Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reflections from My Trail

By Charlie Pottenger

A Good Man From Weippe Helped Charlie!

Sometimes my reflections don’t stretch back too far. This one happened on Aug. 22, 2014.

Last year in July I lost my longtime canine companion, a Dachshund named Beau, when I failed to restrain him as he opened the truck window and slipped into Heaven. To this day I can’t stop counting the number of trips I made past the spot where I lost Beau. Yesterday marked trip number 307!

I had mourned the loss for a few months when my Son and Daughter-in Law presented me with a nine month old Dachshund puppy, Jerry, last November. To even imply that Jerry has taken Beau’s place would be a Presidential quality lie, but Jerry has opened a whole new chapter of an on-going canine love story.

Jerry was basically a “diamond in the rough” with no trained skills and a heart winning way of taking a piece of my soul even when he has committed grievous and unpardonable sins. After ten months in my care it is safe to say that if he arrived as a dog with obedience problems and tons of charm, he remains as he arrived. Safe to say, that I am failing as a trainer, in all categories, with Jerry.

One of his greatest failings, or perhaps my greatest failing, is that Jerry is faster than a bolt of lightning and can bolt through the smallest door crack when the objective was to keep him in or out. This includes problems when I enter or exit the car.

Last Friday, Aug. 22, I stopped for fuel at the Nez Perce Express. I now travel mostly in an older Subaru with a gas door lock. I carefully caught Jerry, held him until I was out, then went to the pump, ran my credit card and then discovered I hadn’t pulled the fuel door unlock lever. I, wallet in hand, opened the door and pulled the lever and the chocolate brown blur that was Jerry streaked out the door!

I put my wallet on the roof and proceeded to catch Jerry before he was run over by cars and trucks as they moved about the busy place. With Jerry safely back in the car, I finished fueling and drove off to Orofino.

About thirty minutes after arriving in Orofino I received a call from the Clearwater Tribune office advising that a man from Weippe, who hadn’t left his name, had dropped off my wallet because it had my Clearwater Tribune Reporter/Photographer business card. He had found it on Highway 12 and it still contained all of my important cards except one. My insurance cards, Drivers license, Pilots License, Costco Card and Hunting/Fishing licenses were all there. The missing card was my credit card which I rapidly cancelled.

In spite of my Jerry, I will get a new credit card and I will always remember a man from Pierce that took the time to help me after I had made a mistake. I would like to meet him anytime and thank him personally and would recommend his friendship to all who are lucky enough to be close to him. Thank you!

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests welcome Labor Day visitors

Despite the recent rash of wildfires, Labor Day visitors to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests can still find plenty of safe, smoke-free places to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.

Fire danger is still very high, and there are a few road and trail closures due to active wildfires. Other roads may be closed because of ongoing construction.

For current fire information and a list of closures please visit the Forests’ website, www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater, or log on to www.inciweb.org.

You’re also invited to call your local Forest Service office for updates on road, trail and campground conditions.

All offices will close Sept. 1 in observance of Labor Day. Offices will resume normal business hours on Sept. 2.

There are currently no campfire restrictions on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests; however, due to tinder-dry brush and timber and the potential for a fast-moving blaze, forest users are urged to use common sense and extreme care when building campfires. Never, ever leave a campfire unattended!

Highway 14 / South Fork Clearwater River Corridor

Visitors to the Red River Ranger District are reminded that there is a detour at the junction of Highway 14 and Red River Road (#222) for a culvert installation. A one-lane bridge is in place to allow all traffic around the construction.

All campgrounds are open and available for use, with Red River Campground being the only one with potable water and the only fee campground ($6/night) on the district.

Water at Granite Springs Campground should be boiled before drinking. Potable water is also available at the Red River Administrative Site at the junction of Roads 222 and 234.

Officials are assessing the current fire situation which has resulted in an area closure of much of the district south of the Magruder Road Corridor (Forest Road 468) in the hope of revoking the closure order before Labor Day.

A copy of the rescission of that closure will be posted at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices when it is signed, or call the Red River Ranger Station at 208-842-2245 for the latest information.

Selway River Corridor

The Selway River Road is open. Johnson Bar and O’Hara Bar Campgrounds on the Moose Creek Ranger District remain closed due to the Johnson Bar Fire. Campgrounds up river from O’Hara Campground are open. Roads 651 and 470 remain closed. Falls Point Road 443 and Indian Hill Road 290 remain closed to vehicles over 50 inches.

