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PUBLIC LANDS — Target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area will be restricted to the hours between sunrise and 10 a.m. from May 22-Sept. 30 because of fire danger, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.
The department has restricted target shooting on the wildlife area, located between Yakima and Ellensburg, every year since 2012. This year’s restriction takes effect earlier in the year and reduces by one hour the number of hours per day that target shooting is allowed, said Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the WDFW wildlife area.
With drought conditions across the state, anyone heading outdoors for the long Memorial Day weekend should be aware of fire risks, said Clay Sprague, manager of the WDFW lands division.
- Information about local fire-danger is available here.
“It’s essential that we protect public lands for both recreation and wildlife habitat,” Sprague said.
Shooting on the Wenas is being allowed in early morning when the risk of starting a wildfire is less severe.
According to the WDFW media release:
Target shooting has caused several wildfires on the wildlife area in recent years including three fires in 2014 alone. Last summer’s Cottonwood No. 2 fire burned almost 9,000 acres and cost $800,000 to suppress. Restoration of the charred landscape has cost another $500,000 so far.
“Last year’s fires followed by this year’s drought compel us to take a more cautious approach,” Confer Morris said.
Public notice of the limited hours announced today will be posted at all entry points and at established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.
WDFW adopted the restriction in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.
In addition to this restriction, the department is considering a proposal to permanently restrict target shooting to two designated sites and would continue to restrict target shooting to morning hours during late spring and summer, when fire danger is the greatest. The department held two public meetings this spring to discuss this target-shooting proposal for the Wenas Wildlife Area.
WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing a plan for target shooting on the wildlife area. The department expects to make the decision later this fall.
Like all of WDFW's wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.
Lands manager Sprague reminds people who plan to visit WDFW wildlife areas in south central Washington – including the Wenas, Colockum, L.T. Murray, Oak Creek and Sunnyside-Snake River wildlife areas – of a campfire ban that’s in place through Oct. 15. Visitors to the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties also should be aware of a campfire ban until Oct. 31.
Find more information on WDFW wildlife areas.
CONSERVATION — The Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation and Access Plan — a guidebook for managing 230,000 acres of state lands — has been released by the Washington state departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The recreation plan covers lands from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.
The plan addresses recreation in the Naneum Ridge State Forest, managed by DNR, the Colockum Wildlife Area, and the Quilomene and Whiskey Dick units of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, managed by WDFW.
Following is a summary from a release posted by the two agencies:
The recreation plan culminates a 3-year planning process and collaborative effort between the agencies, local user and community groups, and a volunteer advisory committee, which included members from a wide range of interests. Committee members donated more than 1,200 hours of volunteer time in 20 public meetings.
“The public played an integral role,” said Brock Milliern, statewide recreation manager for the agencies. “By planning proactively we can ensure that recreation develops here in a way respects the local desire to maintain rural and agricultural activities, meets the agencies’ needs, and expands sustainable recreation and economic opportunities for the public and surrounding communities.”
The plan will guide DNR and WDFW in sustainable management of the recreation planning area for the next 10 to 15 years.
“This was a huge effort by the committee members, the public and the agencies to find balance among competing interests for fish, wildlife, land management and compatible recreation,” said Mike Livingston, regional director for WDFW. “This plan sets us up to achieve that balance.”
As the plan is implemented, DNR and WDFW will continue to consult with local groups to expand safe and sustainable recreation opportunities for the public and surrounding communities.
- Providing and maintaining the Green Dot road network, which offers a system for public vehicle and off-road vehicle use and access to recreation opportunities throughout the planning area. WDFW will offer more Green Dot roads on its lands in Kittitas County.
- Providing trail opportunities for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking in the forested portions of the Naneum Ridge State Forest and the Colockum Wildlife Area, including a north-south trail in the northern and western sections of the planning area that will offer greater access to recreation.
- Providing off-road trail opportunities for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and 4X4s, through discussion with user groups and the public.
- Developing a non-motorized winter trail system and a new non-motorized parking area in the Stemilt Basin area.
- Continuing to provide snowmobile access in the planning area.
