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Search-Rescue teams huge asset to recreationists

OUTDOOR PURSUITS — The weekend rescue of a climber trapped by a shifting boulder below Chimney Rock gives us cause to pause, take a deep breath, evaluate and be thankful for a the services we enjoy every time we venture into the outdoors, even if we don't need them.

The mountains can be dangerous. Always be prepared for a night out in the elements, even if you're just day hiking.  At the minimum, carry a pack with the 13 Essentials (listed at the end of this post). The two climbers involved in weekend search and rescue operation in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains were well equipped with trek-in backpacks of gear, food, water and warm clothing in addition to the small summit packs they used during the climb of Chimney Rock.

Reliable companions can be your best insurance while traveling in the backcountry. Ammi Midstokke, who was trapped by a boulder that crushed her foot as she hiked away from Chimney Rock east of Priest Lake last weekend, had the luxury — a relative term — to be accompanied by Jason Luthy, a wilderness medicine instructor and member of volunteer search and rescue teams.

Acquire some training in wilderness survival and medicine. The Spokane Mountaineers offer courses in mountaineering and backpacking. And Luthy offers instruction through his company, Longleaf Wilderness Medicine based in Sandpoint. When self-rescue was clearly out of the picture, he called for help and tended to Midstokke for more than 8 hours through the night.

Support Search and Rescue teams.  The Priest Lake Search and Rescue group that took the risk through the night to save Midstokke are trained VOLUNTEERS who raise money for equipment at the annual Priest Lake Huckleberry Festival. All of the region's Search and Rescue efforts are largely underfunded. "These guys were awesome," Midstokke praised after the rescue. They even did breathing exercises with her to help her through the pain through the long night.

Thank God for helicopters.  Midstokke lifted to safety after her all-night ordeal on a stretcher dangling from a cable hoist below a specially equipped helicopter staffed by trained airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. While you're at it, thank Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for working to keep rescue flight helicopters available for service.

This 36th RQF has been in the news several times this year, including two flights this summer to save the butts of a rafter and a Pacific Crest Trail hiker.

The Spokane area has access to other helicopter medical services, such as Northwest MedStar, which offers a low-cost insurance plan. But Fairchild's powerful helicopters with cable lifts are needed for rescues in rugged locations. 

Fairchild wasn't always a reliable partner for civilian rescues.  In the late 1970s, I covered the story of rock climber David Sather (co-owner of the former Western Outdoor Sports shop in Spokane Valley), who suffered a compound fracture of his femur in a rock fall while climbing Chimney Rock. Fairchild crews were training nearby in Tacoma Creek but the base refused to call them in to the rescue. Search and Rescue teams had to carry him out in a brutal ordeal for all involved that put Sather's leg and life at great risk.

Since then the command at Fairchild has changed it's policies. This flight to rescue Midstokke was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue,

Outdoors groups and mountaineering clubs have devised a list of essential gear that should go along with every hiker, hunter, climber or other outdoors adventurer heading away from town. With these “10 essentials’” and the knowledge to use them, life-threatening situations can be prevented.

 1. Map of the area
2. Compass
3. Extra food and water
4. Extra clothing
5. Flashlight with extra cells
6. First-aid kit
7. Matches in a waterproof case
8. Fire starter
9. Sturdy knife
10. Sunglasses and sunscreen

The Spokane Mountaineers recommend “13 essentials,” which supplement the above list with:
11. Emergency shelter such as a space blanket.
12. Signaling device.
13. Toilet paper.


Rescuers save climber pinned by boulder at Chimney Rock

MOUNTAIN RESCUES — Sandpoint rock climber Ammi Midstokke, 36, battered from head to toe from a bout with a 1.5-ton granite boulder, wasted no time being thankful to her friend and two teams of rescuers. 

"Bottom line- everyone is safe, I'm pretty banged up, and spending the night under a rock sucks. I'll update more as the morphine wears off!"

As soon as she came clear from the medications, she posted on Facebook this summary of her Sept. 19-20 ordeal in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

A brief explanation: after a successful summit of (the west side of) Chimney Rock, a boulder came down on me while crossing the talus fields, pinning me in its path. Jason Luthy attempted self-rescue but it was both too heavy and too dangerous.

