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Fire Updates

Fire Updates

The 2020 fire season started with a vengeance, with over 330,000 acres of land burning in a single day. Public lands commissioner Hilary Franz called it a, “historic fire event,” with “58 new wildfire starts and nine large fires on the landscape, compounded by hurricane-level winds.” Many of these fires are still burning throughout the state and the fire danger remains high especially in Eastern Washington.

Closures

As a result of the fires, our area has seen the following closures:

*The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has closed all of the public lands that they manage East of the Cascade Mountains through September 17th, though that closure could be extended if weather conditions do not improve.

*Hancock Natural Resource Group, a partner with our disabled access program, has closed their lands to all recreation at this time (you can find updates Hancock here). This includes the Huckleberry and Blanchard hump disabled access areas. We will continue to update our disabled access program participants as we receive more information.

*At the commission meeting on Friday, September 11th, it was announced that WDFW would be employing an education campaign instead of closing WDFW lands as hunting seasons are opening. Below is their informational sheet (more in-depth WDFW fire updates can be found here)

Before you go outdoors

*Check the conditions in the area that you will be visiting. The greater Spokane area is circled by fires at varying levels of containment, please make sure an area is safe before heading out.

*Be aware of the air quality. As of Saturday, September 12th the air quality in Spokane was listed at hazardous and considered unsafe for for the entire population.

*Pack smart for the back country – Officials are advising a cold camp so skip the Mountain Home and coffee over a propane stove and instead pack food/beverage options that do not need to be heated.

Stay safe and recreate with caution during this time!

Responsible Recreation

One of the silver-linings of COVID-19 is that many people are discovering/re-discovering all the amazing outdoor recreational opportunities that our area has to offer.  Hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, bird watching, mountaineering, horseback riding and so much more! Nothing quite matches the quiet offered by the outdoors. This temporary freedom from the hustle and bustle of everyday life relaxes and rejuvenates many who seek the outdoors as their refuge. In addition to the peace and quiet, the outdoor community has the small town feel reminiscent of a simpler time. However, to preserve the peace, tranquility, and beauty of these wild spaces we each must do our part: 

Pack it in – Pack it out 

Nothing ruins an outing quicker than stumbling across a pile of someone else’s trash while enjoying the outdoors.  Not only does litter mar the beautiful landscape, but it can create hazards for the wildlife that call the area home.  You might think that the one wrapper that you left behind will not have much of an effect, but it all adds up quickly.  In fact, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology, “Every year in Washington, more than 12 million pounds of litter is tossed and blown onto highways and roads. Another 6 million pounds is tossed in parks and recreation areas.” (https://ecology.wa.gov/Waste-Toxics/Solid-waste-litter/Litter). 

(Photo from WDFW facebook post showing litter at public dock)

Wild animals are naturally curious, constantly searching for food and have no understanding of the dangers presented by things like plastic wrappers or aluminum cans.  Their excellent sense of smell usually helps wild animals find food and unfortunately attracts them to the food smells remaining on litter.  Which sadly can lead to animals and fish being choked or strangled by the mess we left behind.  Whenever you head outdoors bring along a container to hold all your garbage so that you can make sure everything you pack into the woods packs back out with you.  

Speak Softly 

Wild animals are naturally shy, their survival instincts encourage them to constantly be on alert and ready to flee from danger.  One of the great joys of recreating outdoors is the opportunity to view these shy creatures in their natural habitat.  If you are making too much noise while you are out exploring, you will not get the opportunity to see these animals and others nearby will lose their opportunities as well.  Some animals, like the threatened Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, “are sensitive to human disturbance. Do not flush or otherwise disturb these birds.” (https://wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/wildlife-areas/swanson-lakes-wildlife-area-unit).  If you recreate in a way that maintains the peaceful nature of outdoors you may receive the opportunity to view some of the rare and beautiful species out in the wild. 

