Friday, October 17, 2014

Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests welcome hunters

Hunters have some good informational tools to choose from this hunting season to assist them in the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests. Recently, the 2014 Clearwater Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM), Clearwater Motorized Travel Guide were released, and MVUMS and Nez Perce and Clearwater Visitor Maps can be downloaded on the Avenza app.

Adding to those three tools is the Mobility Impaired Hunter Access Program offered at some forest offices. This year, the Red River, Lochsa and North Fork Ranger Districts are participating in this program where hunters holding an Idaho Handicapped Persons Vehicle Hunting Permit and valid hunting license will be granted a permit to access certain closed roads.

One non-hunting assistant may accompany the mobility-impaired hunter behind the closed gate. The permits will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis by reservation only.

The Red River Ranger District is once again participating in the program and offers Trapper Creek Road #9550 in Hunting Unit 20 and Center Star Road #1110 and Moose Butte Road #1150 in Hunting Unit 15. For more information, or to reserve a road, please contact their office in Elk City at (208) 842-2245.

The Lochsa Ranger District offers three roads in Hunting Unit 12: Canyon Creek Road #445, Deadman Creek Road #5541, and Middle Deadman Creek Road #5543. For more information, or to reserve a road, please contact their office in Kooskia at (208) 926-4274.

The North Fork Ranger District has opened Lost Bugle Road #5222 to handicapped hunters. Persons taking part in the Mobility Impaired Hunter Access Program will be allowed to drive pickups, passenger cars and ATVs on Road #5222; the road is gated and usually off-limits to motorized vehicles. Hunting parties will be allowed to camp within ¼ mile of the gate. Camping beyond this point is prohibited. For more information, please contact their office in Orofino at (208) 476-8267.

There are approximately 2,961 miles of motorized roads, open yearlong or seasonally on the Clearwater National Forest. There are 1,400 miles of maintained trails in the Clearwater NF system. All of the trails are open to hikers and most are open to stock. Many are available for mountain bikes. Non-motorized trails are not shown on the MVUM. Some trails are available for motorcycles and small vehicles 50 inches or less, these trails are shown on the MVUM.

Make sure you learn which specific areas or hunting units are open to OHVs during big game hunting seasons. The Clearwater MVUM displays all National Forest System roads and trails allowing public motor vehicle use. Motorized use includes but is not limited to motorcycles, ATVs, and four-wheel drive vehicles.

OHVs wider than 50” are only allowed on roads open to motorized use during hunting season.

Staying on designated routes provides positive benefits to wildlife, water and other natural resources and social values.

Most scenic overlooks, historical sites and popular travel routes are still accessible to motorized users.

Motorized users may also access dispersed campsites (within 300 feet of most roads and 100 feet of most motorized trails, indicated on the MVUM).

You can use your trail machine to scout for game and access your hunting camp, but it's illegal to shoot big game animals from your OHV. (Hunters with a disabled permit are exempt from this rule.)

Park your OHV if you need to leave a trail or road to retrieve a big game animal. Big game retrieval with a motor vehicle is allowed only where the big game retrieval symbol is displayed on the MVUM. The MVUM will indicate the distance from the route that motor vehicles may be driven for the purpose of big game retrieval.

Stop by your local Forest Service office to get your MVUMS, Travel Guides and Forest Visitor Maps before your hunt or fall trip into the woods. Or visit the forest website at

Unemployment below double digits in Clearwater County

Clearwater County’s August unemployment dropped to 9.1 percent, the lowest it has been in 2014, so far. In July it was 9.4 percent, and last August it was 11.9 percent.

Nearby counties also saw a decrease from July. Idaho County also dropped from 6.3 percent to 6 percent, and was also down from last year’s August rate of 8.4 percent.

Lewis County dropped to 4.1 percent, from July’s rate of 4.5 percent. Last August Lewis County’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

Nez Perce County dropped from 4.3 percent to 4.1 percent. The figure was also down from last year’s August rate of 5.2 percent.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate resumed its downward trend in August, dropping a tenth of a point to 4.7 percent as employers hired at or just below the norm for the previous five years.

August’s decline matched a tenth-of-a-point drop in unemployment nationally, marking nearly 13 years Idaho’s rate has been lower than the nation’s. Idaho’s rate was 6.2 percent in August 2013.

