idaho’s spring chinook salmon fisheries on the lower Salmon River and the Clearwater River basins are almost history for 2014.

Idaho Fish and Game has just issued this announcement:

As harvest quotas of adult Chinook salmon will soon be achieved throughout the Clearwater drainage, harvest of adult Chinook in the entire Clearwater (including the Middle Fork, South Fork and Lochsa) will end on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 9:15 Pacific Daylight Time.

Harvest of all Chinook salmon; including jacks, will be off-limits in the main stem Clearwater and the North Fork Clearwater after Sunday June 22. Closing these sections to all salmon fishing will eliminate mortalities among adult salmon hooked and released by anglers fishing for jack salmon.

Harvest of jack salmon (those under 24 inches) will continue to be allowed on the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa River until further notice. Anglers may harvest up to 4 adipose-clipped Chinook salmon under 24 inches per day on those rivers. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released. Anglers harvesting four jacks in a day or having 12 jacks in possession must discontinue fishing.

On the Salmon River:

“Fishing for both adult and jack spring chinook will close on two sections of the lower Salmon River at 9:15 p.m. Thursday,” reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. “The river will close to salmon fishing between Rice Creek and Time Zone bridges and from the mouth of Short’s Creek to the boat ramp at Vinegar Creek.”

Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are closing the two stretches to make sure anglers don’t catch too many salmon destined for the upper Salmon River.

The river will remain open to chinook fishing between Time Zone Bridge and the mouth of Short’s Creek, often referred to as the Park Hole. The Little Salmon River will also remain open.

But fishing on those two stretches could close in the next few weeks. Last week, anglers caught nearly 1,400 adult chinook from the lower Salmon River and more than 1,500 from the Little Salmon River. So far this year, anglers have caught about 4,300 adult chinook from the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, leaving about 2,500 on the state’s share of the Rapid River run, which is fewer than were caught last week.

“If harvest last week is any indication of what is going to happen this week, that should put us pretty close to our harvest share,” said Don Whitney, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Fish managers decided to close the Clearwater stretches after analyzing catch data. Anglers caught 419 adult chinook from the South Fork of the Clearwater, Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers last week.

Idaho hunters still waiting for controlled hunt drawing results

HUNTING - Some big-game hunters who applied for Idaho controlled hunting permits got all excited last week when Washington announced the results of its 2014 big game hunting permit drawings.

But Idaho hunters are still weeks away from getting the good/bad news and planning their vacations accordingly.  Says Idaho Fish and Game:

Q: When will the deer, elk and pronghorn drawing results be available?

A: Successful applicants will be sent a post card to the address listed on their hunting license by July 10. Results will also be available on the Fish and Game website

Lingering snow delays Glacier Park opportunities

PUBLIC LANDS — Be patient if you're making plans to visit Glacier National Park, especially if you want to venture into the high country.

Snow conditions, cool weather, and debris from snow slides are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads in Glacier National Park.  Snow accumulations in the park are above average this year and spring snowmelt has varied at different locations. 

A weather system is predicted to impact the area beginning tonight through the next couple of days, including cooler temperatures and heavy precipitation.  At this time, a winter storm warning has been issued in and around Glacier National Park for elevations above 6,500 feet with predictions of snow accumulations of one to two feet.   The elevation at Logan Pass is 6,646 feet. 

Numerous trails in Glacier National Park are still snow-covered. Park staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris.

  • The Ptarmigan Falls Bridge and Twin Falls Bridge have been removed due to winter damage and hazardous conditions. Temporary bridges are expected to be installed by early July.
  • The Iceberg Lake Trail is closed to stock use until permanent repairs to the Ptarmigan Falls B ridge are complete.  Permanent repair work on both bridges is anticipated to begin this fall.
  • Trout Lake Trail has been impacted by extensive avalanche debris.  Hikers are not encouraged to use this trail, or it is recommended that hikers have route-finding skills to traverse the debris. 

