A small but steady parade of vandals has prompted the Inland Empire Paper Company to ban motorized vehicle use on about 3,600 acres of timberland around Mica Peak south of Liberty Lake.
Paul Buckland, the company’s forest resource manager, said area landowners have sought the closure for years, especially agencies that have suffered vandalism around the mountaintop communications
The closure includes the company’s lands in Idaho and Washington
“This will reduce the problems property owners are having with damage while providing a higher quality recreational experience for people who hike, bike or ride horses into the area,” Buckland said. “Wildlife populations also will benefit from reduced disturbance and pressure.”
The biggest jolt will be felt by hunters, who usually have been allowed to drive the area’s 50-70 miles of forest roads during fall seasons.
For some hunters, the closure will take a little luster off the 34 moose permits the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department offers for the portion of the area in the Mica Peak Game Management Unit.
“You’re going to want some strong buddies to help haul out meat if you get a tag,” said Kevin Robinette, regional wildlife manager.
“The area also has been popular with deer hunters, a few elk hunters, and there are a few turkeys in there, too.”
IEP officials have offered moose permit holders phone numbers to contact employees who can unlock gates for restricted access to retrieve game, but they may not be available at a moment’s notice.
Fish and Wildlife police will continue to have access to patrol the area, Buckland said.
The timber company’s lands on Mica Peak are accessible from numerous points.
Starr Road is the main access point and arterial for that whole block of IEP land, Buckland said. The branch of the road beyond a gate leads to the top of the peak and is maintained by the FAA.
“Most of the minor access points – to the north and east in particular – will be blocked in some manner with tank traps, cement blocks, rocks or gates,” he said.
However, he said it would be impractical for the company to try to block all of the small tributary roads.
“Signs will be posted at all access points that we know of,” Buckland said, noting that unauthorized trails have been created.