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Love nature? Consider volunteering at Rock Springs

DECATUR — The Macon County Conservation District is encouraging people to explore volunteer opportunities in the year ahead. Candidates ages 18 and over can give as much or as little time as they like, helping with projects and programs.

The Rock Springs Nature Center and Conservation area rely on volunteer help for their educational programs, historic interpretation, youth programs, special events and more, working with the public or behind the scenes, the district said.

For information and to apply, call Jenny Garver at (217) 423-7708. Volunteer application forms are available online at maconcountyconservation.org.

No Yellowstone grizzly hunts in Montanta

BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana won't hold a grizzly bear hunt in 2018 after state officials said Thursday they want to avoid complicating lawsuits over the animal's legal status.

Federal officials last year lifted Endangered Species Act protections for about 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park, opening the door to potential hunting in the three-state region.

Montana wildlife commissioners said letting hunters kill some of those bears could give momentum to pending legal challenges that seek to restore protections.

Wildlife advocates and Native Americans who brought the lawsuits had argued that hunting would reverse the species decades-long recovery.

Commissioners voted unanimously against a hunt this year. But Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion said Thursday's action doesn't preclude a Montana grizzly hunt in the future.

Grizzly hunting in Wyoming could begin this fall after state officials said last month they want hunting regulations drafted.

The Wave draws crowds

SALT LAKE CITY — Demand continues to rise for the 20 daily permits to hike a geological gem on the Arizona-Utah border called The Wave, which features mesmerizing swirls of searing reds, oranges and yellow in bowl-shaped rock formations.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports more than 160,000 people applied for the 7,300 yearly permits last year to take the hike, which crosses the state border in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area.

The number of applicants increased by 20 percent last year and is up from 87,000 in 2013.

The Bureau of Land Management issues the permits — half through a monthly online lottery and half through daily drawings at the Kanab visitor center.

In the online lottery held last week for May hikes, about 2,800 people entered for permits on May 5 alone.

Nature preserve damaged for illegal bike trail

INDIANAPOLIS — Two men are accused of damaging a nature preserve in an Indiana state park by building an illegal mountain biking trail.

Capt. William Browne of the Indianapolis Department of Natural Resources says herbicide and shovels were used at the nature preserve inside Fort Harrison State Park. The damaged areas include a heron rookery that is closed off to people.

The two Indianapolis-area men, both 54 years old, are charged with criminal mischief and trespassing. Browne says it could take five to seven years to restore the damaged areas.

He says, "I have no idea" why someone would harm a nature preserve.

Nine infected deer killed in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. — Hunters killed at least nine infected deer during a pair of special hunts intended to gauge the prevalence of a newly-found wildlife disease in Montana, state officials said Friday.

The infected animals were among more than 450 deer killed during the hunts in Carbon and Liberty counties, which were held in response to the appearance last fall of chronic wasting disease. The fatal neurological illness is endemic in surrounding states and provinces and affects deer, elk and moose.

Eight of the nine infections found to date in Montana were shot in Carbon County. Tests still are pending on some animals killed in the special hunts. Results are expected to be available in about two weeks.

State officials hope to keep the prevalence rate below 5 percent of animals in any given population, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon. On Thursday, wildlife commissioners approved maximum quotas of up to 5,000 deer, 1,000 elk and 20 moose that could be killed during special hunts over the next two years.

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