Trails may traverse steep and sometimes icy snowfields and park rangers are advising hikers to have the appropriate equipment and skills to navigate such areas, or perhaps visit those areas once conditions improve. 

The park posts current trail status reports.

Even some lowland facilities have been affected by the late season. Frozen and damaged sewer and water lines caused some delays in seasonal opening activities for utilities park-wide.

  • Rising Sun and the Swiftcurrent cabin areas experienced damaged water lines.
  • The Apgar and Lake McDonald areas experienced issues with frozen sewer lines, and some broken water lines.
  • The Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Campgrounds experienced delayed openings due to abundant snow accumulation and slow snow melt.   

The Going to the Sun Road is still being cleared by snow removal crews. A snow slide in the Alps area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, about five miles west of Logan Pass, wiped out about 20-30 feet of rock wall along the road.  Several new slide paths across the road have been encountered this spring, including the need for extensive snow and debris cleanup.    

Snow removal operations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continue with road crews working near the Big Drift and Lunch Creek areas east of Logan Pass. Above average snow accumulation and cool June temperatures have provided challenges for snow removal operations. The snow depth at the Big Drift is estimated to be about 80 feet, larger than recent years.  Once the snow is removed, a thick layer of ice on the road is anticipated. 

Park road crew employees have begun working overtime in an effort to accomplish snow removal goals.

Snow removal and plowing progress, including images, are posted online.

  • Currently, visitors can drive about 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side of the park, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side. It is anticipated that there will be vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook area on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by this weekend, but it is dependent on weather conditions.  Vehicle access to Logan Pass, and beyond Avalanche on the west side of park, is unknown at this time. 

Hiker-biker access is currently available from Avalanche to the Loop on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. See current hiker-biker access and park road status reports.  

Smokey Bear sparked legacy of fire prevention art

PUBLIC LANDS — The legacy of Smokey Bear is celebrating its 70th anniversary of fire prevention messages this year. 

The campaign's roots date back to 1942, when the U.S. Forest Service’s popular icon of wildfire prevention was conceived during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource—wood. The first artist’s rendering of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle in 1944.

 The ad campaign: “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires”, was created in 1947 by The Advertising Council.

The ad campaign got a flesh and blood boost starting in 1950, when firefighters working a blaze in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains came back to camp packing an orphaned six-week-old black bear cub with singed hair and burned feet.

Ray Bell, a state Game and Fish Department ranger and pilot, flew the bear to a veterinarian in Santa Fe for initial treatment and then took the cub home, where his wife and daughter helped him nurse the bear back to health over two months.  Initially, they had to get the cub to suck a mixture of honey, milk and baby food from their fingers.

The cub originally was named “Hot Foot Teddy,” but U.S. Forest Service officials saw the potential for news about the cub to translate into a hot campaign for forest fire prevention.  They renamed the bear Smokey.

The cub was taken to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., later that summer, where he became an instant celebrity as he grew into a 400-pound bear. Smokey lived there for 26 years before his death in 1976.

While preventing forest fires continues to be a noble cause, the Forest Service in recent years has had to come to terms with over-protection of some forest areas. Education efforts have expanded to showing that that fire suppression in some cases can let fuels build up on forests to a degree that a fire sparked by humans or nature can blow up to catastrophic proportions.

  • The goal and theme of the Smokey Bear campaign was adjusted in the last decade, from “Only you can prevent forest fires” to “Only you can prevent wildfires.” The purpose is to respond to the criticism, and to distinguish 'bad' intentional or accidental wildfires from the needs of sustainable forests via natural 'good' fire ecology.