Highway 95/Salmon River Corridor

The South Fork/ Castle Creek Campground on the South Fork of the Clearwater River has potable water, dumpsters and a camp host. Fish Creek Campground located seven miles south of Grangeville has potable water and a camp host. Spring Bar Campground located on the Main Salmon River has potable water and dumpsters.

Palouse Corridor

The Elk Creek Campground, located one mile east of Elk River, includes sites that have electrical hookups. Laird Park Campground and Little Boulder Campground offer both campsites and group picnic areas (call the ranger station to reserve the group picnic sites).

There are also campsites at Giant White Pine Campground north of Harvard. Giant White Pine Campground will close for the season on Sept. 8; Laird Park will close a few days later, on Sept. 22. Little Boulder and Elk Creek campgrounds will stay open through Oct. 31.

Due to winter shutdown, no water will be available as of Sept. 30. Bald Mountain Lookout will close Sept. 28.

North Fork Clearwater River Corridor

On the North Fork Ranger District, the Aquarius, Washington Creek, Noe Creek, Kelly Forks and Hidden Creek Campgrounds are open. There is no garbage collection at these sites, so please remember to pack-it-in/pack-it-out.

All North Fork campgrounds are scheduled to remain open through Oct. 31 and fees will be charged until the campgrounds close for the winter. Effective Sept. 16, potable water will no longer be available at Aquarius Campground.

The water at Washington Creek, Hidden Creek, Kelly Forks and Noe Creek Campgrounds will be turned off on Sept. 29. Due to ongoing logging activity, Mush Saddle Road 711 and Cool Creek Road 5295 will remain closed through Labor Day.

Highway 12 Corridor

Apgar, Wendover and Whitehouse Campgrounds are open, but all three campgrounds are slated to close Sept. 3. At the popular Wilderness Gateway Campground, Camp Loops A and D will close Sept. 3, and Loops B and C will be up and running until Nov. 3. Powell Campground will also close Nov. 3. Wild Goose Campground is currently closed due to fire activity in the area.

The Elk Summit Campground and White Sands Campground will remain open as long as weather permits. Water service to campgrounds along the Highway 12 Corridor will shut down at different intervals right after Labor Day. If camping after Labor Day, please be prepared to camp without water.

The Lochsa Historical Ranger Station (49 miles east of Kooskia) will close on September 9. Visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center near the Idaho-Montana state is open 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (PST) daily through Aug. 31. Beginning Sept. 1, the Visitor Center will be closed on Tuesdays.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Craig Mountain wildlife management area open for business again after wildfire


A firefighter works near the riverbank during the Big Cougar Fire outside of Lewiston.  

Over the last few weeks, Craig Mountain enthusiasts have experienced road closures on the main Zaza road due to the 67,200 acre Big Cougar Fire outside of Lewiston. Access and roadways on Craig Mountain re-opened to pre-fire status Aug. 23.

Idaho Fish and Game and firefighter staff will be traveling around the Wildlife Management Area to address issues associated with the fire, so please drive carefully.

In addition, there are many potential hazards associated with post-wildfire areas such as the following:

Trees and snags. Burned or compromised trees have a high potential of falling, but unburned trees may be more susceptible to falling if they’ve lost the shelter and support from neighboring trees. Be very cautious during windy conditions.

Rocks. The dislodging and falling of rocks is another significant risk, especially in steep sloped areas such as the breaks and grasslands of Craig Mountain.

Unstable ground. Soils will be more unstable after a wildfire when they’ve lost the stability from plants and trees. This may result in less stable hiking conditions or even may lead to landslides, especially during or after a heavy rain event.

Rock wells. After a wildfire has burned through a forested or shrubby area, sometimes the root system of shrubs and trees are also burned out leaving a void that may still be covered by ash and debris.

All the county, state, and federal agencies sincerely appreciate your patience through this fire and the associated closure period.

Contact the regional office (208) 799-5010 or visit us on Facebook at Idaho Fish and Game Clearwater Region for a more information concerning the Big Cougar Fire.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vehicle accident en route to IDFG Salmon Camp

Idaho Fish and Game volunteer instructor Tim Cochnauer and two students, a 14-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy, both of Lewiston, were injured after the 2010 Toyota Tundra they were riding in left the roadway on Highway 14 the afternoon of Aug. 12, along the South Fork Clearwater River. 
 
“Tim and his crew were part of the larger class of students who had travelled ahead. Tim was busy answering questions and pointing out all of the wonderful features of the South Fork when he veered too far to the left,” said IDFG in a statement about the crash.

The pickup traveled approximately 15 feet up a steep embankment until it struck a rocky outcropping, causing the vehicle to roll, coming to rest on its passenger side.