We called Search and Rescue and they tried to stabilize me with heat and good stories. Eight hours later, well past midnight, they were able to hoist the boulder and extract a very deformed, very dead looking foot. There was much drama on my end as blood began to flow into the foot and the team transported me to safe ground. It was apparent that hiking out wasn't an option, so we hunkered down until the Air Force could lift me out after daylight.

Initial X rays show tarsal breakage but a remarkably whole foot. We'll know more later this week. I couldn't have hoped for a more competent adventuring partner or a better group of rescuers. You guys are all my heroes!!!

Midstokke suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot.

According to a report from Fairchild Air Force Base, Luthy was able to call 911 at 5:30 p.m. prompting rescue efforts. An eight-person Priest Lake Search and Rescue ground party began a hike at 8:20 p.m. negotiating steep, narrow and rocky terrain finally reaching Midstokke at 12:49 a.m.

The PLSAR ground party used a web and pulley system to free her from the boulder in less than one hour. Her injuries were stabilized and she was kept comfortable as the situation was assessed.

It was determined that hiking her out would be too dangerous in the night time hours considering the remote location and the unforgiving nature of the terrain. Efforts went underway to contact the 36th Rescue Flight at Fairchild.   

At 7:10 a.m., a four-member crew from the 36th RQF and the 336th Training Support Squadron 'Rescue 13' was dispatched to the area in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.

They arrived on-scene at 7:45 a.m.

"A hover was the only possible way of extraction as the terrain was far too treacherous to land," said Capt. Josiah Hart, 36th RQF co-pilot. "We made our initial approach, but the aircraft started to sink due to excess fuel. To get more power, we burned off some fuel for 25 minutes and reengaged to a 30-foot hover over the scene.

The crew then lowered Maj. David Oldham, 336th TRSS flight surgeon, down to Midstokke and the ground party delivering water and preparing her for extraction on a Stokes Litter. At 8:35 a.m., Oldham signaled to 'Rescue 13' in the skies above that she was ready for extraction. Due to favorable winds, the approach was made to an 80-foot hover over the scene. Midstokke was hoisted out followed by Oldham. Rescue 13 then transported her to Sandpoint, Idaho where she was transferred via-ambulance to Bonner General Hospital.

"Having this training and capability to perform rescue missions provides a valuable service to Inland Northwest residents," Oldham said. "All the pieces fit together for this rescue. The ground team worked very hard through the night and when we arrived it was a seamless transfer from ground to air - the whole experience was very humbling."

"Overall, our crew for this mission was well practiced in this kind of scenario and they all performed extremely well during the extraction," said Capt. Erik Greendyke, 36th RQF aircraft commander.

"There are always people who will need help, and if we have the ability to help, we should," Hart said. "Without our capabilities, Ms. Midstokke may have had a difficult time being rescued. It was truly a team effort to rescue her on Saturday.

Recovering from her injuries at home today, Midstokke is extremely thankful for the Fairchild crew.

"I feel extremely grateful for the Air Force crew rescuing me," she told Scott King of Fairchild public affairs. "They were all very competent and compassionate in a traumatic situation. The rescue itself was technically very challenging and the fact that the Air Force was able and willing to do this is testament to the professionalism of our U.S. military — thank you for your commitment to service and everything you did to keep me safe and well!"

This was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue.

Wilderness panel discussion, hikes based out of Sandpoint

PUBLIC LANDS — A great combination of thought and exercise to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is planned for Friday and Saturday based out of Sandpoint sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League, the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education.

The Wild Weekend for Wilderness includes a panel discussion about the historical and cultural significance of wilderness in America, the history of wilderness politics in North Idaho, the Forest Service's role in identifying lands suitable for wilderness and the management of proposed and designated wilderness areas including the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

North Idaho backcountry experts, including a wilderness ranger, will lead hikes on Saturday to North Idaho areas that qualify for wilderness designation.

The celebration concludes Saturday night with a party including live music, libations, food, giveaways and anniversary cake.

