Tag Archives: usfws

Researcher Was At Wolf Pack’s Rendezvous Site, Near Den

Federal wildlife overseers say the researcher who had to be rescued from wolves yesterday in Northcentral Washington was at their gathering site and also within half a mile of the Loup Loup Pack’s den.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE LOUP LOUP PACK ALONG THE DIVIDE BETWEEN THE CHEWUCH AND OKANOGAN RIVERS IN NORTHERN OKANOGAN COUNTY. (WDFW)

“After an on-site investigation, USFWS and WDFW biologists have determined the site is a rendezvous site, and concluded that the wolves were acting in a defensive manner,” said Ann Froschauer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Lacey.

With wolves still federally listed in the western two-thirds of Washington, USFWS is the lead management agency and works in cooperation with WDFW to manage the species.

It wasn’t clear why the unnamed person was where she was, however.

WDFW described the rescuee as a “U.S. Forest Service salmon researcher” and said it had notified local forest officials of the site of the Loup Loup Pack’s den in April.

An Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest spokesperson had not returned a phone call from earlier today.

Froschauer said the researcher had initially seen wolf tracks and heard barking and yipping before she was approached by wolves.

She tried to scare them away by “yelling, waving and deploying a can of bear spray in the direction of the wolves” but was unsuccessful and so she climbed a tree and radioed out for help around 12:30 p.m.

According to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers, search-and-rescue personnel and deputies were called on to respond to the scene in the Twentymile Meadows area roughly 26 miles north of Winthrop, with officers told to shoot the wolves on sight if they were still surrounding the woman when they arrived.

WDFW fish and wildlife officers were also preparing to head for the site, through several miles of rough country north of Tiffany Springs Campground.

It would have taken them several hours to hike to the location, though, and in the meanwhile, at the request of the Tonasket Ranger District, a state Department of Natural Resources wildfire helicopter was dispatched from Omak.

According to previous reports, the wolves were still near the base of the tree the woman had climbed as the chopper arrived 14 minutes later, but scattered as it landed.

She was then safely rescued.

Froschauer says that the Loup Loup Pack’s den site is “within a kilometer of the site where the incident occurred” and that GPS collar data showed that the evening before, at least one of the pack’s adults was very close to it as well.

“Rendezvous sites are home or activity sites where weaned pups are brought from the den until they are old enough to join adult wolves in hunting activity,” she said.

Froschauer said that because of the location’s remoteness from campgrounds and trails and the “defensive nature of the encounter,” USFWS doesn’t believe there’s a threat to human safety.

Federal and state biologists plan to monitor collar data from the two adult wolves.

Sheriff Rogers told regional public radio reporter Courtney Flatt he didn’t need to deal with any more wolf encounters; three notable ones have now occurred in the county since 2011.

“I’ve tried to tell people, it’s not like the movies. The wolves aren’t running around in packs hunting humans. But if you see a pack, don’t antagonize it. If it’s feeding, for god’s sake, stay away from it. If you run upon a den, stay away from it,” he told the journalist.

A statement from Conservation Northwest said that though attacks by wolves on people are “exceedingly rare,” they are territorial around dens and gathering points.

“Barking is often a warning to stay away from pups or food sources. Thankfully nobody was harmed,” the statement said.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased at the successful rescue of the individual, and commends the quick action of our partners in their rescue efforts,” said Froschauer.

She says that wolves are generally wary of people but also advised “taking precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, hiking and camping in groups, and carrying bear spray to help avoid potential conflicts.”

She pointed to Western Wildlife Outreach as a good source of information.

Research Student Rescued After Surrounded by Wolves

FINAL UPDATE 11:48 A.M., JULY 13, 2018: This link is the latest information on what happened during the incident.

A research student had to be rescued north of Winthrop today after she was surrounded by wolves at their rendezvous site and near their den.

The woman who was surveying in the West Fork Twentymile Creek area of northcentral Okanogan County, near Tiffany Springs and in the range of the Loop Loop Pack, called authorities around 12:30 p.m. that she had clambered 30 feet up a tree after encountering the wolves, it was reported by KREM 2 in Spokane and the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune based on a press release from Sheriff Frank Rogers.

The Seattle Times reported that she had initially encountered one and tried to pepper spray it before another arrived and she retreated up the tree.

Okanogan County deputies were initially given the go-ahead to shoot the animals on sight if they were still there when they arrived, according to the release.

