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Mountain lion kitten’s captivity serves a purpose

Aug. 22, 2014 2:04 p.m. - Updated: 2:04 p.m.

WILDLIFE — A three-week-old mountain lion kitten orphaned in northeastern Washington is headed for a zoo, and that's not all bad, state Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

 “Education is important at American Zoological Association-accredited zoos, which have on-site staff to teach visitors about the natural history of these critters,” said department cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil.

He said the kitten will be transported to ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which has a reputation for good, natural facilities and education.

The kitten found this week in the Kettle Falls area will join the other 32 cougar kittens from Washington that have been rescued over the past 12 years and placed to live out captive lives.

But think of it this way.   These mountain lions are in facilities in urban areas where they’re seen each year by a total of 17 million people.

“These are people who get a chance to learn something about a critter they’d never otherwise see,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane.

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New fishing rules proposed for Columbia River basin

Aug. 22, 2014 9:04 a.m.

FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are seeking public comments on 32 proposed sportfishing rules they’re recommending for the Columbia River Basin.

The proposals cover fishing seasons, daily limits and other rules for the Columbia River Basin and mainstem Columbia River. 

For example, WDFW is recommending proposals that would: 

  • Close all rivers, streams and beaver ponds in the Columbia River Basin to fishing unless otherwise stated in the rules pamphlet, and implement additional conservation measures to provide greater protection for juvenile anadromous fish.
  • Change open dates for most year-round lakes to March 1 through Oct. 31 for lakes in Asotin, Franklin, Kittitas, Yakima and Walla Walla counties.
  • Eliminate the retention of sturgeon on the Snake River and its tributaries. Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing would be maintained.

Review all of the rule proposals and comment on this WDFW webpage.

Comments will be accepted through Oct. 16.

Fisheries managers have recommended 32 of the proposals submitted by the public in May move forward for additional review. The webpage has more information about the proposals as well as those not recommended for further consideration.

Five public meetings are scheduled through September to discuss the proposed rules with the public, including two in far-Eastern Washington:

  • Clarkston: 6 to 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26, Walla Walla Community College, Clarkston Main Building Multipurpose Room, 1470 Bridge St.
  • Spokane Valley: 6 to 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27, WDFW Spokane Regional Office, 2315 N. Discovery Place

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will get it's first formal look at the revised proposals at a Nov. 7-8 meeting in Olympia.

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Craig Mountain fires controlled; roads reopening

Aug. 22, 2014 8:08 a.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — The 67,000-acre Big Cougar Fire near the confluence of the Salmon and Snake rivers has raised hell with one of Idaho's choice public-land hunting areas in Hells Canyon.  But there's still a lot of terrain, which hunters now are able to re-explore.

Main roads, including the Zaza road, in the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area are being reopened to pre-fire status on Saturday, Aug. 23, the Idaho Fish and Game Department says. Some of the roads are normally closed to motor vehicles to protect wildlife.

Officials say firefighters are still doing work in the area and warn of hazards:

Trees and snags Obviously burned or compromised trees have a high potential of falling but also unburned trees may be more susceptible to falling if they’ve lost the shelter and support from neighboring trees. Be very cautious during windy conditions.

Rocks The dislodging and falling of rocks is another significant risk, especially in steep sloped areas such as the breaks and grasslands of Craig Mountain.

Unstable ground Soils will be more unstable after a wildfire when they’ve lost the stability from plants and trees. This may result in less stable hiking conditions or even may lead to landslides, especially during or after a heavy rain event.

Root wells After a wildfire has burned through a forested or shrubby area, sometimes the root system of shrubs and trees are also burned out leaving a void that may still be covered by ash and debris.

Info:  IFG regional office in Lewiston, (208) 799-5010.

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Video: Walking the dog is always a rich experience

Aug. 22, 2014 5:45 a.m.

HIKING — Here's a dog that knows how to walk a boy.

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Mount Spokane ski area expansion options released

Aug. 21, 2014 4:42 p.m. - Updated: 4:43 p.m.

STATE PARKS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has released two proposals regarding the expansion of Mount Spokane State Park. Public comments on the proposals will be accepted through Sept. 15.