Here's the schedule:

  • Friday evening panel discussion, Why Wilderness, 5:30 p.m. at Panhandle State Bank, 414 Church St.
  • Saturday guided hike to Chimney Rock.  Sign up here or call (208) 265-9565.
  • Saturday guided hike to Scotchman Peak. Sign up here.
  • Saturday guided hike to Harrison Lake. Sign up here.
  • Saturday "Wild Night," 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m., includes food, music by The Yaaktastics at Evans Brothers Coffee, 524 Church St.

By the way, Congress signed the historic document called The 1964 Wilderness Act 50 years ago today.

The act initially protected 54 areas in 13 states totaling 9.1 million acres of backcountry in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Since President Lyndon Johnson signed the act, the system has expanded to 757 wilderness areas in 44 states totaling more than 109 million acres.

Researchers set grizzly bear snares near Priest Lake

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

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

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

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers target trail to West Fork Lakes in Selkirks

TRAILS — The Idaho Trails Association is partnering with the Bonners Ferry Ranger District to conduct trail maintenance work on Trail 21 to Hidden and West Fork Lakes in the northern Selkirk Mountains.

Volunteers are needed for the effort on Aug. 11-16

The group will meet at the Bonners Ferry Ranger Station. Potential volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of two days trail work, but may continue volunteering with the group until Friday, August 16.

The Forest Service will provide tools and food.

Volunteers are asked to supply their own backcountry camping gear.

Info: Idaho Trails Association, look for the project listing under the “Events” section of the website. 

Contact:  Alisha Pena, Volunteer Coordinator, (208) 761-7520 or trails@idahotrailsassociation.org.

Bear activity closes popular Harrison, Beehive Lakes trails in Selkirks

HIKING — Bear activity has prompted the Idaho Panhandle National Forests today to temporarily close popular trails to Beehive and Harrison Lakes in the upper Pack River drainage of the Selkirk Mountains.

The two trails and the surrounding area are closed to the public until further notice to ensure public safety, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

A bear recently entered a camp site near the Beehive Lakes Trail and was able to remove camping equipment and human food, he said.

Campers have to step up and follow simple bear-wise rules to protect campers who come after them as well as public access to these coveted backcountry areas.

This bear — the people involved couldn't verify whether it was a black bear or grizzly — likely had been lured by food previously.

One group's sloppy camping can unnecessarily screw up the outdoor experience for everybody, as this instance proves.  

And neglecting to hang or protect food usually brings a bitter end for the bears, as it did this month for bears that had become food-conditioned in Montana's Smith River State Park (see story).

Here are the rules from the Panhandle National Forests

There is a mandatory food storage order in effect from April 1 through December annually. All food and beverages including canned food, soda and beer, garbage, grease, processed livestock or pet food and scented flavored toiletries must be unavailable to bears and stored in bear resistant containers at night and when unattended. For more information on proper food storage, members of the public are encouraged to visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s food storage web site.

Temporary closures are the first step in ensuring public and bear safety when problematic encounters occur.

For more information please contact the Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website.

Heat wave leaves Selkirk Mountains lakes ice-free

HIKING — What a difference a week makes this time of year in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

Last week I reported ice still covering Beehive and Little Harrison lakes at 6,200 feet elevation up the Pack River drainage in the heart of the Selkirks.

Seeing the late opportunity to make some turns on the snow fields above Beehive Lakes, local skier Mike Brede trekked in on Saturday and found a slightly different scene.  

There was still enough snow to make a run of 975 vertical feet from twin Peaks down to the upper Beehive Lake (see photo, that's the ice-free upper lake at the bottom of the run).

But the ice was gone from Beehive and Little Harrison lakes.

"And the mosquitoes are out now," Brede confirmed.

See more of his photos on Facebook.

Selkirk Mountains lakes still frozen above 6,200 feet

HIKING — Despite the heat wave the moved into the region on Sunday, plenty of snow and ice remained in the high Selkirk Mountains of Idaho.

I joined a group of hikers, drove north of Sandpoint and followed the Upper Pack River Road to the Beehive Lakes trailhead a mile from the end of the road.  (Eight cars were parked at the Harrison Lake TH and our group brought the total to six at Beehive TH).

Within a few hours, we had followed the trail and the short section of cairns over granite slabs just over 3 miles to upper Beehive Lake elev. 6,457 feet and found it frozen with only a little water around the edges showing.

