OLYMPIA - Starting this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plans to close 4.5 miles of road in the Klickitat Wildlife Area to motor vehicle travel from Nov. 1 through April 14 to protect roadbeds and avoid disturbing wintering deer and elk.
The three roads affected by the annual closures are in the wildlife area's Soda Springs unit, including:
- Anderson Road, 1.3 miles south of the intersection with Soda Springs Road;
- Old Headquarters Road, 1 mile south of the intersection with Soda Springs Road; and
- South Breaks Road, 0.1 miles west of the intersection with Soda Springs Road.
None of those roads are paved, and all were badly damaged by vehicle traffic from fall 2006 to spring 2007, said Sue VanLeuven, Klickitat Wildlife Area manager.
"We're planning to improve roads in the wildlife area that carry the most vehicles, but those improvements won't last if we don't protect them during the wet season," VanLeuven said. "We don't want this to become a public-safety issue."
VanLeuven said steady growth in the number of vehicles on those roads has also caused increasing problems for deer and elk wintering on the south-facing slopes of the Soda Springs unit.
"When the animals flee from disturbances in winter, they waste valuable energy at a time when energy reserves are low," she said. "Soda Springs has long been an important wintering area for deer and elk and we don't want to compromise their status there."
VanLeuven said WDFW consulted its citizen advisory group for the Klickitat Wildlife Area to determine the timing of the closures and the placement of gates. All three roads will be open to vehicle traffic during the early deer-hunting season in October, and will reopen in time for the spring turkey season.
All 12 miles of roads in the wildlife area will remain open to pedestrian access throughout the year, and the most popular camping areas that were open last fall will be open for camping in fall of 2007.