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Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, a fee-free day at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Studies conflict on whether Idaho would lose in federal lands takeover

PUBLIC LANDS — Who do you believe on this issue?

 Analysis paints different picture of Idaho taking over federal lands
The Idaho Conservation League released an economic analysis done by a Wilderness Society economist with a Ph.D. from Northern Arizona University's School of Forestry that said the cumulative cost of Idaho taking control over most of the federal government's lands within its borders would be $2 billion over 20 years, while the analysis done by the state Department of Lands earlier this year said the state could reap between $51 million and $75 million annually in net revenue from managing those lands.
—Idaho Mountain Express 

Study reveals increasing development along forest boundaries

PUBLIC LANDS — Perhaps researchers are offering some insight on how wildlife and hunters are feeling the squeeze of humanity in rural areas — and why forest fire fighting costs continue to soar.

Private development along the edges of most public forests in Oregon and Washington more than doubled since the 1970s, a new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station has found.

The study, which used aerial photography to inventory structures at the fringes of public forests, is the first to look at development trends in the two states before and after the enactment of land use laws. The findings are reported in Changes in Development Near Public Forest Lands in Oregon and Washington, 1974-2005: Implications for Management, a report published by the PNW Station.

“Although public forests are not necessarily directly subject to development, they still face management issues at their edges because of indirect development pressure,” said David Azuma, a research forester at the station who led the study.

In Oregon and Washington, about half of all forest lands are publicly owned and managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. Using a fine-scale grid of points on air photos across the two states, Azuma and colleagues classified areas outside of federal lands for land use and then recorded the number of structures within a 321-meter radius of each of these points.

“Quantifying the increases in structures in areas that have not been converted in land use can serve as a surrogate for the broader risk associated with development near public lands,” Azuma said.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Structure density within 1 kilometer of public forest more than doubled for each of the public owner groups between the 1970s and the mid-2000s.
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources lands are the most developed along their edges, with an average of 11 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer of their land – a rate that is more than twice that of lands managed by the other public land owners.
  • In Oregon, the greatest amount of development occurred along the edges of Bureau of Land Management forests, where there is an average of 4.4 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer and 19.5 structures within 2 to 5 kilometers of their land.
  • The greatest increases in structure density along public forest borders occurred in Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Clark Counties in Washington, and in Deschutes County in Oregon.

The study’s findings suggest that areas with increasing development should probably expect continued development. The work can help agencies that manage public forests to better plan for management options at the edges of their land.

  • The study also verifies the attention Washington state agencies and groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy have given to “blocking up” forest lands that are in checkerboard ownership.  See story and links.

The report is available online

Idaho lawmakers get divided testimony on taking over federal lands

PUBLIC LANDS — A proposal by Idaho lawmakers to assume control of millions of acres of federal land statewide earned mixed reviews today, with supporters calling it an essential step to revitalizing rural economies and critics panning it as a financial boondoggle, according to a story that's just been moved by the Associated Press.

The Federal Lands Interim Committee meeting gave lawmakers their first chance to gauge public opinion on a plan calling on the federal government to cede much of the public land it oversees in Idaho to the state, writes AP's Todd Dvorak in Boise.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a resolution making a case for the land transfer and the committee is spending two years to study the merits before submitting a recommendation in 2015.

Those encouraging lawmakers Wednesday included leaders of tea party groups, foresters who’ve seen local economies struggle amid declines in timber cutting and the shutdown of sawmills and county leaders frustrated with the management of national forest lands.

Ken Postma, a former forester for wood products company Boise-Cascade, argued the state would be a better steward of the forests and more amenable to expanding logging and other activities.

Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press:

Public lands transfer proposal draws testimony, opposition

The Idaho Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee is taking public testimony this morning on proposals to have the state take over title to federal public lands. So far, most has been solidly against the idea. Opponents expressed concerns over Idaho’s vast public land being sold off to private owners; an economist said the state of Idaho would incur billions in costs that it can’t afford; and a foresters association expressed concern over road management costs the state would take on.