There are, however, exceptions to this rule that need to be remembered.  If you are exploring in predator rich areas, especially bear country, it is recommended that you make a bit of noise to avoid “surprising” those predators.   Walking sticks with bear bells, periodically clapping your hands, or normal conversation are all methods that will let bears and other predators know that you are in the area and they will most likely attempt to avoid you.  Most bear attacks occur when a bear is surprised by a human and feels the need to defend their young or their food. 

Leave it as you found it 

Pretty flowers, unique rocks or even driftwood can be very tempting to take home as souvenirs.  Not only does it affect the habitat but in some areas, like national parks, it can be illegal to remove natural objects.  Instead of loading up on treasures from the field consider taking a camera along on your outings and creating a photo journal to display all your finds.  That way theses treasures remain for other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.  Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he declared that, “wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow.” 

(Photo courtesy of INWC member Jason Neumiller)

Other important considerations to maintaining the beauty of these wild spaces is to tread lightly. Here’s a short list of ways you can minimize your impact when recreating outdoors: stick to maintained trails when available, avoid drilling or cutting into trees for things like hammocks, if you clear an area of stones/pinecones for a tent site be sure return them before you leave. 

Act Neighborly 

The outdoor community can be quite a tight knit and supportive group and it is up to each of us to maintain that sense of community.  It can be as simple as waving to a passing car on a backroad, smiling at those you pass while out on your adventures, or stopping to help someone.  Other ways to contribute to this community include mentoring someone interested in your sport or joining a local conservation group and/or sporting club like the INWC and becoming an active volunteer. 

If we all take a few simple steps each time that we head out into the wild spaces, we can ensure that these areas and the numerous gifts that they have to offer are preserved for generations to come.  Not just for us and our children, but also for the wildlife that call these areas home. 

Fish Quiz

How many Washington State fish can you name? Test your fish skills in our quiz, share your results to compete against your friends.

Tracks Quiz

We may not always have a chance to see wildlife in the woods, but they often leave tracks behind. Are you able to identify the tracks that you pass while out on your adventures? Test your skills with our track quiz, bragging rights if you can identify the track without using the hints.

Wildlife Quiz

Are you an expert at identifying the wildlife of Washington State? Take our quiz to test your skill!

Providing Access and Opportunity for all Disabled Sportsmen

Ten years ago the INWC had a vision of providing better hunting opportunities for disabled hunters, specifically those in wheelchairs.  A number of wheelchair platforms with ramps were built and soon deployed to several locations in the Colville National Forest (one on Brewer Mtn, and two on Betty Cr), One on Inland Empire Paper Company land (which somehow later was stolen!), while some were donated to the Boy Scouts, and one currently sits out on Vern Zieglers land and will soon return to the warehouse for maintenance and redeployment.  Finally, two additional sat out behind the warehouse as spares awaiting a location to be used.

Barrier Free

Today we stand on the shoulders of the men and women who worked to make that vision a reality.  Little did I know that when I signed on with this outfit at the BHS back in 2014, that I would someday become the chair of the Disabled Access Committee.  In the late winter of 2016, Larry Carey passed the baton to me, along with some sage advice on the who, what, where, and when of this committee.  So, here’s a short run down of what has happened since then …

With the three platforms that were already up in the Colville National Forest, and had been there for seven years at that time, I began making an annual trip up to inspect them for any needed maintenance.  Seeing as those three seemed to be faring well, our attention was now needed in making sure the Application process for the Inland Empire Paper Co disabled hunter program progressed as normal.  Jean and Wanda were a huge help in getting this done. 

