Fish & Feathers: Crabbing, plus other issues

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>Jim Dunlap of Washougal enjoys a day of recreational crabbing on the Lower Columbia.

Crabbing, plus other issuesCommercial crabbers have been cleared for a Dec. 1 opener, barring any price disputes with canneries.

Tests conducted in the past few weeks have confirmed that meat/crab rations have reached acceptable levels clearing the way for the dropping of commercial pots on Nov. 28.

Environmental IssuesEnvironmental issues constantly being introduced in a flood of litigation to tie up the courts and expend Fish and Wildlife budgets include:

Western gray squirrel: Three environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 4 seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Western gray squirrel for protection under the Endangered Species Act, saying a proposed highway in Pierce County threatens it.

The groups Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, the Tahoma Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity contend that a highway slated to cut through Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force would threaten the rare squirrel. In the early 1990s, researchers counted 81 Washington grays near Fort Lewis; a more thorough survey in 1998 and 1999 found only six.

Sounds like they should close Fort Lewis - a gunnery range is not the ideal place to breed squirrels.

Northern spotted owl: The Seattle and Kittitas Audubon Society and the Washington Forest Law Center told U.S. Timberland and the State Department of Natural Resources to make logging practices in Western Washington Cascades friendlier to the Northern spotted owl within 60 days or gear up for a court battle. They claim logging in the Teanaway River Valley, near Cle Elum, has been too aggressive in recent years, jeopardizing critical habitat for the threatened owl.

"All these issues were brought up with the [state] Forest Practices Board in March, and it was a unanimous vote - that they were baseless," said U.S. Timberlands spokesman Tomas Ludlow.

The logging practices in this area follow some of the toughest forest regulations in North America.

DNR spokesman Todd Myers said, "I would give Peter Goldman [environmentalist representative] an A for persistence, but an F on science and law."

Myers and Ludlow question the accuracy of the spotted own population count, but they suggested one possible factor in any decline: a rise in the number of barred owls that feed on spotted owls.

One predator feeding on another ... isn't that the way nature works? Do we detect a barred owl hunting season in the wind?

Nautical OriginsThree Sheets to the Wind - A sheet is a rope line which controls the tension on the downwind side of a square sail. If, on a three-masted, fully-rigged ship, the sheets of the three lower course sails are fully loose, the sails will flap and flutter and are said to be "in the wind." A ship in this condition would stagger and wander aimlessly downwind.

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