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Oregon Congressman seeks wolf buffer around Yellowstone

July 22, 2014 6:02 a.m.

WILDLIFE —  An Oregon congressman is asking the Interior Department to work with states to curb gray wolf hunting around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana.

Rep. Peter DeFazio is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hunters have legally killed Yellowstone wolves that have roamed out of the park after becoming familiar with wolf-watching tourists. Some of these wolves have been radio-collared by wildlife scientists. While killing them is legal under hunting regulations, the loss is significant to research on the species.

DeFazio said in a recent letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that hunters killing wolves just outside Yellowstone’s boundary could hurt the overall health of the park’s ecosystem.

DeFazio asked for a “wolf safety zone” or buffer around the park, which includes parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. He also asked Jewell to establish a task force to devise protections for wolves around other national parks.

State officials have resisted prior calls from wildlife advocates seeking an outright ban on wolf hunting around the park. However, quotas in some areas limit how many can be killed annually.


McDowell Lake among waters proposed for rotenone treatment

July 21, 2014 9:03 a.m.

FISHING – McDowell Lake, a prized fly-fishing water in Stevens County is, among 11 lakes in Eastern Washington proposed for treatment to optimize the waters for trout.

 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials want to treat three lake systems with rotenone, a naturally occurring pesticide commonly used to remove undesirable fish species from lakes and streams.

McDowell Lake, a standout trout fishery on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, has gone downhill as nongame fish such as tench have proliferated.

Other trout-management waters proposed for treatment this fall include the Hampton Lake chain and Sago, Hourglass, and Widgeon Lakes in Grant County to remove species including bass, bullhead, stunted panfish and tench.

The Hampton Chain is made up of Upper and Lower Hampton Lake, Hampton Slough, Hen Lake, Dabbler Lake, Marie Lake and Juvenile Lake.

“The goal is to restore trout populations by removing competing species that have essentially taken over the lake's resources,” said Bruce Bolding, warmwater fish program manager.

“Illegally stocked fish compete with trout fry for food and prey, rendering efforts to stock trout fry ineffective.”

Public meetings to discuss the  proposed treatments are set for Wednesday, July 23, at two locations starting at 6 p.m.:

  • Ephrata, at the WDFW Region 2 Office.
  • Colville, at the WDFW District 1 Office, 755 S. Main St.

The decision on whether to go ahead with the treatments will be made in September. 

The agency says, “Rotenone is an organic substance derived from the roots of tropical plants, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved for use as a fish pesticide.” It disrupts the ability of fish’s gills to process oxygen from the water.

WDFW has used rotenone in lake and stream rehabilitations for more than 70 years, and is used by other fish and wildlife management agencies nationwide. 


Family bike ride celebrates wildlife refuge anniversary

July 21, 2014 5:48 a.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING —The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge has been marking its 75th anniversary with public events this summer. Next on the schedule:

• July 26: Blue Goose Family Fun Bike Ride, a family-friendly 10.5-mile ride on packed, graded dirt roads. Start anytime after 8:30 a.m. to finish by noon, when prize drawings will start at headquarters. Anniversary cake and bluegrass music. Free.

Info:  (509) 684-8384, fws.gov/littlependoreille

Directions from Spokane: Drive U.S. 395 north to Arden (about 6 miles south of Colville). Turn right on Hall Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto Old Arden Hwy. Take the third right run onto Artman-Gibson Road. Go about 4 miles. At four-way intersection, turn right onto Kitt-Narcisse Road and follow it for 2.2 miles. Where road forks, bear right onto Bear Creek Road. Follow this dirt road 3.3 miles to refuge headquarters.


Ski area expansion prompts Mount Spokane land classification proposals

July 20, 2014 2:03 a.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — Land classification proposals that could make or break a plan to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday, July 24, in Bellingham.

In 2010, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park proposed expanding its ski area within the state park to provide more intermediate terrain needed to remain competitive. Conservation and wildlife groups have contested the expansion.

The ski area concession encompasses 1,425 acres of the 14,000-acre state park.

In 1999, land classifications were adopted for the park, but 850 acres was left unclassified in an area designated for potential alpine ski expansion.

The ski area has proposed installing a lift, which already has been purchased, and expanding skiing with seven new runs over nearly 280 acres of that area.

State Parks staff is releasing a report this week that proposes four land classification options. One of the options would designate the land a “natural forest area,” which would preclude any development and most recreation.

An environmental impact statement on the land classifications is to be released this week. Public comment will be taken through mid-August. The commission is scheduled to choose an option on Nov. 20.

The Lands Council based in Spokane plans to argue that the report has flaws, including the stance that the area does not include old growth forest.

“I guess we’re still in a little bit of a battle,” said Mike Peterson, executive director.


Criticism of paragliding safety criticized

July 19, 2014 8:47 a.m. - Updated: 8:47 a.m.

FREE FLYING — I've received a sharp response to my previous post regarding paragliding safety prompted by the death of David Norwood, a highly-regarded flyer who crashed to his death at Chelan Butte on Wednesday.