The lower state unemployment rate was a result of more than 600 workers leaving the labor force while total employment fell fractionally for the second straight month. Businesses hired 18,600 workers during August, almost all to fill existing job vacancies, while new hires remained below August 2013 levels.

Idaho’s labor force participation rate for August–the percentage of adults working or actively looking for work–dropped another tenth of a percentage point to 63.5 percent. It was over 64 percent a year ago.

Of the 1,500 new jobs employers added in August, mining, logging and construction all generated slightly more jobs than usual, as did financial services, business services and restaurants.

That pushed total nonfarm jobs back over 664,000, almost 15,000 higher than August 2013 and 54,000 above the low point in the downturn in August 2010, but it was still 1,100 short of the prerecession August peak in 2007. The economy had another 77,000 jobs in August 2014 that were not covered by unemployment insurance. Those included tens of thousands of self-employed.

While the August job gains were almost evenly split between goods production and services, Idaho’s economy has been steadily shifting to services. In August 2007 as the expansion was peaking, 19.2 percent of Idaho’s nonfarm jobs were in goods production, which pays an average of $12,000 a year more than services. In August 2014, 15.8 percent of the jobs were in goods production.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments continued to run below year-earlier levels in August, totaling $6.8 million to a weekly average of 7,500 jobless workers. That compared to $7.5 million in regular benefits paid to a weekly average of 7,700 workers in August 2013 plus another $2.7 million in federally financed benefits to a weekly average of 3,000. Federally funded benefits ended at the close of 2013.

None of Idaho’s 44 counties saw unemployment rates in the double digits last month. Only eight saw monthly jobless rates increase between July and August while seven others posted no change. The lowest rate was 2.5 percent in Franklin County, the third time in the last five months that Franklin has been under 3 percent. The highest unemployment rate for July was 9.1 percent in Clearwater County, down another three-tenths from July.

Twenty-four counties had rates below the statewide rate of 4.7 percent, and the Coeur d’Alene metropolitan area at 5 percent was the only one of the five metro areas with jobless rates higher than the state rate.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Down with the old, up with the new

The Woodlot Tavern and Café sign has been replaced with a Northfork Café sign atop the Ahsahka building. Photo by Tabby Haskett

A bright new sign atop the old Woodlot Café and Tavern went up last Thursday, depicting the new name that will soon be on everyone’s tongue for the place serving the famous Lumberjack and Lumberjill hamburgers. That name is the Northfork Café.

The Northfork Café will fill the void that everyone has felt since the old Woodlot closed last February. Deb Brown, the sole owner of the café, has been working tirelessly since Aug. 1, with the help of several friends, completely refurbishing and bringing the old café up to code, and making it a state of the art family gathering place.

Not only will Deb be serving the varieties of hamburgers which patrons have been used to for years, but will be adding her own personal touch to the menu, featuring her homemade pies, cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, and scones. Deb has a lot of experience in cooking and baking to back her up, having trained in Culinary Arts as well as working in delis which specialize in made-from-scratch bakery items.

Opening the Northfork Café fulfills a life-long dream of Deb’s, to own a place of her own, and to make use of her many creative talents. To those who have driven up and down North Fork Road in Ahsahka, it is evident that Deb has been hard at work these last two months, doing much of her own heavy moving, stripping and painting, in tandem with different plumbing, electrical, and cooling/heating contractors, and especially the Health Department, to bring the entire establishment up to code.

She has also done her own re-upholstering of all the chairs and stools, sanded and refinished the wood tables to make them look like new, refinished walls, ceilings, and the walk-in cooler. There are new counters, new ceiling fans, and a bright and sparkling clean feel to the café, including color-coordinated curtains and plants to add to the friendly environment.

Many old photos of life as it was on the old North Fork of the Clearwater River will adorn the walls, and stenciled fish inside as well as on the outside walls of the building will pay homage to the theme of this being the Steelhead Capital of the World. Anglers will be especially welcome, as Deb is a dedicated angler herself, and can keep up with the best of them with her fish tales.

A beautiful addition to the “new” café is a Bistro table with eight tall chairs to match, which will be where the old pool table was. This table can be reserved for groups of six to eight, and will be in use a lot, Deb is sure. The table and chairs were a surprise gift from friends Dave and Donna Clifford, and the set matches the dark trim of the beams in the ceiling.

