I was blessed with the opportunity to take a flight with LightHawk this morning.  Man, what a great group.  

It was a clear and smooth flight over central Idaho ranges with watersheds in full expression of spring.

North Fork Big Lost River Watershed © Brian Ertz, WWP

North Fork Big Lost River Watershed © Brian Ertz, WWP (click to enlarge)

Time to open the forum up … I hope you’ll contribute.

East Fork Salmon River Watershed © Brian Ertz, WWP

East Fork Salmon River Watershed © Brian Ertz, WWP (click to enlarge)

Check out Protecting Watersheds.

About The Author

Brian Ertz

36 Responses to Open Thread

  1. Craig says:

    We just got back from a week long trip to Yellowstone. We only saw 4 Moose, 2 Bulls and a Cow With a calf, wich caused a huge Moose Jam for about three days just before Pebble Creek.
    Other than that we saw a lot of everything, nice to see so many Pronghorn this year they are doing well. Seems like the Elk numbers are growing in number up in the Lamar too and only a few have calved so far.
    The Coyote population is really high more than I have ever seen in the park, saw one kill a Buffalo calf the 28th at the pullout looking at Speciman ridge. Also seen a Coyote chase a Black male(Druid Pack I was told) Wolf down the Lamar valley, only Wolf we seen almost daily in the Lamar..
    Also seen 3 Grizzlys, 6 Black bears,Foxs, Bighorns, Mountain Goats, Mule Deer, Badgar, Otters, Bobcat and first time ever a Cougar.
    Great week to be in the park, weather was great wish I could have stayed a few more weeks to see the Elk start calving and the Gizzly/Wolf action pick up.
    Very interesting watching the single Black Wolf , the Ranger said he (it) was a Druid Wolf. But was the only Wolf we seen all week in the Lamar Valley! We happened to be so lucky to catch him/her swim the swollen river at Pebble creek/Lamar river and take some really good photos with no one else around. Wish every week in life was this fun and exciting!

  2. Tilly says:

    Brian, those pictures are truly stunning. Snowy peaks in the background- ooh! Nice work!

  3. Mike says:

    Hey Brian, that’s awesome! Love the photos and looks like a great experience.

    Quick “open question”:

    I plan to visit Olympic National Park in September. Does anyone have any experience there?

  4. JB says:

    You guys are killing me with all of these wonderful photos and stories! I’m stuck behind a desk in Ohio. 🙁

  5. Brings back fond memories. I used to hunt elk at the base of those peaks on the North Fork. The area was used quite heavily by domestic sheep back in the 1960s. Are they still eating everything in sight?

  6. Linda Hunter says:

    Great picture . . there is nothing like flying over an area to gain perspective. I haven’t been anywhere .. just around here but the tracking has been great. I found a freshly killed deer and got to track the cougar and its dinner into the woods as the cat ate and then moved the carcass. The kill was beside a road and I am not sure if it was vehicle assisted, but I looked at the animal and then came back a few hours later and it was gone. Tracked it into the woods and was planning on waiting there to see the cat but it was too late. Next time I won’t leave for a few hours. I was snowshoeing in the fast melting snow where all the tracks had melted out, except the black bear who had been there just minutes before me and left a great trail in the snow. The elk are around but staying out of sight. . they seem to be doing things differently this year, but then the weather is totally different too. Saw a bobcat. . gorgeous animal who was as tall as a big dog. It stayed around for a few minutes to show me it’s beautiful coloring. Too bad my camera was not with me. Craig I loved reading your post about Yellowstone. I hope to get there one day soon.

