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Banff National Park slashes staff positions

PARKS — Fewer people will be taking care of fish, wildlife and the land in Canada's Banff National Park this year.

Parks Canada has eliminated 49 vacant positions on top of other job losses in Banff National Park and employees are being warned not to publicly talk about the federal government’s budget cuts – or face disciplinary action.

That figure had not been previously publicly revealed, but the elimination of the 49 vacant positions is on top of 34 other “impacted” positions in the Banff field unit alone.

Read the Rocky Mountain Outlook story.

Permits required in Montana’s Anaconda Pintler Wilderness

BACKPACKING — The U.S. Forest Service says it’s changing from a voluntary permit system to requiring permits in the popular Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in western Montana.

Wilderness rangers say a growing number of visitors to the area have been ignoring filling out voluntary permits and disregarding warnings about backcountry abuse.

Forest Service spokesman Brandan Schulze says the permits will give the agency an idea of trends in the area so actions can be taken to minimize impacts on the wilderness.

Schulze tells the Missoulian it’s also a way to inform visitors about leave-no-trace principles.

As part of the change rangers will start checking hikers for completed permits. Fines for failing to have a permit range up to $75.

Groups leading trips to choice wild areas from town to wilderness

TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.

Columbia Highlands

  • June 8: Fir Mountain day hike, 4 miles, to viewpoints over the Sanpoil River Valley.
  • June 16: Work party to restore historic Big Lick Trail.

Info: Kettle Range Conservation Group.

Scotchman Peaks

  • June 30: Spar Lake archeological hike, 8 miles, with expert on Native American foraging.

Info: Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Dishman Hills

  • June 9: Pond ecology hike to West Ponds in the Spokane Valley natural area, led by a Gonzaga University biology professor.
  • June 13: Rocks of Sharon, six-mile hike up through the Iller Creek Conservation Area to Big Rock.

Info: Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.

Idaho Conservation League

  • June 16: Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, Family Fun Hike.
  • June 23: Maiden Rock, Selkirk Mountains.

Info: ICL Sandpoint Office, (208) 265-9565.

Conservation funders meet with local groups tonight

CONSERVATION — Local trail-user groups and conservationists are celebrating the major funding efforts of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program with a reception 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., TONIGHT (June 6) at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council Auditorium, 6116 N Market.

The state-funded organization works to leverage public funds for parks, wildlife and working farms, performing a major role in funding outdoor recreation across the state.

In the Spokane area alone, WWRP has provided more than $16 million for conservation and recreation projects. Ranging from the Little Spokane River, Quartz Mountain, Antoine Peak, Mount Spokane and the Centennial Trail, WWRP grants have helped maintain a high quality of life in this area. 

Click here for a complete list of WWRP projects in Spokane County

RSVP for tonight's reception.

Clothing-optional hike among National Trails Day outings

HIKING — A Washington nudist park north of Spokane is celebrating National Trails Day June 2 with a clothing optional hike.

Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park near Loon Lake, WA will host the hike Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. in its 260-acre forest. The park, run by members, welcomes everyone. The group says it's family oriented, although unless the kids are still learning to walk, it doesn't take four hours to hike 260 acres.

“The Inland Northwest has lots of wonderful scenery, but the one unique feature Kaniksu Ranch offers that no one else does is that we can hike safely and legally NAKED in a beautiful, family-friendly environment,” organizers said.

They made no mention of whether the mosquitoes are out.  And we suggest you bring plenty of sunscreen — and dark glasses.

Click "continue reading" for all the dangling details on this event.

MEANTIME, here are a few mainstream Trails Day options for Saturday, June 2 (most require clothing and advance sign-up):

Washington Trails Association is organizing a work party to re-route and maintain trails at Liberty Lake County Park.

Riverside State Park is joining with REI for a family-oriented forest health pruning project in the park.

Elk Creek Falls is the destination for a free two-mile loop hike on the Colville National Forest, led by a Forest Service wildlife biologist.

Butterflies at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge will be the focus of a presentation and field hike led by an expert from the Washington Butterfly Association.

Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are leading a family and dog walk on Saturday and a visit to the Ross Creek Cedars on Sunday.