An exception was Russ Smerz, an unpaid lobbyist for Tea Party Boise who said he was speaking for “23 different liberty groups around the state of Idaho,” including 14 tea party groups, the John Birch Society, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Open Carry and more.  “We do support the transfer of federal lands to the state,” he told the committee. “Basically it’s increased school funding, better managed by the state than the feds, and the historical precedent that has been set by the eastern states.” Jeff Wright of Boise County spoke in favor of transfer; he said his county is 90 percent federally owned. “We can’t develop an economy because we’re not allowed to,” he said. “I think it’s time that Idaho took control of their own destiny.”

Buster Gibson, vice chair of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, spoke against the move. “I come from a long line of leaders and we do not have a settlement or a treaty with the federal government,” he told the committee. “Land title for southwestern Idaho has never been transferred to the United States. … That is our land, my people’s land. It has not been patented and we do not want the state of Idaho to manage it for us. We want the federal government to continue the management or to give it back to us and compensate us for it. We still hold Indian title to this land and that’s where our relationship to the federal government stands; it’s not to the state of Idaho government. … You have no right to take this land or to manage it. You’ll leave us with two options: We can fight you in federal court, or we’ll fight you in the nation’s capitol.”

Jack Trueblood told the lawmakers, “I fear the ultimate result would be the sale of much of those lands, and there’s nothing that restricts access like a no-trespassing sign.” The committee has another public comment period set for 1:30 to 2:40 p.m. today, as part of its all-day meeting in the Lincoln Auditorium in the state Capitol, which also includes a series of presentations. You can listen live here.

Forest Service considers fee for ‘uphill’ skiers accessing slopes at resorts

WINTER SPORTS —  As more backcountry skiers use roads and parking areas plowed by ski resorts and then strap on skins and climb their way up groomed or controlled slopes to reach their backcountry destinations, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed a rule change that would allow ski areas that lease lands from the federal agency to charge a fee for the uphill skiers.

See the story here.

Another human-fed wild creature bites the dust

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I don't have a crystal ball, but this one was an easy call.

The spike elk featured toying dangerously with a photographer in a video that went viral this month has been euthanized by Great Smoky National Park officials. The elk had become too accustomed to people and was posing a danger.

My blog post called it like it was — a death sentence.

Here's the latest update, which ends with the photographer whining that he's tired of being blamed.  

Whah! 

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 9-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Montana landowners curbing access to public lands

PUBLIC LANDS — For sportsmen of all persuasions — and the businesses and economy they support — this is a troubling trend that's accelerating in Montana:

Disputes over public access across private land in Montana on the rise
The Public Land/Water Access Association, which advocates for public access to public lands, said private landowners in Montana are increasingly blocking access to roads across their lands that have existed for decades, and PLWAA is tracking at least 10 such closures in Darby, Fergus, Madison, Meagher, Ravalli, Sweet Grass, Teton and Toole counties.

—Great Falls Tribune

Federal shutdown still taking toll on recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — As the federal government shutdown advances to Day 11, I was buoyed by this headline and story today:

Utah loans federal gov't $1.7-million to open 5 national parks
On Saturday, the five national parks in Utah, as well as Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments, will reopen after the state signed an agreement to loan $1.7-million to the federal government, enough to keep them open for 10 days.

But we can't get our hopes too high in Washington — where we're not even adequatley funding our STATE parks.

Maybe a caffeine high will be our salvation:

Starbucks launches petition drive to get government open again
On Friday, petitions seeking the reopening of the federal government will be available at all 11,000 Starbucks shops in the United States.

Although many people and businesses are suffering this week in all walks of life, my outdoors column on Thursday highlighted some high prices recreationists are paying for the budget impasse in Washington, D.C. Here's a summary as we head into the weekend:

All 401 national parks are closed, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the public boat launches for the Columbia River Reservoir. Note: Free boat launching is available at Two Rivers Marina, owned by the Spokane Tribe.

National Wildlife Refuges are closed. That means hunters with special elk permits for Turnbull Wildlife Refuge are out of luck, waterfowl hunter who would be using blinds at Columbia and Kootenai national wildlife refuges and locked out and fishermen who would by catching trout at Bayley and McDowell lakes are prohibited from entering the refuge until the shutdown is over.

