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After several years, Congress agrees to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area near Seattle by an additional 22,000 acres.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness area is located in the Cascade Mountains, north and east of Snoqualmie Pass. Most of the 22,000-acre expansion is located to the north and west of the current wilderness area boundaries.

This wilderness bill represents the largest one-time expansion of the national parks system since 1978. The wilderness area expansion also designates the Pratt River and a segment of Middle Fork Snoqualmie River as Wild and Scenic Rivers, affording them additional protections as well.

seattle-wilderness-mapThe wilderness area is located within a 45-minute drive of Seattle, making it convenient for city dwellers to retreat quickly.

Rep. Dave Reichert, who has been pushing the bill since 2007, said he hoped the expansion would economically benefit towns like North Bend and Snoqualmie, since visitors will likely be drawn by the new designation.

Rep. Reichert passed the bill through the House in 2010, while Sen. Patty Murray got the Senate to approve it in 2013. However, the bill never passed both chambers in the same congressional session. As a result, the Alpine Lakes expansion was one of nearly 100 public land measures that were inserted into an unrelated defense policy bill that ultimately passed on Dec. 12, 2014.

The new designation will permanently prohibit logging, roads, development and mountain bikes on these lands. During the course of negotiations with mountain bike advocacy groups, however, the boundary was moved to exclude the popular Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail. This trail was instead designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers program, which does allow mechanized and motorized vehicles on such designated lands.

Several other public lands measures in Washington were passed by the Senate. They include:

Illabot Creek in Skagit County, which will be designated a Wild and Scenic River.

Hanford’s B Reactor near Richland, which will become one of three sites for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The boundary between the Stephen Mather Wilderness and North Cascades National Park, which will be reconfigured so a 10-mile stretch of destroyed road in Stehekin Valley north of Lake Chelan can be rebuilt.

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Camping presents a great opportunity for kids to learn and grow in the world’s greatest classroom. Go take your kids camping.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be easy to think of camping as an extraneous activity. After all, it’s fun, and fun can often come low on the list of priorities behind work, school, practices, performances, etc. Camping is more than just fun though. It’s growth. It’s learning. It’s something every child needs to experience. Looking for a reason to escape reality and get out into the wilderness with your kids? We’ve got five of them.

1. Because the real world is more fun than the TV.

Our children face more electronic distractions than any generation before them. In a world in which cartoons are available on multiple platforms, and video games, apps and social media are everywhere, children often learn that fun comes in iPhone form. Camping can change that. Roasting marshmallows over an open fire, playing flashlight tag and going to bed with a view of the stars teaches kids that there are experiences waiting for them outside of the tablet.

2. Because self-reliance is easiest learned outside.

Many believe we may be raising a modern generation of coddled kids. Camping will fix that right up. Your child can learn to fish for the food he or she will be roasting over the fire that evening, or to build a tent to enjoy shelter from the elements that night. Kids gain confidence by completing tasks in self-sufficiency, so something as little as lighting the campfire can encourage them to continue taking on responsibilities that are the bricks that pave the path to self-reliance.

3. Because it’s easier to stay in shape.

You burn a lot more calories walking back and forth from the water supply than sitting in front of the TV. Camping requires a lot of physical output. Whether you’re just collecting firewood and setting up tents, or adding hiking, fishing and hunting to the mix, maintaining a proper campsite takes energy. It takes movement, and kids that are raised in an active lifestyle tend to continue that into adulthood. This means an increased advantage for maintaining good physical health.

bigstock-Kids-in-wilderness-walking-acr-140864244. Because time moves a little slower when you’re not looking at a clock.

Today, we are all busy. The work hours pass by slowly and the fun flies by. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we want to get done because all too often, our lives are controlled by the clock, and the same is true of our kids. Let camping change that. The only times you need to know are when you’re arriving and when you’re heading out, and both are flexible. While you’re camping, you can let the sun and moon guide your priorities. Give your kids a chance to kiss the clock goodbye, if only for a weekend.

5. Because you find family outside of the phone.

My son learned how to operate an iPad at 18 months old, and was better at it than me by age four. Some days, texting his girlfriend and playing “Call of Duty” will probably seem a whole lot more important than hanging out with his mother, but not when we’re camping. Camping offers your family a unique opportunity to put down the electronics and rely solely on each other for entertainment, meals and discussion. I know someday he will outgrow me being the person he wants to do everything with, but he’s never going to outgrow our memories made around the campfire.

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These homemade rice bag hand warmers will have you outside quite a bit longer!

Check out how to make these rice bag hand warmers for your hunting and fishing adventures this winter.

