Regional News

WDFW plans controlled burns on wildlife areas in Eastern Washington

News Release


Sep 20, 2019

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will perform controlled burns on its public lands this fall to reduce the risk of wildfire; improve habitat for animals such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep; and improve public safety.  

WDFW manages one million acres of public lands and operates the state’s only prescribed fire management teams. The teams include five full- time foresters and 18 burn-team members. Their work with small, controlled burns this past spring and summer helped to prevent larger wildfires.

“By burning off accumulations of vegetation and logging debris, we can reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfires that destroy wildlife habitat,” said WDFW Prescribed Fire Manager Matt Eberlein. “It’s not a question of whether we’ll have fires on these lands, but rather when, and the degree to which we can reduce the damage they do.”

With funding from the state’s 2019-2021 Capital Budget and other grant funds, prescribed fire is planned to treat 10,000 acres by 2021.The work will preserve ecosystems and enable people to continue using their Fish and Wildlife public lands. Because WDFW lands are often located between communities and larger expanses of federal lands, they can be critical in reducing the risk of wildfires around communities.

Restoration fires in the following popular areas will begin September 30 at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. All burns currently planned for this season are listed below. Click each link for a map of the burn area.

Oak Creek Wildlife Area, 120 acres in Yakima County, 15 miles west of Naches

Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, 524 acres in Ferry County, 10 mile west of Kettle Falls

Rustler’s Gulch Wildlife Area, 523 acres in Pend Oreille County, 15 miles southwest of Newport

Colockum Wildlife Area, 500 acres in Chelan County, 10 miles southeast of Wenatchee

Grouse Flats Wildlife Area, 400 acres in Asotin County, 40 miles southwest of Clarkston

The Department may plan and announce additional eastern Washington burns on WDFW lands as conditions allow.

Controlled burns are monitored continuously until out, according to Eberlein, with public safety being a major concern. Signs are posted to inform recreationists about the fires but smoke and visibility can still be an issue.

“Smoke from planned fires can make its way into populated areas,” he said. “We work to minimize smoke, but watch for fire personnel or equipment and slow down if you experience reduced visibility on roadways, particularly at night or in the early morning.”

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife actively manages approximately 1 million acres of land and over 500 water access areas across the state to preserve natural and cultural heritage, provide access for hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related recreation, and to foster experiences and exploration for thousands of Washingtonians and visitors each year.

 


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