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Despite elk-loss research, Montana hunters protest increased quota on cougars

April 17, 2014 5:59 a.m.

HUNTING — Here's an interesting twist to the turmoil about predators and their impact on Montana elk populations.

Even though research has indicated that mountain lions kill way more elk than suspected in the Bitterroot Mountains — way more than wolves — there's opposition to reducing the cougar population, and it's coming from mountain lion hunters.

Borthwestern Montana cougar hunters roundly criticized Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ proposed lion quotas for the next two seasons at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Helena last week, reports Brett French, outdoor writer for the Billings Gazette.

Read on for the details in the rest of French's story.

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Kids Fishing day sign-up due April 18

April 16, 2014 3:15 p.m.

FISHING – More than 1,000 fishing rods have been rigged up by volunteer sportsmen to hand out to about 950 kids ages 5-14 in the annual Kids Fishing event at Clear Lake on May 3.

Kids are scheduled for half-hour slots between 8 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. at Fairchild Air Force Base Recreation area.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to stock about 14,000 trout in net pens that the kids will be able to cast into from shore and docks.

For the $10 entry fee, each kid receives a Kids Fishing T-shirt, Zebco rod and reel and a chance to catch a limit of three trout. Volunteers will assist each kid.

Applications must be postmarked by Friday.

Download forms at tinyurl.com/1stcast

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Video: Pre-runoff fly fishing tactics for cutthroat streams

April 16, 2014 12:31 p.m.

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has produced a series of informational fly fishing videos that take the mystery out of rigging up and presenting flies to trout in the pre-runoff shoulder season.

This one's titled: Pre-Runoff Fly Fishing Tactics Part 1 - NF Coeur d'Alene / St Joe Rivers.

Says Visintainer:

The topics that I discuss in this video include:

  • walk/wade fishing back eddies with nymphs/streamers
  • fishing “soft” water along the bank
  • casting tip for dealing with steep/brushy banks.

When water levels go up in the spring, don't let walk/wade fishing these rivers scare you. Most of the time the fish are tight to the bank and you don't even have to get in the water.

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BLM regroups in confrontation with deadbeat rancher’s grazing

April 16, 2014 11:05 a.m. - Updated: 11:28 a.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — A Nevada rancher who owes the federal government more than $1 million in fees for illegally grazing cattle on U.S. Bureau of Land Management has won a temporary reprieve by summoning a protest by his right-winger brethren, some of which were armed militia-types.

IS this this future: The most heavily armed among us can take over public lands?

Nevada rancher's standoff with BLM re-energizes old debate
Time Magazine examines the Bureau of Land Management's conflict with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and what precedent the federal agency's decision to call off the gathering of Bundy's cattle illegally grazed on federal lands for the past two decades will set.
—Time.com

Click continue reading for the latest story on the confrontation from the Associated Press:

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BLM opens Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

April 16, 2014 11:01 a.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — The gate has been opened temporarily at Escure Ranch to allow motor vehicles to drive the road less than three miles into Towell Falls, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Spokane office has announced. 

The 14,000-acre BLM Rock Creek Recreation Area site south of Sprague is the realm of hikers and mountain bikers for most of the year, but the road is opened to the scenic falls in the window between the winter and spring mud season and the fire-danger season, which starts sometime in June.

BLM spokesman Steve Smith said:

The Towell Falls gate is now open at BLM's Rock Creek Recreation Site, and that Towell Falls Road has been very recently mowed.  As usual, the gate will remain open until we decide there is too much risk of wildland fire ignition for vehicle travel to continue on that road.

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Mica Bay Boater Park closed for tree removal

April 16, 2014 10:12 a.m.

BOATING — The Mica Bay Boater Park on Lake Coeur d'Alene has been closed temporarily until hazardous trees can be removed, according to the Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office.

Closure of the popular lake access site  will continue while operators work to fell and remove at-risk trees.  The order is expected to be lifted by mid-May. 

The BLM explains in a media release:

Last fall, after several diseased western larch fell and grazed a camp host's trailer, managers conducted a safety inspection of the trees in the recreation area and prepared an analysis outlining options to ensure the safety of users at the site.  Western larch is typically noted for being resistant to diseases such as root rot but throughout the north-facing ridge bordering the site, many trees have been compromised.  Because of the potential risk of failure that could cause a threat to people and/or property, managers determined that removal of the trees was necessary before the public begins to actively use the site for the summer season. 

Mica Bay Boater Park is a popular day-use area for boaters on Lake Coeur d’Alene and is also accessible by foot for groups looking for a secluded picnic spot or quiet place to pitch their tent.  

See information on alternate boater parks or picnic areas managed by BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office. 

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Study: mercury contamination affects even fish in national parks

April 16, 2014 8:30 a.m. - Updated: 9:06 a.m.

FISHING — National parks in the Western United States and Alaska are some of the most pristine landscapes and waters on the planet, yet results of a four year study indicate that mercury contamination affects fish even in these protected areas.

It's important to note that 96 percent of the affected fish had low levels of contamination and are considered safe for human consumption.

However, the National Park Service says:

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in 21 protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Read on for more details from the NPS.

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Wenaha River trail in full bloom for hikers

April 16, 2014 7:24 a.m.

BACKPACKING — This has been a perfect week to backpack the Wenaha River trail into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

Here's what Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner, had to say after returning from a weekend trek into the area

Went down to the Wenaha this weekend. Perfect timing! No rattlers, ticks, or poison ivy yet and an incredible color show!

The Wenaha River Trail was mentioned in my Sunday Outdoors story on April hiking opportunities as one of my top early-season picks for hikers looking to stretch their legs for a day or several days.

You'll find more details on the hike and the area in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.

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UI summer science camps let nature be teacher

April 16, 2014 6 a.m.

NATURE — The University of Idaho is offering summer science camps that allow youths grades 6 through 11 to go outdoors for hands-on discovery.

Enrollment is open for students interested in spending a week The McCall Outdoor Science School on the shores of Payette Lake learning from University of Idaho graduate students, exploring the mountains, lakes and rivers of central Idaho and releasing their inner scientist.

  • River Science Boys’ Expedition: June 22-27, Grades 6-9, $387.50
  • W.O.W.S. (Women Outdoor with Science): July 6-11, Grades 6-11, $387.50

These are five-day field science expeditions where students explore the rugged Idaho mountains, go whitewater rafting and learn what university climate, water and alternative energy researchers are studying.

  • Beyond MOSS: July 13-18, Grades 6-9, $297.50

This five-day program goes beyond the school year MOSS program for those who have been to MOSS or who will be coming soon.

  • Adventure Day Camp: June 17-August 1; Grades 3-5 and 6-9, Cost varies

This day camp focuses on learning, playing and enjoying nature while letting imagination drive discovery.

The McCall Outdoor Science School is an outreach of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources. The residential science school engages Idaho students in year-round learning through our school partnerships. The college also hosts an on-site graduate program for university students who serve as teachers while working towards their graduate degrees.

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Blood moon compliments colors of Bryce Canyon

April 15, 2014 3:47 p.m. - Updated: 3:53 p.m.

SKYWATCHING — In case the clouds —  or the need for sleep — obstructed your view of last night's lunar eclipse, here's the scene as seen in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

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