Outdoors Blog

Playing Outdoors notebook: New mountain bike trail takes shape

Luke ten Doeschate helps build a new mountain bike trail in the Avimor community. The trail system is open to the public.
Luke ten Doeschate helps build a new mountain bike trail in the Avimor community. The trail system is open to the public. ccripe@idahostatesman.com

I went out to Avimor on Sunday to catch up with some mountain bikers who were building a new trail as part of my reporting for an upcoming feature on the sport that will run April 20.

A group of 16 volunteers spent three hours working on Ricochet — a nearly one-mile stretch of single-track trail that hugs a hillside overlooking the valley behind the homes. Twenty-two volunteers put in four hours two weeks earlier.

The trail is expected to open to the public in early May.

“We made the Earth a little more fun today,” said Steve Noyes, the trails coordinator for Eagle who volunteered to help.

Luke ten Doeschate, who lives in Avimor, spent some quality time swinging a pickax.

“If I didn’t do it, I’d feel pretty guilty,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun though. I can’t wait to get out here and use this. We want new trails. We come out here almost every week.”

Avimor has 95 miles of trails that are open to the public, including 35 miles of single track. Check out the map here.

‘Field Guide to Boise’s Birds’ arrives

“Field Guide to Boise’s Birds” — a pocket-size guide to 99 birds commonly seen in Boise — is available for $8 at Boise Parks and Recreation’s Administration Office (1104 Royal Blvd.). The 108-page, full-color guide features images collected from more than a dozen photographers who spotted the birds in the city. The online version has been viewed more than 1,600 times. The guide was mentioned in the Idaho Statesman’s feature story on birding that was published March 9.

“ ‘Field Guide to Boise’s Birds’ is a project that wasn’t even on our radar a year ago, but we’ve spent the past year immersed in the bird world and we’re far more knowledgeable today than when we began,” said Jerry Pugh, community programs coordinator for Parks and Rec. “We have also gained a tremendous appreciation for the importance of birds in our natural environment as well as the role that we play as stewards of the land and in preservation of the ecosystems they need to survive.”

Hunters are right — elk know how to find safety zones

From Brett French of the Billings Gazette:

Give elk even a tiny safety zone during the hunting season and it can have a big effect on the animals’ ability to survive.

This may sound obvious, but areas where public hunting isn’t allowed and remote, brushy draws helped elk avoid hunters in a portion of the Missouri River Breaks and Larb Hills in northeastern Montana during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

“We’ve got some key landowners providing a lot of sanctuary,” said Scott Thompson, newly appointed wildlife manager for Region 6 and the lead author of the study. “Working with them is key.”

The details are some of the findings of a two-year study conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on 47 GPS-collared elk in hunting districts 621, 622 and 631, which are located north of the Missouri River and east of Highway 87. It was the first study of elk in the Missouri Breaks ever conducted by FWP, which worked in concert with the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

“Even if it is a small portion of the total landscape, those pieces can have a really broad influence on hunter harvest,” said Quentin Kujala, FWP Wildlife Management section chief. “That, for me, is what makes it a tough nut to crack.”

The findings prove a point elk hunters have long struggled with: elk are incredibly skilled at avoiding hunters. In 2014, the last year for which figures are available, only 15 percent of Montana elk hunters filled their tags. That’s despite some healthy elk populations.

Full story here.

Big weekend at Brundage

Brundage Mountain near McCall will hold its annual Crazy Daze event Saturday. The party includes the Brundage Mountain Costume Contest and Pond Skimming Competition. Other events include a treasure hunt, poker run and beer relay. More details here.

Brundage closes its seven-day operation this week but will re-open for the next two weekends through April 24, conditions permitting.

Also, Bogus Basin season-pass holders can ski for $30 this Sunday. Brundage pass holders can bring a friend for free that day.

Brundage has received 294 inches of snow this season at the base area. That’s the third-highest total in the past decade.

Terrain park at Bald Mountain

Sun Valley Resort has added a terrain park to Bald Mountain for the final two weeks of the season because Dollar Mountain has closed.

