Tag Archives: RICH LANDERS

Longtime Spokane Hook-and-bullet Writer Retires, But Will Continue Reporting

The Northwest hook-and-bullet world is losing another important voice in a key market, though one that fortunately won’t entirely disappear into the Palouse behind his faithful bird dogs either.

Last Friday afternoon, Rich Landers retired as the outdoor editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, where he’s been writing since before I even could scrawl my A-B-C’s.


Across 41 years, thousands of deadlines and countless words, Landers has covered hunting and fishing, wildlife and water issues, along with a host of other outdoor subjects such as skiing and hiking for much of the Inland Northwest.

And he’s going out on a high note as this year’s winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s 2017 Jade of the Chief award, the organization’s highest conservation honor and which “represents an affirmation of OWAA adherence to, and support of, the principles of conservation.”

He will continue to freelance for the paper, but in the meanwhile, Eli Francovich, who’s been covering schools, youth and breaking news at Spokane’s daily, has been named the new outdoor editor.

There was an outpouring of appreciation late last week on Facebook where Landers publicly announced his retirement, but his final Sunday column wasn’t about himself or a compilation of greatest hits more vainglorious writers might have self-assigned.

Rather, it was on efforts to save the critically endangered South Selkirk caribou herd, which occasionally wanders into Washington.

He wrote that volunteers are gathering lichen to feed pregnant cows that will be herded into a 19-acre maternity pen built in southern British Columbia to protect them during calving from resurgent wolf populations, as well as other predators.

It’s that sort of crossover story that Landers has been writing for ages, while also providing plenty of pieces on hunting and fishing prospects and more, making his space an important bridge between user groups.

You could see that in the comments on his farewell post, as well as in the response from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Rich Landers’ coverage of all things fish and wildlife has been most significant to us at WDFW because his readership includes everybody who recreates in some way in the Northwest’s great outdoors; that means those who don’t hunt or fish are exposed to hunting and fishing stories, and vice versa,” notes the agency’s Madonna Luers, a 33-year veteran of its Public Affairs team and based in the Lilac City. “Rich has kept us on our toes and helped us be responsive, serving as both a watchdog and a scientific ally. I am grateful to have worked with him all these years.”

Dave Workman’s been writing about WDFW and hunting for about as long as Landers, and says he particularly enjoyed Landers’ recent pieces on working with his gun dog Ranger and a profile of an elk hunting partner.

“We haven’t always agreed on fish and game management issues, but he’s managed to turn a passion for the outdoors into a paying job. Can’t beat that!” Workman says.

Over the years Landers and I have traded emails on each other’s work, commiserated on WDFW’s proclivity for 4:55 p.m. wolf news press releases, and the best way to prepare Bolivian llama, among other topics, and finally got to meet each other above the Ronde in the state’s southeastern corner in May 2015.

I’ll readily admit that I’ve also ruthlessly stalked him, checking in on him multiple times a day to see what he’s writing and blogging and Facebooking and tweeting about.

Beyond the competition for scoops and stories — mostly won by Rich, occasionally by me — I’ve paid particularly close attention to his level-headed reporting on wolves.

For this blog I’ve shared more than a few cogent quotes from Landers as he’s given the howling fringes the what-for while accurately and honestly covering wolves’ recolonization and all that comes with it. (And if he’s provided inspiration for a little levity with the overwrought subject, more power to him.)

Indeed, he might as well be secretary-treasurer of the Cooler Heads Club.

Not that members are in demand much in these modern times. Or us.

If Landers and fellow pens were as furry or had fins like some of the critters they write about, they’d be a candidates for Endangered Species Act protections themselves.

True, Mark Freeman’s going strong at the Medford Mail-Tribune, but while Bill Monroe and Wayne Kruse are still freelancing for The Oregonian and the Daily Herald of Everett, they along with Alan Liere at the Spokesman-Review are getting up there in age.

And in recent years we’ve seen Mark Yuasa move on from The Seattle Times and Jeff Mayor from the Tacoma News Tribune, Al Thomas retire from The Columbian, Henry Miller from the Salem Statesman-Journal and Tony Floor from his monthly Northwest Marine Trade Association fishing newsletter, while Scott Sandsberry left the Yakima Herald for health reasons and Greg Johnston and the Seattle PI parted ways long ago.

Last spring the Bellingham Herald discontinued Doug Huddle’s column in favor of outdoors coverage along the lines of:

The wild road to Crystal Mill, a photographer’s dream;
Call of the wild: Minnesota women explore public lands, by bicycle;
Three basic stretches to help you do the splits
Colorado’s Waldo Canyon, a place for serious adventure;
Washington’s Lopez Island in the fall: Hikes, farm stands and fine dining

I’m not going to sit here and say that topics like those don’t have a place, because this no longer is 1957, papers are struggling to catch readers’ eyes, variety is the spice of life, and Landers has done his share of writing those pieces or scanning the AP wire for similar because the press — it needs to be fed.