Rogers told the Times that that would have been a two-hour hike for his officers.

DNR volunteered a helicopter that could get to the scene in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in less than a quarter hour and the crew was able to rescue her.

The wolves were still in the area upon the aircraft’s arrival, but scattered when it landed, according to reports.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the woman was researching, but in recent years Washington wolves have been the subject of university studies for interactions with livestock and big game.

At the end of 2017, there were at least two wolves in the Loup Loup Pack. If they were able to breed and have a litter this spring, there could be several growing pups.

It is not the first unnerving encounter between humans and wolves in Okanogan County. A lone hunter scouting for deer west of Winthrop was followed by two wolves in September 2011, and in September 2013 a hunter in the Pasayten Wilderness shot and killed a wolf after feeling threatened by it.

Others have occurred in Stevens and Kittitas Counties, also with hunters.

As the incident occurred in the still federally listed portion of Washington, USFWS is the lead agency. Late Thursday night, a WDFW official said the Service is developing a statement.

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of when it first became general public knowledge that there was a pack of wolves in Okanogan County, the state’s first since the 1930s. There are now nearly two dozen packs and a minimum of 122 wolves, nearly all east of the Cascade crest.

USFWS Reviewing Status Of Still-listed Lower 48 Gray Wolves

It’s not just North Cascades grizzly reintroduction that federal wildlife overseers have begun working on again this year. They’re also putting in time on gray wolf delisting for the western Northwest and elsewhere, it appears.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

Half a decade to the month after first proposing to declare wolves recovered across the rest of the contiguous United States, a process subsequently derailed through lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “has begun reviewing the status of the species.”

That’s according to a brief two-paragraph statement emailed to Northwest Sportsman magazine Thursday afternoon by a spokesperson.

“Working closely with our federal, state, tribal and local partners, we will assess the currently listed gray wolf entities in the Lower 48 states using the best available scientific information,” it continues. “If appropriate, the Service will publish a proposal to revise the wolf’s status in the Federal Register by the end of the calendar year. Any proposal will follow a robust, transparent and open public process that will provide opportunity for public comment.”

ODFW’S LATEST WOLF PACK MAP DOESN’T SHOW THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE FEDERALLY DELISTED AND STILL-LISTED AREAS OF OREGON, BUT IT INCLUDES MUCH OF THE EASTERN THIRD OF THE STATE. THE RED LINE  (ODFW)

That could level the playing field, per se, in Washington and Oregon, where wildlife managers and livestock producers operate by different sets of rules depending on which side of a series of highways they’re on.

In spring 2011, Congress delisted wolves in each state’s eastern third — as well as all of Montana and Idaho and a portion of Utah — leaving management there up to WDFW and ODFW.

Meanwhile, federal protections continued in their western two-thirds, where lethal removal is not in the toolbox to deal with chronic depredations.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) wrote to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a letter earlier this week calling on his agency to look at delisting wolves.

Regardless of the ranch’s or grazing allotment’s location, both states stress preventative measures to head off cattle and sheep conflicts.

WDFW’S LATEST PACK MAP SHOWS THE DEMARCATION BETWEEN WHERE WOLVES ARE MANAGED BY THE STATE AND UNDER FEDERAL PROTECTIONS, THE BLACK LINE RUNNING NORTH-SOUTH THROUGH EASTERN WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

Later in 2011, USFWS declared the species recovered in the western Great Lakes states.

And then in June 2013, with “gray wolves no longer (facing) the threat of extinction or (requiring) the protections of the Endangered Species Act,” according to then-Director Dan Ashe, the feds proposed delisting them throughout the rest of their range.

But progress stalled, and then came a Humane Society of the United States court case addressing Canis lupus in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, the delisting of wolves in the Western Great Lakes region was successfully overturned by the courts, which prevented the Service from moving forward with the full delisting proposal at that time,” the second part of the USFWS statement concludes.

Last summer, a federal appeals court decision yielded mixed results, but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation saw positives, including “(undoing) a number of roadblocks thus providing a path forward.”

Over the years, Washington’s and Oregon’s wolf populations have more than doubled from 2013 levels, largely in the state-managed areas.

And now, USFWS’s big, long delisting pause appears to be over, which will excite some and make others fearful.

