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Sierra Clubbers lead strolls in local natural areas

OUTDO – Sierra Clubbers are leading a series of evening walks with an environmental emphasis through Spokane-area natural areas that runs through September.

Hikes so far have been in Riverside State Park and on Mount Spokane.

Read on for the remaining list with details on each hike and the contacts.

Conservation groups urge feds to keep wolves protected in Pacific NW

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Contacts for 24 conservation organizations say they sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Although federal protection on gray wolves in most of Eastern Washington was lifted at the same time wolves were delisted in  Idaho and Montana, wolves remain protected by state endangered species laws.

Wolves setting up housekeeping from the east flanks of the Cascades and into Western Washington would enjoy federal and state endangered species protection.

But groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resource Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and others sent the letter, noting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving toward a decision on whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection. 

  • Just for balance, I'm going to throw in a few observations to the points the groups make in a joint media release.

“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today they occupy just a fraction of their former range.”

  • Wolves  have just begun to work on game herds and kill livestock in Oregon and Washington.

About 100 wolves are dispersed among AT LEAST five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California. 

“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that they are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”

  • Efforts should start now to translocate wolves from Eastern Washington to the Mount St. Helens and Olympics areas to let Western Washington share the diversity/benefits/burden of having wolves. This would speed up recovery and expedite delisting of wolves in the region.

The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest was driven home when the Lookout Pack — the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years — was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.

Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover, benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.

  • True, but wolves had the room to work freely and naturally in Yellowstone. They don't have that room or prey base in Stevens or Pend Oreille counties, and it's certainly not clear that any sort of public majority wants them on the Olympic Peninsula. Elk herds are not out of balance in Eastern Washington with the single exception of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, where hunting appears to be a workable solution.

Read on for more from the media release by the 24 conservation groups.

Mt. Spokane ski expansion plan comment ends Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — A years-old effort to expand lift-assisted skiing to the “back side” of Mount Spokane State Park will enter its final stage with Tuesday’s deadline for public comment on environmental impacts.

Details are on the Washington State Parks planning website.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has been seeking permission from Washington State Parks to add a lift and expand the downhill ski area into the forested northwest side of the mountain. Ski area managers say they need to expand their terrain to remain competitive with other area ski resorts.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists have warned that clearing ski runs could impact wetlands and other wildlife habitat in the remaining third of the upper mountain not already impacted by the ski area.

Groups such as The Lands Council, Spokane Mountaineers and Sierra Club oppose the expansion, saying the resort should spend money upgrading existing facilities rather than invading an intact forest and meadows favored by backcountry skiers.

Comments should be directed to:

Project lead: Randy Kline, Environmental Program Manager
E-mail: randy.kline@parks.wa.gov 

Mail: P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650

Also underway, the State Parks Commission is seeking input about the future of Washington State Parks  including Mount Spokane and Riverside State Park.

Links:

Mt. Spokane Ski Area Expansion

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

Mt. Spokane Coalition

Washington State Parks – Beyond 2013

Look who got the Best (outdoor) Internship on Earth

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few months ago, I wrote a story for college-age students who might be interested in what the Sierra Club calls The Best Intership on Earth.

The key: You had to make a video application. 

Check out the vide above to see how Kokei Otosi responded and landed the job.

Click here to see the intern's website and follow her job in words and videos as she participats in an annual summer program uniting young adults with a passion for the environment with community outreach programs that focus on outdoor experiences.  

Kokei will travel around the country, documenting these experiences in video blogs for the Sierra Club and www.PlanetExplore.com.

Kokei will also march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, mobilize youth at Outdoor Nation, camp with Military Family Outdoors and rock climb on the Great Lawn at the White House.

Applications for 2012 internshiip will open in the winter. Check here for info.

This student internship is outdoors dream job

OUTFIELD — If you know an outdoors-oriented student looking for a summer job, here's one with perks that caught my attention, including $2,000 worth of top-quality outdoor gear, a $2,500 stipend and expenses-paid backcountry trips in multiple states.

The Sierra Club is billing its summer youth ambassador job as the best student internship on the planet.

But the deadline to apply is March 16.

I talked to last year's intern for a story coming in Sunday's Outdoors section. Evan Geary, 23, a graduate of New York University in film, said his three months of outdoor experiences last summer spanned five states and included river rafting in California, backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and working with underprivileged kids on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.

The youth ambassador, who must be at least 18 and a student or recent high school or college graduate, is based at the San Francisco headquarters and travels to join organized Sierra Club groups and post video blogs about their experiences.

The intern should have a love of the outdoors and the knack for communicating that enthusiasm to others.

Sierra Club Productions equips the intern with video gear. Editing abilities are a plus, but the most important requirements are a good eye for a story and a gift for interviewing people who are passionate about the outdoors.

Internship details, video information

  • Get all the details about the Sierra Club Youth Ambassador Summer Internship at the Sierra Club website.
  • Deadline to make the video application is March 16.
  • The website also includes examples of the short videos Evan Geary made last summer as a Sierra Club intern – including the video he sent in with his application to bag the job.

The youth ambassador will spend the summer video-blogging on different Sierra Club outings sponsored by Inner City Outings, Building Bridges to the Outdoors, and Volunteer Vacations programs.

Spokane group has cure for kids with ‘nature deficit disorder’

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NATURE — Saturday’s snow storm contributed to the adventure for about 100 kids 8-12 years old on a Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings boat cruise to view the annual gathering of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“We spotted between 80-100 eagles perched and watched a dozen or so catch fish,” said Chris Bachman, ICO director in Spokane. “This despite the blizzard we encountered which just added to the experience. Lots of kid and adult smiles.”

The eagle cruise is just one of about 16 trips ICO organizes to help provide kids with outdoor experiences that connect them into real-world knowledge and serve as a healthy alternative to violence, alcohol, drugs and boredom.

Chris Bachman, who won a national Sierra Club award in September for working with youth, is featured in Monday’s S-R print edition story as he talks about his devotion to getting kids in the outdoors.

Read on for a few insights he offered that won’t make the paper.