Idaho steelhead fishing to remain open on most rivers

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Idaho wildlife officials have approved an agreement with conservation groups and sport anglers to keep most steelhead fishing areas open.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to support the deal on Friday, the same day Idaho steelhead seasons were scheduled to expire.

Portions of the South Fork of the Clearwater River and the Salmon River will remain closed as part of the deal, the Lewiston Tribune reported.

“This is really a win for everybody,” said Roy Akins of Idaho River Community Alliance, a group of outfitters, guides and businesses that rely on steelhead anglers. “Now we can get back to work and focus attention on fish recovery.”

The commission last month voted to suspend the steelhead fishing season because of a possible federal lawsuit by six conservation groups contending the state’s steelhead regulations harm federally protected wild steelhead.

Idaho wild steelhead have been struggling and were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997.

Wild steelhead caught by anglers must be returned to the river unharmed. But an estimated 3 percent of wild fish that are caught and released by sport anglers die as a result. For Idaho to allow the incidental capture of wild steelhead and the resulting deaths, it needs the federal government’s approval of its Fisheries Management and Evaluation Plan.

State officials say they applied for such a plan with the Fisheries Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the plan expired in 2010, but haven’t yet received one.

The portions of Idaho rivers that remain closed to anglers under the deal are areas where wild steelhead are known to congregate.

“This resolution achieves the commission’s objective to limit impacts to steelhead fishing as much as possible while we remain focused on finally receiving federal approval of our steelhead fishery plan for the long term,” said Virgil More, director of Idaho Fish and Game.

Fish and game officials refused to change legal fishing gear and fishing practices requested by the conservation groups. But outfitters and guides with the Idaho River Community Alliance said they would voluntarily adopt some of the changes.

This year’s return of steelhead to Idaho is one of the worst on record. About 95,000 steelhead, including 30,000 wild steelhead, have been counted passing Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River between July 1 and Nov. 12. That’s the lowest overall number since 1978, and the lowest wild steelhead number since 1996.

David Moskowitz, executive director of the Conservation Angler, one of the groups that threatened the lawsuit, said his group has been working up and down the Columbia River to make sure wild steelhead make it back to Idaho.

“We are working hard for those wild fish,” he said. “I hope that earns us a little bit of credibility.”

Yellowstone National Park to close most entrances Monday

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials soon will close most of the park’s entrances to prepare for the winter season.

KTWO-AM reports a news release from the park Wednesday says the preparations will begin at 8 a.m. Monday.

Most roads, and the west, south and east entrances will close so the park can prepare them for snowmobile and snow coach travel, which begins Dec. 15.

The road from the north entrance at Gardiner, Montana, to Mammoth Hot Springs in the park will remain open.

The road to the nearby of communities of Cooke City, Montana and Silver Gate, Montana, is open all year, weather permitting. Travel east of Cooke City on the Beartooth Highway is not possible from late fall to late spring.

Residents upset after hunter kills deer in city park

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Residents of one Coeur d’Alene neighborhood are upset that steps aren’t being taken to prevent hunting in a popular city park.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports a deer gut pile found in the park recently prompted concerns from residents who fear getting shot by hunters.

City police said the deer was killed with archery equipment by a resident who did not know that killing deer with bow and arrow in the city was illegal.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jared Reneau said investigating officers responded to a call of a poached deer. Officers found the hunter, who was warned but not cited.

Reneau says he doesn’t think the hunter “had any malice.” But he says it is against the law to shoot animals within the city, regardless of how you do it.

Private landowner selling land around Zion’s Narrows

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Zion National Park visitors are no longer allowed to experience a popular, 16-mile, one-way hike through the Virgin River Narrows.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports park officials began discontinuing permits for the hike Tuesday after a private landowner posted “no trespassing” signs in the popular canyon.

The signs, which rangers first saw over the weekend, invite buyers to purchase over 1-mile of the Zion Narrow. It advertises 1 square mile with water resort potential.

Zion National Park used to allow up to 90 hikers to enter the Narrows from the north per day.

Cindy Purcell with the national park says they had permits reserved through early November and are trying let visitors know they will no longer be able to do the hike.

Utah man designs bikes as pieces of art

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — It’s easy to find someone with a love for bicycles in Utah, but Mark Johnson looks at cycling a little differently than most.

“I want to ride a bike that’s kind of dangerous, that’s a little sketchy, that’s a little scary,” said Johnson.

This hunt for a treacherous bike is what led to Johnson riding around Ogden on a summer afternoon atop a giant steel and scrap-metal tricycle known as “The Mastodon.” The contraption is just the latest homemade set of wheels that he has built for UpCycle: Bikes and Boards. Johnson hopes to start a business taking old bikes and scraps and rebuilding them into rideable pieces of art.

Earlier this month, the Mastodon was circling outside of the Ogden Bicycle Collective, a nonprofit bike shop. Johnson came by the shop to use the shared tools and community work benches. After a recent crash on the bike, he was looking to straighten the 4-foot-long front forks and find new handlebars.

Johnson is built like a jiu-jitsu instructor — which he is — with sleeve tattoos, a greying beard and a tight knot of dreadlocks.

While focused on the technical aspects of repairing the Mastodon, he also has an infectious laugh as he and the shop mechanics try to figure out ways to repair a bike that is unlike any other.

“You never know what he’s going to come in with,” said J.P. Orquiz, the head mechanic at the collective.

On this day, some repairs could be done with a single wrench, while others involved Orquiz and Johnson standing on the bike and using scraps they found around the shop to try and bend the frame.

“Every time I come in here, I borrow some tool that they have to dust off,” said Johnson.

