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Pearl Jam skateboard nets $4,450 for Ferry County trail

Sept. 1, 2014 2:03 p.m.

TRAILS — Somebody made out like a bandit in an auction benefitting the Ferry County Rail Trail.

Eddie Vedder and the rock group Pearl Jam band members supported the 25-mile Ferry County Rail Trail in northeastern Washington by signing and donating a cool skateboard to an online auction that  ended Sunday night on eBay.

The winner out of 47 took the prize possession for $4,450.

But every little bit counts. Funds generated will be used to enhance the surface of the abandoned railway that connects four towns, two school complexes and meanders along miles of pristine waterfront, including Curlew Lake and the Kettle River.

The photos posted here show Vedder with the longboard and one of the major projects on the trail to reconstruct the trestle over the north end of Curlew Lake.

“Over the years, the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners have done well competing for state and federal development funds,” said Bob Whittaker, president of the non-profit group, which is seeking more funding.

“We have 25 miles of donated property, much of it waterfront, along the Kettle river,” he said. “We have a 770-foot trestle over Curlew Lake that was decked with $200,000 in bicycle/pedestrian safety funds, but we need surface improvements and we need them yesterday.

“An improved surface means more users, a healthier community, and happy, repeat visitors to the region.”

The “Longboard” style skate was signed by all the members of the band back stage before their sold out concert at the Spokane Arena last November. “It was a fun night- and all for a good cause,” Whittaker said. “Ferry County even got a shout out from Eddie while on stage. How sweet is that!”

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Hunting seasons kicking off in region

Sept. 1, 2014 10:09 a.m.

HUNTING — Today's the day many sportsmen have been anticipating for months — the opening of hunting seasons what will continue off and on into winter.

  • Hikers and campers are wise to wear bright clothing in the field. Avoid black and brown, which are the same color as the bears some hunters are pursuing starting this week.

Archery hunts for deer get under way around the region Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also open for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare. Other Washington seasons set to open this month include archery hunts for elk, muzzleloader hunts for deer, and a turkey hunt in some East Side areas.

Washington's youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 20-21 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.

“Hunting seasons look very promising this year,” said Dave Ware, statewide game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Deer and elk populations definitely benefitted from mild weather last winter, and there should be plenty of local ducks available early in the season, followed by a record number of birds expected from the north later this year.”

Area-by-area summaries of hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/.

The site includes information on the effects of this summer's wildfires on hunting opportunities in the Okanogan.    

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Bull elk will fight for love this month

Sept. 1, 2014 6:01 a.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a short glimpse (below) of what's going on in elk country this month, and why some of the small trees you might be passing look a little worse for wear. 

The rut is on.

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Bird hunters soon will harvest the hatch

Aug. 31, 2014 6:03 a.m.

HUNTING — Forest grouse and dove hunting seasons open Monday, giving hunters the first glimpse of how well birds pulled off their hatches in the wet weeks of June.

Is your dog fit and trained?  Probably not.

The bigger question is, “How did the pheasants do?”

I don't know the answer and there's precious little official information, since state fish and  wildlife biologists do very little survey work  on game birds anymore.

Prairie game birds such as Hungarian partridge and pheasants are ground nesters. They llay lots of eggs, 10-15 per nest in nature's hedge against the high odds of a chick hatching and surviving.

Both species incubate their eggs about 23-24 days. They'll renest if the nest is destroyed, though usually not after the eggs hatch. Chicks that die from a wet, cold snap in June or a bad July hailstorm will not be replaced that year.

That's why hunters appreciate the birds that make it this far. They're the survivors.

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Sunny outlook for Bare As You Dare bike rides

Aug. 29, 2014 7:43 a.m.

BICYCLING — We're happy to report that none of the hundred or so participants in Missoula's recent Bare As You Dare bike ride was arrested, although some riders may have suffered sunburn — and severe chaffing.

See the Missoulian story and check out the photo gallery — if you dare.

  • Would any group, other than baristas, dare to be bare riding bikes in downtown Spokane?
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Model perfect fit for Beartooth Wilderness photo

Aug. 29, 2014 6:03 a.m.

BACKPACKING — I'm very picky about models for my outdoors photos.

For example, this ad for our newspaper Outdoors sections features writer Jim Kershner, who joined me on a multi-day backpacking trek over the high plateau of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

Had I been with any other hiking/angling buddy, there likely would have been a fish in the picture. That would have cluttered up the scene and detracted from the clean look of the ad.

Thanks, Jim, for a job well done.

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Pro-wolf groups pressure Gov. Inslee to curb wolf control

Aug. 28, 2014 6:41 p.m. - Updated: 6:41 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups who've been unable to persuade Washington wildlife officials into letting wolves eat as many sheep as they like in southern Stevens County are pressuring Gov. Jay Inslee to clamp down on wolf management when it comes to lethal control efforts.   Here's the story just moved by the Associated Press:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations.

Their petition sought to limit when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves. It would also require ranchers to use nonlethal measures to protect their livestock.

Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon.

The groups made the request as the state was in the process this week of trying to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry Pack in an effort to protect a herd of sheep. One wolf has been killed so far.

Wolves were hunted to extinction a century ago in Washington. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by entering Washington from Idaho and British Columbia. The state is estimated to have 52 wolves in 13 packs.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The governor’s office has 45 days to respond to the request. The office has received the petition and will review the request, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

In 2012, the state killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock, the environmental groups said.

They contend the situation is similar with the Huckleberry Pack.

However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the owner of the sheep herd has taken numerous nonlethal steps to protect his 1,800 animals. But wolves keep killing the sheep.

