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Agreement continues access to timberlands

A new police-patrolled travel-management area will help keep about 680,000 acres of Southern Oregon industrial timberlands open to public access for hunting, fishing and other pursuits over the next five years.

Fueled by a $200,626 grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Access and Habitat Program, the new agreement will ensure public access to lands owned and managed by Klamath Falls-based JWTR Co.

The company's lands, which sprawl across portions of Lake, Klamath and Jackson counties, are popular among hunters targeting deer, elk, wild turkey and upland game birds.

More than 18,000 hunter days were logged on JWTR lands in 2007, according to the ODFW. The properties also provide fishing access to tributary streams of the Sprague and Klamath rivers.

Under the agreement that began Sunday, public access will remain on main roads within the timber company's holdings. The grant will be used to fund a retired Oregon State Police trooper to enforce closures and other laws within the land — similar to other travel-management areas like the one outside of Shady Cove, says Matt Keenan, who coordinates the Access and Habitat Program.

The program was initiated by biologists in the ODFW's Klamath District office after hearing rumors that JWTR might limit or ban public access on its lands to curb illegal dumping and driving on roads the company had blocked, Keenan says.

That culminated in the grant from the Access and Habitat Program, which is funded by a $2 surcharge on hunting licenses and is earmarked for hunter access and wildlife habitat projects.

Also adding to the project was a $36,840 grant from the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, which targets fish-related improvements to habitat.

Also helping fund the program were JWTR, the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Hunters Association, the Mule Deer Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Keenan says.

For information on the A&H Program, call Keenan at 503-947-6087 or visit the Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/.

The general buck-deer rifle season for adults ends Friday night, but kids with an unfilled tag will get a two-day extension for a chance to bag their buck.

This marks the third season in which the ODFW and Wildlife has extended the season for hunters under 18 years old who already bought an Oregon hunting license and general-season tag.

Since the agency earlier did away with tag-sale deadlines on general-season hunts, young hunters who have yet to buy a tag but want to take part in the weekend hunt can buy a tag today or Friday at an ODFW office through the new process, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says.

The hunt, like many other opportunities set up in Oregon, are designed to create more positive early opportunities for youngsters to try hunting. It is part of an overall ODFW strategy to recruit more hunters from the younger generation.

Low-water conditions on Southern Oregon's Chetco River prompted fish managers Wednesday to extend the angling closure there until further notice to protect fall chinook salmon from fishing pressure.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will keep closed all fishing upstream of the Highway 101 bridge. That area was set to open to anglers Saturday.

A lack of rain has kept Chetco flows low enough that large numbers of fall chinook are concentrated in the upper tidewater area east of the bridge, according to ODFW fish biologist Todd Confer.

This year's run is expected to be low, and the closure is designed to reduce their vulnerability to over-harvest.

The closure will be lifted once a freshet raises the river's water levels and allows those chinook to move upstream, according to the ODFW.

Waters downstream of the bridge remain open to salmon and steelhead fishing, with the limit of two chinook per day, of which only one can be a wild chinook.

Only two wild chinook can be kept per angler on the lower Chetco tidewater this season.

Three Oregon water bodies still face public advisories for toxic blue-green algae after an advisory was lifted Monday for Haystack Reservoir on the Crooked River National Grassland.

Water bodies still sporting the scarlet A for "algae" are Tenmile Lakes and Sru Lake near Powers in Coos County and Blue Lake in Multnomah County, according to the state Department of Human Services.

The voluntary advisories warn against water contact for people and pets until two weeks after the algae blooms die. The algae gives off its toxins as the mats die, and the two weeks allows for the toxins to dissipate naturally.

That two-week window ended Monday for Haystack Reservoir, which is in the natural grassland about 10 miles east of Madras in Jefferson County.

The advisory against contact at Sru Lake went into effect Sept. 9, followed by Tenmile Lakes on Sept. 18. The Blue Lake advisory began Oct. 15.

During health advisories, DHS officials warn against ingesting or inhaling the lakes' water droplets and advise keeping pets and small children away. Since the algae cannot be killed from boiling, anglers are asked to practice catch-and-release fishing during the advisories.

A similar algae outbreak in August along the Umpqua River led to Oregon's first confirmed death of a dog from toxic poisoning.

For more information on blue-green algae and up-to-date listings of tainted water bodies, check the DHS Web site at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/hab/.