Landers picks region’s top early season backpacking trips

BACKPACKING — With the snow still a few weeks from clearing off mountain trails, early season backpackers don't have to wait to hit the trail for multi-day trips.  The Inland Northwest has a good assortment of trails that some hikers have been enjoying since March. 

Here's my list of favorite early-season backpacking treks:

Route of the Hiawatha opens Saturday

BICYCLING — The Route of the Hiawatha rail trail near Lookout Pass will be open for the season starting Saturday, says Phil Edholm at Lookout Pass Ski Area.

That's great news for folks planning bicycling outings over the Memorial Day weekend.  Heck, people were skinning up and skiing the slopes in the area last week.

The nationally acclaimed 15-mile rail-trail uses the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad grade between the old town site of Taft, Mont., and the North Fork of the St. Joe River near Avery, Idaho. 

The unpaved route features 10 tunnels and 7 trestles as high as 230 feet within the Loop Creek canyon at the crest of the scenic Bitterroot Mountains. The grade is a gentle 1.6 percent.

Trail passes, shuttle tickets, mountain bike rentals, souvenirs and picnic lunches are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area, just off I-90 at the Idaho/Montana border 12 miles east of Historic Wallace, Idaho. 

Call (208) 744-1301 or visit www.ridethehiawatha.com for trail information. Equipment reservations are recommended. 

The Hiawatha Trail is set to be open daily through Sept. 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Fat Tire riders show film to boost local trails

MOUNTAIN BIKING — The Spokane Fat Tire Trail Riders Club is showing of the new Anthills feature film Strength In Numbers as a fundraiser for local trail projects.

Check it out May 25 The film at Spokane Falls Community Colleges SUB Lounge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 7:15. Tickets available online in advance,$12 (w/service fee) or $14 at the door.
  

Spokane meetings focus on future of state parks

PARKS — Washington State Parks officials have set meetings in Spokane to discuss potentially sweeping changes in management of facilities at Riverside and Mount Spokane.

The meetings will be at Spokane Public Library Shadle Branch, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave. as follows:

Similar meetings across the state will gather public opinion on whether the state parks system would be operated as a private enterprise based on profits generated at the sites or as a public conservation asset.

Other options include turning over more parks to local communities to operate as a non-profit attractions, officials said.

Officials also are asking the public to help them rank the top features of their state parks and what needs improvement, said Virginia Painter, parks spokeswoman in Olympia.

The cash-strapped parks system is trying to make a five-year management plan. The Washington Legislature had voted to wean the parks from all state general funding in the next few years.

Rangers and other staff positions at Riverside and Mount Spokane state parks were cut by 40 percent in Jaunary.

Click here for information about the planning effort and making comments.

Dogs not welcome near South Hill bluff coyote den

WILDLIFE — Coyotes defending a den of pups are not tolerating dogs coming through their territory between High Drive and Hangman Creek.

After my story about a Thursday attack on a dog was published today, The Spokesman-Review has learned of at least three coyote attacks this week on dogs up to 80 pounds.

Coyotes generally weigh 30-45 pounds.

If you hike in the area above Qualchan Golf Course, keep your dog on a lease for awhile.

Read on for details.

Coyotes attack dogs on South Hill bluff trails

HIKING — A trio of aggressive coyotes took on two Labrador retrievers running loose with their owner on the South Hill bluff trails Thursday, sending one dog to the vet for a chest full of stitches.

Arch Harrison said one of the two dogs he was exercising — a Sarah — was attacked by three coyotes while they were walking on the popular bluff trails below High Drive and Manito Boulevard and just above the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course. (See map for area).

He wanted to warn other people who take their dogs to the bluffs.  Keeping dogs on leashes could help prevent similar encounters.

"They were fairly aggressive and although intimidated by me, they still kept coming back around," Harrison said, wondering if there might be a den in the area.

(Indeed, read this follow-up blog post about the six pups the coyotes are defending!)

"I was able to get to Sarah before any real damage was done but as I was running up to the scene she was lying down on her belly with one coyote at her nose and another one at her tail."