- Improving road and trail linkages to public land west of the planning area, including the Wenatchee National Forest.
- WDFW plans to pursue partnership opportunities with local governments and non-profit organizations to design, develop, manage and maintain a shooting range facility.
WILDLIFE — Under a state plan adopted eight years ago, about 44,000 acres of wildlife land in Kittitas County east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1 through April 30 to protect wintering elk.
The winter closure includes portions of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, which is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The closure only restricts motorized vehicle access; the public may still access the area by foot, horseback, or mountain bike, wildlife officials say.
The area subject to the closure is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River. This is the eighth year of the seasonal closure of the wildlife area lands, said Scott McCorquodale, WDFW regional wildlife manager.
About 2,000 elk - nearly half the Colockum elk herd - winter on the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene sections of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.
"Vehicle traffic can disturb these elk and reduce their use of habitat near roads," McCorquodale said. "Reducing vehicle traffic on the wildlife area also may encourage wintering elk to remain on the public land rather than straying to nearby private lands."
The winter closure is included in the new Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation and Access Plan, developed over three years by WDFW and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and released today. The plan addresses recreation and public access for roughly 230,000 acres of DNR and WDFW land stretching from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.
One road that receives minimal winter traffic, will remain open to the public. The road travels south from Quilomene Ridge Road along Jackknife Ridge to the northern boundary of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. From there, a three-mile stretch of road through the park ultimately connects with Old Vantage Highway. Washington State Parks manages the park road under a permit system, providing free permits onsite.
The three-month seasonal closure is consistent with winter-range closures elsewhere in the state, including the Oak Creek and Wenas wildlife areas.
Seasonal closures also occur on critical big-game winter ranges in several other western states, including Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to buy more 4-0 Ranch land along the Grande Ronde River and updated rules for work that impacts state waters during a meeting last week in Olympia.
The commission approved the purchase of 2,005 acres of riparian and high meadow lands in Asotin County, the latest deal in a six-phase decade-long real estate program to buy nearly 12,000 acres of the Odom/4-O Land & Livestock, LLC.
The land will be purchased with $3.6 million in state and federal funding and be added to the the 6,431 acres the state already has acquired from rancher Milt (Mike) Odom II. The funding sources include the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is acquiring the land to expand the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area of the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex and preserve critical habitat for threatened salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as deer, bighorn sheep and elk.
The new acquisition, when closed with the 4-O Land & Livestock, LLC, will include a mile-long section of the Grande Ronde River and stretches 1.5 miles on either side of Wenatchee Creek.
“This acquisition contains some of the best wildlife mosaic currently available. Historically, the property has been managed as a working ranch with a focus on wildlife habitat providing trophy big game hunting opportunities. Management practices include scattered dry land farming, moderate cattle grazing and timber production. The value of this property includes riparian habitats beneficial to endangered fish species and forestland and high meadow complexes beneficial to ungulates including bighorn sheep, deer and elk,” said Julie Sandberg, WDFW real estate manager.
Past stories related to the 4-0 Ranch acquisitions include:
- Landers: Saving wildlife habitats critical, 2014
- Washington’s Fish and Wildlife riles Asotin County with land buys, 2014
- Land acquired for wildlife conservation in 2013, 2014
- New wildlife land in Asotin County off-limits to some hunters, 2012
- State acquiring land along Grande Ronde River, 2011
The commission also approved dozens of changes in the statewide hydraulics rules during a public meeting on Friday and Saturday. Common projects requiring approval under the state's hydraulic rules include work on bulkheads, culverts, piers and docks.
Miranda Wecker, who chairs the commission, said the revised hydraulic code rules reflect developments in environmental science, technology, and state law since the last comprehensive update in 1994.
The updated rules also “reflect the department's efforts to streamline the application process for permits required to conduct work in and around state waters," she said.
Some of the rules proposed by WDFW set new standards for projects ranging from culvert design to decking materials that allow light to penetrate to the water below. Others clarify existing policies, including a statewide ban on the use of creosote in aquatic areas.
WILDLIFE — Free programs on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians, geology, wildfire history and prescribed burn management will be featured this weekend, Aug. 23-24, as the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary celebration continues in northcentral Okanogan County.