McMorris Rodgers Calls On Zinke To Delist Wolves, Addresses Grizzlies

While wolves have been delisted in her Eastern Washington district, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is calling for that federal status to be extended across the rest of the state.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS. (CONGRESS/WIKIMEDIA)

The Spokane Republican wrote that she “would insist the (Trump) Administration look at delisting the wolf in Washington State” in a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke in which she also states her opposition to reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

“Keeping the gray wolf listed and reintroducing the grizzly bear would have devastating consequences in Eastern Washington. I urge you thoroughly revisit both of these issues and thank you for your consideration,” McMorris Rodgers writes.

Earlier this month, one of her fellow Eastside reps, Dan Newhouse, successfully slipped an amendment into an Interior appropriations bill that defunds federal proposals to bring in the big bruins.

Newhouse also inserted language into the bill requiring Zinke to delist wolves by September 2019.

Both say they’re reacting to constituents’ concerns.

On the wolf front, McMorris Rodgers touches on a 2015 letter WDFW sent to Newhouse asking for his help in encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the delisting process, which the federal agency proposed five years ago this month.

That had been held up in part by lawsuits over packs elsewhere in the country, but USFWS has begun reviewing wolves’ status again.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” McMorris Rodgers wrote to Zinke.

Retired Disabled Vet Building ADA-accessible Blinds At SW WA Refuges, Wildlife Areas

By Brent Lawrence

Rick Spring smiles even as the cold wind and rain blow across his face in the waterfowl blind at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The call of cackling geese overhead and the sight of wildlife relax him as he pets Max, his yellow Labrador retriever who doubles as his certified therapy dog.

Being in the outdoors is where Spring finds peace.

RICK SPRING, A DISABLED NAVY VET, BOEING RETIREE AND MEMBER OF ONE OF WASHINGTON’S OLDEST FISH AND GAME CLUBS, THE VANCOUVER WILDLIFE LEAGUE, POSES WITH HIS SERVICE DOG MAX BY ONE OF SEVERAL WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE WATERFOWL BLINDS HE’S BUILT ON PUBLIC LANDS IN THE LOWER COLUMBIA. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

For many people, however, there are barriers to finding that outdoor enjoyment. A disabled Navy veteran himself, Spring knows that spending time hunting, fishing and hiking isn’t always a given for injured veterans or other people with disabilities.

That’s why Spring pours his passion for accessibility to the outdoors into building hunting and birdwatching blinds on federal and state lands that are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. A Spring-made blind, for example, is big enough to accommodate two wheelchairs.

SPRING’S BLINDS CAN ACCOMMODATE TWO WHEELCHAIR-BOUND HUNTERS OR BIRDWATCHERS. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

He does it as a volunteer, donating countless hours to the cause.

“Before they were disabled, veterans were usually very active people,” says Spring, a Boeing retiree who also served as an E4 3rd Class Petty Officer for three years in the U.S. Navy, running ship-to-shore teletypes and crypto aircraft identification. “Then they get injured and they feel like their time in the field isn’t available anymore. Knowing that these blinds are available, it will help veterans move on and have prosperous lives. They want and need this experience.”

Spring is one of conservation’s good neighbors, creating opportunities that open the door to nature for people who otherwise wouldn’t get to see a flock of mallards coming in to land or even hear the wind whistle through the Douglas firs.

MAX SOAKS UP THE RAYS AT THE JOB SITE ON A WARM SPRING DAY. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

Whether they hold a shotgun or a camera, those aiming to connect with nature need access to enjoy the outdoors, regardless of their physical abilities. That’s why Spring hopes to expand the use of his custom-designed blinds to Oregon and then to the national level so more people with disabilities can have access to the outdoors.

It’s impossible to quantify the impact ADA-compliant access has on disabled veterans, says Heath Gunns, outreach manager with Honored American Veterans Afield. The impact on an individual, however, is easy to see when you witness it first-hand.

“You’re a 19-year-old kid and you go to boot camp, where they build you up to think you can do anything. Then you get hurt and the first thing doctors do is tell you the things you’ll no longer be able to do. … That is wrong,” Gunns says.

“Disabled veterans just have to learn to do it differently and that’s where ADA-compliant blinds and other access opportunities come in. The outdoors can’t give them their legs back, but it can give them hope.”

A RIDGEFIELD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE BLIND SITS NEXT TO A FLOODED FIELD. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

Spring is determined to keep that hope alive for people with disabilities. He pulls in partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Vancouver Wildlife League, Washington Waterfowl Association, Northwest Steelheaders, and numerous businesses to make it all happen.

The Service manages the National Wildlife Refuges, where Spring does some of his best work.

In addition to the blind at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, two of his custom ADA-compliant blinds can be found at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and another at Vancouver Lake. Spring is a member of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission ADA Advisory Committee, and he’s finalizing a proposal to build ADA-compliant blinds in each of the commission’s six state regions.

The importance of Spring’s work is underscored by a surprising statistic: 60 percent of requests for Washington’s reduced-fee or special-use permits come from disabled veterans. Overall, there’s a high level of public interest in ADA-compliant facilities, according to Sam Taylor, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s liaison to the seven-member ADA advisory committee.

“This is an amazing volunteer advisory group,” Taylor says. “They’re having a real impact on hunting and fishing opportunities in the state. Rick is doing some great work, and not only with the blinds. He’s also working on a shooting range that is ADA compliant and looking at some other opportunities for fishing piers.”

POSITIONED NEAR A TREELINE AND WATER, A RIDGEFIELD NWR BLIND SITS IN A GOOD LOCATION FOR DUCK HUNTERS AND OTHERS. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

That access-for-all-people policy plays an important role in public lands recreation. A recent Service report shows the outdoors has a strong allure. In 2016, an estimated 101.6 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older – participated in hunting, fishing, wildlife-watching and related activities. The findings reflect a continued interest in engaging in the outdoors. These activities are drivers behind an economic powerhouse, where participants spent $156 billion in 2016.

Spring reached out to Jackie Ferrier, project leader at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex, last year to discuss opportunities for adding a new blind. They had never met prior to the call, but Ferrier quickly seized the opportunity to improve recreational opportunities for the public.

“We had a discussion about some of his work at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and we had an instant rapport. I realized we had an amazing opportunity to partner with him on this,” Ferrier  says. “He and his team of volunteers were amazing.”

Willapa Refuge plans to add another ADA-compliant blind once some habitat restoration is complete on a different part of the refuge.

“Access is a priority for us, and Rick will make sure it happens. He gets things done,” Ferrier says. Spring, she notes, is a part of the refuge’s hunter working group that provides input on hunting opportunities. “He’s an incredibly dedicated, positive and inspirational person to work with.”

“HE’S AN INCREDIBLY DEDICATED, POSITIVE AND INSPIRATIONAL PERSON TO WORK WITH,” SAYS WILLAPA NWR’S JACKIE FERRIER OF SPRING. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

When not helping veterans get into the field, Spring and Max bring that inspiration to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Vancouver. Two days a week they spend time with veterans and their families at the hospital, often devoting hours to patients in hospice care.

Just like he does in the hunting blind, Max will gently nudge his big yellow head alongside the hand of a veteran.

Spring watches as they slowly rub Max’s head with their fingers, hoping it brings them the same peace, hope and memories of the outdoors.

Editor’s note: Brent Lawrence is a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region in Portland. Governmental agencies and non-profit groups interested in connecting with Rick Spring’s regarding his blinds may contact the author at brent_lawrence@fws.gov.

Congress Members Hears About Importance Of National Wildlife Refuge System

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM DUCKS UNLIMITED

Today, the bipartisan Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled “Wildlife Refuges 101.” This briefing covered the important role refuges play in conservation and recreation in the United States, issues facing the Wildlife Refuge system, funding for the refuges and the role Congress plays in supporting the refuge system. Representatives from Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service served as briefing panelists.

SILETZ BAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE IS HOME TO WOOD DUCKS, AMONG OTHER WATERFOWL AND OTHER SPECIES. (ROY W. LOWE, USFWS)

The Refuge Caucus is chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-03).

“As founder and co-chair of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, I’ve seen firsthand how refuges bring together an extraordinarily diverse group of people, from hunters and anglers, to endangered species activists, to public lands advocates,” said Rep. Thompson. “By offering insight from a broad range of expert panelists, this Wildlife Refuge 101 briefing will help members of Congress and their staff as we continue working to protect and enjoy our shared natural heritage.”

“When it comes to ducks and duck hunters, our nation’s system of National Wildlife Refuge lands is the most important,” said Dan Wrinn national director of government affairs for Ducks Unlimited. “But they are so much more than that. Hunting, fishing, birding and exploring wild places go on every day at our nation’s refuges. This system of lands is the envy of the world and needs support from Congress to continue this legacy.”