  7. Alan says:

    I read today about bison being hazed deep into the interior of Yellowstone, as far as Fountain Flats. Well within an area where there should be protected. I see images of bison calves swimming for their lives and limping on broken legs trying desperately to escape relentless helicopters and horseback riders; all to chase them from an area near West Yellowstone where they are welcomed and where there are no cattle.
    A week or so ago a friend of mine located a badger den near his home on public land. The mother badger and three pups put on quite a show as they would come out and roll around and play as we watched from a distance. A few days ago a crotchety old woman showed up with a rifle threatening to shoot the badgers, claiming that badgers had killed some of her chickens. This woman lives nearly a mile from the den, yet still, offers were made to her to pay for her chickens that had been lost and help her build a badger proof pen. Well, she didn’t know how many she had lost, and wasn’t sure if it was badgers or something else, but badgers are bad news and need to be killed. She said that she would send her husband back with poison to put in the den. We called the Sheriff’s dept. and were told that, yes, in Montana badgers are considered vermin and can be killed by anyone at any time and we could not interfere, even though these animals were on public land and no where near this woman’s chickens (or anyone else’s). My friends are currently guarding the den and have placed dog urine around the opening in an attempt to get Mom to relocate before it’s too late.
    Meantime I heard about a fox den on the edge of a nearby subdivision. It was far from any livestock and the residents of the few relatively nearby homes seemed thrilled to death that these guys had moved into the neighborhood. I went over there in the evening and watched in delight from a distance as the little kits rollicked in the grass near the den. Round and round they would go chasing their own tails, and when they would tire of that, off they would go after a sibling’s! High into the air they would jump after a butterfly, only to dive hilariously head first back into the den when a magpie flew overhead.
    Next day I drove by the den only to find the kits shot to death in the grass where they had played. Where they had known all the life that they would ever know; the warm grass within feet of the security of the den and a mother who did all that she could to protect them. I only hope that she was able to get at least some of them to safety.
    I am not a religious man but it is my sincere desire that the hard hearted, black souled SOB who did this answers to a higher authority.
    Today I am ashamed to be a member of the human race.

    Update: Today the badger moved her young family which, hopefully, is safe for another day.

  8. Jay Barr says:

    anybody heard any more about the WA wolves that were poached?

  9. Brian Ertz says:

    jay, i’m writing a post about the wolves in washington – they’re planning on turning out cattle on top of their rendezvous next week – they’ve already turned out all around on the Forest. i haven’t heard about the prosecution of white though .

  10. Ryan says:


    This was in the exact same area where this proposed order was shot down.


    Anyways I found this interesting.

  11. ProWolf in WY says:

    Alan, the mentality out west is that anything that is considered vermin is to be shot on site. In Wyoming, they specify that anything that is a predator can be shot on site. Here lots of hunters think it is their duty to shoot all predators. I’m not sure where badgers fit into this in Wyoming but red foxes are predators. Anti-wolf people had a field day when wolves were predators in 90% of the state. The fact that they offered to pay for this woman’s chickens is pathetic, especially if the den is so far away. I know that if I ever see anything that is a predator on private land I keep my mouth shut.

  12. Debra K says:

    Answer to Mike about experience in Olympic National Park:

    I spent a week around Hoh Lake in Sept. 2002, doing a revegetation project with a group of volunteers with the Park Service. The backpack in was about 10 miles in from the Solduc trailhead, gained about 3,000 ft in elevation, and passed through old growth forests, eventually arriving at our campsite amidst gorgeous sub-alpine scenery in fall colors. We also enjoyed a dazzling view of Mt. Olympus from our camp, and our work project was a lot of fun, planting miniature beargrasses, huckleberries and spruces.

    Wildlife was abundant, including black bears harvesting huckleberries, bull elk clashing, and Oympic marmots (so big and blonde we called them grizzly marmots!) whistling in the meadows. A few days of rain, but hey, that’s part of the Olympics. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

  13. billybob says:

    Just spent a wonderful day in search of the “elusive” wild morel mushroom.Went to an area burned in 2007 amazing the healing power Mother Nature has.Everything was so green.Even got to tree 3 black bear cubs.Fun watching them scramble around trying to find a tree after they seen my pickup.Never saw mama bear though.It was my first chance this year to get out and “smell the roses” forgot how nice it is up in the hills.

  14. Just spent two days in the Antelope Creek (west of Arco) and Arco Hills, King Mountain country.

    I was mostly looking for wildflowers. Wildflowers were good only near Craters of the Moon N.M. I saw no large wildlife. There were a lot of raptors going after rodents.

