Tag Archives: spokane spokesman-review

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.

RICH LANDERS (CENTER) LISTENS AS WDFW’S BOB DICE TALKS ABOUT THE 4-0 RANCH UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA DURING A TOUR OF THE 10,000-ACRE PROPERTY IN MAY 2015. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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.

More Details Emerge On Oregon Elk Hunter’s Killing Of A Wolf

A series of news stories are providing more details as well as commentary on the shooting of a wolf by an elk hunter in Northeast Oregon’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in late October.

Following last Thursday’s press release from the state police, first out was an Oregonian piece on Saturday morning based on a troopers case report obtained by the paper.

Reporter Andrew Theen wrote that Brian Scott, 38, had three wolves in his vicinity and one “had targeted me … and was running at me to make contact,” according to the documents.

A SCREENSHOT OF ODFW’S WOLF ALBUM ON FLICKR SHOWS A NUMBER OF THE WILD CANIDS ACROSS THE STATE.

That article was followed the next day by an actual interview of Scott at his Clackamas home by freelance Oregonian outdoor writer Bill Monroe.

“It meant to make contact,” Scott told Monroe while pecking at his breakfast. “I was terrified. I screamed and raised my rifle. All I saw (in a scope) was hair so I shot.”

After confirming the animal was a wolf with his hunting partners, Scott contacted the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who arrived with “forensic equipment, GPS units and a video camera; surveying the scene and evidence and taking Scott’s statement,” Monroe wrote.

OSP’s press release, which was also posted by ODFW, stated “The Union County District Attorney’s Office was consulted regarding the investigation and based upon the available evidence the case will not be prosecuted as this is believed to be an incidence of selfdefense.”

In Theen’s Saturday article, a member of Oregon Wild questioned the path of the killing bullet, described as hitting the wolf’s right side and exiting on the left.

In a Monday story, Eric Mortenson of the Capital Press interviewed renowned retired Northern Rockies wolf expert Carter Niemeyer, who said he is in “doubt” about Scott’s story based on the wound channel which suggests a broadside shot.

Interviewed by Monroe, Scott said he couldn’t explain that as he had had other priorities in that moment in the woods.

“I screamed, raised the rifle and saw fur,” he told Monroe. “Who knows how it was moving in that split second? I don’t and was more interested in defending myself.”

It’s possible the bullet deflected off bone.

As with nearly every single bit of wolf news, this incident caused quite a stir on social media and in story comments.

It was always going to, as it was the first time an Oregon hunter has killed a wolf in what was classified as self defense (Washington’s first occurred in 2013 in the Pasayten Wilderness).

In the end, there are bits of wisdom worth gleaning.

Wolf attacks on humans remain very rare; wolf encounters with humans in the Northwest are increasing as wolf populations continue to increase; some of those are occurring at close range; we don’t all have the same comfort levels in terms of personal safety; we don’t all have the same experience with wolf behavior; and nobody can say with absolute certainty how every single wolf will act — they’re wild animals.

“If you see a wolf or any other animal and are concerned about your safety, make sure it knows you are nearby by talking or yelling to alert it to your presence,” advised Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “If you are carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground.”

“That would have been the first logical thing to do,” Niemeyer told Mortenson of the Press. “The gunshot and a yell from a human would turn every wolf I’ve ever known inside out trying to get away.”

Niemeyer also suggested carrying bear repellent, which Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor columnist Rich Landers had in hand during a similar incident this summer with his dog and two wolves.

Landers wrote about that again in a Monday blog post, as well as offered this observation:

“The wilds won’t miss one wolf as the still-endangered species is multiplying beyond expectations in the Northwest. Meanwhile, the other two wolves likely learned a tad more fear of humans. That’s a recipe for success.”

I’ll second that, and for my part I’ll point out that somewhat underplayed in all of this was that Scott did the exact right thing to do: He immediately called OSP and ODFW to come investigate. That’s stand-up. That’s jumping from the frying pan into potentially a bonfire.

The results of that evidence collecting won’t ameliorate the hard-core wolfies, but what ever will.

For the rest of us outside the fringes, it yields several lessons, even as it put a pall on the hunting season of the man at the center of the story.

“People envision this jerk hunter out to kill anything, but that’s not me,” Scott told Monroe. “It frustrates me they don’t understand. I’m a meat hunter. I was looking for a spike elk. This wasn’t exciting. It ruined my hunt.”