Refuges also benefit from one of Ducks Unlimited’s top policy priorities, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Since 1989, NAWCA has impacted the conservation of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states, conserving more than 33.4 million acres. NAWCA grants support wetland conservation on private and public lands across the country, including the refuge system.

“Our national wildlife refuges offer spectacular natural beauty and critical habitat for wildlife,” said Rep. Kind. “But they are also economic engines that create jobs in local communities. We need to continue protecting and investing in our refuges and in public lands in Wisconsin and across the U.S., to keep local economies strong and to ensure our open spaces can be enjoyed by future generations.”

“National Wildlife Refuges host nearly 50 million visitors each year and make up 850 million acres of pristine public lands dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife,” said Rep. Wittman. “My state of Virginia has 14 of those refuges where people of all ages can visit, explore, fish, hunt and study wildlife. Growing up and even as an adult, visiting the Rappahannock River Wildlife Refuge in my district taught me the value of nature and wildlife in our society and the importance of environmental stewardship.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System is made up of more than 96 million acres of public land in the United States. Refuges aid in habitat restoration and protection, help to control flood and erosion while providing economic benefits to countless communities. Refuges support a $2.4 billion recreation industry. With more than 48 million visitors a year, refuges provide a unique opportunity to see these landscapes while supporting local economies.

“South Jersey is home to three national wildlife refuges that offer visitors a wide array of habitats to explore and myriad animal and plant species to learn about. They play a vital role in sustaining fragile ecosystems and their environmental and economic importance in my district is immeasurable,” said Rep. LoBiondo. “It is important to continue a dialogue with our colleagues to educate them on critical issues facing our wildlife refuges. Forums like Wildlife Refuge 101 ensure Congress is hearing from the appropriate experts and enthusiasts of these environmental treasures.”

Zinke To BLM, USFWS, NPS: Figure Out How To Increase Fishing, Hunting Access

Federal land managers are being directed to figure out how to provide more fishing and hunting access under a directive signed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today, a move lauded by sportsmen’s groups.

It follows on troubling news earlier this week that participation in hunting dropped by 2.2 million between 2011 and 2016, but could help open more lands, so key to the opportunities we enjoy.

MANAGERS OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT GROUND AND THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ARE BEING ASKED HOW TO INCREASE HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS UNDER AN ORDER FROM DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE. THAT PROCESS HAS BEEN ONGOING AT PLACES LIKE TURNBULL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, WHERE SPECIAL HUNTS FOR AN INCREASING ELK HERD HAVE BEEN HELD, BUT ZINKE’S ORDER COULD OPEN EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITY. (TURNBULL NWR)

“The more people we can get outdoors, the better things will be for our public lands,” said Zinke in a press release. “As someone who grew up hunting and fishing on our public lands – packing bologna sandwiches and heading out at 4 a.m. with my dad – I know how important it is to expand access to public lands for future generations. Some of my best memories are hunting deer or reeling in rainbow trout back home in Montana, and I think every American should be able to have that experience.”

His order calls for:

  • The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to come up with plans within four months for expanding access to hunting and fishing on their lands;
  • Amend management plans for national monuments to specifically ensure hunting and fishing on them;
  • Identify federal lands where those activities are limited;
  • Expand outreach to underserved communities;
  • Develop a “one-stop” website outlining sporting opportunities on all Department of Interior lands;
  • And improve wildlife management collaboration with states, tribes, conservation groups and others.

Ducks Unlimited was supportive, particularly the part of Zinke’s order calling for “significantly” increasing waterfowl populations through habitat projects, as well as more hunting opportunities.

“Wetlands are not only a valuable resource for our nation’s waterfowl, but they also benefit more than 900 other species of wildlife,” noted Dale Hall, DU CEO, in a press release. “Investments in the conservation of wildlife habitats, like wetlands, are vital in preserving, protecting and advancing our nation’s long hunting and angling heritage. At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring that all Americans and those generations to come, have access to the wildlife and wild places that we enjoy today.”

In recent years, USFWS has gradually been increasing waterfowl, big game and fishing opportunities on Northwest refuges and those across the country.

Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said his organization looked forward to working with Zinke and Interior.

“Our hunting and fishing traditions rely on both conservation and access, with insufficient access being the No. 1 reason cited by sportsmen for forgoing time afield,” Tawney said in a press release. “The importance of Secretary Zinke’s commitment to sustaining and expanding public access opportunities to the outdoors, therefore, cannot be overstated.”

Others supporting the move included the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as National Rifle Association.

“For too long, sportsmen’s access to our federal lands has been restricted, with lost opportunity replacing the ability to enjoy many of our best outdoor spaces. This extension to Secretarial Order 3356 will go a long way to reversing that trend and help grow the next generation of hunters, fishermen, and recreational shooters,” added Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a press release. “I appreciate this new order and am committed to working with Secretary Zinke and my colleagues to do everything we can to expand and enhance access to our federal lands for all Alaskans, and all Americans, so that we can continue our rich sportsmen’s heritage.”

USFWS Proposes Adding More Hunting, Fishing Ops At 2 Western Oregon Refuges

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Oregon hunters and anglers could have additional opportunities on two National Wildlife Refuges as early as this fall.

In the proposal announced Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge would open bank fishing access on the Siletz River, and Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge would add a youth waterfowl hunt beginning in 2018.

GEESE FLY OVER BASKETT SLOUGH NWR, WHERE FEDERAL MANAGERS WANT TO ADD YOUTH WATERFOWL HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES. (GEORGE GENTRY, USFWS)

“We’re always looking for opportunities to expand public access at our National Wildlife Refuges, and these are two great opportunities,” said Kevin Foerster, Chief of Refuges for the Pacific Region. “Because of our focus on habitat management, we have some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities on public land. Some of the most prized hunting tags in the state of Oregon are on refuges, including antelope at Hart Mountain and mule deer at Umatilla.”

Secretary Zinke’s proposal would open or expand opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges nationwide. If finalized, this would bring the number of refuges where the public may hunt up to 373, and up to 312 where fishing would be permitted.

“I grew up in the mountains of northwest Montana, where I spent my time hunting and fishing on our shared public lands. I was lucky to take my boys out on the same land that my dad and granddad took me,” Secretary Zinke said. “As the steward of our public lands, one of my top priorities is to open up access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down the heritage. The last thing I want to see is hunting and fishing become elite sports. These 10 refuges will provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and anglers across the country to access the land and connect with the wildlife.”

Siletz Bay NWR, located south of Lincoln City, proposed walk-in access for bank fishing on the Siletz River, which has coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. The refuge opened the Alder Island trail this spring, which offers easy access to the river.  The 568-acre refuge also offers seasonal waterfowl hunting in designated areas.

“We’re excited that more people will be able to use the refuge for fishing,” said Kelly Moroney, project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We hope to get it approved in time for fall fishing.”

Baskett Slough, a 2,492-acre refuge located west of Salem, proposed to add a 10-person youth waterfowl hunt beginning in fall of 2018. The hunt would follow Oregon state hunting regulations.

“This is a great opportunity to introduce the next generation to quality hunting,” said Laila Lienesch, deputy project leader for the Willamette Valley Refuge Complex. “We already have fantastic elk and black-tail deer hunting at William L. Finley Refuge, so this adds another hunting opportunity to our refuge complex in the Willamette Valley.”

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $144.7 billion in economic activity across the United States, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States’ population 16 and older, pursue wildlife-related recreation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands, such as wildlife watching and photography. The unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts means there is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

For the national news release, go to http://bit.ly/2vPpMi6.

Entiat Hatchery Opening Bank Spot To Chinook Fishing, For First Time

Central Washington anglers have a new spot to fish for summer Chinook.

Managers of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery are opening part of their grounds along the river for the first time.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE CALIBER OF SUMMER KING RETURNING TO THE ENTIAT NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY. (USFWS)

The specific area is “right along the riverfront, just on the other side of the hatchery’s abatement pond,” according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Amanda Smith.

The request came from residents of the northern Chelan County valley, according to the agency, and helps fulfill an edict from Washington DC.

“Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has directed us to provide more fishing and hunting on public land,” said manager Craig Chisam in a press release, “and we’re doing that. We will do everything we can to accommodate it.”

This year will see the second full return of adult summer Chinook since the facility began producing the stock in 2009.

So far around 180 have arrived, and while biologists estimate around 1,200 will eventually show up, Chisam is “hopeful and optimistic that we will be closer to 2,000 because returns have just been on the late side this year.”

