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In brief: DNR closes recreation on Eastern Washington lands due to fire danger

A pickup drives down a dirt road as the Pearl Hill Fire’s flames ignite behind it on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, near Mansfield, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
A pickup drives down a dirt road as the Pearl Hill Fire’s flames ignite behind it on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, near Mansfield, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday closed all of the lands it manages east of the Cascades to recreation due to high fire danger. The closure will last at least through Friday, Sept. 11, and DNR staff will evaluate the possibility of extending it as the week progresses.

Critical wildfire danger and ongoing fires in the area warranted the closure, as Labor Day saw a rash of new fires ignite all around the state.

“We had a historic fire event yesterday – 58 new wildfire starts and nine large fires on the landscape, compounded by hurricane-level winds,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “That dangerous combination led to smoke-filled skies and low visibility, which grounded our aircraft and limited our ability to fight the fire from the air.”

With high east wind conditions continuing into the week, wildfire risk remains extreme. These hot, dry and fast-moving winds cause fire spread to behave in unpredictable ways and make fires challenging to get under control.

With no lighting Monday or in the forecast for the next few days, the overwhelming majority of wildfires DNR is responding to are presumed to be human-caused. The agency has responded to 106 fires caused by recreation this year.

WDFW invites public input on grazing

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife invites the public to submit written comments on how it proposes to manage livestock grazing on its lands.Department staff have developed the grazing guidance and management tools document that includes proposed grazing roles, management plan content, risk management, ecological integrity monitoring, wolf-livestock management, and a framework to evaluate potential new grazing.

Department staff will implement the grazing guidance through proposed rule-making, which clarifies when and under what conditions grazing is allowed on WDFW-managed lands.

Members of the public who would like to provide input on the substance of the grazing program guidance and management tools can do that through An online survey is avalable through Sept. 24 (https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/environmental/sepa/open-comments).

The public is invited to provide feedback on the proposed regulations to implement the grazing guidance either through an online survey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/DFWGRAZING20) or by emailing comments to rules.coordinator@dfw.wa.gov. WDFW must receive comments by Sept. 24 at 5 p.m.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will host a public hearing for the grazing rule update at its Oct. 22-24 meeting.

Lower Columbia to open for sturgeon fishing

Anglers will be able to catch and keep white sturgeon on a portion of the lower Columbia River on Sept. 12 and 19, from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam. The sturgeon fishery will also be open on the Cowlitz River on the same days.

Much of the lower Columbia River is currently scheduled to be closed to salmon and steelhead fishing in mid-September, which means things should be less crowded for sturgeon anglers during retention days.

Anglers may retain only white sturgeon with a fork length between 44-50 inches. Fork length is measured from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail.

The daily white sturgeon limit is one fish, with an annual maximum limit of two fish. Retention of green sturgeon is prohibited. Only one single-point barbless hook and bait is allowed when fishing for sturgeon.

Catch-and-release fishing for white sturgeon remains open on non-retention days. Anglers may also continue catch-and-release fishing even after the annual limit has been met.

Spokane River’s cleanup set Sept. 19

Every year, hundreds of people make a huge impact in just a couple of hours during The Lands Council’s annual Spokane River Clean-Up. This year, organizers are hoping to make a big impact, just with a few changes.

Sign up to clean individually, with your family, or with a group of five or less. Volunteers will go along the Spokane River bank, collect litter, and place it in the designated locations. However, organizers won’t have a big gathering that morning as usual and they won’t be assigning huge groups to clean-up all together.

This year, organizers are focusing on nine major areas:

  • Downriver Disc Golf
  • TJ Meenach
  • People’s Park
  • High Bridge Park
  • Redband Park (also below the Spokane Club)
  • McKinstry/Gonzaga
  • Mission Park
  • Avista
  • Riverton

Sign up (

landscouncil.org/events/spokane-river-clean-up2

) for a location that works well for you. The Spokane River Forum (https://spokaneriver.net/) is holding their annual Valley portion of the Spokane River Clean-Up on Sept. 12th.

The week before the clean-up (Sept. 14-18) volunteers can stop by The Lands Council office to pick up supplies and get more information on where to leave your garbage.

For more info, call (509) 209-2851.

Apply for grants to conserve forests

Eligible organizations may begin applying for grants to conserve community forests, the Recreation and Conservation Office announced last week. The new state Community Forests Program will offer grants of up to $3 million. Applications are due Oct. 1.

The grants must be used to buy at least 5 acres of forestland and the land must be maintained as forestland forever. The land also must be actively managed to include timber harvest and other income-generating activities. Grants, when combined with land purchases, also may be used to restore the land or provide recreation opportunities, such as trails.

The grants are open to local and state government agencies, Native American tribes and nonprofit organizations. More information about the Community Forests Program is available online (rco.wa.gov/grant/community-forests-program/).

Priest River raft slide unavailable

The Priest River raft slide, located along Idaho Highway 57 immediately downstream of the outlet of Priest Lake, will be closed to public use until Oct. 2.

The Idaho Transportation Department is expanding the parking area for the raft slide and will be occupying the site with heavy equipment. The site is scheduled to reopen again in October when higher river flows typically start to permit better floating, and the increased parking will greatly help users of the site. For additional information or questions about this project, please contact the Priest Lake Ranger Station at (208) 443-2512.

IDFG seeks info on bull elk poaching

A landowner located a dead bull elk adjacent to his property on U.S. Forest Service land off Clagstone Road in Bonner County on Sept. 1. The elk’s head and antlers were removed, leaving the rest of the animal to waste. Senior Conservation Officer Rob Morris determined that the large bull was poached a day or two prior.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Fish & Game Panhandle office at (208) 769-1414 or the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999, or fill out a report online at idfg.idaho.gov/poacher.

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Tags: briefs, outdoors

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