Harrison thought he got away unscathed until he got back and realized his other dog, Chewie, had tangled with the coyotes and suffered numerous bites and rips under his chest and legs.

"All his wounds were on the underside with minimal bleeding and so we did not notice until later," Harrison said.

He added: "A trip to pet emergency cost slightly less than one month's house payment."

Waging war: one weed at a time

TRAILS — I'm working late today, after taking the morning off to give a little TLC to a local hiking-biking route.

Portions of the route were overwhelmed by spotted knapweed a few years ago before I started spot-spraying the weeds as they emerge in spring. Now the route looks good, and I'm sure most users have no idea how miserable it was to walk or mountain bike the path in its infested state.

Maintenance is still required.

Today I spot-sprayed 2 gallons of herbicide on knapweed florets one little squirt at a time.  I'll have to head out two or three more times to get it all.  Then I'll pull the survivors a few here and there during morning walks with the dogs.

That's one way to win a war that must be fought.

Big turnout Sunday to spiff up Dishman Hills

PUBLIC LANDS — ‎547 volunteers, with a boost from the Washington Trails Association, turned out Sunday to pick up, plant and route trails in the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

The project is backed by a $5,000 grant from REI to the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.

South Hill Bluff trail maintenance dates set

TRAILS — Last Saturday a hard-working group of 20 turned out to work on Bluff trails.

The many, many more people who use the trails owe them a tip of the hat.

They did trail maintenance and prepared to re-align a trail that is steep and highly erosive. The new route will be more stable and user-friendly for hikers and mt bikers.

To complete the task, the Friends of the Bluffs are encouraging more people to join some evening work parties.

The first two will be Tuesday April 24 and Wednesday May 2.

Join the group from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to work off the stress of the day (and perhaps adjourn to the Rocket Market afterwards).

Meet at the Bernard/High Dr trail head and bring/wear hiking boots, work clothes, work gloves, and bring water.

Info: robertsd@wsu.edu

REI prompts flurry of volunteer work at recreation area sites

Popular recreation sites around Spokane will be getting a major spring facelift this weekend from volunteer efforts supported by grants totaling $20,000 from Recreational Equipment, Inc.

Projects the Spokane outdoor equipment store is supporting in partnership with local groups include:

Centennial Trail, Saturday 9 a.m. – The 20th annual Unveil the Trail event, supported by a $5,000 REI grant to the Friends of the Centennial Trail, taps volunteer groups to spruce up sections of the 39-mile paved trail along the Spokane River. Preregister to join a group and get a free lunch, 624-7188.

Mirabeau Point boat access, Saturday, 9 a.m. – A $10,000 REI grant to the Spokane River Forum funded an overhaul of the Spokane River access for rafts, canoes and kayaks fall. Volunters plan to finish the work and prepare the area for hydroseeding, which is being funded by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Dishman Hills Natural Area, Sunday, 1 p.m. – Hundreds of volunteers already are signed up for the Earth Day work project to pick up litter, restore habitat, improve trails and other projects based out of Camp Caro in Spokane Valley.  The project is backed by a $5,000 grant to the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association. Preregister for t-shirt and food at www.rei.com/Spokane.

Centennial Trail cleanup set for Saturday

TRAILS – Volunteers will be gathering all along the Spokane River Centennial Trail on Saturday to wail on weeds, pick up litter and sweep it clean.

To join the group, and enjoy the free lunch, preregister by Friday for the 20th annual Friends of the Centennial Trail "Unveil the Trail" event.

REI has contributed $5,000 to cover the cost of park rental, giveaways, prizes, food and other event costs.

Info: 624-7188.

County buys 269 acres for Glenrose conservation area

CONSERVATION — The Dream Trail through the Dishman Hills of Spokane Valley has come 269 acres closer to reality this week with the purchase of two parcels in the Glenrose area.

Two adjoining parcels were purchased with $473,500 from the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program plus $257,500 donated by the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, said John Bottelli, County Parks assistant director.

"DHNAA exceeded their original pledge by ultimately covering more than the county's share of the Stone Estate acreage by $35,000," Bottelli said. "Their $257,500 represents 54 percent of the purchase price and is an incredible accomplishment for any non-profit!"