A newly-upholstered padded bar edge and carpeted kickpad at the bottom of the bar will welcome those stopping in for a beer, and Deb is working with both beer distributors to ensure that favorite brews will be carried. Good quality wines will also be available for those with discerning taste for another beverage.

In addition to anglers, everyone will be welcome including hunters, bikers, families and groups, and according to Deb, special attention will be paid to those who are on short lunch hours and wish to put in a telephone order and have their food ready on their arrival for pick-up.

Watch for the grand opening

It is hoped that the grand opening will happen the first week of November. Deb will be serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, and in getting ready to open, not everything will be available all at once, until Deb sees that each segment of the business is running smoothly.

Everyone is asked to be patient with both the availability of all menu items as well as the parking situation near and around the Northfork Café, which remains limited at the present time, as it was when the old Woodlot was open.

Deb hopes that everyone is as excited as she is to see that the Northfork Café becomes the “new” tradition!

ICARE continues to grow

By Dee Crane

The local area organization that financially helps cancer patients, ICARE, continues to provide benefits to those who are actively undergoing treatment.

Several things have taken place since our last update. We are saddened by the recent loss of one of our Board of Directors, Barbara Opdahl of Pierce. She was a great mentor and inspiration to many. She will certainly be missed at ICARE.

The numbers have changed significantly and the group has now helped 133 people and issued $59,400.00!

One thing that remains the same is the fact that we continue to have 100% volunteer leadership and management. When people support ICARE, their contributions go directly to help those in need.

The “Gift of Love” given is now at $500 and is meant to show support from the hearts of many as one travels their journey through cancer.

As a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, government employees may choose to contribute through the Combined Federal Campaign.

An ICARE table will be set up at the Dig for the Cure event hosted by the Orofino volleyball teams. We invite everyone to come to the event Thursday, Oct. 2 at Orofino High School and participate in the heartfelt event that supports some great causes, including ICARE.

The many supporters over the past six and a half years have enabled the ICARE project to succeed and continue to help friends, neighbors and families in area communities. The chart below shows the number of people helped each year, the amount given each year, the wide distribution and thus the great need for the organization.

As we move forward into 2015, we will be looking to fill one position on the five-member Board of Directors. Anyone truly interested in being a committed and active Board member may contact ICARE at 476-5971.

If you or someone you know needs help from ICARE, contact us at 476-5971 or 476-7148.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Standardized tests, the death knell of American economic dominance?

By Robert Vian, School District #171 Superintendent

The current debate about Idaho Common Core and the change from Idaho Academic Standards Test (ISAT) is the wrong debate. While Common Core tests will require much more rigor in the classroom and are far superior to the old standards, they are just another standardized test. We should be discussing the impact of standardized tests on America’s ability to produce creative resourceful, imaginative, and talented individuals that will be needed for the nation to continue our dominant status in the world as an economic power.

A couple of historically significant events have created the slippery slope that education in Idaho and the nation attempts to stand upon.

The first was the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s and the launch of the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik, by the Soviet Union in 1957. The U.S. suffered apoplectic shock, “How was a communist nation able to best a technological superpower like the U.S. in the race to be first into space?” When the Soviets also had the first man in space the sting was even deeper.

Politicians and educational experts started looking for explanations to describe the “failures in education.” Surveys of educational systems in industrialized nations in 1960 indicated that the U.S. math student ranked 12th in the world. No wonder we lost the “space race,” we were sliding into oblivion, how could the U.S. be a world power with math scores like that?

A second partially related event fueled the slide. Educational funding was erratic, while some schools had rich tax bases, others were not so wealthy. Educational advocates started campaigning for a level field (read this to mean equal funding) for all students within a state and across the nation.

When the Feds and the state began providing funds to equalize educational opportunities they started taking away local control of schools and demanded that funds were being spent wisely. Testing students to see if they had learned just made sense, but the tests had to be standardized to allow comparisons between schools and districts across the state. Every student had to be measured by the same standard, like a toaster or television set.

Producing a student capable of passing a standardized test, lead to standardized curriculums, not identical but highly similar. To insure that students were doing well in math, reading, and language arts, those subjects required more classroom instruction. States added additional math and science requirements. Districts had to add additional math and science teachers. With no new money other teachers (art, music, languages, drama, technology, and industrial arts classes) had to be cut. The classes that many students find interesting and the open doors for their individual futures are closed as schools prepare every student to attend a university.