Meanwhile, the 70 years of Smokey Bear campaign created a legacy of artwork, some of which can be viewed online.  Federal land agencies and Firewise are producing an exhibit of Rudy Wendelin’s famous Smokey Bear prints at the Idaho Capitol Building in Boise through June

Wendelin worked for the US Forest Service from 1949-1973 and took the approach to “soften & humanize” the appearance of Smokey Bear to gain the attention of children. This method was successful in helping spread the fire education message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

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Researchers set grizzly bear snares near Priest Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Researchers are setting snares in the Hughes Meadows area north of Priest Lake this month in an ongoing effort to capture grizzly bears and fit them with radio collars.

As of Tuesday, the two-man crew working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had caught one bear – a black bear. The 5-year-old male, weighing 134 pounds, was ear-tagged and released, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.

“There have been some years when we didn't trap in Idaho but we've generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” he said.

This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares in the Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.

“The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” Wakkinen said. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”

Researchers also are trapping bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area, he said.

Wayne Kasworm, federal grizzly bear biologist who's supervising the collaring project, said his crews plan to be trapping high in the mountains in July and August.

“We currently have five female grizzly bears with collars in the Selkirks and we hope to collar four or five more,” he said.  

Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, he said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal if they’ve been triggered with a radio signal to the crew.

The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said. 

Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer.  “If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.

“If there's something stinky there's a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out.  Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.

“Radio collars can yield a great amount of information such as survival rates, cause of mortality, reproductive output, cub survival and identification of seasonal ranges and dispersal,” he said. “These data in turn can be used to make informed land management decisions.”

Found bighorn just short of Boone and Crockett world record

WILDLIFE — Close but no cigar for a bighorn skull found in Canada. It just misses world record status, the Boone and Crockett Club says.

A long winter buried in snow apparently swelled the horns of a bighorn sheep that died of natural causes. The ram was found this spring by Alberta wildlife officials and green-scored as a potential new world record. 

Following the Boone and Crockett Club's mandatory 60-day drying period, the ram's horns lost an astounding four inches in net score. The original scorers reconvened to find that every measurement was smaller on both horns. 

Still, with a final score of 205-7/8, the ram ranks No. 5 all time. It has been entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta. 

The reigning World's Record, taken by a hunter in Alberta in 2000, stands at 208-3/8. 

“Though it's not a World's Record, it is another tremendous specimen symbolic of continuing, successful conservation programs. For that, we congratulate Alberta wildlife officials,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. 

Hale added, “Biologists speculate this latest ram died of old age in early summer 2013, so the horns were exposed to the elements through the remainder of summer, all fall and all of a wet, snowy winter. Apparently, the horns absorbed an incredible amount of moisture, because four inches of shrinkage during the 60-day drying period is very rare.” 

The Boone and Crockett Club, long recognized as the leading authority on big-game recordkeeping, requires air drying all trophies at habitable room temperature for 60 days immediately prior to final scoring. It's a rule made precisely for this kind of situation. 

“By standardizing the scoring process as much as possible, we ensure the credibility of our records. That's very important for the biologists who use these data to compare and contrast outstanding habitat, strong recruitment into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. It's also important to sportsmen in that all trophies are being treated as equally as possible,” said Hale. 
  

Logs pose hazard to whitewater rafters in Marble Creek

WATERSPORTS — Whitewater rafters and kayakers were greeted by hazards in Marble Creek last weekend.

Logs from a logging operation apparently slid down a steep slope and into the tributary of the St. Joe River.

This is prime time for river runners before flows become too low in Marble Creek, but the stream flows fast with tight turns and hazards that make it for experts only.

Three reasons to go fishing at Sprague Lake

FISHING — Here are three graphic reminders (above) of why some anglers prefer fishing at  1,876-acre Sprague Lake, which straddles the Lincoln-Adams county line. 

The photos were snapped last week by Scott Haugen of Four Seasons Campground and Resort. May and June are considered prime time for catching rainbows that plump up fast in this productive lake.

“Last week-end was fantastic still fishing in the boats, out in the middle between our resort and the big island,” he said. “Several boats with limits, with lots of 3-4 pound rainbows.”

Sprague also holds largemouth bass that grow to very pleasing sizes.

Hunters rile politicians about new Weyerhaeuser access fees

HUNTING — Hunters had better be cautious in their rants about private timber companies charging fees for access to their forest lands.

For decades, these companies have allowed free public access. Everyone knows the public hasn't always been respectful. The public is responsible for too many cases of dumping garbage, driving off roads and creating unauthorized trails, destroying gates, damaging trees and stealing timber.

When the companies close some access or charge a fee, some factions raise hell.  Wow.

In this region, Potlatch and Inland Empire Paper Company have both scaled back where the public can go and set fees for some access.

This year, a major company in Western Washington has announced a fee-access program and hunters are going ballistic.

 Following is the latest update from the Longview Daily News:

By Shari Phiel and Tom Paulu

Reacting to public anger over Weyerhaeuser Co.’s fee-for-entry policy, commissioners in Cowlitz and Grays Harbor counties are looking for ways to block the move or lessen its impact.

A proposal in Grays Harbor County would raise Weyerhaeuser’s property tax, though a company spokesman said Thursday linking land access to taxes might be illegal.

Weyerhaeuser plans to start charging $150 for a family permit to visit much of its land around Longview starting Aug. 1. Some areas will be leased to the highest bidder. The company is also expanding its fee access program in Grays Harbor County.

More than 400 people have signed a petition asking the Cowlitz County commissioners to try to stop Weyerhaeuser from charging for public access. Chris Bornstedt of Kelso started the petition several weeks ago, leaving copies in local sporting goods stores. Bornstedt said the fee access system will be bad for the local economy because it will discourage hunters from spending.

“We’ll take (the petition) to county commissioners and let them know we aren’t happy with it,” Bornstedt said.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Jim Misner said he’s asked Weyerhaeuser to waive or reduce permit fees for Cowlitz County residents and for current and retired company workers.

At the commissioners’ meeting Thursday, Misner said he has asked Weyerhaeuser spokesman Anthony Chavez if the company could reduce fees for people who carry garbage bags into the forest and pick up trash. He and Waste Control have discussed putting dumpsters at five locations in the county where woods trash could be dumped.

“I told him a lot of hunters are going to be reluctant to hunt our local timberlands now because of the hoof-disease epidemic, so a lot of them aren’t going to hunt locally anyway,” Misner said. “The other thing is, I think it’s just good PR for the locals. Anthony likes the idea, but he wants to run it up the chain.”

Hunters are also upset in Grays Harbor County, where a proposed ordinance would increase taxes for timber companies that charge for access. Traditionally, Grays Harbor County allows some timber owners to pay lower taxes on land primarily used for growing and harvesting timber. Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Comier wants to eliminate the tax break for landowners who charge for public access.

Grays Harbor will hold a hearing on the proposal on June 23.

In an email, Chavez told The Daily News, “we are evaluating the ordinance and question the county’s authority to tax our timberlands in this way. Our preliminary research suggests the ordinance is inconsistent with state law and invalid.” The note did not elaborate.

“I think that Grays Harbor is on to something,” Misner said. He said he has asked the Cowlitz County’s prosecutor’s office to review the legality off the proposed Grays Harbor ordinance. Misner also suggested the commissioners hold a forum and invite people who have signed Bornstedt’s petition.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Mike Karnofski, a former Weyerhaeuser Co. employee, said he wanted to hear the Cowlitz County legal staff’s opinion of the taxation ordinance before considering a forum.

Film fest celebrates 50 years of wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS  –  A free mini-film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is traveling through the Inland Northwest this summer.

The beauty, history and adventure of wilderness areas, the highest level of protection offered for America’s public lands, is featured in 10 short films totaling just over an hour of entertainment suited to all ages.  Screenings include:

  • Newport – Roxy Theater, 7:30 p.m., Thursday.  June 19 
  • Spokane – Mountain Gear Store, 2002 N. Division, 6:30 p.m., June 26.
  • Metaline Falls – Cutter Theater, 7:30 p.m., June 27.
  • Colville – Rendezvous Theater, 7 p.m., Sept. 25.

Films include: American Values – American Wilderness, Last Light, Sage Steppe, North Cascades Wilderness Ranger, and a production by Gonzaga senior students highlighting the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in northeastern Washington.

The films are being presented by Colville National Forest District Ranger Gayne Sears and partners from the Lands Council or Kettle Range Conservation Group, who will answer questions and hand out door prizes.

Info: Gayne Sears, (509) 447-7300.

Groups highlight trail projects past and future

PUBLIC LANDS – Volunteer trail projects past and future will be highlighted in a program by the Spokane Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association on Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

“The Mountaineers have a long history of giving back to our local trails,” said Lynn Smith, the club’s trail-maintenance program coordinator. “Whether working on our own or in conjunction with other organizations, we understand that stewardship goes hand-in-hand with recreation, and volunteers are a crucial part of the process – especially in this era of shrinking budgets.”

More projects are planned this year in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, he said.

Fish survey: good news for Dworshak kokanee, bass anglers

FISHING — Fishing for kokanee and bass at Dworshak Reservoir is excellent, as confirmed by this fishing report received late Friday from Joe Duont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager:

Dworshak Reservoir Kokanee Report (6/13/14)

In late April we completed our spring trawl survey, and the time for an update on the kokanee fishery is overdue.  The ‘catchable’ size kokanee we caught in the trawl averaged 9 ¼ inches long, which is about a half inch shorter than the same time last year.  However, there are a lot more fish out there this year.  In fact it appears we have about twice as many 2-year old kokanee (the larger kokanee we like to catch) this year as we did last year.

We have also been busy talking to fishermen at the ramps this spring.  While not everyone is coming in with fish this year, most anglers are.  We are also seeing more limits of kokanee than empty coolers.  In April, catch rates averaged 7.6 fish kept per fisherman and 2.8 fish per hour of kokanee fishing.  In May, it picked up to 10.3 fish per person and 3.9 fish per hour.  We don’t have many interviews so far for June, but right now catch rates are 12.3 fish per person and 3.5 fish per hour.  These are great catch rates for Kokanee fishing.  The Kokanee we’ve seen in the creel recently are around 10 inches long, but there are occasional fish over 13 inches long.  Right now most people are fishing between Canyon Creek and Dent Bridge, but we have marked good densities of kokanee farther up the reservoir during our research work.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  We also interviewed 38 bass anglers over the past month who spent 117 hours to catch 463 smallmouth bass and kept 45. This works out to a little over 12 bass caught per person and four fish per hour.  Harvested bass have averaged about 13 inches, but a couple larger fish have been brought in, with the largest right at 20 inches.  Recent surface temperatures are in the mid to upper 60’s with a thermocline at 10 to 15 feet.  As the water has warmed and spawning has wrapped up, larger bass are moving into deeper water.  Some bass anglers I spoke with over the weekend reported that smaller bass were plentiful, but larger bass were down 40 to 50 feet and tough to come by.

Sinlahekin celebration features critter clinics

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Native bees, birds, bears, deer, mollusks, wildflowers, mosses, lichens and geology will be the featured topics this weekend at summer-long 75th anniversary celebration continues at Washington's Sinlahekin Wildlife Area near Tonasket.

And Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet will give a program on early exploration of the region.

See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County.

The list is long and offerings are impressive.

Events are scheduled for this weekend — June 14-15 — as well as on July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7. 

Will you brave a Friday 13th full moon?

SKY WATCHING — If you can get above the clouds, tonight may be a good night to stroll a mountain ridge without a headlamp in the shadowy light the full moon will be bathing on the landscape.

But remember, it's Friday the 13th.  A chilling thought.

“I know people who say that (it’s superstitious), but it’s just a thing that happens because of the moon and the calendar align, for me there’s nothing supernatural about it,” Jerry Eber, a Spokane Astronomical Society member, told S-R reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner. “The moon is up there all the time, it just happens to have more sun on it.”

The convergence of the astronomical and the astrological calendar is rare. The last time Friday the 13th coincided with a full moon was Oct. 13, 2000. The next time will be Aug. 13, 2049.

Tonight is only the 10th time since 1900.

Although there’s no concrete evidence, police have noticed odd things happen when there’s a full moon. A former Spokane County Sheriff’s sergeant once recounted to The Spokesman-Review some of those odd happenings: as a naked man on the side of the road offering free sex and a dead coyote stuffed into a mailbox were two.

Fathers Day promotions get Dads on water free

WATERSPORTS —  Still scratching your head over what to get Dad for Father's Day?

If you book before June 17, ROW Adventures is offering families of four or more a free pass for Dad on whitewater rafting trips on the Lochsa, Clark Fork and Spokane Rivers.
ROW also is offering discounts for dads on stand up paddle board tours and fly fishing trips on the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe Rivers.

Info: 208-770-2517

BLM gating Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — Motor vehicles will be blocked from driving the Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague starting today,  U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say.

The annual summer closure begins when fire danger becomes high in the range land area south of Sprague, said Steve Smith, recreation manager for BLM's  Spokane District.

While the gate will be locked, hikers and mountain bikers are still free to travel on the roads and trails, he said. 

Note: Keep dogs on leash.  The area is a fairly reliable place to see rattlesnakes.

Clinic prepares dogs for rattlesnake encounters

HUNTING – A rattlesnake aversion clinic for dogs, using live adult and juvenile snakes, put on by Natural Solutions of California is set for June 27 in Lewiston. Cost: $70.

Pre-register to schedule individual time slot: (208) 413-3032 or email shellyd181@gmail.com.

Centennial Trail nets $30,000 from Spokane Bike Swap

TRAILS — The numbers are in for the third annual Spokane Bike Swap and the checks are written — including a $30,000 boost for the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

“Spokane Bike Swap has become the largest supporter of our Trail Builder’s Fund,” said Loreen McFaul, the friends group's executive director. Proceeds from the April 12-13 Bike Swap are designated for expansion of the popular trail along the Spokane River, completion and maintenance, she said.
 
“Our funding priorities include advocating for funding and construction plans for the Mission Street gap, supporting the construction of two Trail extensions – from Bridge to Boone Avenue and from Sontag Park to the Nine Mile Recreation Area at Lake Spokane, finalizing a gap completion plan for Argonne Road, improving directional and safety signs on the Trail and keeping printed maps, our Google map and Trail posters updated as gaps are completed.”
 
More than 3,000 people attended the 2014 Spokane Bike Swap on at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, which featured 53 exhibitors and nearly 750 used bikes registered to sell.
 
“We tripled the amount of used bikes sold from our first year in the bike corral, selling 549 bikes,” said LeAnn Yamamoto, swap event director. To boost cycling safety, 173 children age 14 and younger who bought a bike in the bike corral received a free Bell helmet and helmet fitting, she said.

Stagger Inn Campground closed for tree removal

PUBLIC LANDS — The Forest Service has begun removing hazardous trees at the Stagger Inn Campground on the Priest Lake Ranger District and work will continue  through June 30, says Panhandle National Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner.

Stagger Inn and the adjacent Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls will remain closed during the operations.

“We ask that people remain patient as we work to make the Stagger Inn Campground safe for the public,” said Priest Lake District Ranger Matt Davis. “We recognize the importance of these sites to the Priest Lake area.  Our crews are working hard to reduce the hazards and reopen the site.”

High winds on Aug. 25, 2013, weakened and damaged several trees in the Stagger Inn Campground. A man was killed as a tree fell on his tent, prompting closure of the area.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-6839.