Somewhere along the way, having two spare platforms out behind the warehouse didn’t seem right to me.  Surely, there must be a place we could put these where they could be used.  I started asking questions at the WDFW office, and was given the contact info of Daro Palmer, Asst Mgr for the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area.  After trading some emails, and visiting the Rustler’s Gulch Unit of the WLA, he agreed to let us put one out there.  After Pete Butler and I scouted the area for the right location, we informed Mr. Palmer, and scheduled a work party.  And in October of 2018, Pete, Matt Mimnaugh, myself, and one of Daro’s field tech’s installed the wheelchair platform on the low side of Rustlers Gulch Wildlife Area just off of the Holly Rd.  We must have done a pretty good job, the following Spring we were invited to install one at the Sherman Creek Unit near Kettle Falls.  It was preparing this platform that I realized the existing ramps were not ADA approved.  We modified the ramps to meet the current spec, and with help from several members: and Daro Palmer, it was installed without a problem, and huckleberry shakes for everyone on the way home.  Within the next two months, we had modified the ramp at Rustler’s Gulch and Brewer Mtn, to include moving the Brewer Mtn platform outside of a timber sale area to a new location on the same mountain.

Then one year ago, after learning that a freshman at CVHS was looking for an Eagle Scout project, I reached out to him, shared the idea, then met with him and his father, who then agreed to move forward with the proposal.  When the project got the go ahead, we used funds from our committee budget to purchase the materials.  Member Jack O’Brien and I pre-cut all the materials on a Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning the Scouts showed up at the warehouse with two adult leaders, and after I shared some initial instructions and safety precautions, the boys got started, led by the Eagle Scout candidate.  The boys exercised incredible initiative, asked for clarification when in doubt, and left this old man very impressed that they had completely assembled the entire platform, ramp and handrails in just three hours.  Two weeks later, we loaded it on Daryl Bush’s truck, and he, Cody Bush, Ron Zubrick and myself led the way up to Squirrel Meadows with the scouts right behind us.  The same dedication to the task at hand that they showed me during assembly was once again demonstrated on site.

So what’s next?  We are currently in the process of removing the two platforms from Betty Creek which are in a Road Access Entry Program (RAEP) area and bringing them back to the warehouse for repairs and some fresh stain.  Since the RAEP on Betty Creek is a lottery draw, we have decided to relocate them to other areas within the Colville National Forests Disabled Hunting Program.  The platform on Brewer Mtn is already a part of this program, as is the one installed at Squirrel Meadows.  Aladdin Mtn is also part of the program but does not have a platform as of yet.

We have also received confirmation this week from WDFW’s ADA Advisory Council, through our own Ron Zubrick, who is an ADAAC member, that they will be providing the funding for us to build two brand new platforms.  Along with the two from Betty Creek that will be updated soon, those four platforms will find new homes at Aladdin Mtn (2 ea), Rustler’s Gulch (1 more), and Blanchard Hump. 

As you know, the Hancock Paper Company has provided two parcels to us for disabled hunting: Little Sweden and Huckleberry – both within GMU 121.  Access to the Little Sweden parcel has been difficult the past few years.  As we have jumped through all the hoops to get permission to install a platform on Hancock property, we were able to work out an agreement with them that if they would allow us access to one of their tracts at Blanchard Hump, then we would surrender Little Sweden from the program.   I will be scouting that area with a WDFW private lands biologist soon, and by the time you read this newsletter, it will have already been scouted, and a suitable location flagged for platform installation very soon.

Of course none of this would be even remotely possible without the continued support of all of you, and the hard working volunteers that have helped so much the past few years: Matt Mimnaugh, Pete Butler, David Chromy, Jack O’Brien, Phil George, Rich Furry, Ken Hoff, Jason Neumiller, Z Zubrick, Daryl and Cody Bush, (I’m sure I’ve forgotten a name or two) and a few non-members.

With the needed repairs to be done on two platforms, and building of two new ones – any help is appreciated.  While we still have to remember the current COVID restrictions, work parties of five or less are still approved.  If interested in assisting, please contact me.  I will add you to an email list created just for Disabled Access.  Your continued support, and sore backs are greatly appreciated.

The vision to birth this program along with the tireless dedication and passion to see access and opportunity for all disbaled sportsmen will continue to move forward … with people like you!

 

Respectfully,

Ken McNaughton, Chair

Disabled Access Committee