Scrambling up a ridge toward the crest, we looked down on Little Harrison Lake, 6,271 feet elevation (see Harrison Peak in the top right background of the photo above). It, too, was still iced over.

 But the trail into Beehive was snow-free and scrambling was good on the granite slabs and ridges.

The snow is going to go fast in this hot weather, though.  We were able to easily cross Beehive Creek over some cut branches on the way up. But on the way down that creek had swelled from snowmelt and everyone got his feet wet as the water poured over the makeshift woody debris bridge.

Other observations:

  • Excellent conditions for glissading.
  • Moose on the trail.
  • No mosquitoes at Beehive, yet.

Other reports:

Field report: Trailheads becoming accessible in Selkirks

HIKING — Most of the popular trailheads in the Selkirk Mountains near Bonners Ferry are accessible by vehicle as of this week thanks to rain that erased much of the snowpack.

But hikers can still expect to find snow on the high and shaded trails.

Also expect blowdowns on many trails for awhile as trail crews are just getting  access, too.

Here's a summary by Bonners Ferry Ranger District trails coordinator Pat Hart:

Roman Nose-Trout Creek road open to trailheads, but snow remains on trails.

West Fork Smith Creek route is open but West Fork Lake Trail has considerable damage; not suitable for stock.

Two-Mouth and Myrtle Peak  access road is in bad condition, not even suitable for some high clearance vehicles. However, trail to Burton Peak is accessible and maintained.

Clifty Peak area is accessible but not maintained.

Boulder Creek area has just become accessible to vehicles, but has not been maintained.

Long Canyon-Parker Ridge may not be maintained for at least two weeks. Snow still clogs the high areas.

Snyder Creek ORV trails have been maintained.

Environmental groups to sue feds over caribou habitat

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups have just released a notice that they plan to sue the federal government over its recent decision to cut more than 90 percent of the land originally proposed as critical habitat for the last woodland caribou in the Lower 48 states. 

A media release was issed by the Center for Biological Diversity. It lists The Lands Council based in Spokane as one of the five groups challenging the federal decision.

In November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a plan that slashed its previously recommended protected caribou habitat in Idaho and Washington from more than 375,000 acres of 30,000 acres. 

That decision came after an outcry from some politicians and snowmobile advocates, who complained that too much land was being set aside to help a small number of caribou.  Federal biologists said the outcry did not influence their decision.

While there are large herds in Canada, the woodland caribou in the U.S. is limited to a small corner of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington.

The animals face conflicts in Canada as well as in the U.S. with humans over road construction and snowmobile recreation.

Snowmobiling allowed in one area of Selkirks — unless caribou sighted

WINTER SPORTS — Snowmobiling restrictions have been eased in a state lands portion of caribou habitat in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains — as long as no caribou activity is detected in the area. 

Sounds like a guarantee of sorts.

See the announcement posted this week on Pecky Cox's blog, As the Lake Churns:

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has revised the closure criteria for the Restricted Winter Access Unit (RWUA) located on State endowment trust land in Abandon Creek. This area will now be treated similarly to other preferred caribou habitat located near Temple Mountain, Standard Lakes, Eddy Peak and Horton Ridge. A closure will be implemented only after there has been a confirmed caribou sighting in the Selkirk Crest near the preferred habitat. Since there hasn’t been a caribou sighting since 2004, the Abandon Creek area will be open to motorized use this winter unless a caribou is sighted within 2.7 miles of the RWUA perimeter or upon recommendation of Idaho Fish and Game.

Previously, confirmed sightings south of B.C. Highway 3 (i.e. Snowy Top) triggered a closure in the Abandon Creek area. The change in criteria for the Abandon Creek area is reflective of IDL’s review of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat designation for caribou, and it has now been 8 years since the last confirmed caribou sighting (2004) on State endowment trust land in Abandon Creek.

Feds agree to review endangered status of caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — "Maybe you got a point there," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seemed to say today as it annouced its response to a petition questioning whether the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou deserves status as an endangered species.

The petition to remove the rarest mammal to venture into the USA from Endangered Species Act protection was filed in May, 2012, by the Pacific Legal Foundation (representing Bonner County, Idaho), and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association.

The southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou was protected under the ESA in 1983 as an endangered species stemming from the threats posed by poaching, habitat loss due to timber harvest and wildfire, motor vehicle collisions and genetic problems through inbreeding. It occupies high-mountain habitat in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington and southern British Columbia.

Most of the controversy over caribou protections stems from the habitat issues that have precluded winter snowmobiling into their high habitat at their most vulnerable time of year.

The Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a dramatic scaling back from its original recommendation for designating critical caribou habitat in the Selkirks.

Brian T. Kelly, the Service’s Idaho State Supervisor, said today that the separate petition from Idaho groups "questions whether the southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou warrants listing under ESA. Our initial review found that information in the petition was substantial enough to conduct an in-depth status review.”

More information is available on the Idaho website for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.http://www.fws.gov/idaho/

Here's the viewpoint of the petitioners.  (I must point out that this website uses a photo of the barren ground caribou that roams this Alaska tundra by the hundreds of thousands. This woodland caribou that range into Idaho and Washington are a different subspecies that has a much smaller population.) 

Here is the viewpoint of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Effort to save woodland caribou has clashed with snowmobiling

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A few rebel snowmobilers helped write a restrictive sentence for Selkirk Mountains snowmobilers with the tracks they left along the Selkirk Crest in the early 2000s. 

Warned to stay away from areas protected for the survival of the last remaining woodland caribou herd venturing into the Lower 48 states, they kept coming, defiantly.

Several conservation groups took to the air, photographed the snowmobile tracks in proximity to wintering caribou areas, and made their case to a federal court, getting an injunction on snowmobiling on a larger area of the crest in 2005 and a court ruling in their favor in 2007.

The closure continues this winter as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests continue to work through the science, lawsuits, budget woes and other issues related to managing on-snow motorized recreation with wildlife protection.  (See my Thursday outdoors column.)

Following are links to maps, documents and background stories related to caribou and snowmobiling in the Selkirk Mountains:

2012-2013 map and Snowmobile Guide for Priest Lake, Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint Ranger Districts. The dark purple areas are closed to snowmobiling, with the exception of specific marked routes, because of the 2005 court injunction.

Critical habitat designated for Selkirk woodland caribou, US FWS media release, Nov. 27, 2012

Bonner County files petition to delist caribou, S-R, May 10, 2012

Public land decisions run into roadblocks, S-R, Feb. 26, 2012 

Caribou face precarious prognosis, S-R, Feb. 26, 2012

Caribou protection worries officials, S-R, Dec. 21, 2011

Plan designates land for Selkirk caribou, S-R, Nov. 30, 2011

Agencies increase snowmobile protections for caribou, S-R, Dec. 3, 2010

Lawsuit filed to protect caribou, S-R, Jan. 17, 2009

British Columbia announces caribou plan, S-R, Oct. 18, 2007

U.S. Forest Service crafting caribou plan, March 20, 2007

Caribou buffer zone in Selkirks expanded, S-R, Feb. 28, 2007

Snowmobiles and caribou: Tense trail mix in the Selkirks, S-R, Dec. 17, 2006

British Columbia to transplant more caribou, S-R, Dec. 6  2006

Snowmobilers lose access in court case, S-R, Sept. 26, 2006

Ungroomed ghost town, S-R, Jan. 29, 2006

Group wants snowmobiling halted through caribou land, S-R, Dec. 6, 2005

Caribou numbers desperate, S-R, Nov. 30, 2005

Canada might abandon caribou recovery, Oct. 29, 2005

 Opinion: Caribou lawsuit forced by agency inaction, S-R, Sept. 3, 2005

More snowmobiling restrictions advocated, S-R, Dec. 14, 2004

Caribou facing uphill battle to survive, S-R, July 2, 1997

Caribou transplants survival low, but inching to success, S-R, March 3, 1996

Rare caribou dwindline to 13 in Idaho, S-R, Sept. 3, 1995

More caribou habitat off-limits to snowmobilers, S-R, Jan. 3, 1995

Feds back off big time on caribou habitat protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has downsized its recommendation by more than 10 times for woodland caribou critical habitat in the Sellkirk Mountains. In a country accustomed to supersizing everything, this is a notable example of supershrink.