The Dishman Hills group scraped up the money and secured the property before other interests could lock it up privately.

Click here for the details on this great acquisition for future generations and how it fits into the big picture for maintaining wildlife movements and public access to wildlands in our ever-more-populated region.

Dishman Hills to get TLC; join the group

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WHAT: Dishman Hills Natural Area Cleanup, sponsored by REI.

WHEN: April 22, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

WHERE: Dishman Hills Natural Area, Camp Caro, 625 S. Sargent Road, Spokane Valley

WHO: Community groups and volunteers needed.

About 340 helpers made a big difference last year in the appearance of this gem of habitat for trail hikers and wildlife in Spokane Valley.

Groups are organized for trail restoration and clean-up, noxious weed removal, tree planting and other projects.

REI and the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association organize the event and provide music and free food.

Preregister here for info and to make sure you get a T-shirt!

Dig deeper into the volunteer trail work with a full weekend project sponsored by the Washington Trails Association.

BLM reopens Rock Creek-Escure Ranch; seeks leads on vandalism

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been reopened after the agency repaired about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

Report any tips that might lead to the arrest of the vandals to the BLM Spokane District Office, 1103 N. Fancher Road, Spokane, Washington, or call (509) 536-1200.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch for about 70 years before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here, it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

Vandalism forces temporary closure of BLM’s Escure Ranch, Rock Creek

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been closed as the agency repairs about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

The BLM has been investigating the incident and officials say repairs should be complete so the area can by reopened by the weekend.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here (when the closure is lifted) it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

South Hill Bluffs look spiffier tonight, thanks to volunteers

TRAILS — In the photo above, volunteers pose with the metal-recyclable garbage they picked up today from the South Hill Bluff below High Drive.

Bravo, and a special tip of the hat to the teenagers.
 
If this looks like a crew you'd like to join for the "firewise efforts" to protect the network of trails and the adjacent neighborhoods and for other worthu projects on the bluff, contact Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu.
 
Or check them out on their High Drive Bluffs Facebook Page.
 

Annual Buttercup Hike Saturday at Dishman Hills

HIKING — The 46th annual Buttercup Hike led by the Dishman Hills Natural Area society is set to for Saturday, starting at noon at the Camp Caro lower parking lot.

The hike moves at a gentle pace for all to enjoy.

 

South Hill Bluffs to get TLC Saturday

TRAILS — Join the fun as the 'Friends of the Bluff' are having a trash cleanup day Saturday (March 24), 9am - Noon.

Meet at the main trail head just south of the Bernard and High intersection. Be prepared for the weather and to hike to our two focused sites which are 1/4 and 3/4 mile down the slope.

Volunteers are encouraged to:

  • -Wear heavy duty clothing, leather gloves, and hiking footwear
  • Bring wheelbarrows/dollys with ratchet straps and ropes as tie downs
  • Bring several sturdy cloth bags (think reusable grocery bags) for the smaller stuff
  • Bring plenty of water to drink

    Post event cool down at the Rocket Market (0.8 miles east at the corner of High Dr/Hatch).

Jim Schrock of Earthworks Recycling www.earthworksrecycling.com is donating the metals disposal bin.

					Diana Roberts, PhD Area Extension Agronomist WSU Spokane/Lincoln County Extension 222 N Havana St Spokane WA 99202-4799 Phone: 509-477-2167 Fax: 509-477-2087 Email: robertsd@wsu.edu 

Olympic Discovery Trail proponents call for help

TRAILS — The half-realized dream of a national-class lowland trail running 130 miles from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean needs money, quickly, to deal with a new requirement for an environmental assessment.

The Olympic Discovery Trail, which volunteers have been piecing together for 24 years along the Olympic Peninsula’s north coast, has come to a land-use planning jam:

The group has until March 31 to raise enough money to construct an alternate trail segment plan the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is requiring to avoid a sensitive wetland area.

See a Rails-to Trails Conservancy report on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Helpers needed for trail project at Liberty Lake

TRAILS – Helpers are needed for a series of Liberty Lake trail rerouting projects on the 7-mile loop trail at Liberty Lake County Park, starting next Sunday, organized by the Washington Trails Association.