AN ANGLER FISHES BELOW THE HATCHERY. (USFWS)

According to WDFW catch card data from 2015, the most recent year figures are available for, anglers kept 114 kings that season, mostly in July, but about 40 percent in August and September combined.

The Entiat is open under selective-gear rules and a night closure, with a two-hatchery-Chinook limit through Sept. 15. Salmon fishing is open from the railroad bridge at the mouth to markers 1,500 feet upstream of the upper Roaring Creek Road bridge, where the hatchery is.

Try spoons or spinners. Catch code is 586.

Right now, the Entiat is flowing about average height for this time of year, 362 cubic feet per second.

Fish that make it past anglers and are surplus to hatchery needs are given to area tribes, according to USFWS.

Malheur, Little Pend Oreille NWRs Benefit From Mystery Woman’s Will

Editor’s note: As we’ve reported here before, hunters stand heads and shoulders above most when it comes to conservation and buying into the mission, and while birders feel just as strongly, without mechanisms like the Pittman-Robertson Act and duck stamps, their linkage with funding wildlife habitat isn’t as strong. But here’s the story of one birder whose generosity will help others enjoy three Northwest national refuges and several others across the West.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

By Brent Lawrence

Nobody really knew Rita Poe until she died.

She moved through the final years of her life with little apparent interaction with others. Few people could recall the tall, thin woman with salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes. She died at age 66 in her home – a 27-foot travel trailer parked in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains – of colon cancer on Nov. 16, 2015.

Though Rita’s life came to a close, her legacy will live on for generations thanks to her final act of astonishing generosity.

NANCY ZINGHEIM MADE IT HER MISSION TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RITA POE, WHO STAYED AT HER RV PARK NEAR PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON, BEFORE DYING IN NOVEMBER 2015 OF COLON CANCER. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

With no known friends or heirs in her final years, Rita’s closest connection was Nancy Zingheim, the manager for SKP RV Park in Chimacum, Washington, where Rita had parked her Airstream during the summer of 2015. Their only encounters were when Rita would come in to pay her lot rent or an occasional wave on the street when she walked her dog, an Italian greyhound/basenji mix named I.G.

Then in September, Rita showed up with a question for Nancy: “Will you be the executor of my will?” Nancy agreed.

Rita died a few weeks later, and Nancy got her first look at the will. It was as generous as it was surprising: give almost everything — nearly $800,000 – to eight National Wildlife Refuges and four parks across the West.

On the list were three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges from her home state of California, with one refuge in each of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Texas. The four others recipients were state and national parks from Texas and Wyoming.

Rita’s legacy started Nancy on a path that culminated with a 4,000-mile “trip of a lifetime” during which she learned about wild spaces and public lands, and what made them meaningful to Rita.

A USFWS MAP HIGHLIGHTS THE TOUR OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES THAT  ZINGHEIM TOOK TO BETTER UNDERSTAND POE’S INTEREST IN THEM AND WHY SHE WOULD LEAVE MONEY TO EACH. (USFWS)

Between December 2015 and April 2017, Nancy researched each refuge and park online. She called them with questions, intent on making sure that each refuge and park would live up to Rita’s expectations.

The biggest obstacle for Nancy was fighting to collect $374,000 owed to Rita from a long-ago inheritance. Once Nancy won that battle and the money came in, she could have considered her work nearly done. Someone else might have simply written the checks.

But not Nancy.

Over the months of searching through Rita’s paperwork and photos, Nancy started to know Rita on a deeper level. The last photo Nancy found of Rita was from a 1981 Texas driver’s license. Nancy discovered that Rita was born on October 20, 1949 in California and that she once held a nursing license, but couldn’t determine where or when Rita worked. Nursing may have been what Rita did at some point, but it was clear that it wasn’t what fulfilled her. There was an empty spot in Rita’s soul that could only be filled on public lands.

A SAGE GROUSE DISPLAYS AT FROSTY MALHEUR NWR. POE WOULD TAKE HUNDREDS OF IMAGES OF WILDLIFE BUT NARY A SELFIE, ACCORDING TO USFWS. (USFWS)

Rita’s devotion to the places that left a mark on her was infectious, and Nancy was determined to see firsthand where Rita’s final act of generosity was going. “I had never heard of a (National Wildlife) Refuge,” Nancy said. “I wanted the money to go to what Rita would have wanted.”

