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September 01, 2005
Contact: Kevin Robinette, 509-892-7859

Public access restricted to some parts
of Wooten Wildlife Area after wildfire

POMEROY— Access to some parts of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County is restricted after the largest wildfire in the lower 48 states burned through the area last month.

Eight campgrounds in the northern part of the Wooten are closed until further notice, as is any kind of travel through the burned upland acreage.

Now open, however, are the Tucannon River Road that runs through the wildlife area, eight fishing lakes, fishing access to the Tucannon River and three posted campgrounds that lie mostly outside the fire perimeter above Camp Wooten.

The access restrictions are in place as a safety measure, because many heavily burned areas still have smoldering hotspots, said WDFW Regional Wildlife Program Manager Kevin Robinette.

The situation will be reassessed weekly and further access might be allowed later this year, Robinette said.

No major loss of wildlife has been observed during post-fire assessments, Robinette said. A few deer carcasses were found near Baker’s Pond on the adjacent Umatilla National Forest, one of the hardest hit areas within the fire perimeter. But WDFW aerial and ground surveys last week show that elk and bighorn sheep herds are intact.

The first hunting seasons of the year—mourning dove, forest grouse and early archery deer—open today, and early archery elk opens Sept. 8, but Robinette said the northern half of Tucannon Game Management Unit (166) is burned. Still, hunters will have plenty of opportunity in the south end of the unit, which lies outside the fire perimeter.

No hunting or fishing seasons will be closed and no hunting permits will be refunded due to the fire, Robinette said.

The School fire burned a total of 51,924 acres between its start on Aug. 5, from a tree branch falling on a power line, and its containment on Aug. 18, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s Burned Area Evaluation Report (BAER).

Almost all of the Wooten’s 11,778 acres were within the fire perimeter. More than half of the burned acreage is on the adjacent Umatilla National Forest. Some 12,388 acres of private land and about 200 structures, mostly summer cabins and outbuildings, also burned.

For more information about further access restrictions on the Pomeroy District of the Umatilla Forest, and a map of the School fire perimeter, see http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/uma/fire/school.shtml