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Attacks on clean water, public lands and Idaho Fish and Game thwarted at Idaho Legislature

The second regular session of the Sixty-third Idaho Legislature called Sine Die in March after seventy-five legislative days.  As usual, attacks on clean water, public lands and the state’s fish and game agency were not in short supply.  Trout Unlimited and its conservation partners were kept busy from day one heading off a slew of bills attempting to expand small-scale suction dredge mining in the state, transfer federal land ownership to the state and politicize fish and game management.  

Straight out of the gate, S1236 was introduced in Senate Resource and Environment by Senator Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot).  This bill would have mandated that the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Commission issue twelve Governor’s tags for trophy game species, removing the Commission’s discretion of using science and public input to make game management decisions.  A fundamental shift towards politicizing fish and game management in Idaho, this bill would run contrary to why the Commission was established over 75 years ago.  TU and a myriad of other sportsmen groups, with help from the Commission itself, sent a strong message to legislators that the bill was unacceptable. It never got a hearing in committee.  

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Next up, HB 510 was introduced in House Resource and Conservation by Representative Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins).  HB 510 would have drastically increased the scope and impact of what the bill defined as “small-scale” suction dredge mining while simultaneously deregulating the practice from any state oversight.  Increasing equipment size and eliminating horsepower restrictions, the bill would have allowed dredgers to move up to five cubic yards of sediment per hour.  HB 510’s Achilles heel was that the new statute attempted to remove small-scale dredging from the EPA’s list of point source pollutants.  After testimony from TU leaders, Idaho Department of Water Resources, the State Attorney General and others, the committee unanimously voted to return the bill to its sponsor.  

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Meeting Jan. 23 to form new TU Chapter in northern Idaho

Greetings TU members,

I am writing you today to let you know of an exciting opportunity for Trout Unlimited members in the Pullman-Moscow, Lewiston-Clarkston region to form a unique cross border chapter of Trout Unlimited. We will hold an organizational meeting January 23, 2016 at the 1912 Center in Moscow, ID from 6-9 p.m.

Our chapter would have about 140 local members to begin with. I hope you can join us at this event so that we can begin finding out what you are most interested in as a conservationist and angler.

As you know, Trout Unlimited’s mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds and TU’s vision is that by the next generation, Trout Unlimited will ensure that robust populations of native and wild coldwater fish once again thrive within their North American range, so that our children can enjoy healthy fisheries in their home waters.

I have recently moved to the area from McCall where I was a member of the Reed Gillespie Chapter. I contacted the Idaho Council in April, when I knew I would be moving to the area to see about getting involved in a local chapter. However, there isn’t a local chapter of Trout Unlimited in the immediate area. I volunteered to help establish a chapter because I have done that before in Missouri and it just so happens that both Idaho and Washington have been contemplating establishing a special cross border chapter in the area.

I can’t think of a more important area in the country to add another strong voice for coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. I am excited about the opportunities and challenges such a chapter in this region can begin to take advantage of and tackle. This chapter will not wont for projects. Work to improve the lower Snake, Salmon, Clearwater, Grande Ronde, Lochsa, Selway, and Palouse rivers and their watersheds abound with opportunities. The list of trout and salmon that we most assuredly will help along the way is great! And last but not least, we can begin with the conservation, fishing and fly tying expertise and ideas of 140 Trout Unlimited members who now will have a local chapter to participate in. Before I get ahead of myself, we must first meet and decide to organize a local chapter, choose a name, vote on chapter by-laws, elect leadership and other things necessary for the formation of a chapter.

I will be sending out a letter to all 140 members in a few weeks, but there are a few things you can do right now that will help us pull off a successful organizational meeting for our chapter. You can begin thinking about what you want out of a local chapter of Trout Unlimited. You can share with me your willingness to take on a leadership position within this new chapter. You can let me know if you believe you will make this meeting. And you can start thinking of names we can call this new chapter of Trout Unlimited and send them to me, so that I can have a list of possibilities available for us to vote on at our organizational meeting. I’ve thought of a few already such as Lower Snake River chapter of TU, Lewis and Clark Valley chapter of TU, Heart of the Monster chapter of TU and the Clearwater/Snake chapter of TU. You may come up with a far better name, please send your ideas to me.

Please feel free to contact me by email at this point, my contact information is below.

Sincerely,

Michael Wells
(208) 315-3406
salmonblog@yahoo.com

New Fish Handling Recommendations In Idaho Regs

Hello My FSHN Friends!

I picked up a copy of the 2016 Idaho Fishing Regs this weekend and was very pleased to see a new call out in the Steelhead section titled “Prepare To Release!” (attached). Although this is isn’t a regulation to enforce keeping wild steelhead and salmon in the river I believe it is a very good step to educating anglers on proper handling of steelhead and salmon.