Other scheduled dates for working at Liberty Lake are March 29 and 31 and April 2 and 26.

WTA pledged to rally area volunteers and contribute 2,000 hours of volunteer effort over the next two years in order to get a grant from the Washington Recreational Trails Program. 

Liberty Lake, at 3,000 acres, is one of the largest county parks in the state.  This is an excellent opportunity to get to know the park better and chip in some effort to improve the hiking/biking/horse-riding opportunities. 

Sign up online here.

Info: (206) 625-1367.

Volunteers needed to score recreation grant requests

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is looking for nearly 70 volunteers to help determine how millions of dollars in state grants should be spent in Washington’s great outdoors.

The volunteers will score grant applications submitted in two statewide programs: 

  • The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which provides grants to build and renovate parks and trails, and to protect and restore valuable wildlife habitat and farmland.
  • The Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, which provides grants to restore Washington shorelines and create access for people to the waterfront.

The grants are awarded to cities, counties, state agencies, tribes and others.

Read on for details.

Friends of South Hill Bluffs gathering tonight

PUBLIC LANDS — Friends of the South Hill Bluff will hold a meeting tonight (March 14), 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephens Church, 57th & Hatch Road to discuss requirements for getting DNR costshare funding for Firewise Community projects.

Angel Spell, City of Spokane Director of Urban Forestry will be there to answer questions.

These meetings will determine the direction of the group in managing fire danger to the popular hiking and biking trails below High Drive as well as to the nearby neighborhoods.

Info: Diana Roberts, 477-2167.

 

 

Friends ready to rally for Centennial Trail

TRAILS — The 4th annual Friends of the Centennial Trail  Adventure Auction is set for March 9 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Silent auction starts at 6 p.m.; dinner's at 7 p.m.; live auction at 8 p.m.

People who support the fabulous 39-mile trail from Nine Mile to the Idaho State Line (and beyond) already are getting tickets and gathering friends to join them at tables for a feast.

"Eighty percent of the proceeds go directly into our Trail Builders fund for projects on the Trail," said Kaye Turner, the friends group's executive director. "Remember the bumps at Barker Road - our Trail Builders fund fixed those."

Kris Crocker, KXLY's star weather reporter, will once again be the MC — and she's gathering a table of friends, too.

Tickets: 624-7188 or e-mail friends@spokanecentennialtrail.org.  

Colville NF supervisor withdraws South end OHV plan

PUBLIC LANDS – Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West has withdrawn the South End Motor Vehicle Project enacted in November after years of planning to guide off-highway vehicle use.

This decision was appealed in January by Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group.

West withdrew the project after the appeal was reviewed by the Regional Forester in Missoula. No timeline has been set for rewriting the project that would allow off-road vehicle riders to establish more legal riding routes on the south half of the 1.1 million acre forest.

The conservation groups appealed primarily on the basis that the project rewarded groups who illegally pioneered new trails in national forest areas where off-road travel had been prohibited.

"The South End project is an excellent project,” West said in a written statement.  “Not only does it provide a wonderful network of family-friendly OHV routes that connect communities, it provides for the rehabilitation of heavily impacted campsites, stream corridors, and illegal motorized trails. 

“I withdrew the decision so that we can supplement our analysis of the project to make sure the decision to proceed is based on solid rationale that fully considers the impact to other resources."

Update: What’s this truck doing on Antoine Peak?

CONSERVATION FUTURES — Getting a ticket.

That's the answer the hiker wanted to hear after he snapped this photo of an vehicle that had been illegally driven into the Spokane County Conservation Futures land that rises up behind East Valley High School.

The ruts these clowns created will remain as a reminder of their selfishness. They went beyond the locked gates and got stuck on roads that are closed to unauthorized vehicles to protect the area and its wildlife.

But there's some consolation, the hiker reports. They had to pick up the beer cans they littered in the area and the county issued the driver dude a $134 citation.

Hats off to the hiker who took the time to take the photo and make the case so the county could bring some justice to the vandals.