Like all tragedies, the incident is causing some flyers to step back and re-evaluate. The discussion can only be healthy.

But my previous post, in which I simply printed the personal perspective of Rick Masters of Owens Valley, California, was not well received by some paragliders.  

Masters contends that when choosing to fly paragliders or hang-gliders, one is a safer choice in iffy weather because of the frame that helps prevent canopy collapse. 

Masters suggests that frank discussions are hindered on chat rooms because paragliding sites often are controlled by people in the industry who don't want too much frank talk.

But James Bradley of New York, the U.S. moderator on the worldwide online forum paraglidingforum.com, sharply disagrees.  Here's his message:

Your acceptance of Rick Masters as an authority on paragliding, apparently without taking the time to learn anything about him, or talk to any people who are actually involved with the sport—we are all concerned about safety—is pretty disappointing.

I am one of a handful of US pilots who race on the Paragliding World Cup circuit. I am also the only US moderator on the worldwide online forum paraglidingforum.com (a volunteer position). Rick Masters was allowed to join there and post like anyone else. We learned that he is on an enduring anti-paragliding crusade. Like a religious zealot, he is not interested in facts or discussion unless they support his rigidly defined position. He behaved badly for some time on the forum and then we banned him, as we have a handful of other people over time.

Masters' disregard for facts is evident in his facile characterization of Paragliding Forum as populated mainly by people with a commercial interest in the sport. There are some of those of course but we have 30,000 registered members worldwide and an untold number who read without registering. The vast majority are simply enthusiasts in the sport.

All light aircraft are dangerous. The accident and fatality statistics for hang gliding and paragliding over time are about the same. The most common accident types are different. Accidents come in clumps in all sports, probability predicts that. We are sadly in a clump of paragliding accidents in North America at the moment, much more than average. The last couple of years have been the other way, lighter than the average.


Paragliding safety questioned after Chelan Butte fatality

July 18, 2014 2:55 p.m. - Updated: July 19, 8:51 a.m.

FREE FLYING — Members of the close-knit paragliding community are mourning the loss of David Norwood, one of their highly regarded flyers, who crashed to his death at Chelan Butte on Wednesday.

Like all tragedies, the incident is causing some flyers to step back and re-evaluate.

I just received the following commentary from Rick Masters of Owens Valley, California, who suggests that frank discussions are hindered on chat rooms because paragliding sites often are controlled by people in the industry who don't want too much frank talk.

Masters contends that when choosing to fly paragliders or hang-gliders, one is a safer choice in iffy weather because of the frame that helps prevent canopy collapse. 

  • See a response from a paragliding forum moderator to Masters' contention.

Says Masters:

David Norwood was the 1244th soaring parachutist to die since the first paragliding fatality in the Alps in 1987 by my incomplete verified tally. Paragliding Forum does not allow me to post on the site.  If you notice the second post by pecoflea, he has received eight negative “karmas” from forum members for questioning the death rate and problematic design of paragliders.  When he accumulates enough negative karmas, he will not be allowed to post.  This keeps newbies from too much negative exposure so they keep buying paragliders.  Many forum members are paragliding equipment dealers.


If I could respond to pecoflea, it would be like this:

This is getting crazy


Another highly experienced pilot is killed in our sport.


My thoughts again are why did this happen?


How do we avoid this from happening to us?


I've been flying Hang gliders since 1974 and Paragliders since 2010 In hang gliding I remember many very scary days, but I never worried that my wing would fall apart.

In paragliding, I remember these scary days and just don't even bother to fly on strong days “period ”

Yes,, I have definitely become the chicken in my flying group.

Is there no way to make our PG wings more collapse resistant?


How about one way valves like what is in our airbags incorporated into our cells to help resist complete blowouts?


Probably a dumb idea , but surely we can find a way to cut the collapses down that seems to be inherent in this sport?


Well, probably a better place to post this , but I find this news very distressing and think that manufacturers need to forget about the bottom line for a while and focus all energies into creating a safer wing “Period”.



Idaho discounts nonresident big-game tags

July 18, 2014 8:21 a.m.

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has reduced the price of unsold nonresident deer and elk tags to be sold as second tags.

The following discounts will be available to resident and non-resident hunters purchasing second tags in 2014.

  • Second elk tags will be discounted from $415 to $299
  • Second deer tags will be discounted from $300 to $199

The price does not include the $1.75 vendor fees.

Since 2000, the Commission has offered any unsold tags remaining to resident and nonresident hunters as a second tag at the full nonresident price. In 2013, the release date for second tags was moved forward one month from September 1 to August 1.

“The commission feels discounting those tags will give hunters additional field opportunity by making a second tag more affordable,” Idaho Fish and Game says in a media release.

Fish and Game Wildlife Chief Jeff Gould reminds hunters that second tags have been factored into big game season settings since these tags became available for purchase as a second tag 15 years ago.

“We restrict the number of tags available in elk zones that are performing below desired population levels,” Gould said. “Hunting opportunity is based on biological as well as social considerations. The decision to discount the second tag price is biologically sustainable and will make it more affordable for hunters to increase their hunting options this fall.”