Forest Service offices are closed, which means outfitters can't get permits for their seasonal activities and neither can woodcutters, all of whom are on a deadline delivered by the seasons regardless of what goes on in Washington, D.C.

Hunters are finding campgrounds closed as they head into the opening of deer and elk seasons.

Anglers are finding streamflow information on U.S. Geological Survey water websites and fish passage numbers from the Corps of Engineeers are not always up to date.

Hikers trying to finish the months they've devoted to completing the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail are being blocked at the national park boundaries, such as at North Cascades National Park, and told they have to stop or re-route.

Other stories to ponder as the arrogancen in D.C. continues:

Shutdown halts logging project in Idaho, puts sawmill in peril
Brad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Lumber Co., the sawmill in Ovid, is just one of a number of timber contractors who were told to stop logging in Idaho because of the federal government shutdown, and Jensen said the cessation of the work puts his entire business at risk.

Wyoming national forest sends its concessionaires packing
Grand Teton National Forest had kept its concessionaire-operated facilities operating despite the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but they were told to pack up and leave as the shutdown continued, which means Granite Hot Springs in the Wyoming forest closes today.

National wildlife refuges off-limits to hunters as federal shutdown continues
Upland bird hunters in South Dakota, duck hunters in Montana and antelope hunters in Colorado won't be able to hunt on national wildlife refuges this weekend as seasons open but the federal government remains closed.

Montana governor says state won't pay to open national parks
Gov. Steve Bullock said he would not use state funds to open state parks as he believes the federal government should re-open it its entirety, including the payment of death benefits to members of military families who lost loved ones.

National Parks, neighboring towns take financial beating from shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — My outdoors column today highlights some personal stories of individual recreationists impacted in a big way by the continuing government shutdown that's closed federal services and some federal lands since Oct. 1.

Here are more details about some of the overall costs:

Report tracks shutdown's costs to national parks
A report issued by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said that the federal government's shutdown that closed national parks and monuments has cost the U.S. economy $750 million in the first ten days, with Yellowstone National Park representing $9,452,054 of that loss; Glacier National Park $3,076,712; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors travel in October to view the eye-popping fall foliage, has lost $23 million.

—Casper Star-Tribune

Shutdown throttles businesses in Utah community near Zion NP
October is usually a busy time of year for Springdale, as tourists stop in the Utah town on their way to or from Zion National Park, but the shutdown has left the community's streets quiet, although the IMAX theater in town, which is now showing documentaries about the park, which is, for now, the only way to experience the park.

—Salt Lake Tribune

Utah governor offers to loan Interior Dept. money to open national parks
Gov. Gary Herbert said he talked with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday and offered to loan the federal government the necessary money to get national parks and monuments in the Beehive State open again, and he said that his offer has precedent, as Arizona loaned the federal government money during the 1996 shutdown to keep the Grand Canyon open.

—Deseret News

Could Idaho cover costs of managing federal lands?

PUBLIC LANDS — A new report sheds light on the grim future of national forests, BLM lands and federal wildlife refuges if certain Idaho Legislators were to get their way.

Report: Federal government spent $392M to manage lands in Idaho in 2012
As Idaho officials mull a method to assume management of federal lands within the state's border, a report from the Congressional Research Service said that the federal government spent $392 million to manage the 32 million acres it controls in the Gem State in fiscal year 2012, considerably more than Idaho's estimate that it could make $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts.

-Idaho Statesman

Forest Service shutters rentals during federal shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — While national forest lands are still accessible during the federal government shutdown, facilities are not, including a twist I had not thought about in my previous posts:

“One addendum to your blog about facilities affected by the gov't shutdown,” writes Aaron Thiessen of Spokane:”Forest Service (and other federal) rentals are closed, too.

“I just got a call that our reservation for this weekend at Snyder Guard Station has been canceled until further notice.”

Plan ahead for free entry to refuges Oct. 13

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Oct.13 — National Wildlife Refuge Day — which is honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas such as Turnbull and the Little Pend Oreille national wildlife refuges. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Discover Pass revenues increase, but still short of projections

STATE LANDS — Revenue collected from sales of the Discover Pass was nearly $1 million higher than the previous year, according to a report prepared for the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission.

But it still falls short of funding the needs of state parks.

Sales in the second full year of the program generated almost $16.7 million, compared with $15.7 million in the first year.  The majority went to state parks, with the rest going to the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Even with the increase, the Discover Pass revenues fall short of the Washington Legislature's projections when it enacted the pass program.

The program was created to offset the loss of state funding through budget cuts. A $30 annual pass or $10 daily pass is required in motor vehicles accessing state parks and other state-managed recreation lands.

The Discover Pass program was projected to bring in $23.4 million in the first year. It managed only $13.2 million.

A report prepared for the state Parks and Recreation Commission says the state took in $32.4 million in the two-year budget cycle that ended June 30.

Parks officials hope that the trend of accepting the Discover Pass continues, boosted by legislative changes to allow families to use on more than one vehicle.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Sept. 28

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Sept. 28 — National Public Lands Day — which is honored by the National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three other holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Destructive shooters leave their mark

PUBLIC LANDS — After reading yesterday's blog post regarding the frustration of Idaho Panhandle National Forests officals over destructive shooting activity near Hayden Creek, reader George Barlow emailed me the photo above.

No, it's not from Iraq.

It shows the outhouse at the BLM's Hog Canyon Lake boat access site after semi-automatic weapons shooters had their way with it.

The scene explains the gunpowder vandalism that pushed BLM officials to ban shooting in the core area of the Fishtrap management area a few years ago.  

 

Shooters trash Forest Service signs at Hayden site

SHOOTING — The small but formidable percentage of pigs who wallow anonymously in the freedoms afforded by the Second Amendment continue to make a bad name for the sport of target shooting.

Worse, they are at an alarming rate reducing the number of places responsible gun owners can shoot. 

A site on the Coeur d'Alene National Forest near Hayden Creek that's been used by shooters for decades is on the verge of being shut down by people who trash the place with target garbage, shell casings and litter, while blasting to pieces any sign posted to plead for responsibility.

Photos with this post show signs that had been posted for less than three months at the Hayden Creek site. This is the response to Forest Service emphasis patrols at the site and efforts by volunteers to get voluntary compliance with basic littering rules and shooting etiquette.

“Needless to say, we are beyond disgusted with this type of behavior, and I imagine every responsible shooter who uses the area is, too,” said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman in Coeur d'Alene. “We really don’t want to shut down shooting in the area, but behavior like this moves us closer to that decision every day.

Two Washington Department of Natural Resources parcels were declared no-shooting zones by the Spokane County Commissioners this year following a petition by fed up landowners.

Regarding the Hayden Creek site, a clearly frustrated Kirchner added:

We've had abuse in the area going back decades, but it seems to be getting worse every year. You might recall that this spring, and the previous spring, we sent out pictures and a news release begging the public to report slobs at the shooting sites. We've gotten volunteers that have started helping to clean it up, but the slobs who trash these places and shoot up everything in sight have been relentless.

I don't think it's any secret that if the trend continues there will come a time when we will have to decide that the only way to clean it up is to close it to shooting, barricade the sites, and issue citations to anybody we find shooting in the area. It's a shame that a bunch of slobs will ruin it for the responsible sportsmen who use the area.

Snake River dunes patrolled for college parties

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning college students that officers will be patrolling popular sand-dune party spots along the Snake River.

Some public land areas are notorious for big parties, especially after the Aug. 25-26, 2012, blowout at Illia Dunes that attracted about 3,000 partiers and left behind thousands of pounds of trash, broken glass, foam coolers and other liter along the beach as well as about three miles of road ditch. The area had to be closed to the public for cleanup.

Illia Dunes, on the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam, is a popular end-of-summer gathering place for students — but it will be patrolled. 

Read on for the rules from the Corps:

Elk forced out of Turnbull finding new range

WILDLIFE — As hunters are going out scouting for the upcoming big-game seasons, they aren't necessarily looking for elk in traditional places.

For instance, the hunting seasons conducted the past two years inside the boundaries of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge have spurred more of the elk to move out and set up shop in the scablands to the south, east and north of the refuge.

Last year, on Aug. 30, birding buff Mike Miller was suprised and pleased to capture the accompanying photos while hiking around the Oligher Ranch portion of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Telford Recreation Area.

First, the bull was bedded down in the reeds. When Miller surprised it, and himself, the elk trotted out through the sage.

Environmentalists win $1.25 million grazing suit in Oregon

PUBLIC LANDS — Environmental groups have won $1.25 million in compensation for attorney fees and costs in their years-long battle against cattle grazing in Oregon's Malheur National Forest and it's impacts on threatened steelhead habitat, according to the Capital Press.

Last year, a federal judge ended a court battle between environmentalists, ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service over the effect grazing had on threatened steelhead habitat.

Webcast: Idaho lawmakers eye takeover of federal lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal lands belong to every U.S.  citizen, but the Idaho Legislature is attempting, and perhaps wasting a lot of time and money, to take charge of lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies.

On Friday, Aug. 9, the Idaho Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee will hold its first hearing to consider a process for the controversial proposal to acquire title to all federally administered public lands in Idaho.

The Interim Committee was established through House Concurrent Resolution 22, enacted by the Idaho Legislature in April demanding that the federal government “imminently transfer title” to more than 33 million acres of public lands in Idaho.

The hearing will be webcast live online.  (Under Committees/Locations, click on Venues, then on EW42)

WHAT: Federal Lands Interim Committee Meeting

WHEN: Friday, August 9, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. (MDT)

WHERE: Idaho Capitol, Room East Wing 42 (EW42), Lower Level, 700 W Jefferson St, Boise

WHO: Members of the Interim Committee from the Senate include Sens. Winder (Co-Chair), Davis, Tippets, Nuxoll and Stennett. Representatives on the Committee include Reps. Denney (Co-Chair), Moyle, Anderson, Hartgen and Burgoyne.

See the agenda.  

See reaction from the Idaho Conservaton League

Washington State Parks join ban on fires

CAMPING — Fires and charcoal barbecue grills — even in designated campsites — have been temporarily banned in Washington State Parks starting today to coincide with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources ban on outdoor fires announced on Tuesday.

The statewide ban is in effect through Sept. 30 and prohibits campfires in developed campgrounds and other recreational fires, although State Parks leave the option open to allow campfires sooner if weather cooperates.

Campers at state parks will be allowed to use devices that allow for control of combustion, including propane and liquid gas stoves appropriate for camping and backcountry use; propane barbecue devices that do not use solid briquettes; propane or pressurized white gas warming devices that have a shield or base; and solid fuel citronella or other candles in a metal bucket or glass container. 

Plan ahead for free entry to national parks Aug. 25

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Aug. 25, the National Park Service Birthday, with free access to all national parks.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

GAO report: 3 of 4 Forest Service trails below standards

HIKING — A new federal report says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit.

The is the latest news, coming out after my recent localized story: Budget cuts leave recreation areas looking for outside help.

The Missoulian this week looked into the Government Accountability Office's nation-wide report on trail conditions.

Two groups petitioned members of Congress to look into the matter, since the last similar study was done in 1989. U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Jim Moran, D-Va., officially requested the study.

“With the important exception of maintaining forest health to combat wildfires and insect kill, there is no other activity in the Forest Service’s portfolio that is more important than ensuring the public’s access to our forests and wilderness areas,” Lummis said in a statement, where she also described the trails maintenance program as “held together by Band-Aids and bailing wire.”

The Government Accountability Office report released on June 27 found the Forest Service did some maintenance on 37 percent of its 158,000 miles of trail in fiscal 2012. But it estimated another $314 million in deferred maintenance remained on the to-do list, along with $210 million in unfinished annual maintenance, capital improvements and operations. In its recommendations, the GAO called for closer work with volunteers to get projects done.

That’s already a working assumption for groups like the Backcountry Horsemen, according to Montana state chairman Mark Himmel.

“We asked the Forest Service for a punch list of places that needed work,” Himmel said after returning from a brush-clearing trip on the Continental Divide Trail near Rogers Pass. “The guy said throw a dart at the map. Wherever it hits needs work. We’re a maintenance organization. We pick up the slack and make it work. We know there’s budget cutbacks. I don’t know where it’s going to go, except to just keep at it.”

Mud boggers leave mark of shame on forest meadows

PUBLIC LANDS — I don't care much if you drive onto your own land and rip it to shreds with your four-wheel drive vehicle as long as you're not polluting public waters downstream.

But the chronic spring problem of mudboggers ripping public lands to shreds is disgusting to the core.

Photos here show two recent abuses from the Colville National Forest and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  Memorial Day weekend was a free-for-all on portions of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, where Forest Service officers wrote ticket after ticket and never scratched the surface of the off-road riding abuse.

  • The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group offers rewards for people who pass on information that leads to the arrest of these off-roading criminals who desecrate public lands.

Here's an observation from Franklin Pemberton, spokesman for the Colville:

Most of the truly obvious abuse (torn up meadows and giant mud holes next to or on roads) are from individuals in 4X4 vehicles that actively seek out a “mudding” experience in meadows or on fragile spring roads. In one instance we had a “mudder” completely destroy a beautiful meadow that once had a crystal clear small stream running through it by driving a circuit through the meadow and spinning their tires in order to create deeper mud.  They did this over and over again all the while digging deep ruts that diverted a once clear stream into a muddy series of pools and puddles.  (Pictures attached)  This was near Big Meadow Lake.

The sad thing is, many of these mudders have no idea that the stream they damage was feeding Big Meadow Lake and will degrade the water quality and reduce the number of fish the lake can support.  A few of the people we have caught in the past claimed to be avid hunters and anglers and were shocked at how this activity can impact fish and wildlife aside from water quality and the spread of noxious and invasive weeds.

Here's today's report about recent damage on the Nez Perce-Clearwater:

Forest Service officials have discovered evidence of extensive resource damage near Camp 60, a popular site for camping and off-highway vehicle use, on the North Fork Ranger District of the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests.

An area that was, until recently, a beautiful meadow, has now been transformed into a giant mud bog, covering approximately .25 acre of National Forest System Lands.  In addition, new illegal routes have been developed, crossing through area streams.

While an exact date of when the resource damage occurred has yet to be determined, Forest Service officials believe that the activity took place very recently, perhaps within the past two weeks.

If anyone has information pertaining to this incident, please contact Law Enforcement Officer Steve Bryant at (208) 875-1131.

Dirt biker policy on where they ride: Don’t Ask, Don’t Know

OFF-ROADING — Some dirt bikers seem to have a “Don't Ask, Don't Know,” policy about riding on public and private lands.
 
At least a dozen motorcyclists in some sort of organized ride on Mica Peak Monday were riding on roads and off roads.
 
The were riding on private land, Inland Empire Paper Co. land and Spokane County Conservation Futures land — all closed to motor vehicles. The No Trespassing signs they rode past (see photo) were a clue to be ignored.
 
What's with this total disregard for land that belongs to someone else?

Plan ahead for free forest access on June 8

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is June 8, Great Outdoors Day, with free access to national forest lands such as the Umatilla and Okanogan-Wenatche forest areas where the Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent is otherwise required. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Check road, trail conditions before you go

FORESTS — A trail closure notice just issued by the Colville National Forest is a reminder that roads, trails and campgrounds are subject to the whims of nature, even on a holiday weekend.  

Call ahead to forest offices to check on any last-minute closures that could foil your plans.

 

Upper North Fork Trail #507 will be closed to public use until a washed out bridge can be replaced, Colville Forest officials announced this morning. 

The #507 trail is a connector trail that connects the upper portion of the North Fork of Sullivan Creek to the #515 Crowell Ridge Trail in the Salmo Priest Wilderness.

Info: Sullivan Lake Ranger Station at (509) 446-7500.

Interior Secretary Jewell keynotes Ducks Unlimited convention

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will speak at the annual  Ducks Unlimited convention this week during a visit to Portland in her first West Coast trip since she was sworn in last month.

Today Jewell and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales are set to announce nearly two dozen conservation projects to help boost youth employment, the Department of the Interior says.

On Friday, she, Gov. John Kitzhaber and a representative from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will sign an agreement to speed the review and permitting of energy generation and power transmission projects in the Northwest.