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One seer peers into the future of the state's outdoor activities.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

What will 2005 bring for Oregon hunters, fishers, boaters and other outdoor recreationists?

No one can say with certainty, but here's one man's educated guess on some of the topics you're likely to hear discussed around boat landings and campfires:

Anglers will experience a "good news/bad news" spring chinook season in the Willamette, Santiam and McKenzie rivers.

The good news is that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are predicting another strong run of spring chinook bound for the Willamette Valley.

Their revised forecast, presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission last week, calls for 116,900 Willamette strain spring chinook to enter the mouth of the Columbia River. That's below last year's record total of 143,700, but still one of the top runs in modern times.

Also encouraging is the report that a larger-than-normal percentage of the 2005 run will be 5-year-old fish, which tend to be bigger and heavier than the 4-year-olds that typically dominate a run.

The potential "bad news" damper on the spring chinook season is that, judging by the way the winter has gone so far, water levels in the Willamette tributaries this spring may be too low and clear for good salmon fishing.

Notwithstanding the "dry" winter, there will be four to five times as much snow on the ground at Hoodoo and Willamette Pass ski areas when each closes for the 2004-05 season as there was when they opened.

The closures will be due to a lack of sufficient interest among skiers and snowboarders, not lack of snow.

Steps will be taken to tighten up the regulations governing Oregon's program of "permanently disabled hunters."

Since 1999, when the Oregon Legislature broadened the state's Persons with Disability Act to allow a broader range of hunters to qualify for ODFW Permanent Disability Permits, the number of hunters holding such permits has grown from 600 to more than 17,000.

Disability Permit holders receive either-sex permits for general and controlled hunts. And disabled permit holders now account for more than 10 percent of the either-sex harvest in 72 percent of wildlife management units statewide.

In other words, significant numbers of animals are being taken in areas where they are needed to help build up the herds.

Look for the either-sex privilege to be amended so that certain units are off-limits to the taking of antlerless animals by disabled permit holders.

Also, the ODFW has already appointed a committee to review the current definitions for "disabled hunters," and "hunting from a road." Current regulations allow Disability Permit holders to hunt deer, elk and pronghorn antelope from a parked vehicle. In some circumstances, the rules allow disabled hunters to be assisted by able-bodied companions.

The review committee will begin meeting next month and is expected to have draft recommendations ready by June.

The Oregon Legislature meets in odd-numbered years and, oddly enough, that body can be counted on to provide proposals sure to elicit a campfire comment or two.

Rumored topics of legislation that have surfaced so far range from river navigability/access to mandating the wearing of "hunter orange."

The Forest Service's move to prohibit gasoline-powered motors on Waldo Lake, first launched in 1999, will sputter ahead in 2005.

Waldo Lake will become the sailing capital of Lane County - at least until Fern Ridge Dam is repaired and that lake returns to normal depth.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will adopt a Wolf Management Plan that leaves its hunting constituency, conservationists or the ranching community - or maybe all three - miffed about some of its provisions.

However, 2005 will end with there still being no wolves living in Oregon to be "managed" by the plan.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 13, 2005
Previous Article:State helping to re-establish native species.
Next Article:BRIEFLY.

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