“His (Tim’s) quick thinking to take on the rocky bank on the left versus over-correcting may very well have kept the truck out of the river,” said IDFG in their statement. “Both of Tim’s young passengers were heroes, themselves as they helped Tim out of the truck.”

All occupants were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Both teenage boys and Cochnauer were taken to Syringa Hospital in Grangeville. The teenage boys were released with minor injuries.

Cochnauer suffered more significant injuries, including a fracture of his hand and a compression fracture of a vertebrae, but was also released from the hospital Tuesday evening.

Cochnauer, a retired Fish and Game Clearwater Regional Fish Manager, was a volunteer instructor for Fish and Game’s Clearwater Youth Salmon Camp. He was traveling to the department’s Red River Wildlife Management Area near Elk City.

An overnight session was scheduled on Tuesday night at Fish and Game’s Ponderosa Ranch facility located on Red River.

Contact the Idaho Fish and Game regional office at (208) 799-5010 for more information.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nez Perce Tribe awards over $378,000 to area schools and colleges

Nez Perce Tribe Local Education Fund Awards totaling $378,783 were granted to 35 social, cultural, preschool, elementary, high school, and college programs throughout the region.

Funds were awarded for: computer technology, school readiness and social support, special instruction, preschool and kindergarten instruction, language, culture, arts, theater, dance, internships, and literacy programs, among other service areas.

“This year, the range of program applications was impressive,” stated Silas Whitman, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. “We were able to have an impact on core curriculum with our computer and science lab awards. We funded programs that will help area children perform at their grade level through kindergarten and preschool support. We also funded stellar creative arts programs such as the Mentor Artist’s Playwrights Project, which will bring high caliber writers to the classroom. ”

“This broad range of support will help young people prepare to enter the world stage with a sound fundamental education, along with a wealth of cultural experiences,” Whitman concluded. Since the fund was established in 2004, over 3.5 million dollars have been granted to area educational, social, and professional programs.

The Local Education Program Fund Awards are funded through revenue derived from gaming enterprises operated by the Nez Perce Tribe.

The grant program provides financial assistance to education programs and schools located on or near the Nez Perce Reservation with the ultimate goal of “improving the mind, speech, manner, capability, and character of skills of the human populace.”
 
Clearwater County area awards

Cavendish Teakean Elementary Cultural Field Trips: $1,000. This program takes children to places such as Spalding Museum, Fossil Bowl, WSU Art Museum, WSU Raptor Program, Pullman Science Center, and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

Clearwater Memorial Public Library’s “A Book Under Every Pillow” Initiative: $1,000. Books will be given to children through the third grade level to encourage reading over Christmas break.

Lapwai and Orofino Upward Bound: $5,000. The program will help high school students in Lapwai and Orofino to enroll and be successful in dual enrollment college courses.

Lewis Clark Early Childhood Education Program: $10,000. This award will help to complete a building and facilities project to benefit Head Start preschool students.

Orofino Junior High School: $10,000. Funds will be used to update science lab equipment, purchase art supplies, and buy reading material.

Tribal Fisheries Intern: $5,000. Tribal Fisheries high school and college interns work with production project leaders and key staff to learn fish culture, fish health and fisheries sciences. Interns are employed at Dworshak/Kooskia National Fish Hatcheries, Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery, and numerous satellite facilities. The program goal is to impart the technical and professional experience needed to succeed in college.

Youth Career Education Institute: $10,000. The Youth Career Education Institute will offer a variety of programming activities to address career preparedness for 20 youth who reside and attend public schools on or near the Nez Perce Reservation.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Safety first during wildfire season – resources are available to help homeowners

The forests are dry, the wind is blowing and the weather has brought lightning with only scattered rain showers. Fire Season is upon us. Except, few fires have actually ignited in west central Idaho; it’s a waiting game. Wildland firefighting personnel are ready.

Their skills have been fine-tuned supporting our neighbors to the west in Washington and Oregon who have thus far had a very busy fire season. It seems these days; somewhere in the country every year communities experience devastating loss. Unfortunately, home destruction from wildfire has happened again in 2014. But what about your home, your community? Are you ready if a wildfire threatens your neighborhood?

Families may not be together when disaster strikes. It’s important to discuss a plan in advance. Consider identifying a safe place to meet, how will you get there, how will you contact one another? The web site www.ready.gov has planning tools to prepare a family, including children and seniors, pets and livestock for the unthinkable. Have these conversations before an emergency occurs.