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Start out with fabric squares that are 3″ by 3″. Choose color of choice.

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Sew 3 sides to start with cotton thread.

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Add bulk rice to your pouch.

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Sew the fourth side and cut the extra fabric off.

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Your hand warmer is done!

Place rice bag hand warmers in the microwave for up to 30 seconds, tuck them in your gloves and you will have warm hands for hours. Neat thing is with these hand warmers, is that your body heat will keep them warm too, extending the warming length of time.

Make the bags bigger sizes for back, knee or other pain while at home. They make great gifts too!

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Stay warm out there!

Photos: Eric Nestor

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Do deer really act differently during the hunting season? Biologists at Penn State say yes.

The Penn State deer study is being conducted by the college’s department of agricultural studies with the intent of studying deer-population management in the Keystone State.

Currently in its second year, the study will go on for five years, and so far, biologists have documented a certain change in the behavior of deer during the hunting season.

Several collars have been attached to does and bucks that live in the Bald Eagle, Rothrock and Susquehannock state forests to better understand this behavioral alteration. These collars track deer movements through GPS and transmit signals regarding their location every few hours in the summer, fall and spring, and more frequently during the archery and firearm seasons.

Duane Diefenbach, leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, told reporters of their early observations:

“There’s nothing to suggest these deer are being impacted by the hunting that’s going on to any great extent. But once the rifle season begins, we see some pretty dramatic differences. Some of these bucks will leave their home range and go places we’ve never seen them in the previous 10 months. It’s pretty amazing.”

These changes seem to occur exclusively during the week of the firearm hunting season. but where do the deer go? According to Chris Rosenberry, head of the deer and elk section for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, deer have been going wherever hunters can’t, don’t or won’t go.

The Penn State deer study subjects are making good use of their hiding spots, as only 10 percent of collared does and merely 20 percent of collared bucks have been harvested so far.

“The odds are stacked against the hunter,” Rosenberry told reporters. “These deer are not nearly as predictable as hunters would like them to be.”

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A moose charges through snow past Canadian skiers just eating their bagels.

This moose shows the skiers it doesn’t take much to move full speed through several feet of snow, even without skis.

The French Canadians stand there a bit overwhelmed, munching on bagels.

The moose charges through snow pretty close to the skiers tracks. Even though the snow looks light, it’s pretty cool to see how powerful the moose is.

Even though I don’t speak French, I am pretty sure I understood, “Huge!” and maybe some universal expletives.

That is why you don’t get between a moose and its destination.

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The wandering grizzly bear has traveled 2,800 miles across mountains, highways, and city boundaries, and researchers have no idea why.

Biologists were tracking the 20-year-old sow, nicknamed Ethyl across Montana and Idaho for nearly eight years until her radio collar recently shut off.

According to the Missoulian, Ethyl has made a 2,800-mile journey, which is equivalent to the distance between Florida and Washington. It’s highly unusual for a grizzly bear to wander so far and for so long.

“The one thing we can say is this was not representative of normal bear movement, and certainly not female grizzly bear movement,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “She had some really bizarre travels.”

Ethyl has crossed mountain peaks, forests, highways, interstates, landfills, major city boundaries, downtown areas, and backyards without interfering with humans. That may be because she was captured by humans twice, and doesn’t want it to happen again. Her captures could also explain why she has embarked on such an epic walkabout.

Ethyl grew up near Lake Blaine, Idaho in the Bigfork Mountains. In 2006, she was captured while stealing apples from an orchard and was moved to the Wounded Buck Creek drainage area.

The sow’s love of apples got the best of her again in 2012 when she was captured in another orchard with her 2-year-old cub. Ethyl and her cub were relocated to another remote wilderness area and shortly after left her cub and started to roam.

grizzly-journeyEthyl began her journey roaming the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana and then headed north to the Mission Mountains. From there, she traveled further north towards Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and denned in the Panhandle. Ethyl even stopped at a few apple orchards along the way.

She lost her collar in October. The last place she was seen was heading west to Eureka through Glacier National Park.

Female bears normally have a home range of 50 to 150 miles, and males can travel up to 600 miles, so it’s bizarre that Ethyl has roamed so far.

“It kind of makes you wonder what’s on her mind,” said Kellogg Police Chief David Wuolle, after the bear passed by his town.

In her entire three-year ramble, the one place Ethyl missed was her home range in the Bigfork Mountains. Maybe she was lost trying to find her way home. Maybe she wanted to sample the region’s apple orchards.

Maybe she was lost trying to find her way home.

Perhaps she wanted to sample the region’s orchards.

Or maybe she’s like those of us with wanderlust, who sometimes just feel the need to ramble.