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Montana resource agencies cutting staff

NATURAL RESOURCES — The wildlife and habitat we appreciate as nature lovers and sportsmen are always under pressure from human activity, but the overseers of their protections are getting fewer and father between.

Here's the latest from Montana, the last best place, and it's not the only state that's falling behind.

Montana lands, wildlife, environmental agencies explain budget realities
To deal with a six percent reduction in its budget, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will not fill 14 open positions and will lay off five employees. The Department of Environmental Quality handled the cut in funding by not filling 17.5 positions and combining duties of other positions. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks began reducing 20 positions last year.

Utah lawmaker cashing in on federal land grab movement

UPDATED 12:45 p.m. with news of Montana reaction to American Lands Council revelations.

PUBLIC LANDS — The entire movement to push states into trying to take over federal lands has smelled greedy, underhanded and fishy from the beginning.  Here's some background.

See the Salt Lake Tribune report on Rep. Ken Ivory: Utah legislator's campaign on federal lands misguided, not criminal

Below is yet another insight, from the Associated Press.

And below this story is an interesting reaction from Montana.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group has asked three state attorneys general to investigate a Utah lawmaker who has led a push for western states to take control of federal public lands.

The Campaign for Accountability sent letters Monday to officials in Utah, Montana and Arizona asking them to investigate Utah Republican state Rep. Ken Ivory and a nonprofit group he runs, the American Lands Council.

In the letters, the Campaign for Accountability says Ivory’s organization is raising money for the federal government to turn over land to the states, a push they argue Ivory knows is unconstitutional. A significant portion of the money raised by the American Lands Council goes to Ivory and his wife.

“By soliciting taxpayer funds for an organization that exists largely to funnel money to both Rep. Ivory and his wife, Rep. Ivory appears to be engaging in fraud,” the Campaign for Accountability said in the letters.

Ivory, of West Jordan, called the complaints shameful and “bullying tactics to stifle legitimate political debate.”

Representatives for the Utah and Arizona attorneys general said they were looking into the letter. John Barnes, a spokesman for the Montana attorney general, said in an email that the office received the letter Monday morning and would review it.

The American Lands Council earned about $228,000 in 2013, according to the group’s most recently filed tax forms. For his role as president of the organization, Ken Ivory was paid $95,000 in salary, and his wife, Rebecca Ivory, received $19,715. In 2012, the American Lands Council raised about $123,000, and Ken Ivory was paid a $40,000 salary. His wife’s salary for that year was not disclosed.

“It’s a fledgling organization that’s devoted to education. I’m the primary educator, and so they pay my salary,” Ivory said.

He said he has set aside his law practice, making his work for the American Lands Council largely his primary job. His pay is a small fraction of the salaries that environmental groups pay their top officers, Ivory said.

The group raises money by offering memberships to individuals, businesses and counties that range from $50 a year to $25,000 a year. Counties in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah have contributed money to the group.

The American Lands Council tells donors that their contribution will help support the transfer of public lands back to local control, a claim the Campaign for Accountability called “completely spurious.”

The Campaign for Accountability notes that when Utah passed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government give up about 31 million acres of public land, the Legislature’s own attorneys warned that the demand and any attempt to enforce it would likely be found unconstitutional.

Ivory said Campaign for Accountability is ignoring legal opinions from several groups that support the argument for state control. “This question has never gone to the Supreme Court, so how can they say it’s unconstitutional?” Ivory said.

The Campaign for Accountability also argues that Ken Ivory appears to be operating as a lobbyist but has not complied with state lobbying requirements.

As a state lawmaker, Ivory is exempt from Utah requirements to register as a lobbyist and disclose lobbying expenditures, said Mark Thomas, the director of elections at the Utah lieutenant governor’s office.

It’s unclear if he’s required to register in Montana and Arizona, but a Colorado ethics group has asked the Colorado secretary of state to investigate if the American Lands Council needs to comply with lobbying laws in that state.

In April, the American Lands Council sent an email to Colorado residents urging them to contact lawmakers in support of a bill to study the transfer of public lands in that state.

Suzanne Staiert, the deputy Secretary of State in Colorado, said in a May 7 letter to Ivory that the office was investigating the complaint and asked for a response to the allegations by June 6.

Ivory said the group isn’t lobbying but has “simply been educating in principles.” He said a Colorado lawmaker asked his group to send the email and he plans to respond to the Colorado complaint.

Utah has led several western states in a renewed push over the past few years to take control of public lands managed by the federal government. Supporters argue the states would be better managers and could make money from taxes and development on the land.

In addition to his work with the American Lands Council, Ivory serves as the executive director of another nonprofit, the Where’s the Line, America? Foundation. Tax records show that in 2013, he was paid $30,000 for his work with that group, which says it educates people about the proper role of state and federal government.

Ivory’s wife founded another nonprofit in December, A Most Sacred Trust, which says it educates people about the realities of sexual abuse in schools.

The organization has not yet had to file disclosures, and Ken Ivory said he does not work for that organization.

At least one county in Idaho and 10 counties in Nevada have also contributed money to the group.

———

Here's another AP story with reaction from Montana:

Lawmakers turn away from issue of federal land transfer

By ALISON NOON / Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — In the wake of allegations against the American Lands Council, the state legislative panel that embraced its ideas last session has fallen silent on public land jurisdiction.

Montana’s Environmental Quality Council in 2013 found an “urgent need to correct the way federal public lands are managed.” But newly elected chairman Sen. Gene Vuckovich said the committee has no plans to revisit the subject after subsequent legislative proposals failed this year and he, personally, would not like it on the agenda.

The Anaconda Democrat was on the panel last session, when Republican Sen. Jennifer Fielder spearheaded the effort to study and diminish federal land management.

