Washington DNR has extended its lands closures east of the Cascades through Thursday, Sept. 17, while WDFW is asking deer, elk and other hunters to “cold camp” at state wildlife areas not hit by wildfires but still under high to extreme fire danger.
The moves follow wildfires that burned 493,000 acres since Monday across the northern tier of the state, killing a 1-year-old child and destroying the small Palouse town of Malden.
DNR earlier this week announced its lands would close through at least today, with the caveat that it could be extended.
This morning, WDFW’s Amy Windrope told the Fish and Wildlife Commission about her agency’s “aggressive” outreach campaign that will see staffers going camp to camp at state wildlife areas such as Asotin Creek, Grouse Flats, Tucannon, Colockum, Methow, Sinlahekin and others to talk to hunters about fire dangers.
It also came out on an email blast to licensed hunters.
Windrope said that they’re also being asked to “keep a cold camp” – to not use lanterns, stoves and other gas-fueled equipment and instead cook their food at home or bring meals that don’t require heating.
As for access to its wildlife areas that did get hit by the Pearl Hill, Cold Springs, Whitney and Evans Creek Fires, WDFW says it will “recommend people avoid those areas.”
Those include Swanson Lakes, Wells, Sagebrush Flat and Wenas, plus the Jameson Lake boat launch.
“In addition, some private properties enrolled in various WDFW hunting programs have been impacted by fire, so check their status before heading out to hunt,” WDFW adds.
Also of note, a planned youth pheasant hunt on Sept. 19-20 that was to be held on the Wenas Wildlife Area near Selah has been moved to the Whiskey Dick Unit of the LT Murray Wildlife Area east of Ellensburg.
The Bureau of Land Management closed access to the Twin Lakes, Coffeepot Lake, Lakeview Ranch, and Pacific Lake Recreation Areas near Harrington, Davenport and Odessa.
Eastern Washington is rich with public lands – DNR, WDFW, national forests, wildlife refuges and more.
Navigating the mix can be a bit confusing, but for a color-coded map of them, go here.
Resources to track the wildfire situation include Inciweb, though it has been painfully slow to update information on blazes this week with the high number up and down the West Coast and their stunningly fast spreads; DNR; and Caltopo, among others.
WINDROPE ALSO TOOK A MOMENT to brief the commission on losses due ot the wildfires.
She said that the Chester Butte and Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Areas had been “100 percent burned” by the 178,000-acre Pearl Hill Fire, impacting prairie grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat.
The 122,000-acre Whitney Fire torched “95 percent of Swanson Lakes, a “significant loss of sharptail grouse, sage grouse habitat and leks.”
While a new headquarters building there suffered only “cosmetic damage” to the exterior, power is likely to be out until October, she said.
On the Wenas, the 75,000-acre Evans Creek Fire burned elk and mule deer winter range, as well as 10 miles of elk fence that is being fast-tracked for replacement to prevent issues with herds getting into nearby aglands.
A bridge also burned there and has “access implications,” Windrope said.