In the U.S. we began chasing the great standardized test, taking nations like Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, and Japan, trying to create an educational system as “fine as theirs.” In Idaho we started mimicking other states. What did the standardization and emphasis on math and science for all students accomplish?

The U.S. student currently ranks 31st in math, and 24th in science. My mom told me that “once the horse dies I should quit beating it and get off.” Instead we are hell bent on bringing the horse back to life with cattle prods and training wheels.

While many shudder at the thought that we cannot compete with other nations on tests, we should consider what makes us the industrial leader of the world by a wide margin, and what those countries gave up to test well. In China two-year-olds start preparation for a college entrance exam sixteen years away. No country in the world focuses on all their students like the U.S. does. We test over 95% of our children. They test only their best.

China has 19% of the world’s population and each year applies for one percent of the world patents. China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the market value of all final goods and services from a nation in a given year, is 50% of the U.S. GDP. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product accounts for 22% of the world’s total GDP despite the fact that the U.S. population is only 4.3% of the total world population. If China produced at the rate the U.S. does, their GDP would be four and a half times the U.S. GDP, not one half our GDP.

We are chasing the wrong goal, and seem to be more obsessed every day with achieving that wrong goal.

Education should be about the maintaining our identity as a nation, raising children to continue our dream of a country where each generation is at least as well off as the past.

Training our youth to all be the same ignores what makes this nation the industrial leader of the world. Our creativity, perseverance, resourcefulness, diversity, and imagination is what makes us a great industrial power.

Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair for Global and online Education at the University of Oregon writes in his new book World Class Learners that in the U.S. at age five 98% of the kids tested are at the genius level “for creativity,” by age ten 32% reach the genius level, and by age 15 only 10% still score at the genius level. The number actually declines to about 4% during the work years (if I get creative I may lose this job). At about age 65, when people start doing things they like to do, the genius level increases, and some people become creative again. It’s hard to argue that we are encouraging creativity in schools or the workplace. It appears we are doing an outstanding job of destroying creativity.

The modern public school has become a sausage grinder, taking a young person’s creativity, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, imagination, and talent and turn out one product where all of the product is exactly like all the other products.

Other nations are now looking at the U.S. to see how we develop such creative students. How can they develop a Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Wozniak? Steve Wozniak said, “When you’re very structured almost like a religion…Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms…everybody is the same.” Look at structured societies like Singapore, where bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You are extremely punished. Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the athletes? All the creative elements seems to disappear.

The Chinese are not ignorant or satisfied with the outcomes of their test oriented system.

The Chinese Ministry of Education wrote in 1997, “Our nation’s tendency to simply prepare for tests,…and blindly pursue admission rates to colleges and higher-level schools while ignoring the real needs of the student and societal development…pays attention to only a minority of the student population and neglects the majority; it emphasizes knowledge transmission…as well as the cultivation of applied abilities and psychological and emotional development; it relies on rote memorization and mechanical drills…Which makes learning uninteresting, hinders students…and prevents them from taking initiatives…hurting motivation and enthusiasm, squelching their creativity, and impeding their overall development.”

It sounds like they have learned what we have not, standardization stifles creativity. Other nations study the U.S. educational system because they think we know how to foster creativity, the reality is more likely that we have not progressed to their level of destroying creativity, yet.

We should demand that the educational system stop trying to produce cookie cutter students. A world class educational system should start with the student, consider their strengths and weakness, help them build on their weakness, but focus on their strengths. Rather than a funnel into the sausage grinder, education should be inverted so that a student’s creativity, imagination, and perseverance expands and grows with support from educators.

Living within our means, a summary of this year’s county budget

By Elizabeth Morgan

Between a myriad of Monday meetings on Sept. 22, I spoke with Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert concerning the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year’s budget.

I asked how this year’s budget compared to last year’s and if there had been any significant changes to report.

“We held the line on our budget, because as always we don’t know what our PILT or SRS funds are going to be. We were pretty conservative,” admitted Ebert. “There were no wage increases given this year to staff. There is no expansion. We don’t try to take on more than we can pay for, because we are pretty well where we need to be as far as what we can afford and live within our means.”

Ebert reported that the county has good fund balances and they want to keep it that way. “We cut back on our spending a long time ago, before we ran out of money so in that sense the budget is healthy.”