But our ranks are increasingly as thin as the hair on our heads. The days when a magazine like Fishing & Hunting News could spawn an entire generation of outdoor writers are further and further back.

When one newspaper in a very important location for people like us recently looked to replace their veteran outdoor reporter, they got fresh-out-of-college kids who couldn’t tell the difference between a springer and a summer-run and who equated the job title to mean writing environmental stories.

The latter in itself is not a bad thing, because as Landers recently wrote, “Regardless of the politics, a sportsman who isn’t an environmentalist is a fool, or at least uniformed.”

But more and more, that particular style of reporting aims to tear down fish and wildlife agencies rather than thoughtfully challenge or detail the thinking and methods behind biologists’ and managers’ decisions.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen the expansion of radio and forums and blogs and pages, where sportsmen, experts and bios — retired and otherwise — can debate things.

And all is not lost on the print side.

Amidst our ranks there’s Jordan Nailon — he of the fine coverage of Southwest Washington poaching and Cowlitz steelhead issues — at the Centralia Chronicle, Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune and Ralph Bartholdt at the Couer d’Alene Press. Replacing Al Thomas at The Columbian is a Northwest Sportsman alumnus, Terry Otto.

It’s great that local newspapers and editors still put an emphasis on coverage of hunting and fishing. I do appreciate that.

But at the same time, 20 percent of all salmon and steelhead anglers in the state of Washington in 2015 lived in Fairview Fannie’s hometown and backyard, King County, pointing to the importance of a landed hook-and-bullet reporter in major metro dailies.

According to The Seattle Times’, the end of everyday fishing and hunting coverage “was not an easy decision, but one that was necessary considering our evolving readership and limited resources.”

The editors there haven’t done much to show me they still consider our brand of outdoors relevant, however, and that’s disappointing. They’ve been running a steady diet of ski stories this fall instead.

Skiing’s great; I love to ski and haven’t done enough since getting Real Jobs. And I love hiking and photography and mountains and all things outdoors too.

But what I like most of all is an outdoor writer with their head screwed on straight, who knows his or her way around a rod and reel, shotgun and rifle, who has longterm, institutional knowledge of the Northwest fishing and hunting world, and who can see the big picture and transmit that to the masses.

That’s where Landers shines.

Enjoy your retirement, Rich, but don’t let those pups take you too far from the keyboard.

CORRECTION 10:30 A.M., DEC. 7, 2017 Previous reports of Greg Johnston’s “long gone” status were incorrect. While his former paper, the Seattle PI, is a shell of its former self, Johnston is very much still alive and recently published a book coastal anglers may be interested in.

Longtime Inland Northwest Outdoor Writer Wins Prestigious Award

It seems like we’re dropping like flies these days, but a longtime fishing, hunting and outdoors writer based in Spokane has landed a prestigious national award.

Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review is the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s 2017 Jade of the Chief award winner.

It’s the organization’s highest conservation honor and “represents an affirmation of OWAA adherence to, and support of, the principles of conservation.”


Landers, who has been with the newspaper literally since I was in kindergarten, is the 52nd winner, and in a story posted to the Spokesman-Review his efforts were lauded by OWAA president Brett Perryman:

“Rich Landers has been giving sportsmen and women in the West, and across the nation, a strong voice for decades. Rich is well respected among his OWAA colleagues and this award is well deserved.”

Two of the last three Jade winners are now from the Northwest, and the other, Oregon’s Pat Wray, also applauded Landers:

“Our newest chief is not afraid to take a stand when necessary. His courageous work on behalf of our natural resources and the environment have earned him the respect of all who have read his articles and columns as well as multiple awards. He has been recognized as the Conservation Writer of the Year by both the Idaho Conservation League and the Washington Environmental Council.

“Our newest chief doesn’t just sit behind a computer. He covers ground…and writes about it. He’s written four books on paddling and hiking in the northwest. He is a serious fisherman and to his everlasting credit, a dedicated chukar hunter. He’s joined me a few times in hunts along the Snake River of eastern Oregon and it’s always a pleasure to try and stay close enough to keep him in sight as he scurries over the breaks.”

Indeed, even as we see losses among the Northwest outdoor mafia — Mark Yuasa leaving the Seattle Times after the paper decided to discontinue his fishing column, Allen Thomas, who is retiring from The Columbian, Doug Huddle, who saw the Bellingham Herald end fishing and hunting coverage — I don’t expect Landers will slow down anytime soon, and that’s a good thing for the protection of the lands and wildlife of the Northwest and opportunities to fish and hunt we so cherish.