The committee’s change in heart coincides with Fielder’s absence from it. She is a member of four other interim committees and said she didn’t fight to get on the environmental one this year.

“I hope that they’ll bring something forward that’ll help to improve management on public lands, but if that’s not a priority of the chairman, it’s probably not going to happen,” Fielder, of Thompson Falls, said.

Fielder introduced 20 of about three dozen bills this year aimed at increasing state management of federally owned lands. Hundreds rallied against the proposals in February and the bills were largely shut down. One bill requiring the state to seek reimbursement of money owed to Montana from public lands proceeds became law without the signature of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

“Democrats don’t want to allow that discussion to occur, unfortunately,” Fielder said. “I think eventually they’ll realize it’s a really great idea and a benefit to our state, but they’re not there yet.”

American Lands Council President Ken Ivory participated in the Montana committee’s discussion last session. His organization, which pushes for western states to take control of federal public lands, came under fire this week when a watchdog group asked attorneys general in Montana, Utah and Arizona to investigate the council for allegedly pedaling fiction for financial gain.

“There are environmental organizations that have legitimate concerns about what the real agenda is here,” said Anne Weismann, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, the group that brought the complaint.

Ivory has denied any wrongdoing, calling the claim “desperate bullying.”

Montana Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes said Attorney General Tim Fox is reviewing the complaint.

Dishman Hills birding walk set for Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Four spaces are still open for the Saturday birding walk organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The Bird Walk will be led by Jon Isacoff of the Spokane Audubon Society and professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University.

The walk, limited to 10 participants, will be up to the base of Big Rock and the trail is somewhat steep in the last 200 meters. Participants will meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Stevens Creek Trailhead.

Most birds in this area are heard rather than seen, though some birds can be seen as well.  Nearly 100 species have been documented along the Stevens Creek trail but a typical good day in May would be 40-50 species, mostly heard.  We have chances to see several warbler and flycatcher species. Common conspicuous birds with a good chance to see visually include: Turkey Vulture, Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, American Robin, Chipping Sparrow, and Cassin' Finch.

The walk will start at 7:45 am so be there by at least 7:30 am to sign in and get organized. We will meet at the Stevens Creek Trailhead parking lot - about 10 miles south of Freya and Palouse Highway.

Idaho Panhandle forests assessing road systems; meetings set

PUBLIC LANDS — North Idaho forest roads are being surveyed this year for their safety, environmental impact and value and the public is invited to comment.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest has 4,113 miles of road open to the public plus 4,000 miles of brushed-in or stored roads, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene. The number of overdue road maintenance projects continues to grow, while public use is increasing, he said.

"Roads that cannot be adequately maintained can be dangerous to visitors and threaten forest health," he said. "They can increase sedimentation into rivers and streams, degrading water quality and impacting fish and wildlife."

This year's travel analysis study will begin to help the the Forest Service prioritize limited resources to manage roads used by visitors, while protecting sources of clean water, he said.

“The travel analysis study is not a proposal or decision, but is intended to help inform possible future road management planning," said Mary Farnsworth, Idaho Panhandle National Forest supervisor. "We will need public input to inform the analysis, but this will not be a formal public comment process. Before any projects are implemented on the ground the public will have an opportunity to comment through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.”

A preliminary analysis of the current road system has been completed. Public workshops sharing the results and seeking public input are scheduled throughout North Idaho starting next week June (see below). The final transportation system analysis will be factored into future forest activities including forest restoration projects, timber sales and recreation improvement plans.

Additional information is available on the Idaho Panhandle NF’s Travel Analysis Web Page.

Comment using the online mapping tool through July 3.

Public workshops on the travel analysis are set for 5 p.m.-7 p.m. as follows:

  • June 9, 2015, St. Joe Ranger District, 222 S. 7th St., Suite 1, St. Maries.
  • June 10, 2015, Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District, Silver Valley Office,  173 Commerce Dr., Smelterville.
  • June 11, 2015, IPNF Supervisor’s Office, 3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d'Alene.
  • June 16, 2015, Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario Street, Sandpoint.
  • June 17, 2015, Bonners Ferry Ranger District, 6286 Main Street, Bonners Ferry.
  • June 18, 2015, Priest Lake Ranger District, 32203 Hwy. 57, Priest River.

At least a few morel gathering secrets can be shared

WILD EDIBLES — Last year was a lousy season for picking morel mushrooms in much of the Inland Northwest. This season has been stellar by all reports.

So here's a collection of universal mushrooming tips and wisdom from Kenny Morris, Yakima-area mushroom enthusiast, as told to Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic and summarized by me:

  • Hit the areas that have produced mushrooms in the past. If they’re not there, try another area.
  • Drive forest roads to look for "roadies" along the road to help peg the elevation where mushrooms are emerging.
  • Stop and search spots for 5-10 minutes. If you find none, try another spot, working uphill.
  • at one high-country pullout, and if he finds no morels — or, at some spots, if he finds only a few — he’ll be back in his rig to drive to the next likely spot.
  • Mother’s Day is an unofficial Opening Day for morel gathering.
  • Lupine is an indicator. If the green lupine base (not the colorful flowering top) is roughly six inches high, it’s morel time.
  • In early season, look around rocks and trees that will have been heated by the sun where morels often sprout in the warmer ground.
  • Follow the snowline. Wherever melting snow has been replaced by warming sunlight, the morels are apt to follow. In a spring like this one, with so little snow in the high country, it can be a case of following the rain or checking darker, cooler canyons and slopes. 
  • Check both sides of the ridge. If the sunny side isn’t getting morels, cross over to the shady side.
  • Wildflowers such as trillium or wild strawberries and certain types of trees, notably larch or white fir often are associated with morels.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Even the experts sometimes have to try numerous spots to find a payload.
  • Get tips from the Forest Service of areas burned by forest fires or controlled burns. Morels are known to emerge in high number in areas that burned the previous year.