The proposals are combined under one draft environmental impact statement, which considers the potential impacts of:

  • The expansion of the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, with the addition of one ski lift and seven associated ski trails within an approximately 279-acre area.
  •  A formal land classification and reclassification of a portion of the state park known as the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area (PASEA).

See details about the proposals, the draft environmental impact statement documents, and a link to provide comments at this website

Comment by email and enter “Mt Spokane PASEA” in the “Planning Project” box.

Info: Randy Kline at randy.kline@parks.wa.gov or 360-902-8632.

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Fall chinook season to open early in Priest Rapids pool

Aug. 21, 2014 2:42 p.m. - Updated: 2:42 p.m.

FISHING — This announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is good news if you're champing at the bit to cast for the early portion of the record run of fall chinook heading up the Columbia River.

Action: Fall chinook season opens two days early to coincide with Labor Day weekend. 

Effective date:  Aug 30, 2014 (one hour before official sunrise).

Species affected:  Chinook salmon

Location:  Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam

General Rules: Daily limit six (6) chinook only; up to two adults may be retained. All other rules for Columbia River apply, including barbless hooks. Two poles allowed through Aug 31, 2014.

Reason for action: The standard opening date for fall chinook in the Priest Rapids Pool is September 1. With Labor Day weekend falling on August 30, 2014, opening two days early will allow for additional angling opportunity.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license  Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River spring chinook fisheries.  The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.

Monitor fishing rule changes on the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or the WDFW webpage.

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Lake Wenatchee sockeye season to close after Labor Day

Aug. 21, 2014 2:40 p.m. - Updated: 2:46 p.m.

FISHING — Not much time left, according to this announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Lake Wenatchee closes for sockeye salmon fishing. 

Effective date: Sept. 1, 2014 (one hour after official sunset).

Species affected:  Sockeye salmon

Location:  Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)

Reason for action:  The majority of adult sockeye salmon currently in Lake Wenatchee will soon become largely unavailable to anglers due to their annual migration to the spawning grounds on the White and Little Wenatchee Rivers.  Sockeye condition and desirability will have declined drastically. This closure will further reduce unnecessary impacts to bull trout with such relatively few sockeye still being present in Lake Wenatchee. 

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Coast is clear: Illia Dunes beaches reopened along Snake River

Aug. 21, 2014 1:49 p.m. - Updated: 1:49 p.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — Illia Dunes, a Snake River beach and recreation site especially popular in August and September with college students, is being reopened today after last week's closure stemming from fecal coliforms found in water samples.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says test results received early this afternoon showed the area was again safe for in-water recreation.

Corps natural resources staff take weekly water samples at swimming areas in the district and have them tested for fecal coliforms that pose a potential hazard to human health. The Illia Dunes beach was closed Aug. 15 after tests showed that fecal bacteria exceeded levels considered safe for people.

In past years, Illia Dunes, located on the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam, has proven a popular end-of-summer gathering place.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers natural resources staff remind visitors of the following rules for the dunes and other Corps Snake River recreation areas:

Illia Dunes parking is restricted to two nearby Corps parking lots only. Due to the size, configuration of available space and limited maneuverability for larger vehicles, no busses are allowed to park in these lots. The two parking lots hold a total of about 120 cars. Although not a new requirement, it should be noted that tour and school buses must contact the dam at 509-843-1493 at least 24 hours in advance for crossing authorization.

No public parking is allowed on the adjacent 50-mph speed limit Almota Ferry Road. “No Parking” signs have been placed along the roadway. Warm-weather visitors parking on the two-lane, road shoulder have often encroached on traffic lanes, making the roadway narrower and preventing cars and emergency vehicles from safely passing. Shoulder parking also creates pedestrian hazards.

Banning alcohol consumption on Corps lands is an option the Corps could enact at any time, and such bans are in place at several locations in the region. While alcohol consumption at Illia Dunes is not banned at this time, underage drinking is not allowed. Remember, state laws prohibit driving or boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember that drugs are prohibited on federal lands, even if state law allows it.

Conducting special events on Corps property is prohibited without a special-use permit. Permit applications are available at Corps natural resource management offices, and take about 30 days to review and determine if the requested activity will be allowed.