Hat tip from the 206.

Washington Urges Zinke To Leave Hanford Reach Nat’l Monument Alone

With recently designated national monuments under review, Washington’s natural resource agencies are advising Washington DC not to mess with the Hanford Reach.

Letters from both the Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to downsize the 194,000-acre zone around the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia as well as former buffer to the Hanford site.


“WDFW would like to echo Governor Inslee’s response, which recommends no action to rescind or alter the Hanford Reach  Monument’s border. Our recommendation is based on the Monument’s importance to the quality of life for citizens of Washington relative to recreation and the state’s economy, as well as the unique and critical habitat protected by the HRNM for fish and wildlife species,” reads a July 7 letter from the agency’s regional director, Mike Livingston.

He says the publicly accessible 68,000 acres of the monument provide “exceptional recreation opportunity” for anglers, hunters and others, as well as “supports spawning and rearing habitat for the largest fall Chinook salmon population in the lower 48 states.”

“Chinook produced in the HNRM support a world-class freshwater sport fishery as well as offshore commercial and recreational fisheries that extend as far away as southeast Alaska,” Livingston wrote.

The 2015 fishery yielded a record harvest of 35,432 upriver brights for 48,000 angler trips in the Reach alone, and along with steelhead fisheries, these waters annually pump $2 million to $3 million into the local economy.

“Changes to the boundaries of the HRNM could increase erosion and sedimentation, reduce public access, alter nearshore water quality and habitat, and result in negative impacts to these fish populations and public recreation,” Livingston warned.

In her July 10 letter, perhaps taking note of Zinke’s time in Utah to investigate a new national monument there, DNR Director Hillary Franz invites him to “come toss a line in the water.”

“You’ll find yourself among the Americans that come here annually with their loved ones and families. Reeling in your first sturgeon will be as surprising as it is exhilarating. The prehistoric nature of this fish is emblematic of what was preserved here; history, culture, recreation and the American way of life,” Franz wrote in her letter.

Yesterday was the final day for public comment on the Trump Administration’s review of 27 national monuments created since the mid-1990s and which are more than 150 square miles in size.

That includes Oregon’s 100,000-acre Cascade Siskiyou.

Recent days have seen increasing pushback from sportsmen.

Last week, Andrew McKean, editor of Outdoor Life, published an open letter to Zinke that was subheadlined “A call to defend, celebrate, and cherish national monuments.”

It appears the purpose of your review is to confirm your own support for monuments. That’s the only way I can understand your order, as a clever (and slightly subversive) way to call attention to these special places that are reservoirs of the American qualities of equality, adventure, self-reliance, and democracy.

After all, you have repeatedly identified yourself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” The father of the Antiquities Act—the legislation that enables the creation of National Monuments —Roosevelt recognized that monuments are a tool to elevate the very best of our best public lands by giving them a status that allows true multiple use while protecting the integrity of remarkable landscapes for future generations. While I think it’s healthy to periodically review government decisions, I think you—especially if you emulate TR—would agree that national monuments are among America’s best ideas and entirely worth celebrating, not eliminating.

This morning, the Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s long-time outdoor editor Rich Landers — recently recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of America with the organization’s highest award for adherence to conservation principles — posted a blog asking “Can Zinke be trusted as Interior steward of federal public lands?

Dave Mahalic, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, speaking recently at the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2017 Conference in Duluth, Minnesota, defended the review of 27 monuments that have been designated since 1996 and the potential for rescission or downsizing.

He said the Antiquities Act was designed to include “the least amount of land necessary to accomplish the protection.”

The former supervisor of Yosemite National Park said the review is needed because “some people feel they don’t have a voice.”

I asked him directly, “Who are those people?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

OK, so much for transparency. Mahalic should know who’s pushing for the review if he’s making appearances to officially support if not pimp the mission. So should Secretary Zinke.

And they should reveal who those people and interests are to more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period.

Landers also pointed towards a scathing story posted yesterday by Ted Williams in Hatch magazine headlined “With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies? It’s time for sportsmen to get real about our Secretary of Interior.”

Wrapping his piece around a metaphor from the Jungle Book, Williams writes, ” … (When) politicians and appointed officials work against fish and wildlife, sportsmen need to get loudly on their cases, then vote the right way,” he wrote.

For his part, in a BLM press release out today, Zinke said he and President Trump had opened comment on the monuments “in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process.”

He said that even if monument boundaries were tweaked, the land would still remain federal.

After touring the new Bears Ears National Monument, Zinke advised the White House it should be shrunk.

Now that Washington state officials as well as some 1.3 million others have had their say, it’s up to Washington DC to make the next move.