It’s the fourth summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series to spotlight the state's first wildlife area. All sessions begin at Sinlahekin headquarters, south of Loomis.
Sessions are scheduled on both Saturday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 24, about the Sinlahekin’s wildfire history and prescribed burn management.
On Saturday afternoon, Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin will lead a session on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians of the Sinlahekin, including close-up views and handling.
On Sunday morning, local geologists Don Hruska and Gary Mundinger will provide a primer on Sinlahekin geology for independent exploring of the Sinlahekin’s geologic features.
Click here for more details for the Aug. 23-24 weekend sessions, a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27), and directions.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Experts will be making free presentations on bats, bears, bighorns and much more July 26-27 on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County as the celebration continues for the 75th anniversary of Washington’s FIRST wildlife area.
It’s the third summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series of free public field trips and presentations on the fauna, flora, geology and history of the area south of Loomis.
- See the complete schedule and driving directions to Sinlahekin headquarters where all sessions begin.
Sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 26, include:
- Bighorn sheep of the Sinlahekin by Okanogan assistant district wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen.
- Bats of the Sinlahekin by wildlife biologists Ella Rowan and Neal Hedges.
Sessions scheduled on both Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, include:
- Forests of the Sinlahekin by U.S. Forest Service and Washington State University foresters;
- Role of wildfires in the evolution of the Sinlahekin’s landscape by a Central Washington University paleobotanist;
- Historical photo point tour by veteran Sinlahekin manager Dale Swedberg;
- Bears, cougars, coyotes and other carnivores by Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.
Click here for more information about the July 26-27 weekend sessions, and a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Aug. 23-24, Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27).
PUBLIC LANDS — The Nature Conservancy has purchased 1,280 acres of timberland from Plum Creek in the Manastash area west of Ellensburg, and transferred it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to be managed as part of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.
This acquisition is the most recent in a decade-long project to eliminate a "checkerboard pattern" of public and private land and create large blocks of public lands in the Cascade Mountains.
Partnerships including the state agency, TNC, the Yakama Nation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have brought more than 25,000 acres of private timberlands into public ownership as part of the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative.
The program assures public access to these lands as it heads off the possibility of the timber company selling the properties to private interests that could install locked gates.
"These particular sections are full of streams and tributaries that flow into the Yakima River," TNC says in a media release. "Conserving this forest will protect valuable river habitat for wildlife as well as ensure water downstream for people, fish, and the rich agriculture of the Yakima Valley.
Plum Creek has played an important role in keeping these forests intact while the Conservancy brought together financing to bring them into public ownership.
- “Protecting the streams and forests in this region supports the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan, assuring water for people, salmon, wildlife and farms into the future," said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy.
- "Plum Creek recognizes the public benefits of this project and is pleased to participate in the partnership that achieved this important conservation outcome,” said Jerry Sorensen, senior director of land management for Plum Creek.
- “Together, we’re ensuring that the public will continue to have access to this land for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping,” said Mike Livingston, Southcentral Region director for WDFW. “This diverse habitat supports threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, steelhead, spotted owls and wolves, as well as big-game such as mule deer and elk.”
The Washington Department of Ecology provided funding for this project through its Office of Columbia River.
WILDLIFE — The 75th anniversary celebration for Washington’s first wildlife area – the Sinlahekin in northcentral Okanogan County near Loomis– continues with free public field trips and presentations on butterflies, bats, deer and more on Saturday and Sunday, July 5-6.
Sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the July 5-6 sessions are the second in the “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” summer weekend series on the area’s fauna, flora, geology and history.
- See the complete schedule and driving directions to Sinlahekin headquarters where all sessions begin.
Sessions are led by scientists, researchers, and experts from colleges and universities and other natural resource management agencies, along with WDFW staff.
Saturday's offerings include a butterfly tour and programs on grassland ecology, "Predators, Parasitoids, Pollinators and Pretty Insects," "Deer and Moose," and ending with an evening program on bats.
Sunday's activities include a butterfly tour and programs on "Restoring Altered Habitat," "Dragonflies and Damselflies," and "Deer and Moose."