    I suppose cows got the flowers and pushed out the deer, elk, pronghorn, etc. I guess I sound like a wolves-got-all the-elk person.

    Very nice thunderstorms for good photography!

  15. Linda Hunter says:

    Ryan I get a real kick out of the backwards, fear mongering, unenlightened press in Oregon. If you read some of the comments in the second article about coyotes you will see that even quite a few people there must have read something of current research on animals. One poster even seemed to quote right out of Jon Way’s book Suburban Howls. And of course coyotes are unafraid of big animals who are visibly scared out of their boots. . why should they be afraid when humans who have lost touch with natural reality don’t understand that being a wuss IS noticed by animals. The first thing they tell you when you learn to ride a horse is not to let the animal sense your fear or it will take advantage of you. . that seems to be lost on a large portion of the population. The press in Oregon continues to amaze me with their fear tactics, which, of course, escalates the problem of humans being unreasonably afraid.

  16. Ryan says:


    Problem noted, do you have a solution? This is not the first incident of this kind in this community. Problem as we become a more urbanized society with no knowledge of wildlife, these problems will just continue.

  17. JimT says:


    This link is to a paper by Michael Blum at Lewis and Clark Law School regarding a relatively recent Supreme Court case called SUWA v. Norton that addressed the issue of the BLM and the 1985 wilderness inventory. The summary abstract lays out the issues for you on FLPMA and agency’s discretion. It is a bad decision for us, as you will see.

    The reason I post this is that our “buddy” Big Hat Salazar has quietly, without consultation with any of the environmental groups (sound depressingly familar, folks?), has reaffirmed this case’s policy on BLM lands and wilderness inventories.

    It also appears that there is a quid pro quo game of chicken going on over the appointment of Thompkins for Solicitor General of Interior by Bennett from Utah. He put a hold on her, just like he did on Hayes for awhile, and it appears as if the cost of releasing it is for Big Hat to reverse his decision on the Utah oil and gas leases. Stay tuned.

  18. JimT says:

    More information on the effects of SUWA v. Norton and the Salazar recent complicity…..

    What’s At Stake – Wild Lands in Utah and Across the West

    Background: In 2003, former Interior Secretary Gale Norton entered into a settlement agreement with the State of Utah in which the Interior Department took the novel legal position that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to designate new wilderness study areas (WSAs). This settlement dramatically curtailed existing and frequently used authority of the Secretary of the Interior to protect wilderness quality lands. The settlement was inconsistent with every prior administration interpretation of FLPMA. By its plain terms, the settlement did not bind Secretary Salazar and he is free to reject this approach.

    Significance of DOI Responses: On May 20, the Interior Department provided supplemental answers to questions that Senator Bob Bennett had asked regarding public lands management and oil and gas leasing in Utah. The questions specifically addressed the “no more wild” settlement. As a result of these answers, the nomination of David Hayes as Deputy Secretary secured Senate approval. The nomination of Hilary Tompkins as Solicitor remains pending.

    In its supplemental answers, the Interior Department agreed that BLM’s ability to create WSAs ended in 1991. The answers explicitly state: “We believe that the settlement agreement . . . is consistent with FLPMA.” This statement effectively adopts the Bush administration’s approach to wilderness reviews on BLM managed lands which concluded that there would be no more wilderness study area designations.

    WSA status matters because these lands get “on track” for Wilderness designation and often form the floor of Congressional Wilderness bills. All WSAs are part of the National Landscape Conservation System. Agency staff view WSA designations differently and give them more protection than other special administrative designations. For example, under the Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, WSAs are statutorily off-limits to oil and gas leasing.

    The preservation of millions of acres of lands across the West is at stake. For example, the action affects nearly 6 million acres of wilderness quality land in Utah; 650,000 acres in Colorado; more than 5.5 million acres in Arizona and more than 2 million acres in New Mexico.

    Talking Points/ Ask:

    • Protecting our last wild lands is one of the most important things the Interior Secretary can do for future generations.
    • WSA designation is a critical piece of wilderness protection. Secretary Salazar must act within the next 3-6 months to re-establish authority to make such designations.
    • Secretary Salazar must act now through Secretarial Order to establish clear non-impairment management for last wild lands.