Baldy Terrain Park features two jumps on Hemingway and jumps, hips, berms, rails and boxes on Cozy. The Warm Springs side of the mountain is scheduled to remain open through April 17. The River Run side closes after Sunday.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to offer a terrain park at Baldy,” Nate Sheehan, Sun Valley’s terrain park manager, said in a press release. “Spring park riding is a blast, and I think being at Baldy will draw folks in who otherwise may not make the trip to Dollar. I hope this sets a precedent for years to come.”

Wolf report available

From Idaho Fish & Game:

The 2015 annual summary of wolf monitoring in Idaho is now available, and shows wolf numbers remain well above the 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs required to keep gray wolves off the endangered species list under the 2009 de-listing rule.

The 2015 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Progress Report includes the current status of the wolf population in Idaho.

Wolves range in Idaho from the Canadian border south to the Snake River Plain, and from the Washington and Oregon borders east to the Montana and Wyoming borders.

Biologists documented 108 wolf packs in Idaho at the end of 2015. In addition, there were 20 documented packs counted by Montana, Wyoming, and Washington that had established territories overlapping the Idaho state boundary. Not all packs are presumed documented.

An estimated 786 wolves were associated with documented packs of wolves in Idaho at the end of 2015, similar to that for 2014, yet below that of the peak years of 2008 and 2009.

Earth Day at Deer Flat

From Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge:

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge invites wildlife-lovers to celebrate Earth Day by volunteering at Earth Day Work Day from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, April 23. Volunteers will remove noxious weeds and clean up litter around the shores of Lake Lowell. They will also maintain trails and wildlife-friendly landscaping around the Visitor Center. Volunteers will meet at the Refuge Visitor Center at 9 A.M. on Saturday, April 23 and should bring sturdy gloves, sun protection, water to drink, and a snack and wear outside work clothes such as long sleeves and long pants. Interested volunteers should pre-register by contacting Wendy Irwin at (208) 467-9278 or wendy_irwin@fws.gov.

The value of ‘quiet recreation’

From the Post Register in Idaho Falls:

There have been many suggestions in Western red states that it’s time for federal land managers to pay more attention to the needs of ranchers, loggers and miners. But what about those who use Bureau of Land Management lands for hunting, fishing or camping?

A new study suggests that in Idaho the economic impact of “quiet recreation” on Bureau of Land Management land is on par with the impact of grazing. And it suggests quiet recreation has a much bigger impact than grazing on BLM land nationally.

The category of quiet recreation includes uses such as backpacking, bird watching and hunting, but only in cases where those activities do not rely on motor vehicles.

The study is motivated by the belief that quiet recreationists have been getting short shrift in the Bureau of Land Management’s planning processes.

“For decades BLM lands have been seen as treasure troves for energy developers, for the mining industry, for the ranching community,” Ken Rait said. “Very little thought and attention has been given to the other values that these lands contain.

“We believe that responsible and balanced management by BLM is foundational to sustainable western economies, and quiet recreation represents an important category of uses with demonstrated economic upsides.”

Rait is the executive director of public lands for the Pew Charitable Trusts, which paid financial firm ECONorthwest to perform the peer-reviewed impact study.

The study indicates there were 3.9 million visits to BLM lands in Idaho for nonmotorized recreation. And all those visits add up to a lot of economic activity — about $200 million in 2014, according to the study. That includes supporting about 2,400 jobs and about $56 million in wages. The bulk of the direct spending on quiet recreation visits occurs within 50 miles of recreation sites, the study said.

That means that quiet recreation on Idaho BLM land has an economic impact on par with grazing — which is often viewed as the most important activity on those lands. BLM estimates grazing in Idaho supports about 2,800 jobs and generates about $275 million in economic output.

“It just goes to show that our public lands provide more value than … just mining, grazing and logging,” said Brad Smith, north Idaho director of the Idaho Conservation League. “A lot of people live in Idaho because of our public lands.”

Full story here.