Two other tips from expert mushroomers in the Spokane area:

  • Cut or pinch the stem off at the base, leaving part of the mushroom there. Some experts say they are more likely to grow back if you leave part of the "roots" in the ground.

  • Carry harvested mushrooms in a basket or mesh bag. This helps them from getting too moist, and it some experts believe it lets their spores fall through and spread around the area- causing more to grow in coming years.

Feds release plan for bull trout conservation in 5 states

FISHING — Stemming from a lawsuit won by environmental groups, a federal agency is proposing revisions to his protections for by bull trout. Here's a peak at the proposals from the Associated Press.  (The draft plan was released Monday and will be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday.)

BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials are releasing a plan Thursday to recover struggling bull trout populations in five Western states with the goal of lifting Endangered Species Act protections for the fish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes lifting protections individually in six recovery units spread over Idaho, western Montana, Washington, Oregon and a tiny portion of northern Nevada when specific requirements are met. The agency said the areas contain distinct populations of bull trout with unique characteristics.

“We think the approach is tactical and appropriate,” said Steve Duke, bull trout recovery planning coordinator for the agency. “We think it focuses on what still needs to be done, and it lets local agencies and those with managerial oversight focus on those areas without having to look at the larger distribution of bull trout.”

Bull trout are a cold water species listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states in 1999. Experts say cold, clean water is essential for the fish.

The plan doesn’t dictate actions but looks at ways to keep water in streams habitable for bull trout. It considers warming waters due to climate change that force some populations into upper regions of river systems, Duke said.

“We expect that to continue into the future,” he said.

The draft plan stems from the agency’s settlement last year of a lawsuit by two environmental groups — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.

Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies said he’s concerned the agency is looking to define bull trout differently in different regions so federal protections could be removed in some areas while fish are still in trouble in other areas. He said his organization would be against that plan.

“We’re optimistic they’ll listen to us,” Garrity said. “But we’re optimistic because we’ve sued them on bull trout about a dozen times and won each time. If they don’t follow the best available science, we won’t hesitate to sue again.”

Besides warming waters, the bull trout’s survival is threatened by non-native brook trout. If the species mate, it creates a hybrid fish.

Bull trout occupy about 60 percent of their former range, which has remained steady since the fish received federal protection in 1999, Duke said.

Their presence is often a sign of a healthy river system because of the high water quality the fish requires, Duke said. Water quality can decline for various reasons, including logging, he said.

The agency doesn’t believe logging is still occurring in a way that harms bull trout habitat, Duke said. But the plan identifies some areas harmed long ago by logging when it was done with little regard for stream health.

Public comments will be taken through July 20, which the agency plans to use to prepare a final plan by Sept. 30.

Snake River spring chinook fisheries to reopen

FISHING — Spring chinook salmon fishing will reopen on three locations in the Snake River on a rotating schedule.  Here's the scoop just announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Locations:

A)  Below Ice Harbor:  Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam;

B)  Below Little Goose:  Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility);

C) Clarkston:  Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Dates:  Each area is open three days per week until further notice.

  • Areas B and C (Below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) open Thursday, June 4, and will be open only Thursday through Saturday each week.
  • Area A (Below Ice Harbor Dam) open Sunday, June 7, and will be open only Sunday through Tuesday each week.

Daily Limits: 6 hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than two may be adult chinook salmon.  For all areas open for chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for chinook when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Possession Limits:  During these fisheries possession limits for spring chinook salmon will be increased to allow three daily limits in fresh form.

Reason for action: 

1) Based on a May 26 in-season run update, and a recent upstream shift of harvest allocation from the lower Columbia River, spring chinook fisheries can reopen in the Snake River on a 3-day rotating schedule (three days per week per location). 

2)  An enhanced daily bag limit for chinook will be in place for this fishery to allow anglers opportunity to harvest available hatchery fish prior to warmer water temperatures anticipated by mid-June.  Chinook possession limits for this fishery have been increased to three daily limits in fresh form, in an effort to promote this fishery as a destination-based opportunity.  This action will allow anglers to possess a reasonable amount of fish during their stay.

Other Information:  The minimum size of any retained chinook salmon is 12 inches.  Jacks are less than 24 inches long.  The adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon that can be retained must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.  All chinook salmon with the adipose fin intact must be immediately released unharmed.  All adult steelhead must be released unharmed through June 15.  Beginning June 16 up to 3 hatchery (adipose fin clipped) steelhead may be retained on the Snake River.

In addition:  Anglers fishing for all species, in the locations open for chinook salmon, during the days of the week the salmon fishery is open in that area, must use barbless hooks.  Only single point barbless hooks are allowed when fishing for sturgeon.

A night closure is in effect for salmon and sturgeon.  It is unlawful to use any hook larger than 5/8 inch (point of hook to shank) when fishing for all species except sturgeon.  Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Refer to the 2014-2015 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures, CLOSED WATERS, etc.

Spring chinook limit boosted on Columbia

FISHING — With a surplus of spring chinook still in the Columbia system, Washington and Oregon fish managers are raisin the daily catch limit to two a day.  Following are details just released from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Starting Wednesday (June 3), the catch limit for spring chinook salmon will increase to two adult fish per day for Columbia River anglers fishing from the estuary to a point 300 miles upstream.

With two weeks remaining in the popular fishery, resource managers from Washington and Oregon today agreed to increase the daily catch limit for hatchery adult spring chinook from one to two.

The new rule will allow anglers to catch and keep up to two hatchery chinook salmon, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each per day from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line in the lower river up to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.