Sound-producing equipment operated in such a manner as to unreasonably annoy other visitors is prohibited.

Any act or conduct by any person which interferes with, impedes or disrupts the use of the site or impairs the safety of any person is prohibited. Individuals who are boisterous, rowdy, disorderly or otherwise disturb the peace on Corps lands or waters may be requested to leave.

No glass containers are allowed on the Dunes, and the Corps provides free trash bags for visitors to use for “pack it in, pack it out” trash removal. Please, use the trash bags and put filled trash bags into on-site garbage receptacles.

Corps officials say they will continue to patrol and monitor how well visitors keep glass containers off the beach at all times, consume alcohol responsibly, use provided restrooms, not use fireworks on Corps lands at any time, and enjoy their visit without violating laws or posted notices. In this way, visitors will be helping determine future public use of the area, which is also a wildlife habitat management area.

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New wolf kill authorization broader than state law

Aug. 21, 2014 12:14 p.m. - Updated: 12:14 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some readers reacting to my recent report have pointed out that the public already has the right in Eastern  Washington to shoot a wolf that threatens a person or domestic animals even though wolves are protected by state endangered species laws.

So why did we headline the announcement that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has given a rancher the OK to shoot wolves?

I asked department officials to explain and here's a summary of the answer:

Gray wolves are managed under state regulations in the eastern third of the state while federal Endangered Species rules apply to wolves farther west.

Following incidents with wolves preying on sheep and pets in rural areas, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a standing rule that any person in the eastern third of the state who sees a wolf in the act of attacking livestock or domestic animals can shoot and kill up to one wolf to stop the attack.

The new authority given in the case of the recent sheep attacks in southern Stevens County is broader.

Rancher Dave Dashiell as well as WDFW staffers on the scene to help move and protect the sheep were given the authority Wednesday to shoot any wolf they see even near the sheep.  An attack does not need to be underway and they can kill more than one wolf if the opportunity presents itself.

That said, the chances are very low even under the broader guidelines that they will get the chance to shoot a wolf.  When the decision was finally made to destroy the cattle-eating Wedge Pack in 2012, the state got nowhere with killing wolves until they hired a helicopter. The aerial gunner took care of the issue in a couple of days.

“These attacks (on Stevens County sheep) have occurred mostly at night and unnoticed even though people are out there with dogs and lights,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. “It's a stretch to expect even one wolf to be shot under these rules, but at least they have the authority if the the chance presents itself.”

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ORVer displays ignorance of what’s spoiling his sport

Aug. 21, 2014 8:02 a.m. - Updated: Aug. 22, 2:31 p.m.

OFF-ROADING — I recently received an email from a gutless reader dissing me for a column I wrote about ORVer's who ride on private property — notably Mica Peak — without permission, as well as on public lands where riding off designated roads is illegal.

I call the person “gutless” because he/she has taken the liberty to call me a moron without having the courage to identify himself/herself more specifically than “Dusty.”

Here's his/her beef:

I just stumbled across your blog entry/story.

Really? That's some seriously objective writing style you have.

And a shot of a couple bikes riding past a small, PRIVATELY PLACED “NO TRESPASSINGsign does not indicate a crime — nor an error in land ethics - in progress.

I happen to ride up (on Mica Peak) from time to time, and the only “problem” I've encountered are people who seem to think they can dictate their own personal land use rules to us.

The people I ride with are local and know where and where not to ride. Our bikes use Forest Service approved spark arresters, and we ride with care, making sure to have as little impact on the land as possible.

And dirt bikers have been using that area for decades, and are responsible for the creation of most of the area's trails.

So please spare us the faux outrage and keep your ill-advised and opinionated blog posts to yourself, moron!

—Dusty

I offered this reply two weeks ago, but Dusty has not responded:

Dusty:

Did you ever ask the landowners for permission to ride on that Mica Peak land and create those trails you mention?

Tell me the truth.  Because if you did the landowners lied to me.  

And what about those “NO MOTOR VEHICLES” signs on the gates to Inland Empire Paper Co. lands? Does that mean you, or is it just my unobjective interpretation?

There's a very good chance you don't have a clue Dusty.

Read the story linked to that blog and learn why dirt bikers are losing places to ride right and left. 

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