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Recent winter storms have been good for Grangeville's Snowhaven Ski Area, putting fresh powder across the hill for eager skiers and snowboarders. Pictured here were recreationists enjoying Saturday afternoon, Feb. 9.

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How much difference a month can make: The Jan. 4 SNOTEL data showed the Clearwater River basin running ahead of average, but as of Feb. 1, the basin had slipped from 102 percent of the 1981-2010 median to 87 percent. Parts to the south and west saw their snow-water equivalent scores climb fr…

Three public meetings for Idaho Fish and Game to gather public input on how to manage spring and summer chinook salmon fisheries in the Clearwater Region have been scheduled for next month. Managers will hear thoughts and ideas about how to run the Clearwater River basin, Lower Salmon River,…

At Cottonwood: The Monastery of St. Gertrude chapel was filled with more than 200 people attending last Saturday’s Jan. 12 performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Palouse Choral Society Chamber Choir.

Visitors to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests should be prepared for a closure in effect on part of Cove Road (Forest Service road 279), located on the Salmon River Ranger District, due to work on the Doc Denny 2 timber sale. The road will be closed weekdays, Monday through Friday, and open on weekends. The combined forests issued an order Wednesday, Jan. 2, closing part of the road from mile 16 to just past mile 20.

The Clearwater River basin in the place to be, if you’re looking for snow, according to the Jan. 4 U.S. Department of Agriculture SNOTEL data. Compared to history, the Clearwater countryside – which spans a vast swath of Idaho County – has received 102 percent of average, and 100 percent of median precipitation since Oct. 1.

Michael Hileman had hunted on Bureau of Land Management ground in the Kamiah-area for three decades, the Idaho Press Tribune reported in October, but was hit with a trespassing infraction after a hunt with his stepdaughter this past season.

"Today is traditionally our biggest day of the year," Snowhaven Ski & Tubing Area manager Scott Wasem told the Free Press Wednesday morning, Dec. 26. "We're expecting a big crowd today, and it has been our largest in terms of people and money for years and years."

Idaho County Commissioners Skip Brandt and Denis Duman last week signed off on a letter to Gov. Otter and the Idaho Land Board which states the county “would not oppose the concept” even though “concerned about the loss of tax dollars that ultimately benefit our schools.”

With fresh snow having fallen Thursday night on a groomed base of snow at Snowhaven Ski and Tubing Area, manager Scott Wasem told the Free Press the hill will indeed be opening as anticipated, starting Saturday, Dec. 22.

“It came down to today for me,” 15-year Riggins resident and river guide Rusty Peterson told the Free Press after festivities on Dec. 8 shifted downtown. “I was ready to pack up, put my house to rent and go do something else.”

Now the fishermen are lawyering up. A notice of intent to sue filed in October was met by an Idaho Fish and Game commission decision to close the winter steelhead fishing season at the end of the last day of the notice period, Dec. 7. The closure stands to ripple through river communities from Orofino to Riggins that depend on steelhead fishing to bring anglers – and their wallets – to town during otherwise slow winter months.

The National Ski Patrol is offering an Outdoor Emergency Care Course starting next month in Grangeville. An organizational meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12, at the Soltman Center in Grangeville, to give candidates information on how to enroll and the logistics of the course. Classes will start on Jan. 9.

Three Rivers Rafting has changed ownership. Parts of the business were purchased by both Hughes River Expeditions, and Hunt Paddison and Mira Warner. All float boat and fishing operations on the upper Selway River through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area will now be conducted under permit by Hughes River Expeditions.

Idaho has seen steelhead returns come in low from time to time in the past, and the state has also seen counts come back strong in years that followed, as happened during the late 1990s and during the recent relative high of 2014. But following on last year’s dismal return, this year’s low return will hit Idaho’s fishing communities hard in a way that has not been seen during the modern era of state management. Since the mid-’70s, when the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan Hatcheries came online, the state has reliably kept up fall steelhead fishing through December.

Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore on Nov. 6 announced he will retire from the department in Jan. 2019 after a 42-year career in fish and wildlife management. Moore has served as director since 2011, and intends to remain until his replacement has been selected by the Fish and Game Commission and is in place.

Weather conditions permitting, fire managers plan to begin prescribed fire operations immediately and through the fall in the Barnard Junction, Moose Kelly, Weitas, and other project areas across the forest. Many of the planned areas have remained relatively untouched by fire for almost a century.

“We had a good season this year,” and, in fact, “…really boring,” said Scott Wasem, manager for Snowhaven Ski and Tubing Hill, reporting to the Grangeville City Council at its March 19 meeting. “Boring” in the fact that mechanical problems were at a minimum – “One derail the whole season,” he said – and “good” as operations went well, and the hill made $102,612. “Everything ran smoothly; it was just really good,” he said, for the city-owned and operated facility this season that went from Dec. 26 to March 10.

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