As before, all wild chinook salmon and steelhead with intact adipose fins must be released unharmed.

Fishery managers based the new catch limit on an updated run forecast that projects a return of 271,000 spring chinook salmon to the Columbia River this year, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

That number is up from the 241,000 fish projected in early May.

“Daily fish counts at Bonneville Dam are still in the thousands, which allows us to increase catch levels for hatchery fish,” Roler said. “It’s a strong finish to a great run.”

The spring chinook season ends June 15, but the fishery for summer chinook and sockeye salmon begins the next day from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.

The pre-season forecast anticipates strong runs of 73,000 summer chinook and 394,000 sockeye this year.

“The sockeye forecast is the fourth highest on record, and we’re also expecting a strong summer chinook run this year,” Roler said.

Info: WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Little Spokane River shuttle service starts July 5

WATERSPORTS — The Little Spokane River shuttle service for paddlers will resume this summer with an expanded season starting on July 4 and running Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., through Sept. 5. The shuttle is operated by Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

The van will run between the Nine Mile take-out and the St. George’s put-in. Cost: $8 per person. Vehicles parked at either of the access points must have a Discover Pass.

Register for shuttles at spokaneparks.org.

Info: 363-5418.

Shorebird migration has begun, birder says

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birding enthusiasts who keep a watch along the muddy edges of the region's waters are perking up this week.

Local birder Jon Isacoff said his observations yesterday at Slavin Conservation Area south of Spokane indicate the "southbound migration is underway!"

Here his list of shorebirds observed.

  • 35 Killdeer (many could be local)
  • 4 Spotted Sandpiper (probably locals)
  • 6 Greater Yellowlegs
  • 1 Lesser Yellowlegs

States offer free fishing days: no license required

FISHING – General fishing license requirements are being waived in the Inland Northwest on upcoming days as state fish and wildlife agencies offer the public a chance to check out the sport.

Free fishing days are scheduled:

  • June 6-7 in Washington and Oregon.
  • June 13 in Idaho.
  • June 20-21 in Montana.

In Washington, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing.

Also, no vehicle access pass or Discover Pass will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the nearly 700 water-access sites maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

All other limits and rules still apply. Get state fishing rules pamphlets online or where licenses are sold.

  • See Washington regulations here.

Events may be scheduled in some local area during the free fishing days.

In Washington, a fishing derby is set for 8 a.m.-noon next Sunday at Rainbow Lake 14 miles south of Pomeroy along the Tucannon River. Info: (509) 843-1891.

At Newman Lake, a pancake breakfast will be served on Saturday, 6 a.m.-11 a.m. at Tri-Community Grange, 25025 E Heather Lane.

Here's more info about Washington's Free Fishing Weekend from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Anglers will not need a Two Pole Endorsement to fish with two poles on selected waters where two pole fishing is permitted. Anglers will also not need a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, otherwise required to fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries. 

Anglers have been catching daily limits of trout at lakes for the past month, and many rivers will open to trout fishing June 6 throughout the state. Other options available on Free Fishing Weekend include:

  • Hatchery chinook salmon in Washington’s ocean waters.
  • Lingcod on the coast and Puget Sound.
  • Bass, crappie, perch and other warmwater fish biting in lakes throughout eastern Washington.
  • Shad on the Columbia River.
  • Spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River.
  • Hatchery steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and on rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

 The Fish Washington video page provides “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques to both new and seasoned anglers.

While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and closures will still be in effect. Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon or steelhead they catch.

Catch record cards are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state.

Mount Spokane Summit Road opens June 1

PARKS — Hikers and bikers enjoyed plenty of elbow room at the Vista House and 5,886-foot top of Mount Spokane today, May 31.

The experience will be a little busier starting on Monday, June 1, when Mount Spokane State Park rangers are scheduled to open the gate to allow motor vehicles on the Summit Road.

Discover Passes are required on motor vehicles.

109 cormorants, 1,700 eggs destroyed so far to help Columbia salmon

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says 109 adult double-crested cormorants have been killed and more than 1,700 eggs killed so far as part of a program to reduce the size of North America’s biggest cormorant nesting colony so the birds eat fewer juvenile salmon migrating down the Columbia River.

The figures were posted Thursday on the corps’ website.

Plans call for reducing the number of cormorants on East Sand Island at the mouth of the Columbia between Oregon and Washington from 14,000 pairs to 5,600 pairs by 2018. The birds eat millions of juvenile salmon — some protected species — as they migrate down the river to the ocean.

Wildlife control personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services started shooting birds and oiling eggs so they won’t hatch last weekend.

Bowhunting for northern pike illegal in Washington

UPDATED 5:50 p.m.

FISHING — Warning: It's illegal to take northern pike with bow and arrow in Washington and Idaho.

In a post yesterday about northern pike suppression planned for Lake Roosevelt, I reported that a few bowhunters were targeting northern pike where the predators are showing up in notable numbers and sizes near Kettle Falls.

That's true, but I should have said that it's illegal, as Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist pointed out by email.

While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit and no daily limit on them — pike are still not totally open to annihilation in Washington.

It's pretty much illegal to use bow and arrow for anything other than CARP in Washington. 

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

However, a devil can always be lurking in the details. Reading the fine print of the regs specific to Lake Roosevelt (page 93), it's unlawful to fish for CARP with bow and arrow in Lake Roosevelt.

Northern pike were recently reclassified from "Game Fish" to "Prohibited Species" status in Washington by the Fish and Wildlife Commission after pike numbers increased in the Pend Orielle, Divens said.

"Basically, this was a decision at the policy level to indicate that Washington State was not interested in welcoming northern pike into the state, mostly due to concerns with the possibility of moving downstream into the Columbia River where they could pose a threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts."

The WDFW Webpage for northern pike says:

In April 2011, public meetings were conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department (KNRD) to solicit feedback on the findings to that point and the plan going forward. Also, as a result of the numbers of Northern Pike captured, plus their spawning and predatory habits, the WDFW Commission voted to reclassify Northern Pike as a Prohibited Species in Washington.

Under this designation:

  • anglers may harvest pike under WDFW sport fishing rules, with no minimum size and no daily or possession limit;
  • pike must be killed before leaving the water in which they are caught;
  • the release of live Northern Pike into other waters is strictly prohibited.

"We want people to catch them, kill them and not move them around," Divens said.

Steelhead to be released again at inland lakes

FISHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers will release "early winter" hatchery steelhead into inland lakes again this year, now that federal fisheries officials have decided to conduct a full-scale environmental impact analysis of all Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs.

No word yet on whether steelhead will once again be stocked in Sprague Lake, but some anglers hope so. They blossomed to nice proportions (see photo) since being stocked last year.

Here are details about the plan from WDFW:

WDFW leaders announced the action Thursday after learning that the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided to develop an environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of early winter steelhead hatchery programs on the survival and recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead and chinook salmon, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The decision was based, in part, on more than 2,000 public comments to NMFS that expressed a wide range of questions and concerns about the environmental impact of hatchery steelhead programs.

In March, NMFS (also known as NOAA Fisheries) published a draft environmental assessment of hatchery steelhead programs in three river basins. WDFW officials had hoped NMFS' completion of the assessment would lead to approval of WDFW steelhead hatchery operations and clear the way for the release of steelhead into several Puget Sound rivers under terms of a federal court settlement last year. However, the additional time needed to complete a more detailed EIS means that a decision on approval of these hatchery programs will come after the release window for 2015.

"We support the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, but we are disappointed that NMFS has been unable to complete the review of these programs," said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. "The decision by NMFS to conduct a full and potentially lengthy EIS process will delay approval of these hatchery programs and have serious impacts on recreational fishing on several Puget Sound rivers."

However, Unsworth said WDFW understands the controversial nature of the subject, as well as the federal government's desire to analyze hatchery programs within a full-scale EIS that stands up to potential legal challenges and clears the way for hatcheries to stay in operation for the long-term.

Last year the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall sued WDFW, alleging that the department's Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violated the Endangered Species Act by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. In settling that case, the department agreed to refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completed its environmental review.

Until recently, WDFW officials believed the federal agency's timetable would allow the release of juvenile steelhead into several rivers this spring, but those plans have now been canceled. One exception is the release of 180,000 early winter steelhead into the Skykomish River, which is permitted under the federal court order approving the settlement.

Jim Scott, head of the WDFW Fish Program, said rivers that will not receive steelhead in 2015 include the Nooksack, Stillaguamish and Dungeness, which would have received 150,000, 130,000, and 10,000 steelhead, respectively. Earlier this year, NMFS announced it would conduct a full EIS for hatcheries that release steelhead into the Snoqualmie and Green rivers, which were slated to receive 74,000 and 70,000 fish, Scott said.

Instead of releasing juvenile steelhead into those five rivers, WDFW will plant them into inland waters that have no connection with Puget Sound, he said. WDFW will announce its fish planting schedule as soon as possible on the department's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

Northern pike: Get ‘em while they last in Lake Roosevelt

UPDATED 5/28/15 with details about bowhunting ban.

FISHING — While anglers have reported catching the occasional northern pike in Lake Roosevelt for about six years, the trickle of pike from Montana, through the Pend Oreille River to the Columbia has become more than a stream. 

State and tribal fish managers are hoping to jump on the expanding pike fishery and keep it from being anything significant.

Meanwhile, look for pike lurking in the shallows. This may be the peak year for pike in Roosevelt if fish managers have their way.

Even bowhunters are reporting pike kills from their boats in the Kettle Falls area.

HOWEVER, it's illegal to use bow and arrow for fish in Lake Roosevelt.   While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit or daily limit on them — pike are still considered "game fish" in Washington.

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

Grizzly bear researchers working near Sullivan Lake

WILDLIFE — Federal grizzly bear researchers are working near the Salmo-Priest Wilderness to trap and fit GPS collars on grizzly bears.

The researchers also are trying to get DNA samples from other bears to help determine the number of grizzlies in the Idaho-Washington Selkirk Mountains.

"No captures and no mortality to report as yet this season," said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research leader based in Libby.

"The trap crew is working around Sullivan Lake area and we have several people out setting up corrals with trail cameras to try to snag hair and get pictures of bears throughout the recovery area. 

"The trap crew will probably move into the Priest Lake basin during June."

Last summer, the crew caught and collared one adult male grizzly bear.  

The trap team also captured 10 black bears (7 males and 3 females) that were ear tagged and released at the site of capture.

The study has collared 6 grizzly bears (1 male and 5 females), although one female's collar detached for recovery last fall. That collar had been on the bear since 2012. 

The collars are programmed to detach as they reach the limits of their batteries. Researchers can then restore an expensive collar and reuse it rather than have it uselessly dangling around a bear's neck.

The research is a joint effort with British Columbia, in cooperation with the states of Washington and Idaho.  Canada researchers worked in the Selkirks north of Highway 3 last year and collared 9 grizzly bears (7 males and 2 females).

Kasworm is monitoring those bears, too, as part of this project to peg grizzly population trends.

Otter orders Idaho sage grouse plan

UPLAND BIRDS — Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed an executive order requiring state executive agencies to adopt Idaho’s Sage-Grouse Management Plan.

The plan demonstrates the state’s commitment to a viable sage grouse population while also maintaining predictable levels of use on public lands, Otter said in a statement today.

The plan approved by the Idaho Land Board in April aims to protect habitat by creating enforceable stipulations in state leases, permits and easements. On private lands, the plan contains voluntary practices.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court order to decide by Sept. 30 whether the sage grouse merits protections from the Endangered Species Act.

Idaho’s plan is meant to halt the decline of sage grouse populations without having to list the species.

Holiday weekenders gamble on springer fishing

FISHING — James Keeling and his wife Mary Anderson-Keeling of Reardan didn't go for the sure thing for their recreation getaway over the Memorial Day weekend.   They took a chance on fishing a new spot for spring chinook. You gotta like like their attitude.

Said James:

No complaints here. It was lots of fun & nice to cover new water. We have been down here before but fished the little Salmon River. This time I wanted to fish the main.

The chinook didn't come easy though lol! I spent all day Friday exploring & observing. I wanted to try to stay out of the combat zone as much as possible but still wanted to catch fish (people everywhere).

I ended up finding a nice little back Eddie where I'd seen a couple fish roll & decided this would be good for in the morning.

Morning came early, 4:30 AM there (3:30 AM Spokane time). Fished 14 hours Saturday. Hooked 3 landed 2. My wife banged a nice one that evening also.

Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday,  with the exception that I only had a few hours to fish before needing to break camp & head back home. I hooked one & got him almost to net before he snapped me off.

All of the sweet spots were packed with fishermen. Guys were getting down in there spots @ 3AM.

With some knowledge, persistence & a little luck we got it done! That's fishing in the great NW!

Marten named Northern Regional forester based in Missoula

PUBLIC LANDS — A former University of Idaho student and Kootenai National Forest planner has been named regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service Northern Region based in Missoula.

 Leanne Marten has been selected to manage National Forest System lands across 25 million acres spread over five states, including 12 National Forests located within the perimeter of northeastern Washington, northern Idaho and Montana and well as the National Grasslands in North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the appointment on Friday

Marten has worked for the Forest Service for more than 20 years and is currently the National Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination for the US Forest Service.

She replaces Faye Krueger, who retired from the Forest Service in January.

Here's more from the Forest Service on the new regional forester's background:

Marten is National Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination for the U.S. Forest Service. She has worked for the Forest Service for more than 20 years, including assignments in the Northern Region. Leanne started her career as a seasonal employee on the Palouse Ranger District, Clearwater National Forest in Northern Idaho while obtaining her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science from Washington State University. She went on to graduate school at the University of Idaho, where she received her Masters of Science in Forest Resources.

After finishing up her schooling, Marten worked full time for the Forest Service on the Canoe Gulch Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest in Montana. She later worked as a planner and environmental coordinator for the Kootenai prior to moving east to be a District Ranger on the Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Deputy Forest Supervisor and Forest Supervisor on the Huron-Manistee National Forest in the lower peninsula of Michigan and Forest Supervisor on the Allegheny National Forest in Northwest Pennsylvania.

Most recently, Marten served as the National Director for Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers in Washington, D.C. She has also had many temporary assignments throughout her career, including a detail as Deputy Regional Forester of the Southwestern Region, in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Associate Deputy Chief for National Forest Systems, Washington, D.C.; and most recently, Acting Director for the National Partnership Office, Washington, D.C.

Marten grew up in the Forest Service, a second-generation employee, which combined with two decades of service give her extensive background into the Agency, it’s mission of caring for the land, its programs and its people.

Marten is married and currently lives in northern Virginia.  She has two sons, one in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and the other starting college at the University of Idaho this Fall. 

 

Going to the Sun by bike, behind the Glacier Park plows

BICYCLING — Memorial Day weekend 2015 offered the rare opportunity to for cyclists to pedal all the way up Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road in the fourth weekend of May.

This year's low snowpack allowed crews to clear the snow off the road earlier than normal all the way to Logan Pass.

But bicyclists owned the road. Crews had not yet finished snow removal on top and on the east side of the pass, so motorized traffic was still prohibited.  Some cyclists were hauling skis and snowboards to make turns on the corn snow slopes near the pass.

Jim and Sandii Mellen of Sandpoint joined some friends and made the most of the holiday weekend opportunity, riding to the pass TWICE, not to mention day-hiking into Sperry Chalet.

Said Jim:

(Road) is plowed to the pass and beyond about 200 yards. Looks like they might only have about 100 yards to go to meet the east side.  I heard that Going to the Sun Road will not be open to vehicles for another 2 weeks. They still have a lot of guard rails to re-install.

Be sure to click all the way through Jim Mellen's photos (above) to see the wildlife treat at the end. 

Glacier Park rarely disappoints.

What did you do outdoors for your holiday getaway?

Geologist to speak on Lewis and Clark’s Missouri River

LANDSCAPES – A free program entitled "Magnificent Journey: A Geologic River Trip with Lewis and Clark through the Missouri River Breaks of Montana" will be presented by geologist Otto Schumacher at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at Jack & Dan’s Tavern, 1226 N. Hamilton St., in Spokane.

Social hour and a chance to order dinner starts at 6 p.m.

Schumacher will present a slide show based on his and Lee Woodward’s book of the same title.  The geology and landforms of the Missouri River Breaks will be described as they relate to the colorful history of this spectacular river system, from the Lewis and Clark expedition to the mountain steamboat era and modern day usage of the river.

Washington men fined $41K for poaching Montana elk

POACHING —Five Western Washington state men have been stripped of hunting privileges in Montana for five years and ordered to pay $41,000 in fines and restitution for their role in illegally shooting trophy elk on the Rocky Mountain Front and failing to check them at a game station.

The case stemmed from a yearlong, two-state poaching investigation by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks into bull elk shot on private land off Benchmark Road adjacent to the Sun River Game Range, according to a story by the Great Falls Tribune.

It involved execution of a search warrant at a home of one of the Washington hunters, gathering DNA evidence from elk antlers, checking game check station records and locating the kill sites based on photos taken by the hunters.

Robert MacMillan Jr., 39, and Robert MacMillan Sr., 65, both of Montesano, appeared before Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley in Lewis and Clark County Justice Court on Friday, when they were sentenced after entering plea agreements.

Robert Church, 52, of Raymond, entered his plea via video teleconference.

Brent Schiller, 44, of McCleary, and Ken Mills, 48, of Montesano, previously were sentenced.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police assisted, but could not confirm this week whether the men also lost their hunting privileges in Washington, as would normally be the case because of interstate compact agreements.

The men were charged in connection with shooting six bull elk — five of them trophy size — on the Cobb Ranch near Augusta.

Here are more details from the Tribune story on how these men cast a dark reputation on all Washington hunters in the eyes of Montanans:

At the time of the shootings, which occurred in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the ranch was part of a hunting district that was closed to bull elk hunting. The Cobb Ranch, which runs a private-lease hunting program, was not aware that the elk had been shot and assisted in the investigation, according to FWP.

The MacMillans turned over the antlers of two of the bulls Friday, and Bryan Golie, a FWP Region 4 investigator, loaded them into the back of his pickup.

"We are starting to see more and more of this kind of stuff," Golie said of Montana big game being illegally shot and taken out of state.

"But it also shows we will cross the country to get these animals back," he added.

He called it a scheme to shoot trophy elk and get them out of the state secretly.

The MacMillans chose not to comment, with Robert MacMillan Sr. saying it would be his word against FWP's.

Golie and Sgt. Dave Holland, another FWP warden, traveled to Washington after requesting that authorities there conduct a search warrant at the home of one of the hunters. All of the hunters also were interviewed at that time.

FWP began investigating in April 2014 after Holland received a complaint from the Cobb Ranch about elk carcasses being found on the ranch. The elk had been quartered, and the heads were gone, with only ribs and legs left behind.

FWP officials linked one of the kill sites to November 2013, based on hunting tag information left behind.

"So now we know roughly when they were killed," Golie said.

That information was then compared to records at the Augusta game check station, where hunters must report deer and elk they shoot.

The records showed that no elk from the ranch had been checked. But FWP investigators did find information about hunters who had checked in deer at the game station, and those deer had been shot in the same area where the elk were taken.

"What really got these guys caught was documentation at the Augusta game check station," Golie said.

Wardens used photos taken by the hunters to find the actual kill sites by walking the area and matching them with the identical surroundings captured in the photos. Shell casings were found at the kills sites, Golie said.

"We put a lot of time into this, hours and hours and hours," Golie said. "Some of these cases are difficult. You can't make every one of them. In this case, we made some very solid cases."

FWP also took core DNA samples of the antlers that were confiscated and compared it to DNA collected at kill sites.

The initial investigation involved elk shot in 2013. It led to investigations of additional elk shot in 2010 and 2011, Golie said.

MacMillan Jr. pleaded guilty to failure to stop and report at a check station, hunting during closed season and unlawful possession, all misdemeanors. A felony count of unlawful possession was dismissed. He was fined $2,085 and order to pay $8,000 in restitution.

MacMillan Sr. pleaded guilty to misdemeanor failure to stop and report at a check station, hunting during a closed season, also a misdemeanor, and felony unlawful possession of a bull elk. He was fined $4,085 and order to pay $10,000 in restitution.

Church pleaded guilty to failure to stop and report at a check station, hunting during a closed season, unlawful possession and hunting over the limit. He was fined $3,585 and order to pay $1,500 in restitution.

Restitution for illegally shooting an elk is $1,000, unless it's a trophy, when restitution is $8,000.

"Basically, the state has put a figure on what their wildlife is worth," Golie said.

In addition to the fines, the men can't hunt in Montana for five years.

Schiller was previously fined $2,085, and Mills, $2,050.

Each man was ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution.

Nisbet to lead wildflower walk on South Hill Bluff Tuesday

NATURE — Jack Nisbet, Spokane author, historian and naturalist, will lead a wildflower walk on the South Hill Bluff Trails on Tuesday evening. Some background:

Among Nisbet's books are "David Douglas: a Naturalist at Work" and "The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest."  Roughly eighty species of plants, trees and animals are named after Douglas, who first identified them in the early 1800s.

David Douglas died an untimely death in 1834, but trust me, it's a treat to do a nature hike with a Douglas expert like Nisbet.

  • Meet 6 p.m. at 37th and High Drive
  • Wear hiking shoes.
  • Bring water.
  • Free and open to the public, but donations to the Friends of the Bluffs welcome.

Newman Lake access to close June 2-4 for aquatic weed control

WATERSPORTS — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  public access site at Newman Lake will be closed June 2-4 to allow treatment of the lake with herbicide to control Eurasian milfoil and other aquatic invasive weeds.

The Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District, under permit from the Washington Department of Ecology, has hired Aqua Technex to treat milfoil infestations on about 25 acres throughout the 1,200-acre Spokane County lake with 2-4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, dimethylamine salt).  

A swimming restriction will be in force during treatment and for 24 hours after treatment. Signs will be posted discouraging swimming and boating the day of treatment and for two days afterward.

The boating restriction is needed because wave action reduces the herbicide's effectiveness, Fish and Wildlife officials say.

Karen Kruger, Spokane County water resources technician, said aquatic weed treatments at Newman Lake during the past two summers have reduced the original infestation tremendously, thanks in part to volunteer efforts to help keep boaters out of the herbicide application areas.