Another important outcome of our work is that ID F&G is planning to investigate the issue further by doing an observation study of salmon and steelhead anglers and time-out-of-water which will help them determine if additional regulations are needed.

I very much appreciate and respect the cooperative and collaborative efforts to put this together with our local fishing organizations and the folks at ID F&G. Thanks again for your time and effort. I enjoyed meeting and working with you.

Troy Pearse
Boise, ID

2015 Ten Trout Tales and Salmon Stories

Here is the 7th Annual Idaho Trout Unlimited’s ten trout tales, or stories affecting trout, salmon and steelhead and their watersheds in Idaho.   You can find the previous top ten here for 201420132012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.  There are always a lot of wild trout tales out there and we try to feature some from around the state.  This year we see much good work going on at the local level.

1. Warm water temperatures and low flows were bad for returning Snake River Sockeye Salmon where an estimated 90 percent of the run died before reaching Ice Harbor Dam.  Also, the temperature spikes in streams led to fishing closures in locations in Washington, Oregon and Montana, but escaped Idaho due to the higher elevations

<em>One of the maps from the climate shield research paper.</em>
One of the maps from the climate shield research paper.

2. Idaho could well be the “climate shield” for some wild trout and salmon species in the coming decades as water temperatures increase.  A research paper (.pdf) from Forest Service scientists outlined their mapping efforts, first reported in March, and then again in November in a presentation to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.  A late December series of articles on climate change and potential effects on the Gem State were published by daily newspapers in the state, including an Eric Barker story “Climate Change: Idaho could be haven for native fish” first published in the Lewiston Morning Tribune and on December 30 the front page of the Idaho Statesman.

3. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff recommended against the Bear River Narrows hydroelectric project in and Environmental Impact Statement released in October 2015.  will not go away.  Opposition to this project, that includes a large cross section of society, is still organized yet this project is one of those that refuses to go away.

<em>Bull trout. Photo courtesy National Park Service.</em>
Bull trout. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

4. The US Fish and Wildlife Service released its Bull trout recovery plan in September 2015.  Since the listing of Bull trout in 1998 there had been earlier attempts by FWS to develop recovery plans which were never completed until this plan.  Some conservation groups immediately said they would sue FWS claiming that the plan falls short of recovering bull trout.  And no more than a week later the notice of intent to sue was in the newspapers.

5. A February 16 sportsmen rally supporting public lands in Idaho included many anglers who pointed to the Federal lands as essential to Idaho’s fish and wildlife habitat.   After two years of Idaho Legislature meetings and hearings, one statement in the interim committee final report came through:

In the Committee’s numerous meetings and hearings around the State, it heard consistent support for continued public access to public lands regardless of their management by the federal government or the State. The Committee found little support for the sale of any federal lands to private entities after being transferred to the State except where limited sales or exchanges might consolidate retained lands.

Perhaps the tide has begun to turn against the talk about the state trying to takeover the Federal lands.  Legislation to join Utah in a compact to take over Federal lands was rejected.  A concurrent resolution passed which supports working with the Federal land management agencies under the Good Neighbor Authority enacted by US Congress in 2014.

<em>Sportsmen rally for public lands at the Idaho Statehouse.</em>
Sportsmen rally for public lands at the Idaho Statehouse.

6. Steelhead are in the Potlatch River, and Idaho Fish and Game is working with many agencies and others as watershed restoration efforts continue with this little-known population.  The Potlatch River is not one that comes to mind for harboring steelhead habitat, or as a quality fishery, but the history of steelhead using the watershed for spawning and rearing habitat inspired the many agencies to engage, and according to IDFG monitoring they are getting some results.

7. The new Wilderness designations for the Boulder White Clouds country comes after some forty years of efforts to protect the Castle Peak area first achieved in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Act of 1972.  Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson finally succeeded in his efforts to achieve a Wilderness protection statute for some 300,000 acres of Forest Service and BLM lands.

<em>New diversion on Diamond Creek</em>
New diversion on Diamond Creek

8. Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the upper Blackfoot River are getting additional help in population recovery thanks to a USDA grant to help pay for upgrades to two existing irrigation diversions.  The work is part of the Upper Blackfoot confluence, a group that includes includes Agrium-NuWest, Idaho Conservation League, J.R. Simplot Company, Monsanto, and Trout Unlimited. “We are beginning a new chapter in conservation history with the rollout of the successful Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant applications here in Idaho,” said TU’s Matt Woodard. “Trout Unlimited looks forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with farmers and ranchers on conservation efforts to restore native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout in the Upper Blackfoot River Watershed.”