See story.

The map above shows the orginal proposal.

The final critical habitat designation is posted here.

See documents involved in this final designation here.

The announcement came Tuesday, just days after Bonner County filed a lawsuit challenging legal protections for caribou, but FWS officials say there was no connection.

Idaho's Congressional delegation lauded the federal agency's new light-size critical habitat designation.

The designation will be enacted on Jan. 30.

INFO: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  In the Keyword box, enter Docket No. [FWS–R1-ES-2011-0096]. In the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Send a Comment or Submission.”

Meantime, the Idaho Conservation League offers points to ponder about this dubious decision and the precarious position it presents for this endangered species. 

Click "continue reading: to see the points:

Dead moose near Harrison Lake prompts warning

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fresh moose carcass was discovered TODAY along the Selkirk Crest’s popular Harrison Lake Trail prompting local Forest Service officials to issue a wildlife hazard warning.

No conflicts between humans and wildlife have been reported, but officials recommend that hikers choose another trail and avoid traveling within the vicinity of the carcass, which is likely to attract large carnivores.

The carcass is a half half mile from the trailhead and is likely to attract wildlife including predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions.

It is unknown what caused the moose’s death, said Jason Kirchner of the Panhandle National Forests.

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District, (208) 263-5111.

Rockfall leaves Chimney Rock unstable, dangerous

ROCK CLIMBING — Climbers were humbled earlier this month to find a massive rock fall had wiped out a generation of climbing routes on the east face of Chimney Rock, a landmark on the skyline east of Priest Lake.

And the danger lingers.

The collapse of rock from the near-vertical face erased rock flakes used in many pioneering climbs on the iconic granite pillar in the Selkirk Mountains.

Classic lines now gone include Magnum Force, a route first free-climbed in 1967 by Spokane Mountaineers John Roskelley and Chris Kopczynski.

“Many tons of Inland Northwest climbing history are now part of the boulder field at the base,” said Dane Burns, one of the rock’s pioneering climbers.

"From the splitter crack line of Yahoody left all the routes are now gone. That includes but not limited to the Beckey/Cooper South Nose route, later freed by Roskelley and Kopczynski and renamed Magnum Force, Kimmie, named after our friend Kim Momb and UNI the first trad 5.12 crack done in the inland NW.”

Zach Turner, who reported the rockfall on July 5, noted the east face has a swath of new routes to be pioneered, but warned climbers more unstable rock appears to be hanging on the wall.

See Turner's post with before and after photos of the Chimney Rock east face and a list of the climbing routes affected.

Aerial mountain photography documents beauties, bummers in East Kootenays

MOUNTAINS — This 6-minute sequence of excellent aerial photography documents the splendor of the mountains in Canada just north of Washington and Idaho as well as what some of these precious places could look like without protection.

Those of you who hike, paddle, climb and ski in the West Kootenays and East Kootenays will enjoy these images — titles included — of the Selkirks, Purcells, Rockies, Valhallas, Kokanee Glacier, Jumbo, Flathead, Bugaboos and the Coal Mines

The slide show is by Douglas Noblet, with more photos posted at www.wildairphoto.com.

N. Idaho locals hammer feds on proposed caribou habitat

PUBLIC LANDS — Some North Idahol residents are upset by a proposal to designate an area half the size of Rhode Island in a remote part of the Panhandle and Washington as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou.

They blasted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a meeting on Tuesday, saying the federal plans amounted to a land grab that would devastate the local economy, according to an Associated Press story by Nicholas K. Geranios.

But federal officials said the designation was required to help save the last remaining caribou herd in the Lower 48 states. They said the average person should not be impacted by a critical habitat designation.

That didn’t satisfy many of the estimated 200 people who showed up at the so-called “coordination” meeting requested by the Bonner County commissioners, who are seeking to provide input to federal regulators.

“Our goal in this coordination is to stop this closure,” county Commissioner Cornel Rasor admitted.

Read on for details from the AP report.

N. Idaho officials to meet with feds about caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Bonner County commissioners to meet with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials later this month with the goal of altering the federal agency’s plan to protect habitat for woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains.

