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Free forest access Saturday for Trails Day

PUBLIC LANDS – Saturday is a thrifty time to visit Washington and Oregon national forests that require an access pass for popular recreation sites.

In honor of National Trails Day, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service will waive the fees at sites that normally require a recreaction access pass.  

The passes come in various forms:  a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

More upcoming Free Days include:

  • National Get Outdoors Day - June 11
  • National Public Lands Day – Sept. 24
  • Veterans Day – Nov. 11

Another way to celebrate National Trails Day would be to join the volunteers in a work party to maintain the trail in the  Iller Creek Conservation area on Saturday. See details in this previous post.

Trombetta Canyon boundary proposed by DNR in Colville

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources  will hold a public hearing in Colville regarding a proposed boundary to limit access to the Trombetta Canyon Natural Area Preserve.

Trombetta Canyon, 2 miles southeast of Northport in Stevens County, is a striking geological feature, consisting of a dry cliff-sided canyon incised in a raised limestone formation, with no apparent source of flowing water to have formed it.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 24, at the DNR Armory Building, 225 S. Silke Rd. in Colville. 

See a fact sheet onthe proposal at the DNR’s website.

Read on for more details.

East Slope Cascades roads impacted by runoff

PUBLIC LANDS — Numerous roads on the East Slope of the North Cascades are impacted or closed by snow and runoff, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said today.

Portions of some roads in the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas are closed, as well as some in the Naneum Ridge State Forest and a few in Yakima County.

See a detailed list of the road closures.

Forest Service denies request to manage snowmobiles as ORVs

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday denied a request filed last year from 90 recreation groups asking that snowmobiles on national forest lands be managed under the same guidelines applied to all other classes of off-road vehicles.

Those guidelines, established in 2005, require that ORVs stay on designated roads or trails unless an area is specifically declared open to off-road travel.

Read on for the rest of the story as reported online by Jule Banville of New West

DNR taking notice of dumping on state land

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington Department of Natural Resources is trying to take steps to keep state lands from becoming dumps.

The agency has posted an interactive map on its website showing locations of more than 200 sites that experienced illegal dumping last year on state trust lands.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Larry Raedel, DNR’s Chief of Law Enforcement Services. “For every one of the sites we investigated, mapped and cleaned up last year, there are two or three more out there that we haven’t found yet.”

DNR says state agencies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year cleaning up trash and junked vehicles and hazardous waste on state lands.

The agency is putting out hidden cameras at trouble spots and asking the public to report any suspicious activity related to dumping garbage.

Volunteers needed for trail projects starting this month

PUBLIC LANDS  — The Washington Trails Association, led by Spokane trail maintenace ace Jane Baker has an ambitious schedule to enhance trails, from the Dishman Hills and Liberty Lake, to Mount Spokane, the Kettle Range and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

Volunteers are needed for one-day efforts or you can even join the “backcountry response teams” that go out backpacking and trail working for several days at a time.  Belive it or not, it's great fun and ultimately rewarding.

Read on for Jane's initial announcement and invitation:

BLM to rein in wild horse management

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to scale back costly roundups of wild horses.

In a news release issued Thursday, BLM officials said they will reduce the number of wild horses removed from the range by about one-quarter — to 7,600 per year. The agency also will expand the use of fertility controls and increase the number of animals adopted by individuals or groups. The bureau continues to oppose horse slaughter, which some in the West have advocated as a way to thin herds.

Other groups have called the past roundups inhumane.

The BLM can't win on this issue. But it's clear the land and wildlife habitat is losing the battle where wild horse herds have grown too large.

The new approach comes a week after the House approved an amendment to cut the agency’s budget by $2 million to protest the roundups. The program’s annual cost has tripled over the past decade to $66 million. Annual costs are expected to reach at least $85 million by 2012.

More than 38,000 wild horses and burros roam in Nevada, California, Wyoming and other Western states. An additional 40,000 animals are cared for in corrals and pastures in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

An analysis of the public’s comments and a detailed proposed implementation strategy will be posted at www.blm.gov  on Feb. 28.  Public comments will be accepted through March 30 by e-mail to wildhorse@blm.gov with “Comments on Strategy” in the subject line.