9.  The power of volunteers is demonstrated at Twin Lakes in northern Idaho where the Twin Lakes Improvement Association has organized a multi-year effort to reduce soil and stream bank erosion on the Fish Creek tributary to the Twin Lakes.   The Coeur d’Alene Press reported in August 2015 that the, “The Fish Creek project on the Easterday Ranch has been a collaboration between the all-volunteer TLIA, property owners, concerned citizens, recreational users, ranchers, foresters and local and state agencies the past three years.”

10. Partnerships in the Upper Salmon River basin in central Idaho have been ongoing since the 1992 formation of the Lemhi Model Watershed Project during the Governor Cecil Andrus administration in response to several salmon species were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  Over the years landowners, conservation interests and agencies found a way to work together to get things done on the ground.  The year 2015 marks the time that one of the leading landowners involved in the collaborative conservation efforts began serving in the Idaho Legislature. Merrill Beyeler took office as a State Representative in District 8, a vast, sprawling district across central Idaho.  His partnership work at his ranch is profiled in the video below.

Climate change – an angler’s perspective

By Carmen Northen

This photo of the Big Wood River in Ketchum, Idaho was taken in the beginning of March of this past winter. In a normal year, there would be at least a foot of snow along the banks, and more up on the slope. But we haven’t seen a ‘normal year’ in a while. The last three years of snowpack have been thin, and we have been getting more rain events in our winters. This year the Boulder Mountain Tour, a Nordic race that draws skiers from all around the country, was canceled—it rained all night on the lower half of the course and was still raining in the morning.

One cannot help but notice these events and wonder about next year, and the next. Walking my dog in the woods this winter I met a woman walking with her dog and we had a conversation about how our climate is changing. She pointed to the dry mountain in front of us and said, “We’re living it right now. We have to talk about it.”

The question is if it is climate change or a drought cycle? The last two years have been the warmest recorded winters in Idaho history. Climate scientists are predicting more rain events during our winters and snow packs are melting a month earlier in the West. This results in less snow accumulation, and that means less water storage for summer flows. The farmers can plant their alfalfa and barley earlier, but in peak summer, when they typically draw the most water, lower flows in the river may mean not enough water for all. We are fortunate to have a minimum stream flow on our river that will help protect the trout and wildlife. The Big Wood River is the lifeblood of our valley. Without our river, we don’t have a resort or a community.

The Department of Defense recognizes climate change to be a serious threat to our national security. Pope Francis addressed Congress on the subject of climate change and the need to protect the environment because to do so protects humanity. Yet others are quick to say that legislation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions would cost jobs. What about the adverse effects of climate change on economies that depend on fishing, skiing, recreation, farming, ranching, wineries, oyster farming and tourism to name a few?

Unfortunately, there is one group that won’t be lacking for work and that is our firefighters as they continue to risk their lives each season on the increasingly devastating fires that plague our western states. In 2013 the Beaver Creek Fire roared through the Sun Valley area, scorching roughly 135,000 acres. Heavy rains came later and the mudslides turned the river into chocolate pudding.

We experienced fish kills on Warm Springs Creek. Each significant rain causes the river to blow out. It was an unusually rainy August in 2013 that adversely affected the barley crop of our local farmers. I was guiding that summer and the smoke was heavy in the valley and unhealthy. The river was unfishable a good part of the summer and we sought out other watersheds to take our clients.  Two years later the fishing on the Big Wood continues to suffer. A combination of continued blowouts after rain, longer stretches of hot weather, lower water flows and sparse insect hatches made this guide season very tough. We just weren’t seeing the bigger fish and there were fewer smaller trout being caught and released.

By nature I am a positive person, so I hope we get good snow this winter. As the news reports on the severe drought in California and other regions continue to make headlines, maybe more of our politicians in Washington will finally wake up to the fact that we have to act quickly before it’s too late.  Be assured that Trout Unlimited will continue the fight to protect our coldwater fisheries.

Carmen Northen is a volunteer with the Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Ketchum, Idaho.

2015 Big Wood Single Fly Event

July 25 & 26, 2015
Big Wood River, Ketchum, Idaho.

Benefit Goal: Raise funds to help fund TU’s Big Wood River Home Rivers Initiative.

Attendance: 20 teams of 2 fishermen.

Basic Rules: One fly per person – catch and release.

For more information, please contact Chad Chorney or Jeff Yates.

Download the flyerrules and registration form.