If your home is in the wildland urban interface, you should be prepared for a threatening wildfire. The Firewise program (found at www.firewise.org) provides extensive information on all phases of being a homeowner in the wildland urban interface. Consider the Firewise Wildfire Approaching Checklist:

 Call for help

Use a cell phone if your electrical power has been interrupted.

 Close all entrances, windows and other openings.

This includes doors, garage doors, windows, vents and any other entrances to your residence or garage. Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. This action is recommended to prevent sparks from blowing inside your house and igniting there.
 
Dress to protect yourself

Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
 
Wet down the roof

If your roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place the ladder you use for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
 
 
Turn off residential fuel

If you use natural gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or the meter.
 
Prepare the automobiles

Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the garage door. In the event you evacuate, close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if the garage is full, park vehicles so they are heading in the direction of the evacuation route.

 Evacuate the family

If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe location.

The University of Idaho Extension office has provided an excellent resource document authored by Yvonne C. Barkley, Chris Schnepf and Jack Cohen titled Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland Urban Interface available at www.uidaho.edu/~/media/Files/Extension/Forestry/Fire/WUI/FireProtectBro2010_final

Beginning with forest health and the role fire plays in healthy ecosystems, the authors explain that if you live in the wildland urban interface, you need to recognize that the home ignition zone (your home and its immediate surroundings) belongs to you. That means you have the responsibility to reduce your homes vulnerability to wildfire.

The report goes on to explain that homes that are not vulnerable to ignition will not burn in a wildfire. During the Wildland/urban fires, homes ignite in two principal ways; from flame heating and/or more commonly from fire brand ignition (burning ember spot ignitions). Regardless of how they start, all fires must meet the requirements for ignition and combustion – a sufficient amount of fuels, heat and oxygen.

Take the time to review the tools available to you. Have conversations with family, friends and neighbors about what the plan is should evacuations occur. Learn what you can do to make a difference in saving your property. Nobody can predict the future, but we can all prepare for it.

Public and firefighter safety is always the number 1 concern during a wildfire. If you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests at 208-983-1950. We will be glad to visit with you. Be safe out there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Clearwater County unemployment falls to 10 percent; highest in the state

Clearwater County, with a rate of 10 percent, was the only county in Idaho with a double-digit unemployment percentage in May. Ten percent is Clearwater County’s lowest unemployment rate in several years. In April of this year the rate was 10.6 percent, and in May of last year it was 10.9 percent.

The last time the state saw only one county in double digits was July 2008.

Idaho County’s May rate was 6.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent in April, and from last year’s May rate of 8.6 percent.

Nez Perce County’s rate ticked down from 4.4 to 4.3 percent from April to May. In May of 2013 it was 5.4 percent.

Lewis County, at 4.0 percent, has the lowest rate in counties near Clearwater. In April Lewis County’s rate was 4.4 percent, and last May it was 5.7 percent.
 
 
Statewide information

Only four Idaho counties—Jefferson, Jerome, Owyhee and Power—saw jobless rates increase from April to May, but all 44 counties posted declines in unemployment from May 2013.

Eighteen counties had rates above 4.9 percent, down from 21 in April and 39 in May 2013. The lowest rate was 2.4 percent in Franklin County, and that was up a tenth from April’s rate.

Businesses hired at or just below their May average for the past five years, maintaining Idaho’s steady economic recovery and driving the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate below 5 percent for the first time in nearly six years.

Total employment increased another 1,000 from April to May, eclipsing 741,000 for the ninth record in as many months.

That was enough to accommodate the entry of 2,000 more workers into the labor force, holding the state’s labor force participation rate at 63.8 percent of all residents over age 15. Job generation by Idaho employers pulled another 1,000 workers off the unemployment rolls, dropping the number of jobless workers below 38,000 for the first time since July 2008.

With over 15,000 more people working this May than last, the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent was 1.5 percentage points below May 2013. Idaho’s rate was also 1.4 percentage points below the national jobless rate for May, marking more than 12½ years that the state rate has been lower.

Idaho’s economy has added 29,000 jobs since January, and total employment has risen every month since mid-2012. Financial services, real estate, information, health care, natural resources, mining, hotels and restaurants all generated jobs at just above the five-year average for May. Manufacturing, retail trade and transportation maintained the average, and only business services, private education services, construction and government fell short of their five-year performance.

The state’s economic activity continued to drive down demand on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, but the number of claims and amount paid has crept back up above the levels of the mid-1990s expansion.

In May, an average of 7,600 workers a week collected a total of $8.3 million in jobless benefits, down 42 percent from a year earlier with benefit payments – both state and federal extensions – 35 percent lower. Federally financed extended benefits ended in 2013.