  19. Linda Hunter says:

    Ryan you can write! Write a book, go on a lecture tour and get out there and teach hunter ethics (a dying notion) and expose people to your adventures and wisdom picked up in your travels and interactions with wildlife. If we all to this it can only help.

  20. Ryan says:


    I’ve tried on a smaller scale getting my neighbor to keep her trash in the garage. I live backing up to Forest park in PDX. It did no good and I ended with with a 250 vet bill due to letting my dog out at night in my fenced yard due to a coon attacking her. The coon problem is gone, for now but I have had zero luck with attempting behavior modification on the neighbors. I see coyotes in my yard with some regularity, all but 1 has gotten a pass. The issue is that my neighbors think there cute, but insist on putting up lost cat posters on every telephone pole. Finally I got a picture of a “missing” cat in one of the local coyotes mouths and called the owner and explained to them the issues with letting there cats run feral and the consequences of it. I was met with the same irrational fear that the articles show. Instead of dealing with the fact that fluffy should be locked up and not eating native wildlife. The lady was worried that a coyote may eat her child.

  21. Ryan says:


    As for writing, people need to read something beyond US weekly to get the message through. Maybe I’ll try and slip it in a Brad and Angela or american Idol article :).

  22. Virginia says:

    I would like to make one more comment about allowing guns in national parks and I know many of you wish I would stop talking about it. However, after driving up into the Beartooth Mountains to ski one last time last weekend, we saw another road sign that had been blasted with bullets. This is in the forest where guns are allowed. It was just a reminder to me what happens when certain people who carry guns with them go out into the forest. All of you who know that YOU will not shoot at someone or something in the national park when you carry your concealed weapon cannot speak for those who WILL shoot their gun at signs, animals, buildings or other people.

  23. ProWolf in WY says:

    Ryan, I think slipping anything into an article with Brangelina or American Idol will get people’s attention. Same with TomKat.

    Virginia, I don’t think you are out of line talking about guns in national parks. I am not for gun control as far as people not being allowed to have them at all, but I don’t think they need to be in national parks or wildlife refuges. I had never thought of what you had said but I am sure we will some day see bullet holes in national park signs and that will be one of the more harmless things that will happen. You can’t tell me some trigger happy person will not be tempted to shoot a buffalo in Yellowstone that is standing around like a cow in a pasture.

  24. Linda Hunter says:

    Pro Wolf in Wy and Virginia. . . a guy on the redroom blog where I post posted an idea about gun control that was interesting. He said he thought everyone in America should have a gun . . only they get only one bullet and if you shoot your bullet you have to go to a special court and explain it to get another one. This idea was so original that I thought about it for a while. Maybe some version of it, like making bullets really expensive, would help the carnage that happens when people just want to shoot something. Perhaps practice bullets could be cheap and harmless and killing bullets cost thousands or something. Someday maybe we will think of a way to have the freedom of using guns and the laws that will keep people from being free to be stupid and irresponsible with them like shooting signs and buildings and animals they don’t want to eat. . let alone someone who just pisses them off or they mistake for an elk.

  25. Laura says:

    Unfortunately the killing mentality that some have is not limited to the west. We have alot of that going on in Missouri. I was in a person’s home and saw a stuffed bobcat. I asked how he got it and he had shot it. I asked him why? He said because he saw it. I too find myself feeling ashamed to be part of the human race. I do almost anything I can to give wildlife a hand; feed the birds, get turtles, toads and frogs off the road, letters to the editor-not enough, I know. (Ryan-I need one of those cat-eating coyotes in my neighborhood. The coyotes and owls around here have yet to take advantage of the opportunity and have left me with the task of trapping and taking the neighbor’s cat to the Humane Society.)