Aquatic herbicide application permits authorized by Ecology include requirements and restrictions to protect fish and wildlife.

Scott Young, Fish and Wildlife access manager, said the gates to the area will be closed early on Tuesday, June 2, and re-opened early on Friday, June 5.

Newman Lake is about 20 miles northeast of Spokane, about two miles west of the Idaho border, and is open year-round for fishing.

Mountain bikers going 24 Hours Round the Clock

CYCLING — They started at noon today — 9 hours ago — and they're not even half way finished.  A total of 675 riders in 109 teams plus a contingent of crazy solo riders are in the groove for the 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race at the Seven Mile airstrip area of Riverside State Park.

In addition to a great race, it's a fine campout and all-night party for the teams and spectators.

Check it out Sunday.   The race ends at noon.

Photo: Northern lights frame Glacier Park - whoa!

NIGHT SKIES — Wherever you're headed outdoors this holiday weekend, I hope Nature leaves the Lights on for you.

Government hunters prepare to kill salmon-eating birds

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Not since the market hunting days have waterfowl gunners set their sights so high.

Government hunters reportedly are scouting an island at the mouth of the Columbia River as they prepare to shoot thousands of hungry seabirds to reduce the numbers of baby salmon they eat.

Biologists blame the cormorants for eating millions of baby salmon as they migrate down the Columbia to the ocean. Some of the fish are federally protected species.

Hunters from Wildlife Services went to East Sand Island on Thursday to look over the lay of the land before starting to carry out plans to reduce the population of double crested cormorants from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 by 2018, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. 

An environmental impact statement calls for them to shoot adult birds, spray eggs with oil so they won’t hatch, and to destroy nests.  

  

Memorial Day 2015 holiday offers choice conditions for fly fishing

FISHING — Although fish managers and anglers are a puckered about this year's low snowpack and how that will play out for our trout fisheries through the summer, conditions are generally GREAT for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

In the 37 years I've written about the prospects for Memorial Day, I recall that the norm for most years was to report that area rivers were too high for good fishing.

Not this year.

Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has been on all the area rivers recently and he agrees.  Here are some tidbits from his full blog post on the holiday weekend fishing forecast:

  • North Fork Coeur d'Alene — "Wow, looks like late June or July up here!"   River's in great shape for this weekend. Many riffles are already skinny — wade fishing or pontoons will be best options, since drift boats and larger rafts would have to be dragged in many cases. Recommended patterns: PMD's, caddis, March browns, yellow sallies and brown drakes. Expect to have company on the river.
  • St. Joe River — In great shape for Memorial Day weekend, but avoid the river downstream from Calder, where fishing will and access within 50 feet of the river will be prohibited Saturday and Sunday for the Race the Joe! jet boat races.  Above Calder, the river is at a late June level and great for wading or floating. "The river near Spruce Tree Campground is on the colder side; fish are there, but will be lethargic in the morning. Best fishing will be below Gold Creek. Recommended patterns: Stoneflies, brown drakes, March Browns, caddis, PMD's and yellow sallies.
  • Spokane River — Closed until June.
  • Clark Fork — "Big, but on the drop." Clarity already is good enough to fish. If it stays course, flows should be a suitable for fishing, although the possibility of rain could change that. Recommended patterns: Skwala with a drake or March brown should get fish up, but also consider a San Juan dropper.
  • Local Lakes — Fishing has been good overall, and competition is light now that most anglers are heading to streams. Amber, Medical, West Medical are all good options now. Recommended patterns: Damselfly nymphs or similar patterns fished on intermediate or sink-tips; Chironomid and callibaetis nymphs for still fishing well in less than 15 feet of water; balanced leech.

Fire danger prompts shooting restrictions on Wenas Wildlife Area

PUBLIC LANDS — Target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area will be restricted to the hours between sunrise and 10 a.m. from May 22-Sept. 30 because of fire danger, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The department has restricted target shooting on the wildlife area, located between Yakima and Ellensburg, every year since 2012. This year’s restriction takes effect earlier in the year and reduces by one hour the number of hours per day that target shooting is allowed, said Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the WDFW wildlife area.

With drought conditions across the state, anyone heading outdoors for the long Memorial Day weekend should be aware of fire risks, said Clay Sprague, manager of the WDFW lands division.

  • Information about local fire-danger is available here.

“It’s essential that we protect public lands for both recreation and wildlife habitat,” Sprague said. 

Shooting on the Wenas is being allowed in early morning when the risk of starting a wildfire is less severe.

According to the WDFW media release:

Target shooting has caused several wildfires on the wildlife area in recent years including three fires in 2014 alone. Last summer’s Cottonwood No. 2 fire burned almost 9,000 acres and cost $800,000 to suppress. Restoration of the charred landscape has cost another $500,000 so far.

“Last year’s fires followed by this year’s drought compel us to take a more cautious approach,” Confer Morris said.

Public notice of the limited hours announced today will be posted at all entry points and at established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.

WDFW adopted the restriction in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.

In addition to this restriction, the department is considering a proposal to permanently restrict target shooting to two designated sites and would continue to restrict target shooting to morning hours during late spring and summer, when fire danger is the greatest. The department held two public meetings this spring to discuss this target-shooting proposal for the Wenas Wildlife Area.

WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing a plan for target shooting on the wildlife area. The department expects to make the decision later this fall.

Like all of WDFW's wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Lands manager Sprague reminds people who plan to visit WDFW wildlife areas in south central Washington – including the Wenas, Colockum, L.T. Murray, Oak Creek and Sunnyside-Snake River wildlife areas – of a campfire ban that’s in place through Oct. 15. Visitors to the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties also should be aware of a campfire ban until Oct. 31.

Find more information on WDFW wildlife areas.