Conservation groups filed a similar petition in 2013, but they withdrew it based on promises from the Fish and Wildlife to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. No negotiations have taken place, the environmental groups said.

The groups appealing to Inslee also include Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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Huckleberry Pack attacks more sheep in Stevens County

Aug. 28, 2014 4:48 p.m. - Updated: 5:05 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though two more sheep were found injured from wolf attacks this week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is planning to suspend trapping and ground helicopter gunners through the Labor Day weekend to avoid conflicts with recreationists and hunters out for the Sept. 1 opening of grouse hunting season.

At least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing private timber company land in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14

One wolf was killed by a helicopter gunner on Aug. 22.  Although officers and ranch crews have been authorized to shoot up to four wolves in the pack of up to 12 members, no others have been killed.

Meanwhile, rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters apparently is making plans to move some or all of his sheep flock to other pasture he's secured.

Here's the latest update, through today and looking at plans from next week, from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director:

WDFW staff, along with the rancher, a contracted range rider, and four guard dogs continue to provide on-going presence to protect the flock of 1,800 sheep.

Two injured lambs were found by the operator yesterday.  This morning, one lamb died of its injuries, the other was euthanized.  Investigators attributed the injuries to wolves, making this confirmed depredation event #8.  The attack likely occurred a few days ago. 

As of this morning, no wolves were trapped/euthanized.  Trapping will cease after tomorrow morning.  Also, there will not be further aerial operations this weekend (the last flight was Tuesday morning).  We want to avoid conflicts and possible public safety issues with Labor Day weekend recreationists and Monday’s grouse and archery deer hunting opener.  Department staff and the rancher will continue to have authorization to lethally remove up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock, and we will not exceed a total of four wolves removed under the current authorizations for all lethal methods being utilized.

We learned that the rancher will likely be able to move his sheep off of this allotment and to an interim pasture next week.  We appreciate his efforts to expedite the move and will continue to offer and provide assistance where it is needed.

We have discussed compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves with the rancher and will continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once the more immediate issues are resolved.

In addition to continued work with this operator, Department staff will reach out to neighboring livestock owners.  Our focus is to ensure awareness of this wolf pack, and to offer technical and cost-share assistance to in an effort to avoid and minimize potential depredations to these adjacent operations. 

Attached is a chronology of activities associated with the Huckleberry Pack.  We will update it next week, once sheep are removed from the allotment.  It has been a dynamic situation, with information coming from the field, often times as new events are unfolding.  We understand the intense interest in and the desire for us to get information out to all interested parties.  Thus the chronology may have additional technical edits as field staff review and update

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Slobs win: W. Medical Lake fishing access closed

Aug. 28, 2014 3:58 p.m. - Updated: 4:02 p.m.

FISHING — A chronic littering problem has resulted in the closure of the unofficial fishing access site at the north end of West Medical Lake in Spokane County.

Rudy Lopez of the Washington State Veterans Cemetery confirmed that the gate to the access site off Espanola Road has been locked, “no trespassing” signs have been posted and the Sheriff's Department has been asked to cite violators.

“It’s one of those cases of a few people ruining it for the majority,” Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist, said last week in an appeal for anglers to clean up their act.

While Fish and Wildlife owns the public fishing access at the south end of the lake, the informal access at the north end is state land managed by the Veterans Cemetery. The road into the spot serves the pump that irrigates the cemetery.

Lopez said the littering has been persistent for the year and a half that he's worked at the cemetery.

“We're not directing blame on any one individual, but when we've contacted fishermen there they always say it's somebody else doing the littering,” he said. “We've hoped that they would support us by chipping in, doing the Boy Scout thing, leaving the place better than they found it.

“We did reach out the the prison at Airway Heights and they've been sending a detail out once a month to pick up. We're out there weekly picking up and Fish and Wildlife people come out regularly, but we can't keep up. It just gets trashed again.”

The public access at the south end of the West Medical will continue to be open through the lake's fishing season, which closes Sept. 30. Vehicles must display a Discover Pass or the Fish and Wildlife vehicle access pass that comes with the purchase of a fishing license.

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Ranchers: wolf attacks shouldn’t force sheep off private land

Aug. 28, 2014 10:55 a.m. - Updated: 10:55 a.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Northeastern Washington ranchers are standing up for private property rights to counter pro-wolf groups that are pressuring Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to force a sheep rancher off private timber company lands to avoid wolf attacks.

Following is the media release just posted by the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.

HUNTERS, WA — As the situation with the Huckleberry wolf pack continues to worsen and the pack continues to kill sheep from the Dashiell ranch on private grazing ground near Hunters, some groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the rancher leave the area. Stevens County Cattlemen’s President Scott Nielsen said that option is “unacceptable.”

“We know that at as this situation worsens, there are those who believe that forcing the rancher to leave his grazing lands will solve the problem,” said Nielsen. “But preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable. Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

Over 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting the Dashiell’s sheep herd earlier this summer. Non-lethal deterrents including a range rider, the work of up to four WDFW department staff, four guard dogs and herders have provided an on-going presence to try and stop the depredation. A helicopter was authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22, but only one was killed. The helicopter was recalled and padded leg-hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them.

SCCA argues that if the state does not follow through on their commitment to remove the problem wolves and prevents allowing the Dashiells to fulfill their grazing contract with the private landholder, Hancock Timber, a series of negative circumstances can occur.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” Nielsen said. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Nielsen also said while SCCA supports the attempt to lethally remove the wolves, he said that the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the information they needed to keep their herds away from wolf areas.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they had requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den. Excuses that the information could not be obtained from the tribe are not valid, as the department has had over a year to sort that issue out,” Nielsen said. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

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