Camping is closed and road use is temporarily restricted at Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, while a salvage-logging operation is under way.
The campground closures and road restrictions were put in place for public safety while helicopters are moving logs in the area, explained Shana Winegeart, assistant manager of the wildlife area for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Upper campgrounds may still be unavailable when fishing season opens March 1 on the Tucannon impoundments, but campgrounds likely will be open in lower portions of the wildlife area by then, she said.
The salvage operation will remove some trees that were killed or damaged in last summer’s School wildfire. The trees will be placed on burned-over slopes to reduce erosion, or sold to fund other restoration work on the wildlife area. Logging is being done by helicopter to protect sensitive areas from truck traffic.
Traffic on the Tucannon River road through the wildlife area is being stopped periodically for up to an hour at a time when helicopters are overhead, Winegeart said.
Even when vehicles are allowed to drive through the area, stopping along the roadsides or in campgrounds is prohibited when helicopters are flying, she said.
Winegeart noted that the Umatilla National Forest adjacent to the Wooten is not closed, so visitors can pass through the wildlife area and into the forest.
The duration of the closures and restrictions will depend on weather and work progress.
“Logging will go on into the summer,” she said, “with the areas along the Tucannon worked first. We might be able to open the lower campgrounds as the work zone moves up the river, but that will have to be determined on a week-to-week basis.”
Updated access information will be posted regularly on the Wooten webpage of WDFW’s website and on the area headquarters phone message system (509-843-1530) and on-site kiosk.