Last year, a windstorm blew over a giant ponderosa pine, which landed on an old totem pole that stood on a sandy beach south of Coeur d'Alene. The pole wasn't just a piece of artwork from a noted Inland Northwest woodcarver; it was an heirloom and a sentinel of summer for generations of a family that had spent summers at a home on the Mica Bay beach.
DOVER, Idaho – This town was born twice. Seemingly overnight, dozens of buildings popped up in the meadows, marsh and cutover forest on the waterfront where Lake Pend Oreille flows into the Pend Oreille River. That was 1922 and shortly after a sawmill downstream in Laclede had been destroyed by fire.
It sounds like a 1950s horror flick: The Black Fingers of Death. But a tiny organism with this nickname is being cultivated at a Gonzaga University laboratory in hopes of being the first long-term weapon against cheatgrass – a very real and scary alien invader that's infested some 100 million acres across the West. Gonzaga biologists Julie Beckstead and David Boose were recently awarded $247,000 in federal grants to conduct a three-year study on the black fingers of death, a naturally occurring fungus that attacks the seeds of cheatgrass.
During the first week of November, 17 inches of rain and snowmelt came gushing out of Lightning Creek east of Sandpoint. Flowing with the record amount of water was at least $3 million worth of backcountry roads.
Washington state hasn't exactly put out the welcome mat for wolves, but the door certainly isn't locked. At a public forum Wednesday night at Mount Spokane High School, state officials posed the question: How should the predators be handled when they return?
Something's missing in the skies above the Rathdrum Prairie this August: smoke. Because of a recent federal court ruling, no bluegrass fields on the prairie are being burned for the first time in a generation.
Spokane is near enough to nature for growing numbers of Canada geese. Instead of taking to the skies each autumn and spring in their telltale V-shaped migration formations, large flocks of geese seem to have taken up full-time residence in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene.
Wolves are now making regular forays into the forests of northeastern Washington, and state wildlife officials are developing a plan to manage the predators. Public meetings are being held across the state in coming weeks to provide a chance for citizens to offer views on gray wolf management. Spokane's meeting is Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mount Spokane High School, 6015 E. Mount Spokane Park Drive.
Fernan Village has become prime real estate for whitetail deer: no wolves, no hunters, easy access to the forest and loads of tasty landscaping. But the ravenous and increasingly bold herd of deer has worn out its welcome. In an effort to reclaim their lawns and gardens, residents are considering forming a posse to trap and move the animals.
HERON, Mont. – Deep in the Cabinet Mountains east of Sandpoint, a fairytale village is being hatched. The design looks straight out of a Brothers Grimm story – half-timbered houses, a cobblestone square, slate roofs – and the vision behind the village seems equally far-fetched: No cars will be allowed, the dwellings will be about a quarter the size of most new homes, and those buying into the development will be expected to interact with their neighbors.
Silt smothering a kokanee salmon spawning bed on Lake Pend Oreille will be vacuumed in coming weeks in hopes of restoring the gravelly site before any egg-laden fish return this fall. The spawning bed was accidentally destroyed in the spring – just as thousands of kokanee eggs were hatching – during an expansion project at the Harborview Marina in Bayview. The owner of the marina, Bob Holland, did not have a state permit to conduct the work.
ENAVILLE, Idaho – The perfect camping spot sits less than an hour's drive from Ron Coffelt's home in Hayden. A trout-filled mountain stream flows alongside the meadow where Coffelt and his family have camped each summer for nearly 30 years. And the price is right – it's free.
LITTLE GUARD LOOKOUT, Idaho – For most of the 20th century, this 6,000-foot perch served as a lighthouse of sorts over countless green miles of Panhandle backcountry. In the days following an electrical storm, when wisps of smoke snaked up from smoldering logs on the forest floor, the lookout employee would mark the logbook and radio in the location.
Raptor biologist Jane Cantwell opened the tailgate of her truck Friday morning and was greeted by a pair of bright yellow eyes. The little sawhet owl, barely taller than a can of soda, blinked out of a pet carrier into the morning sunlight, unaware that a second chance was imminent.
The Tunk Grade fire, south of Tonasket, Wash., escalated to more than 8,000 acres Monday afternoon, prompting authorities to call for state mobilization. Meanwhile, smaller fires are burning on the Colville National Forest of northeastern Washington and Montana's Lolo National Forest – a start to what many authorities fear could be a long fire season.
A series of encounters between coyotes and Centennial Trail users – including a jogger chased Thursday night – has raised concerns the wild canines may be shedding some of their wariness toward humans. More coyotes have been spotted across the region in recent years, but reports of close encounters have been rare until recently, said John McColgin, a Washington state Fish and Wildlife officer assigned to Spokane County.
ENAVILLE, Idaho – The North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River has a reputation for being wild. Lately, though, the wildness is less about crystal clear water and mountain scenery than the brawling and boozing brought on by hundreds of floaters who have been flocking to the river on these heat wave weekends.
After being destroyed by one of the biggest, deadliest fires ever recorded in the West, a U.S. Forest Service nursery at Haugan, Mont., was rebuilt and went on to supply millions of tree seedlings for the burnt landscape of the West. Although the Savenac Nursery no longer grows trees for the Forest Service – now it's a historical site with cottages and buildings available to rent – the facility will mark its 100th anniversary this weekend.
With wildfire practically knocking at our doorstep – think prolonged heat wave, snowpacks melting a month early, bone-dry forests and the prospect of lightning storms this weekend – fire experts say now is the time for homeowners to conduct a serious once-over of their property. Although firefighters can respond to most wildfires, departments can be overwhelmed when a powerful storm front hits the region, igniting dozens or even hundreds of fires at a time. When that happens, homeowners "are not going to get help from a professional," said Larry Isenberg, project manager of FireSmart, a nonprofit program that has helped reduce the fire risk for 2,250 homes in Kootenai County.
HAUSER LAKE, Idaho – John Matheson can't do much about stars being dimmed by the growing number of house lights. Or the increasingly impatient drivers who flip off his tractor as he rumbles slowly down once-empty roads on the way to cut hay. Or the brook that's been silted up with construction dust.
Bob Flagor hopes his race car will help save the whales, put an end to torture, boost locally grown vegetables and showcase the powers of biofuel. But when the Coeur d'Alene environmental scientist stomps the accelerator of his 1968 Mustang Fastback, he thinks only about driving the fastest 30 laps of his life.