The meeting is set for Jan. 24 at the Inn at Priest Lake in Coolin.

Commissioners are concerned the plan to designate as critical habitat nearly 600 square miles of land in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington will harm the local economy by restricting logging, snowmobiling and forest access, according to an Associated Press report.

Fish and Wildlife announced the plan in November after lawsuits by environmental groups. The agency estimates the woodland caribou herd in the region has dwindled to less than 50, with occasional sightings.

“For three caribou, we’re going to tie up over 375,000 acres?” Commissioner Mike Nielsen told the Bonner County Daily Bee, indicating that he prefers to ignore the concept of trying to protect critical habitat for a recovering species.

 “That’s over a hundred thousand acres per caribou that people can't use," he added in a serious overstatement or outright lie. 

People would continue to be welcome to visit the high caribou habitat, although motorized vehicles would be restricted in some areas.

There are issues worth discussion in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, but spewing propaganda cheapens the appeal.

Bonner County mulls options to challenge Selkirk caribou habitat protection

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Bonner County commissioners may challenge a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposal to designated 375,562 acres as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains.

The issue is on the meeting agenda for Tuesday, when the commissioners may discuss invoking a federal rule that requires agencies to coordinate with local officials on land use matters, according to a report in the Sandpoint Daily Bee on Friday.

“We have a dog in this fight and we have tools that have never been used before,” Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor told the newspaper.

The FWS estimates about 45 woodland caribou exist in the southern Selkirks.

The proposal to protect habitat is chilling to businesses at Priest Lake, where residents a few years ago were rocked by Forest Service restrictions on snowmobile entry into the Selkirk caribou recovery zone.

Bonner County Commissioners already have established a Property Rights Council that is challenging federal Environmental Protection Agency standards on developing wetlands around Priest Lake, as detailed in this report by the Boise Weekly

Here’s something I have wondered

How many people living in the Selkirk Mountains have Selkirk Rex cats?


Idaho Panhandle forest planning issues to be detailed by conservationist

PUBLIC LANDS — As the Idaho Panhandle National Forests gear up to revise their forest management plansfor the next 15-20 years, conservationists are sizing up the potential impacts on recreation and wilderness.

Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League will give a presentation about the Panhandle plan revision and possible impacts on the Selkirk Mountains. The program is set for MondaySept. 19, 7 p.m., at Mountain Gear's Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield. See map.

Chimney Rock, Harrison Peak, the Lion's Head, Long Canyon and the Idaho side of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness are among the premier recreation sites included in the planning area, he said.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness friends leading group hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin June 4 with a trek into Thunder Creek northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The moderately difficult hike is just the first of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer along with three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

"We have some great hikes, as usual, but we are expanding our focus to include more stewardship and education,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

ICL group hikes range from Lake Pend Oreille to high Selkirks

HIKING — A June 4 hike along the proposed Pend Oreille Bay Trail kicks of the summer-long series of free guided North Idaho dayhikes organized by The Idaho Conservation League.

The hike series, which overlaps with a series of hikes offered by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, is geared to introducing people to the wealth of backcountry trail attractions in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Read on to see the list of hikes currently scheduled or go to the ICL North Idaho Hikes website to register for trips and see if more trips have been added to the season schedule.

Fisher gives rare photo op

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers used bait and a motion-activated remote camera to photograph the fisher shown above.  Seeing these critters in the Inland Northwest is very rare without taking such lengthy measures.

These large, quick members of the weasel family are common in the Northeast and Midwest, but rare in the Northern Rockies and Northwest, where they are one of the rarest carnivores.  A reintroduction project has been underway for several years on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

In all my outdoor travels, I've seen a fisher only three times.  The most recent was shortly after I began hiking the Goose Creek Trail to Goose Lake in the Clearwater National Forest just south into Idaho from Hoodoo Pass.

Fast Facts

Length: 3 feet (including 15 inch tail).
Weight: 12 pounds (males); 8 pounds (females).
Lifespan: About 7 years.

A fisher has a long, slim body with short legs, rounded ears, and a bushy tail. Fishers are larger and darker than martens and have thick fur. Fishers are agile and swift and are also excellent climbers.

—Defenders of Wildlife