Second tags will mainly be used in general hunts where there are currently no restrictions on the number of deer or elk tags sold to Idaho residents in any given year. Second tags cannot be used in areas where deer or elk harvest is managed with controlled hunts and the use of second tags must fall under currently established nonresident elk zone tag limits.

For 30 years, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has maintained a statewide annual quota of 12,815 nonresident elk tags and 15,500 nonresident deer tags.  Idaho hunters purchase about 143,000 deer and 86,000 elk tags annually. Hunters purchased 964 second deer tags and 430 second elk tags in 2013. That left 5,773 deer and 4,960 nonresident elk tags unsold at the end of the year.

The discounted second tags will be available to resident and nonresident hunters August 1. The actual number of second tags available won’t be known until August 1, when unclaimed and returned nonresident tags are added to the second tag pool.  Second tags will be sold on a first come first served basis at all Fish and Game license vendors. 

The Commission stresses this will be a trial program, and will closely analyze the 2014 season to determine how hunters respond to the discounts before deciding whether to apply discounts in future seasons.


Glacier Park warns hikers of hazardous high country travel

July 18, 2014 7:51 a.m.

HIKING — While I'm writing an upcoming Sunday Outdoors story on a similar topic, Glacier National Park is warning hikes to be prepared for dealing with hazardous snowfields at high elevations even in lake July after a week of very warm weather.

Here's a lot of good information to review, especially if you're headed to one of the most stunning parks on the continent:

Several of Glacier National Park’s high elevation hikes are open to the public, but snow and snow hazards remain in many areas. 

Hikers should be wary of snowfields and steep areas in the higher elevations. Snow bridges may exist, and hard to identify.  A snow bridge may completely cover an opening, such as a creek, and present a danger.  It may create an illusion of unbroken surface while hiding an opening under a layer of snow, creating an unstable surface.  

It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment.  When hiking may include snowfield travel, visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe.  It is recommended to have layers of clothing available, appropriate footwear, including boots with lug soles, a map, first-aid kit, water and food.  Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return. 

  • There are over 700 miles of trails in Glacier National Park providing a variety of hiking opportunities.  During July and August many of the more popular trails can be crowded.  Visitors are encouraged to consider a lesser used trail or more remote trail during this time.  See more information about hiking options and trail status.

Caution should be used near rivers and streams, as water may be extremely cold, and running swift and high. Avoid wading or fording in swift moving water, as well as walking, playing and climbing on slippery rocks and logs. 

The Highline Trail is open, but snow remains past Haystack Butte. Strong hiking skills and snow travel skills, as well as the appropriate equipment, are recommended.  

The Ptarmigan Tunnel is open.  Stock access to Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail is prohibited due to a temporary bridge that allows foot traffic, but it is not suitable for stock. 

The park’s shuttle system is serving hikers on the east side of the park.  It is free, and the shuttle has stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Due to road rehabilitation activities on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, parking to access the St. Mary, Virginia and Barring Falls areas is very challenging and the shuttle system may be a convenient alternative.   

Black bears and grizzly bears are common in Glacier Park.  Hikers are encouraged to hike in groups, carry bear spray that is easily accessible, and make noise at regular intervals along the trail.  Bears spend a lot of time eating, so hikers should be extra alert while in or near feeding areas such as berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies.  Hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark is not encouraged.  Trail running is not recommended as it has led to surprise bear encounters. 

See more information about recreating in bear country.   


Bats, bears, bighorns and more at Sinlahekin seminars

July 18, 2014 6 a.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Experts will be making free presentations on bats, bears, bighorns and much more July 26-27 on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County as the celebration continues for the 75th anniversary of Washington’s FIRST wildlife area.

It’s the third summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series of free public field trips and presentations on the fauna, flora, geology and history of the area south of Loomis. 

Sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 26, include:

  • Bighorn sheep of the Sinlahekin by Okanogan assistant district wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen.
  • Bats of the Sinlahekin by wildlife biologists Ella Rowan and Neal Hedges.

Sessions scheduled on both Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, include:

  • Forests of the Sinlahekin by U.S. Forest Service and Washington State University foresters;
  • Role of wildfires in the evolution of the Sinlahekin’s landscape by a Central Washington University paleobotanist;
  • Historical photo point tour by veteran Sinlahekin manager Dale Swedberg;
  • Bears, cougars, coyotes and other carnivores by Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

Click here for more information about the July 26-27 weekend sessions, and a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Aug. 23-24, Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27).


Fires scorch hopes for sockeye fishermen

July 17, 2014 9:38 p.m.

FISHING — The heat and smoke of wildfires is forcing some anglers to temporarily chill their enthusiasm for catching a share of the record run of sockeye heading into the upper Columbia.

Pateros area is being evacuated tonight because of the Carlton Complex fires, and the city of Brewster is feeling the heat just as anglers are piling in to reap the bounty of fish.

And anglers could be blocked from Saturday's opening of the Lake Wenatchee sockeye season by firefighting efforts that have closed the state park boat access.



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