When he first came up with the idea for UpCycle, Johnson says he quickly had another realization: “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

After a little digging, he found out about the Thursday night bicycle mechanic classes held at the collective. Along with the experience he gained at the classes, the shop also became a source for recycled bike parts and frames. That knowledge and raw materials are now being combined into not only the Mastodon, but other UpCycle machines like “the dog bike,” ‘’the surf bike” and “the murder bike.”

“They’re unique,” said Johnson. “Not everyone has a bike like that. Actually, not everyone wants a bike like that.”

Johnson’s moving sculptures are built for adults, but he describes the designs as ideas that would scare his mother mixed with childlike creativity. The Mastodon, for example, comes from a melding of his own ideas and inspiration from his 9-year-old son’s drawings of prehistoric animals.

“When you’re a kid, you have all of these ideas that we kind of mash down because we’re trying to be adults. The ideas are still there. They’re just buried. I try to dig up the old stuff,” said Johnson.

Officially, Johnson wants UpCycle to be a formal business, but he doesn’t have much concern about the actual business side of it. His current goal is to have 20 rigs ready to sell next year at Ogden’s farmers market. If he sells those bikes, he’ll start looking at plans to expand.

“If they don’t sell,” said Johnson, “then I’ll have 20 bikes and that’s awesome. Either way, it’s win-win.”

Bear raids Wyoming business’ bee hives, causes $25K in damage

LOVELL, Wyoming (AP) — A northern Wyoming business says it suffered more than $25,000 in damage and lost production after a black bear tore through its bee hives near the Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area, which is located six miles east of Lovell, Wyoming, near the Montana/Wyoming border.

To make matters worse, a hail storm passed through the area last week, causing more damage to the business.

Ben Zeller, whose family owns Queen Bee Honey in Lovell, tells the Powell Tribune that Queen Bee produces about 200,000 pounds of honey a year, mainly to make candies.

Zeller says the hives are a total loss and will need to be rebuilt next year.

The business has contacted its insurance company and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The state has agreed to foot a portion of the costs.

Federal agency pauses tree-removal plan to help sage grouse

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The federal government on Wednesday put on hold one of the largest-ever projects to remove juniper trees to help an imperiled species after an appeal by an environmental group seeking to halt the plan.

A U.S. Department of the Interior administrative panel granted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s motion to set aside its decision in May to remove juniper trees from about 1,100 square miles in Idaho’s Owyhee County.

The Bureau of Land Management in initially approving the project said it would protect habitat for imperiled sage grouse and benefit cattle ranchers.

Western Watersheds Project in June filed its appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, an appellate review panel that issues final decisions for the Interior Department. Following the appeal, the BLM then asked the review panel to put on hold its May decision, saying Western Watersheds Project “raised issues in its appeal that the BLM wishes to consider further and address in a revised decision.”

The review panel’s order on Wednesday granted the BLM’s request.

“Today’s decision is a win for sage-grouse and all other species that depend on Idaho’s unique and imperiled sagebrush ecosystem,” Scott Lake, Idaho director for the Western Watersheds Project, said in a statement. BLM “didn’t weigh the limited benefits of this project against the significant environmental costs.”

Experts say warmer winters combined with fewer wildfires at higher elevations of sagebrush steppe have allowed junipers to expand into areas once filled with sagebrush and native grasses. Sage grouse survival is completely dependent on sagebrush.

Western Watersheds Project contends that studies show western juniper, a native species, has expanded and retreated several times over thousands of years, and the BLM’s plan to cut them down is being driven by grazing interests, not concerns about sage grouse.

The group contends that cattle grazing disturbs the soil and allows invasive species, particularly cheatgrass, to take root. Fire-prone cheatgrass is often the primary fuel in giant rangeland fires in the U.S. West that destroy sagebrush habitat needed by sage grouse.

Venetia Gempler, a BLM spokeswoman, said the agency didn’t immediately have a comment on the review panel’s decision.

It’s not clear when the BLM might issue a revised decision on the juniper-cutting plan, called the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project. The BLM has removed or has plans to remove junipers in other states as well.

The ground-dwelling, chicken-sized sage grouse are found in 11 Western states. The males are known for performing an elaborate mating ritual that includes making balloon-like sounds with two air sacks on their necks.

Between 200,000 and 500,000 sage grouse remain, down from a peak population of about 16 million. Officials in 2015 opted not to list the birds as needing federal protections under the Endangered Species Act and instead imposed land-use restrictions leading to multiple lawsuits from industry and environmentalists. Federal officials are expected to review the decision in 2020.

Rescue turns into recovery effort for teen in Yellowstone River

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — A boating accident on Montana’s Yellowstone River that killed a woman took another grim turn as the search for her teenage son shifted from a rescue operation to an effort to recover his body.

The search for James Anderson, 15, after his family’s boat capsized near Livingston led to a two-day rescue effort that included nearly 150 people searching from the water, the shoreline and the air. A stretch of the river from Livingston to Columbus that had been closed to boat traffic over the weekend reopened Sunday night, Gallatin County sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

Gallatin County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Anderson, his wife Angie, son James and a daughter were floating the river on a drift boat Friday night when it capsized, authorities said. Jim Anderson and his daughter were able to make it to shore safely, but Angie died and James couldn’t be found.

“As the search shifts into recovery, we will be reducing the size of the search teams but the search will continue,” the sheriff’s office statement said.

Five counties and state officials sent search and rescue crews that included boats, divers, search dogs and a helicopter. The search continued after dark using thermal cameras.

The sheriff’s office said Jim Anderson thanked the rescuers for their efforts.

“Family is everything, it’s why we do what we do and it’s also why it hurts that much more when it’s our family,” Sheriff Brian Gootkin said in a statement. “We hurt for Jim and his family. They have a long, difficult road ahead but they are not alone. We will help and support them no matter what they need or how long it takes.”