Option cites removal of Lake Roosevelt cabins

PUBLIC LANDS — The National Park Service may require the removal of 25 private cabins that have been built and upgraded over many years within the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area northwest of Spokane.

That’s one of three options in an environmental assessment released Thursday by the agency. The other two options would allow the private cabins to remain under five-year leases. The public will have 45 days to comment before the Park Service is scheduled to make a decision.

The cabins were authorized in the 1950s to encourage recreational use of the lake. They are located at Rickey Point and Sherman Creek. If the removal option is chosen, the owners would have to remove the cabins when the current leases expire.

New planning rules proposed for national forests

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule today which would establish a new national framework to develop land management plans that protect water and wildlife.

The details are still being analyized, but the proposal comes after 40 public meetings and roundtables across the country that drew more than 3,000 participants. More than 26,000 comments were filed on the notice of intent to issue a new planning rule.

Read on for highlights of the proposal from the Forest Service press release. More public meetings are planned starting in March.


Game wardens reality show fined for lack of forest permit

NATIONAL FORESTS – A reality TV show about Montana’s game wardens has been fined $1,050 for not having a permit to film on federal land, according to a story in the Missoulian.

The videographer for Muddy Boot Productions followed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens from state to federal land but didn’t have the a permit to film commercially in national forests.

The permit requirement has been a sticking point for professional photographers who market images made on federal lands.

The company said the crossover into federal land happened spontaneously and they didn’t know where they would end up.

The show, called “Wardens,” follows wildlife enforcement officers day-to-day duties, including checking fishing and hunting licenses, monitoring people searching for antlers, and capturing and releasing rogue bears. It airs on the Outdoor Channel.

Click here to see film clips from the cable TV show that's making Montana game wardens famous.

State lands parking pass a tough sell in WA

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington's budget crisis is leaving lawmakers with the grim prospect of having to close perhaps 100 of the state's parks plus access sites at some recreation areas managed by other state agencies.

One of the solution's is a $30 Discover Pass user fee for vehicles accessing these public lands, detailed in my Outdoors column today. 

The hitch is that even if lawmakers approve the bill for a new vehicle parking pass, Washington residents have indicated they won't buy it.  

The State Parks Department experimented with a vehicle parking fee for day users at some sites beginning in 2003. But the Legislature rescinded the fee in 2006, after stepped-up enforcement triggered public opposition.

This time around the state parks have few other options. The governor's budget proposal offers no general fund money to the parks system.

Sportsmen have become accustomed to paying their way through excise taxes and license fees.  Hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoor groups have not.

The Washington Trails Association has seen the bottom line and realized a new funding source is desperatly needed to nurse state parks through this budget crisis. The group lobbied in Olympia Wednesday and urge support for the Discover Pass bill.

However, in the WTA magazine, the letters from hikers were clearly against a new parking pass required for public lands access.

People don't think twice about paying a fee for every text message they send, but they balk at paying for public land access and management through fees or taxes.  Where do we go from there?  

Conservation a priority on some BLM lands

PUBLIC LANDS —Conservation got an edge in management considerations on a portion of western Bureau of Land Management areas under an order signed late last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar's order clarifies that the Bureau of Land Management should treat conservation as a top priority in managing the 27-million acre National Landscape Conservation System. The bureau also promotes grazing, energy development and tourism on the total of 245 million acres under its jurisdiction.

Some BLM lands, such as Washington's Juniper Dunes, already have the strict protections of wilderness designation. But other choice BLM lands have less secure protections.
The Clinton administration created the NLCS in 2000 to protect and restore nationally significant landscapes, mostly in the West. Congress formally approved the landscape system last year.
The National Landscape Conservation System includes more than 886 federally recognized areas and approximately 27 million acres of national monuments, national conservation areas, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, conservation lands and national scenic and historic trails, including BLM segments of the Pacific Crest Trail.
In Wyoming, for example, the BLM manages 42 wilderness study areas (575,000 acres), five national historic trails, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and one national scenic trail — the Continental Divide Trail. All are considered units of the National Landscape Conservation System.
In Idaho, the BLM manages NLCS units that encompass approximately 3.5 million acres of public land.
Montana's NLCS lands include the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument and 39 wilderness study areas.