The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, which covers 14,314 acres west of U.S. Highway 97 between Loomis and Conconully, was established in 1939 to protect winter range for mule deer. The first parcels of mule deer winter range were purchased with revenue from a federal tax on hunting arms and ammunition. The area’s diversity of fish and wildlife today draws not just hunters and fishers, but also wildlife watchers, hikers, campers, and other outdoor recreationists.
PUBLIC LANDS — The entire Wenas Wildlife Area has been closed to target shooting until Oct. 1 after several wildfires have burned the property near Ellensburg, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.
The closure bans target shooting 24 hours a day at the wildlife area. Public notice of the closure will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites.
WDFW adopted the closure in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.
Cindi Confer Morris, who manages the WDFW wildlife area, noted the agency restricted target-shooting to morning hours earlier this month, a step WDFW has taken the last three years to reduce wildfire risk.
"Even with the restrictions, four wildfires have been started on or near the wildlife area already this year," Confer Morris said.
The most recent fire, which scorched nearly 10,000 acres, is believed to have started at a nearby Cottonwood Creek shooting area and spread across the wildlife area. Two other fires at the Wenas Wildlife Area were sparked by target shooting; fireworks started a fourth.
According to wildfire experts at DNR, people cause 85 percent of Washington's wildfires. Common causes include unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers on dry grass, target shooting and careless disposal of cigarettes.
"This area and the rest of eastern Washington are experiencing drier than usual conditions, which call for added precaution," Confer Morris said. "It's important for the public to take steps to preserve public recreation lands and wildlife habitat."
Confer Morris said the ban applies to this year's fire season only. WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing rules for target shooting on the wildlife area.
Like all of WDFW's wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has restrictions on campfires and prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.
SHOOTING — To reduce the risk of wildfires, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is restricting target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area near Yakima and Ellensburg.
From June 2-Sept. 30, target shooting is restricted to the hours between sunrise and 11 a.m.
Public notice of the limited hours will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.
WDFW adopted the rule in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.
Temporary target-shooting restrictions adopted in the past two years have helped to reduce the number of wildfires sparked by bullets on those lands, said Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the WDFW wildlife area.
Since 2012, four fires attributed to target shooting have burned 37 acres in the wildlife area, she said. By comparison, target shooting caused six fires, scorching more than 600 acres in the two years prior to the adoption of summer shooting restrictions.
“All four of the wildfires sparked by target shooting since 2012 occurred in June before the restrictions went into effect,” Confer Morris said. “Given that experience, we decided we needed to begin the restrictions earlier, rather than waiting until we started having fires.”
Cost, as well as habitat protection, is a significant consideration in preventing wildfires, she said. In the three years prior to adopting shooting restrictions, WDFW’s fire suppression and restoration costs in the wildlife area averaged $70,000 per year, compared to $7,500 per year since 2012.
“We are supporting efforts by Kittitas County to find an appropriate location to develop a public range that would be safe for the public to use year-round,” she said. Sun Targets, a shooting range in Moxee, may also be an alternative for target shooting near the south end of the wildlife area.
Like all of WDFW’s wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has restrictions on campfires and prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County starting Saturday.
The list is long and offerings are impressive.
- See my feature story about the celebration, and the reasons for it.
Events are scheduled for this weekend as well as on June 14-15, July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7.
OUTDOORS TRAVEL — If you're looking for an outdoors-related road trip, complete with opportunities for hiking, fishing and wildlife watching, consider the drive to Oregon's Steens Mountain.
Zach Urness, outdoor writer for the Statesman Journal, notes that it's been called the most spectacular drive in Oregon.
The Steens Mountain Loop Road departs the tiny, historic town of Frenchglen and climbs Oregon’s eighth-tallest mountain on a tour of massive gorges, vast panoramas and one of the most spectacular lakes in the Pacific Northwest.
The 52-mile loop is the state’s highest road and found in its southeastern corner, rising above the high desert like an alpine island, he says.
Last year, Urness wrote a story about backpacking and hiking into the gorges of Steens Mountain.
This year, he's written a detailed report focusing on the family-friendly highlights that can be enjoyed right along the road.
WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department regional habitat biologists will discuss southern Panhandle wildlife management areas at the monthly informal Coeur d'Alene Sportsmen's Breakfast, 6:30 a.m., Tuesday (May 21) at Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Dale Swedberg doesn't just preach the gospel of rejuvenating wildlife habitat with controlled prescribed fires — he'll let you see for yourself.
A website with an eye-opening collection of photos compares historic photos of the Sinlanhekin Wildlife Area with photos of the same locations made in recent years.
While the northcentral Washington landscape near Loomis has been improved in some ways, the most glaring observation is the increase in tree cover due to fire supression in the past 90 years. Trees are good, but too many of them clogging the landscape eliminates the habitat diversity needed by wildlife.
Fire has been around as long as life because fire depends on living things to produce the fuels fire needs to exist. A person would think that there might be some important connections developed in such a long relationship. — Dale Swedberg
Resources for learning more about prescribed burns include:
PUBLIC LANDS — The last gasp before winter. Justin Haug of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife captured this photo of Forde Lake in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area of northcentral Washington in October.
PUBLIC LANDS — Be sure to check ahead for possible fire restriction before setting out for a hunting or camping trip this weekend. Closures are in effect in some areas as fires continue to burn in the absense of fall rains that normally would have wet the landscape by now.
A vast tract of state land including the Colockum area and Stemilt basin are closed to hunting and other recreation due to danger from the Table Mountain Complex fires.
Sgt. Kent Sisson of Chelan County Emergency Management said fire personnel are in the process of posting information boards in the area and signs alerting hunters and other recreators. Fires, including campfires, are also prohibited until further notice.
NO GREENUP COULD IMPACT BIG GAME
The lack of September rain has left big-game without a "fall green-up," the sprouting of green vegetation in the warm "Indian Summer" after a September rain shower. This greenup is very important to game putting on fat for fall.
The green-up or lack of it factors into their winter survival.
Keep your fingers crossed.
PUBLIC LANDS — Citing extreme fire danger in Eastern Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just issued emergency restrictions — including a restrictions on target shooting, smoking and open fires — for all state wildlife lands.
Many of these restrictions already are in place on national forests.
Read on for the details.
HUNTING — An Asotin County ranch purchased by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last winter is open to public walk-in access this year with the exception of some big-game hunters.
Deer and elk hunters are allowed on the newly-acquired addition to the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area only if they drew “4-0 Ranch” special hunting permit, officials said this week.
“The restriction is an effort to provide high-quality hunting opportunities and was something the rancher wanted as a condition for sale of the property,” said Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman.
The 2,180-acre 4-0 Ranch parcel – the first of a multi-phase, multi-year public land acquisition project – was purchased in January with the approval of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The ranch is within Game Management Unit 172 (Mountain View). But neither GMU 172 permit holders nor general season deer and elk hunters are allowed to hunt the parcel this year.
Read on for more details.
PUBLIC LANDS — The public and wildlife soon will be sharing a new chunk of an elk-friendly ranch and Grande Ronde River access in southern Asotin County. The 2,200-acre parcel bordering the Grande Ronde River was approved for acquisition Saturday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The land, accessible off the Grande Ronde Road between Boggan’s Oasis and Troy, Ore.,will be the first phase of what is planned to be an even larger acquisition over about 10 years from Milton (Mike) Odom II and the 4-0 Livestock and Land Company LLC.
The area is tentatively being called the Mountain View Project, said Bob Dice, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife area manager in Clarkston.
The acquisition brings the total acreage in the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex to more than 68,000 acres, Dice said. The other units in the complex include the Chief Joseph, Asotin Creek and Wooten wildlife areas.
Read on for more details.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved an expanded permit program for state wildlife areas starting January 2012.
The program will require either a $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual permit, and will be phased in over three years at several wildlife areas.
As in Washignton, the permit would be included at no additonal charge with season hunting and fishing license fees. A Washington wildlife lands parking access permit costs $10 for people who do no have hunting or fishing licenses.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game has considered a similar fee for its wildlife management areas, but it has never been enacted.