TONASKET - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled a public meeting March 18 to discuss a wide-ranging plan to reduce fire danger and restore the health of forestlands in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.
Dale Swedberg, who manages the 14,314-acre wildlife area in Okanogan County, will outline WDFW's restoration plan and answer questions from those attending the meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Tonasket High School Commons, 35 HS Highway 20 E, Tonasket.
"This is a major project with long-term benefits for both the wildlife area and the people living nearby," Swedberg said. "But restoring these lands will involve a fair amount of controlled burning and we want to give people a chance to ask any questions and share any perspectives they might have."
During the coming winter, WDFW plans to begin thinning dense stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir on 1,833 acres of the wildlife area to preserve older, more fire resistant pines and foster growth of vegetation that benefits native wildlife.
Controlled burning may begin as early as this fall in grassy areas to remove the buildup of old vegetation and promote germination of shrubs, forbs and grasses, Swedberg said.
"The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is long overdue for a major forest fire," he said. "Thinning and controlled burning now can help prevent the kind of devastation we've seen in other Okanogan County forestlands in recent years."
Working in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, WDFW plans to complete work on the Sinlahekin Ecosystem Restoration Project in 2012. Funding for the project was recently provided through grants from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.