So in April 2017, Nancy took two weeks of vacation and headed south in Rita’s truck to visit six of the National Wildlife Refuges. It was a final trip that Rita would have loved, Nancy said.

First stop was Merced and San Luis refuges in central California. Next up was Tule Lake Refuge in northern California, then Malheur Refuge in Oregon, followed by Camas Refuge in eastern Idaho. Nancy’s final stop was northeast Washington at Little Pend Oreille Refuge, her personal favorite.

LITTLE PEND OREILLE NWR IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (USFWS)

At each stop Nancy asked what the refuge needed and how they could best use the money. Most refuge managers suggested giving it to their respective Friends of the Refuge group, which would enable the money to be used on specific local projects per Rita’s intent. Malheur requested it go to the High Desert Partnership, a grassroots organization that brings together disparate groups to work collaboratively in the best interest of the refuge and the local community.

The possible projects are numerous. At Camas, for example, they need to replace dying trees around the visitor center for nesting and roosting birds, as well as finishing a pollinator garden. At San Luis and Merced, they need more family picnic areas.

MULE DEER PARADE THROUGH TALL GRASS AT MALHEUR NWR, WHICH IS OFF LIMITS TO BIG GAME HUNTING. (USFWS)

At Little Pend Oreille Refuge, they could leverage the money as matching funds for a bigger grant. “Maybe an overlook/observation point with an accessible trail,” refuge manager Jerry Cline said. “We want it to be something a visitor like Rita would benefit from.”

WHERE RITA POE’S MONEY WAS DISBURSED.
Camas NWR (Idaho) – $96,551.48
Little Pend Oreille NWR (Washington) – $48,275.74
Malheur NWR (Oregon) – $48,275.74
San Luis NWR (Calif) – $48,275.74
Merced NWR (Calif) – $96,551.48
Tulelake NWR (Calif) – $72,413.6
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (Utah) – $48,275.74
Laguna Atascosta NWR (Texas) – $48,275.74
Hueco Tanks State Park (Texas) – $72,413.61
Choke Canyon State Park (Texas) – $48,275.74
Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) – $120,689.35
Wild Birding Center (Texas) – $48,275.74

Nine days and thousands of miles later, Nancy arrived back home from her solo trip. She was exhausted, but happy to see her husband and new dog – I.G., which she took at Rita’s request in her final days.

I.G. THE ITALIAN GREYHOUND-BASENJI MIX THAT POE WISHED ZINGHEIM TO TAKE CARE OF AFTER SHE PASSED. (NANCY ZINGHEIM)

Nancy finally had a true understanding of National Wildlife Refuges, public lands and, perhaps most importantly, Rita. On the open roads of the West, Nancy discovered how the enigmatic Rita could find her peace on public lands.

“Only one person at any of the refuges remembered Rita, and it was because of her Airstream” Nancy said. “She’d go to the refuges and spend all day taking hundreds of pictures. There weren’t any (photos) of Rita; just the birds and animals she loved.”

And Rita passed that love for wildlife and wild lands on to Nancy. The nondescript stranger in lot #412 at the SKP RV Park changed her life for the better.

“She made me realize that we live in nature and there are animals all around us,” Nancy said. “How often do we take time to sit and watch them? I never stopped to realize the little things like when the birds arrive. I do stop and watch the animals now. … Your refuges are quiet and peaceful. If you’ve never been, you should go to a refuge and spend some time there for Rita.”

Tracy Casselman, the project leader for the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex that includes Camas, didn’t know Rita. But he knows a lot of people like Rita who visit the refuges.

“Rita’s relationship wasn’t with people,” Tracy said. “Her relationship was to the refuges and public lands. She found her peace out there. Her generous gift will ensure that more people will enjoy our refuges in her memory.”

Nancy keeps her memory of Rita and her love of nature close. Rita asked that she be cremated and that her ashes spread in nature away from people. Nancy held on to her ashes for months before finding the right spot near her home.

“A friend found the spot on a hike, and the next day we hiked a mile into the woods and scattered her ashes and some flowers on a hillside overlooking a lake, the mountains and trees. She can hear the birds she loved. I say hello to her every time I drive past.”

No obituary.  No tombstone. Only a marvelous, shining legacy.

Please, carry on the spirit of Rita with a visit to your public lands.

Editor’s note: Brent Lawrence is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public affairs officer in Portland.