Join us on the river in a fun, lighthearted setting while shedding light on threats that the river currently faces. Participation will be limited to 20 teams of 2 anglers each, and will take place on the Big Wood River in Ketchum, Idaho. A reception dinner will be held on Saturday, July 25 to welcome participants and kick off the tournament. Sunday, July 26 features a full day of wade fishing competition. Following the competition will be an awards dinner and fundraiser. Awards will be given to the top anglers and teams, and prizes will be given for a variety of other categories as well. Funds raised through the competition will go toward improving and sustaining the wild trout fishery anglers have come to expect from the Big Wood River. A few of the goals for the Big Wood include:

  • Enhancing and improving habitat along the mainstem of the river and its tributaries.
  • Enhancing stream flows.
  • Restoring disconnected tributaries and habitats.
  • Working collaboratively with state and federal resource agencies to assess watershed conditions.
  • Engaging in youth education to encourage resource stewardship.

Please visit www.visitsunvalley.com/lodging/hotels-resorts for lodging in the Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley areas.

We look forward to working closely with interested sponsors to build a recognition program that meets your individual needs or those of your company. TU can offer a range of promotional opportunities, including advertising on TU’s widely-viewed website and recognition in event materials.

South Fork Salmon River Habitat Protection

Idaho’s Reed Gillespie Chapter is recipient of Embrace-A-Stream (EAS) funds to reduce riverbank erosion resulting from fishing pressure along an eight mile reach of the South Fork Salmon River.  In partnership with the US Forest Service, Idaho Fish and Game and Nez Perce Tribe, the Reed Gillespie chapter will create 12 fishing access rock stairs, rehabilitate eroded areas and educate river users on the importance of protecting the streambank areas from excessive erosion to safeguard the fishery.   The project will protect important salmon and steelhead spawning habitat from Poverty Flat downstream to the confluence with the East Fork South Fork Salmon River.

In 2008 Idaho Fish and Game opened up the South Fork Salmon River from Poverty Flat downstream to salmon fishing.  Since this stretch opened, its popularity amongst anglers has taken a toll on stream bank and riparian integrity.  The angler use varies according to how long fishing season is opened by Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) but in a typical 20-day season, angler use in that section is estimated at 3,000 persons.

The Reed Gillespie Chapter contacted the Payette National Forest fisheries biologist  as well as Nez Perce watershed restoration manager two years ago to discuss this problem. At that time, both entities had several projects on their docket and could not dedicate time to resolving this issue.  This year, the partners are able to tackle this project together and involve others.

Reed Gillespie is a small chapter so enlisting partners, particularly partners with design and construction skill, is important to project success.  In addition to the Forest Service, Nez Perce Tribe, and Idaho Fish and Game, the project will also involve a Northwest Youth Corp crew and the McCall Outdoor Science School.

Twelve rock stairs will be constructed and 20 redundant user created trails eliminated in this area of the South Fork Salmon, and will help keep fishing access to the river available while minimizing the erosive pressure caused by social trails.

This project will also be used as an opportunity to educate anglers about the importance of not creating unnecessary trails while also providing them with the benefit of easier, safer, and better access to the river.  Access stairs will be placed in desirable locations and will be built out of native rock so that not only do the stairs blend into the environment but the required maintenance on them is low.  Information regarding the location and encouraged use of trails will be included in the joint USFS and IDFG salmon fishing information given out to anglers, temporary signage in the river corridor area during salmon season and flyers posted on porta-potty doors.

Idaho Trout Unlimited State Council Meeting, Saturday April 11

Hello All,  attached is the agenda  for the TU State Council meeting this Saturday. 
 

April 11– Idaho Council Spring Meeting, Boise, ID.  The meeting will be held at M-K Nature Center located at Idaho Fish and Game Headquarters, 600 S Walnut Street. This is the same location as the last council meeting in Boise.  The hotel room arrangements are again at the Holiday Inn Express, 475 West Parkcenter Blvd., and (208) 345-2002.  Room rates are $83.00/night for a standard king or 2 queen beds. 

 

9:00            Welcome & Introductions

9:10            Minutes- Boots Allen

9:20            Treasury Report & Budget- Andy Brunelle

  • Scholarships for Western Regional
  • Fisheries of Idaho Grant

9:45            Climate Change:  Helen Neville, TU Scientist

10:30                   Break

10:40                   Water issue in Idaho, Peter Anderson, Counsel, Idaho Water Project

11:30          ID Water Project Update, Mark Davidson

12:00                   Lunch

12:30          NLC Report- Chris Jones

12:45          TU’s Wild Steelhead Initiative, JD Miller, TU

1:30            TU’s Owyhee Project, Pam Harrington

2:00            Break

2:10            Chapter Reports

3:15            Yellowstone Lake Update

3:30            New Business

4:00            Set Date & Location Fall Meeting; Regional Meeting Reminder

4:10            Adjournment – Dinner