    On a positive note-my oldest son is working in Yellowstone all summer helping another MSU student who is working on his Master’s collect data on Aspen trees. The way I understand it the data will be correlated to wolf and elk population data for more information regarding their interactions and changes in Aspen growth. When I get in that negative place of hating what humans have done and continue to do to our wild life and wild places I convince myself that eventually the good stewards for nature will outnumber the bad. I may be kidding myself but with the help of mind-altering drugs it sometimes seems plausible.

  26. ProWolf in WY says:

    Laura, I didn’ know that mentality was alive in the Midwest. I am just amazed here how they refer to predators as animals that can be shot on sight all the time. The way they say it almost seems like they should replace the word “can” with “must.” Many people in Wyoming are paranoid about coyotes and wolves eating everything. I think bobcats are considered fur bearers here though. Strangely enough, jackrabbits and porcupines are considered predators.

  27. Laura says:

    I am of the opinion that the “redneck element” is alive and procreating to some extent in most areas of the country. Some more than others and the midwest is no exception. There are areas in Missouri that might rival some of the most insidious of the western states.
    If my redneck comment offended anyone I apologize. Some use it as a term of endearment around here.

  28. JimT says:

    I must say, I remember kicking up my heels at a place called the Warehouse in Tempe Arizona in the mid 70s(grad school at ASU) to a Jerry Jeff Walker classic..”Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother”…It was a joyous mixture of shall we say beer sodden folks…LOL meeting all sorts of demographic categories…

    Speaking of odd predators, I and my wife witnessed a blue jay eating a sparrow the other day in a pine tree in our back yard. It would drop it, and repeatedly go down to get it and finished most of the carcass off, though not as thoroughly as the hawks that visit our yard. I never saw that before in my life. Any bird folks out there..is this typical behavior for this bird? It was not a western Jay…

  29. Save bears says:


    Pretty normal behavior, the Jays are a scavenger when they get the chance.

  30. Linda Hunter says:

    The voices for wildlife are loud and many . . they just don’t have the money hence the political clout. However, in our lifetime we may see that change as money shifts. A good old recession and energy crisis are the start of a money shift. Maybe something that has never happened in history before will happen. I could also write science fiction huh? 🙂

  31. Ryan says:


    The problem is that there isn’t a unified message, sounds like white noise to most :(.

  32. ProWolf in WY says:

    Laura, I know that livestock interests are always worrying about predators (not to say they don’t have some right, it is just blown out of proportion) but out west you just hear so much about predators competing for game herds. Do you see that in Missouri or is that not as much of a problem due to a lack of major predators like wolves and mountain lions?

  33. Laura says:

    Missouri has a plentiful deer population because the only recognized predator here is of the 4-wheel and 2-legged kind. They do some major crop damage and farmers can get special permits that extend after the regular season. Coyotes are treated as vermin because of sheep, I guess. Mountain lions are considered extirpated. There are mountain lion reports and a couple have been killed on the highways that have been confirmed by DNA to be dispersals but the MO Dept of Conservation contends there is no breeding population. I am not sure if they want to keep their presence a secret to protect them or because until the livestock growers have a problem they do not want to deal with it.

    JimT, I have spent a decent amount of time in what would be considered honky tonks and will still rarely turn down an invite for a cold beer. However, I have sworn off country music….

    My son has started a blog about his time in Yellowstone. It is pretty lean right now but I hope he keeps up the posts as he gets back in wi-fi range-supposedly every 10 days. The link is http://plethoraofpikas.blogspot.com/ if anyone is interested. I am off this afternoon to start to come west to YNP for a week.

  34. Virginia says:

    Laura – be sure to bring your warm clothes. It has been raining here in Cody all week, warmest temperature to date this week was 60 degrees and the high for Sunday will be 45 degrees! Yellowstone is always 5-10 degrees cooler and the rain will probably be snow. Enjoy!

  35. Linda Hunter says:

    Saw an interesting film last night in Portland called Lords of Nature explaining trophic cascade and people getting along with major predators featuring the researcher Bob Beschta from Oregon State University and hosted by the Gifford Pinchot Task Force and Defenders of Wildlife. Interesting panel discussion about Oregon and Washington wolves followed. Here is the website for the film:



‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey