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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Comment requested on proposed wildlife land acquisitions

PUBLIC LANDS — More than 700 acres along the Kettle River in Ferry County is among 13 proposed land acquisition areas for fish, wildlife and related recreation the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering in the next three years. 

The agency has posted details of the properties on its website and is asking the public to comment on the proposals.

The proposed acquisitions — general and specific — include a 150-acre addition to the Reardan Audubon Lake for migratory birds and bird watching and 3,750 acres for the fourth phase of the the 4-0 ranch acquisitions along the Grande Ronde River to boost everything from steelhead to elk as well as public access. 

The parcels also include 2,200 acres in Okanogan County geared to habitat for sharptailed grouse and hunting for other species.

Most of the individual projects are described within their "geographic envelope" – the general area that includes the parcels being considered for acquisition.  An envelope is used for planning purposes only.  Should the department desire to acquire a particular parcel. WDFW will contact the landowner to determine his or her interest before initiating any acquisition proposal.  The department develops acquisition agreements only with willing property owners.

WDFW will not use operating budget funds for these land acquisitions. Instead, the department will seek state and federal grants for most of the proposed acquisitions. Potential grant sources include the State of Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and federal grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (also known as "Section 6" funds) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Fish and Wildlife officials plan to refer to public comments as they present the proposals at the state’s annual Land Acquisition Coordinating Forum in March. The statewide forum brings together state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, tribes, landowners and other citizens to share ideas about state land actions for habitat and recreation purposes. 

Teanaway purchase becomes Washington’s first state forest

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Forterra today announced the purchase of 50,272 acres in the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed.

The area, with benefits ranging from the watershed's importance to irrigators to the outdoor recreation opportunities, is being designated the Teanaway Community Forest.

The $97 million Teanaway acquisition is the largest single land transaction in Washington State in 45 years and reflects more than a decade of collaboration involving many organizations and individuals, state officials said in a media release. 

The property will become Washington's first Community Forest, a model designed to empower communities to partner with DNR to purchase forests that support local economies and public recreation, said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. 

The forest will be managed through a partnership between DNR and WDFW, with input from the local community and interested stakeholders.

Acquisition of the property is a key step in implementing the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, an initiative developed by a coalition of public and private organizations to safeguard the basin's water supply, restore fisheries, conserve habitat, preserve working lands, and enhance recreational opportunities. 

Read on for details on how this came to be.

Idaho Conservation League celebrates 40 years at Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — A group that formed over a spaghetti dinner is celebrating four decades of creating a voice for conservation in the Idaho State Legislature and beyond.

The Idaho Conservation League is inviting the public to its 40th Anniversary Celebration, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille at Trinity by the Beach Restaurant in Sandpoint.

Since 1973, ICL has grown beyond being a legislative lobbying group to taking on issues ranging from air pollution to protecting state and federal wild lands in Idaho.

“There is much to celebrate after 40 years of dedicated work,” says Susan Drumheller, ICL’s Community Conservation associate in Sandpoint. “A few of our accomplishments over the years include protecting the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area, passage of new national rules to reduce mercury pollution, and recently, protecting Idaho’s rivers and streams from suction dredge mining.”

ICL has also enjoyed major accomplishments locally. The group helped protect Long Canyon, the last unroaded drainage in the Selkirk Mountains, and has spearheaded a campaign to permanently protect open space along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, with the creation of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

The group has 18 staff members working across the state, more than 25,000 supporters and working relationships with organizations, businesses and community leaders.

“Our work is always about personal connection, credibility and trust. We work to build bridges and get things done. That can be hard in Idaho, but it’s always worth the effort,” said Rick Johnson, ICL’s Executive Director for over 18 years. “Mary Lou Reed, an ICL founder, gave our first director a sign that says ‘Remember North Idaho.’  Forty years later we are proud of our three-person Sandpoint office and our work in the Panhandle."

The festivities will include a full hearty dinner, no-host bar, live music by the Monarch Mountain Band, and fun raffle items including ski and stay packages, fishing trips, original artwork and a one-of-a-kind quilt made from vintage ICL t-shirts. The evening also includes a pictorial time-line of ICL over the last 40 years, a showing of ICL’s 40th anniversary movie, and a short presentation by ICL Executive Director, Rick Johnson.

Tickets for the event are $30 each and can be purchase on-line, www.idahoconservation.org, by calling (208) 345-6933 or at the door as supplies last.

Just wondering

Around here, how many people play golf AND tennis?

I tend to think of golfers and tennis players as being in two very distinct camps. But surely there is some crossover.

Maybe it's like that Gay Communist Gun Club skit on SNL years ago.


Washington funds $86 million for outdoor recreation, conservation

For release:July 10, 2013
Contact: Susan Zemek, 360-902-3081

CONSERVATION — The Washington Legislature funded a venerable state program, that, in turn, is awarding $86 million in state and federal grants that will build parks and boating facilities, maintain backcountry trails and off-road vehicle access, improve the safety of archery and firearm ranges, conserve farmland and protect wildlife habitat.

The grants, which are awarded through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, will be given to cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribes and non-profit organizations for work in 34 of the state’s 39 counties.

Grant recipients match the funding with resources of their own. In total, grant recipients will contribute nearly $57 million in matching resources, making the state and federal dollars stretch further.

“Washington’s outdoors are one of the things that make this state great,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Outdoor recreation in Washington contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to our economy, supports 115,000 jobs across the state, draws people from around the world to our mountain tops and shorelines, and is one of the reasons people and businesses move here and stay here. Investing in Washington’s outdoor economy just makes good sense.”

The grants are funded through eight different grant programs that receive money from state and federal sources, including the sale of state bonds, gas taxes, and user fees. The Legislature authorizes funding for all the grants.

Before they are selected for funding, grant proposals go through an extensive review that includes evaluation by advisory committees made up of citizens with experience in recreation, farming, and wildlife habitat.

“Our rigorous process ensures, that we fund only the best of the best projects,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the board and administers the grants. Generally, only about half of the grant requests are funded. This year, 414 projects requested more than $163 million in funding.

These grants will fund a tremendous range of projects, from maintaining trails in the Olympic Mountains to conserving elk habitat in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Click below for descriptions of each grant awarded in the following counties:

Adams County…………………………… $410,500

Asotin County…………………………. $4,630,000

Benton County……………………….. $2,405,146

Chelan County………………………… $8,080,559

Clallam County…………………………. $679,037

Clark County………………………….. $3,691,908

Cowlitz County………………………….. $146,850

Douglas County…………………………. $950,000

Grant County………………………….. $2,109,631

Grays Harbor County…………………. $345,318

Island County…………………………. $2,524,721

Jefferson County…………………….. $5,044,634

King County……………………………. $6,160,836

Kitsap County…………………………. $5,866,822

Kittitas County………………………… $4,076,722

Klickitat County…………………………. $980,750

Lewis County…………………………….. $397,800

Mason County………………………… $4,840,191

Okanogan County…………………… $4,902,750

Pacific County………………………… $1,724,800

Pierce County…………………………. $6,210,948

San Juan County………………………… $867,500

Skagit County…………………………. $1,723,271

Skamania County……………………. $1,302,800

Snohomish County………………….. $2,972,718

Spokane County………………………… $246,001

Stevens County………………………….. $790,750

Thurston County……………………… $4,106,234

Whatcom County………………………. $500,066

Whitman County……………………….. $100,000

Yakima County……………………….. $4,250,439

Multiple Counties (including Columbia, Garfield, Wahkiakum)      $1,970,819

Statewide………………………………. $1,437,967

Evaluators needed for state recreation grant applications

CONSERVATION — Six volunteers are needed to work with the Recreation and Conservation Office in evaluating grant applications for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

For more than 20 years, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) has been the state’s primary source of funding for parks, trails, and wildlife habitat and is the only source of state funding for working farms.  

Antoine Peak and many of the Spokane County Conservation Futures areas have been secured with help from these funds.

In a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition founded the WWRP in 1989 to address the need for preserving more land for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat.

The Coalition continues to be the primary advocate and watch dog for the WWRP. In 24 years, the Coalition has leveraged more than $1 billion for projects in every county across the state.

The state Recreation and Conservation Office has released the following requirements for WWRP evaluators:

  • One volunteer should be from a recreational organization or parks board and three should be from local government. These volunteers will evaluate grant applications from state agencies and will serve on the State Lands Development and Renovation Advisory Committee.
  • Two volunteers should work for local government and have experience managing parks for a diverse range of recreational activities. These volunteers will evaluate grant applications to buy land, build or improve local parks and will serve on the Local Parks Advisory Committee.
  • One volunteer is also needed to evaluate trail requests.

Applications are available on the RCO’s website. The deadline is June 14, 2013. 

Contact: Frances Dinger, 509.590.8111 | frances@wildliferecreation.org

Editorial points to success of Wildlife & Recreation Program

CONSERVATION — If you use parks, trails or public open spaces in Spokane County, you have been a beneficiary of the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program. (Click on this link and check out the more than impressive projects list under "campaigns.")

It's a state program worth funding, as today's S-R editorial points out.

Centennial Trail surely must have more than 350 “friends”

 TRAILS — Numbers stood out to me in several cases as I researched today's Outdoors column on the Spokane River Centennial Trail, a 37-mile ribbon of park that's the envy of cities across the country.

Four years ago, Riverside State Park had two full-time Centennial Trail rangers and a seasonal maintenance crew.  State budgets cuts have slashed the staffing to one seasonal ranger.  Period.

The trail is used about 2 million times a year, yet only 350 people are signed up as members of the Friends of the Centennial Trail, a group that's critical to the sustainability and development of the trail.

Even if you never set foot, bike or skate on the trail, it's worth supporting just to have it there for our citizens and our visitors and to keep the river shores open to the public going into a future that will see even more pressure for riverside development.

Check out the Friends of the Spokane River Centennial Trail website and consider becoming a member or making an additional contribution to the Trail Builders Fund.

Meetings address Spokane Parks Department budget cuts

PARKS — Every division of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing a 5.5% budget reduction in 2013 as the city seeks to trim the department's budget by $1 million.

Park departments include Riverfront Park, Park Operations, Planning, Administration, Budget/Finance, Marketing, Youth Centers, Youth Camps, Outdoor Programs, Corbin Art Center, General Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, Aquatics, Sports and Sports Facilities.

Officials have scheduled three meetings to gather public input on how to maintain services while budget shortfalls are addressed.

The public meetings are 6 p.m.-8 p.m. as follows:

  • Thursday (June 21), West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt.
  • June 26, Southside Community Center, 3151 E. 27th.
  • June 28, Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook.

Comments also can be emailed to Parks@spokanecity.org.

Guv takes on feds over Lake Lowell recreation

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of the State of Idaho, has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the state's "strong opposition" to the proposed new management plan for the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which would restrict some longtime recreational uses, from powerboating to kitesailing. "Although it is now a wildlife refuge, wildlife and recreation have co-existed with irrigation throughout the life of the Deer Flat project," Otter wrote. "In fact, irrigation was the original purpose of Lake Lowell. As a Bureau of Reclamation project, preservation of wildlife habitat is secondary to the water rights owned by irrigators."

There's more. Otter asserts that state law supersedes wildlife habitat at the refuge, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the purpose of a national wildlife refuge is "to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife." As is his wont, Otter directly takes on the federal government. "Make no mistake: The responsibility and jurisdiction to manage fish and resident wildlife belong to the State of Idaho," he writes. You can read his full letter here, which includes this comment, "If the current use of the manmade reservoir, which includes a multitude of recreation activities, has produced such a high-quality wildlife refuge, then it makes sense for those activities to continue."

Attached to Otter's letter, at the same link, is a five-page detailed comment from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which isn't as confrontational, says Fish & Game "anticipate(s) a cooperative working relationship with Refuge staff in managing fish and wildlife," and calls for much more restricted no-wake zones, developing additional fishing access at Gott's Point and other areas, and addresses hunting and other issues. Also attached is a two-page formal comment from Idaho State Parks & Rec, backing continuing current management strategies and calling for much more limited no-wake zones. "Restricting boating access would severely impact Canyon County boaters," the state parks department wrote.

Idaho congressional delegation wants more time for Lake Lowell comments

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — All four members of Idaho's congressional delegation are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the public comment period for a conservation plan that could put new restrictions on Lake Lowell. The public comment period is scheduled to expire July 29, but The Idaho Statesman reports the delegation sent a letter this week asking for a 120-day extension. Canyon County officials, boaters and others are worried about the planning process, which they expect will put new restrictions on activities around the man-made lake and surrounding Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. But refuge managers say the changes would help safeguard wildlife while still allowing public access. The proposed plan would limit motorized water sports and bicycles, impose access and boat-launch fees and bar dogs and horses from the refuge.

Census Bureau to collect wildlife recreation information

WILDLIFE — On April 1, U.S. Census Bureau employees will begin the first wave of data collection for the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation from about 53,000 households across the country.

Conducted every five years by the Census Bureau, the survey is sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the source of statistics we often read about wildlife recreation trends and numbers of hunters, anglers and birdwatchers in the United States.

"Participation in this survey is important because the results help us better manage our natural resources and to understand the demands being put on our wildlife and their habitat," said Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau. "This is one of the many surveys conducted by the Census Bureau for other federal agencies."

The latest data from the survey show that in 2006, more than 87 million Americans 16 and older enjoyed some form of wildlife-related recreation and spent $122 billion in pursuit of these activities.

Read on for more details.

BLM advisory council meets in CdA

PUBLIC LANDS — The Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Coeur d’Alene District will meet in Coeur d’Alene Tuesday at the District Office, 3815 Schreiber Way.

In addition to the RAC's regular business items, the agenda includes election of officers, briefing from field offices on various programs, and an update on the Forest Service recreation program.

The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 8 a.m. The public may address the RAC from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Info: Lisa Wagner, RAC coordinator,  (208) 769-5014.

Crapo sets public meeting Saturday on boating, recreation on Lake Lowell

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo has called a meeting at Lake Lowell on Saturday on the future of boating and other recreation at the lake, a national wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is in the process of creating a new comprehensive management plan that could threaten some traditional uses, including power boating. “Recreation is a vital part of our lifestyle and our economy, as well as a historical use of Lake Lowell,” Crapo said.  “I am encouraged by the strong response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s call for public comment, but the comment period for the new management plan is scheduled to close in mid-September.  Now is the time for recreationalists and residents to weigh in and let our elected leaders, as well as the Service, know their feelings about the future use of Lake Lowell.”

The meeting will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the west end of Lake Lowell, at Lower Dam, south of Nampa. Crapo noted local irrigators helped create Lake Lowell, which is fed by canals supplying water to local agricultural users and property owners.  Irrigators, recreational groups and elected officials will all be in attendance for the lake meeting.  County commissioners, members of the Idaho House and Senate, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officials, boaters and recreational interests and businesses will attend.