“There are a couple of things to consider when planning a budget based on projections,” Ebert said, “which in a lot of ways are just an educated guess. The main thing in my mind is how much is spent. Even though something is allotted for in the budget, doesn’t necessarily mean it must be spent.”

As in the process of setting most any budget, Clearwater County Commissioners put together the best estimate of what they believe the next year will hold as far as revenue and expenses. However, as in the case of funding from SRS and PILT, there’s really no way to do anything but give it their best guess.

I asked Ebert how severely the funds from SRS and PILT fluctuate from year to year. “The funds don’t fluctuate so much,” he responded, “the question is more about if congress will act and if we get them out or not.”

In the past, the county has received them every year. Some would say it’s a pretty safe bet that they will continue, but how far is the county willing to go out on that limb? “If you start talking about spending money that you don’t have yet, it’s kind of precarious.” said Ebert, “We’ve always opted towards the more conservative side and we have good fund balances because of that.”

Ebert shared that when there is an excess it is carried over to the following year’s budget. Auditors recommend sufficient money in the balance to run for three months or around 25% of the year’s budget, and in that case, there must be cash on hand to run the county.

As in other budgets, there are also the unexpected expenditures that come up occasionally, so the county budgets must consider budgeting more money than what is actually intended. The excess is always carried over. “It’s kind of hard to predict,” he said.

Winter weather plays into the ways the county’s unforeseen expenses. Depending on the amount of snow, time and resources to maintain the roads accessibility could consume a substantial portion of the budget. “I’m not sure if during the wintertime, the county could ever plow the roads often enough to keep everyone happy. But the roads are what they are and this is rugged terrain,” stated Ebert. “We do the best we can with what we have. Fortunately winter comes first and we have the rest of the year to adjust if needed.”

Ebert explained “You have to spend enough to keep the county functioning properly, but at the same time, we don’t want to spend it if it isn’t necessary. It’s a constant judgment call. We examine each item on a regular basis to make sure it is necessary. It’s a fine line and so far we’ve been pretty lucky. I feel we have provided adequate services and have done so within our means.”

“The county has enough to operate a couple of years to avoid running into a brick wall, should funding from SRS and PILT be cut,” assured Ebert, “but there would certainly be significant changes in the manner in which the county spends their money.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Idaho gun range, geothermal bills advance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two bills authored by Rep. Raúl Labrador cleared the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, offering solutions to regulatory burdens affecting constituents and industry in Idaho.

The committee passed H.R. 5040 the Idaho County Shooting Range Land Conveyance Act. The bill would convey 31 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to Idaho County (southeast of Clearwater County) for use as a gun range. This gun range would provide accessible firearms training for Idaho County residents, recreational opportunities for families and a convenient training facility for the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department. The Idaho County Commissioners have agreed to manage the land as a shooting range and work closely with local law enforcement to provide all necessary maintenance.

“As a matter of principle, the government closest to the people is the one that governs best,” Labrador said. “For years, the Idaho County Commission has been ready to install a gun range in the Riggins area. Because of cumbersome BLM regulations, they have been unable to acquire the necessary land. Idaho County residents deserve to have a safe location for recreational firearms use and this solution is long overdue.”

The committee also passed H.R. 1363, the Exploring for Geothermal Energy on Federal Lands Act. The legislation removes federal barriers to geothermal energy exploration while limiting environmental impact. It will allow for the development of clean geothermal energy resources on federal lands that will create jobs and provide low-cost energy to American families. In Idaho alone, geothermal energy has the potential to generate more than 800 megawatts. That’s enough energy to power more than 500,000 homes.

“Idaho has an abundance of geothermal potential that is unavailable due to bureaucratic impediments,” Labrador said. “Idaho has a unique history of developing geothermal energy. I served in the Idaho Legislature where our 100-year-old Statehouse is heated with geothermal energy, as are many Downtown Boise office buildings, homes near Warm Springs Avenue and part of the Boise State University campus. We need to harness this clean, renewable and reliable form of energy.”

Both bills now move to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Earlier in the 113th Congress, the Natural Resources Committee approved two other bills sponsored by Labrador: H.R. 657, the Grazing Improvement Act and H.R. 1294, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act. Both bills passed the full House of Representatives and await Senate consideration.