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Groups help state acquire Plum Creek lands in Cascades

PUBLIC LANDS — The Nature Conservancy has purchased 1,280 acres of timberland from Plum Creek in the Manastash area west of Ellensburg, and transferred it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to be managed as part of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

This acquisition is the most recent in a decade-long project to eliminate a "checkerboard pattern" of public and private land and create large blocks of public lands in the Cascade Mountains.

Partnerships including the state agency, TNC, the Yakama Nation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have brought more than 25,000 acres of private timberlands into public ownership as part of the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative.

The program assures public access to these lands as it heads off the possibility of the timber company selling the properties to private interests that could install locked gates.

"These particular sections are full of streams and tributaries that flow into the Yakima River," TNC says in a media release. "Conserving this forest will protect valuable river habitat for wildlife as well as ensure water downstream for people, fish, and the rich agriculture of the Yakima Valley.

Plum Creek has played an important role in keeping these forests intact while the Conservancy brought together financing to bring them into public ownership.

  • “Protecting the streams and forests in this region supports the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan, assuring water for people, salmon, wildlife and farms into the future," said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy.
  • "Plum Creek recognizes the public benefits of this project and is pleased to participate in the partnership that achieved this important conservation outcome,” said Jerry Sorensen, senior director of land management for Plum Creek.
  • “Together, we’re ensuring that the public will continue to have access to this land for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping,” said Mike Livingston, Southcentral Region director for WDFW. “This diverse habitat supports threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, steelhead, spotted owls and wolves, as well as big-game such as mule deer and elk.”

The Washington Department of Ecology provided funding for this project through its Office of Columbia River.

Tribal fishing scaffolds at Drano Lake a blight for everyone

FISHING — Winds blasting through the Columbia River Gorge in November damaged several of the tribal netting scaffolds built along the shore at Drano Lake, a popular sport-fishing spot, reports the Vancouver Columbian

Among the platforms damaged partially is one of two built this spring at “Social Security Beach,’’ a bank-fishing location on the west side of Drano where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to build an access ramp for disabled sportsmen, reports Allen Thomas.

Tribal platforms started appearing in Drano Lake, a large backwater of the Columbia River at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, on Memorial Day weekend.

The Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement Committee of the Yakama Tribal Council on May 31 authorized platform and hook-and-line gear in Drano Lake, one of several tributaries fished by the Yakama tribe.

Last week, more than a dozen scaffolds, overturned structures, partial or damaged platforms and piles of lumber littered the shores of Drano Lake.

Read on for the rest of the report.

Coho providing action for anglers in Wenatchee, Methow rivers

SALMON FISHING — Anglers got some thrills last month from the Yakama Tribe's 15-year effort to reestablish coho salmon in upper Columbia tributaries.

This year's count of the late-spawning salmon into the upper Columbia region is the highest in 78 years, and more are still to come, allowing the first coho fishing season in memory in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers. The coho season closed Monday, but some steelheaders continue to hook into them occasionally.

As of Sunday, 28,662 adult coho swam up the fish ladders at Rock Island Dam, nearly a third more than the last big run in 2009.

Tom Scribner, a biologist who started the coho reintroduction program for the Yakamas in 1996, estimates between 30,000 and 40,000 coho will come over the dam before the run is over. The year he started, coho were all but extinct in the upper Columbia River. None made it to Rock Island that year, he told the Wenatchee World.

"Every year when we break a record it blows me away,” he said last week. ”In 2009, when we had almost 20,000 (adults at Rock Island), that was off the map. … This (year’s run)is beyond my wildest dreams.”

On Oct. 5, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife opened the first coho fishing season on the Wenatchee and Methow rivers in at least 30 years. Jeff Korth, the agency’s regional fish manager in Ephrata, said he couldn’t find any record at all of a coho season on those rivers, and believes it’s been 40 or 50 years since one anyone has fished these two major tributaries for the late-run salmon.

A short coho season was held on the Icicle River in 2009.

Coho historically were the second most-abundant salmon species (behind chinook) in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers, Scribner told the World.

The return of the fish is creating one more reason NOT to go fishing in Alaska.

Read on for more of the story from the Wenatchee World.

No official comment on pronghorns released on Yakama Indian Reservation

WILDLIFE — Neither state nor tribal officials returned telephone queries today regarding the Saturday-Sunday translocation of Nevada pronghorns to the Yakama Indian Reservation.

As I reported in my Monday blog, pronghorns were extirpated from this region in the 1800s.

I called two Washington Fish and Wildlife Department big-game program managers today and they did not respond.  Wildlife biologists with the Yakima Tribe said they were awaiting authority to speak from the tribal council.

The Washington Cattlemen's Association was much quicker to say they are concerned about the potential for transmitting disease. Blood samples apparently were drawn from the animals in Nevada, but the pronghorns were released in Central Washington Saturday and Sunday before the samples could be analysed.

It appears the excitement of bringing back the sage-country speedsters is not unanimous.

Stay tuned.