Matt Eberlein, (509) 429-4236
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will perform controlled burns on its public lands this spring and summer to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve habitat for animals such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.
WDFW manages one million acres of public lands and operates the state's only prescribed fire management teams. Last August, their work on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area was critical in helping to suppress the Boyd's fire in Ferry County.
The two teams include 18 burn-team members. With funding from the state's 2019-2021 Capital Budget and other sources, they plan to use prescribed fire to treat 6,000 acres by 2021.In addition, WDFW has five full-time foresters that manage forest thinning projects to improve forest health. Thinning and burning preserves ecosystems and enable Washingtonians to continue enjoying Fish and Wildlife public lands. WDFW has requested similar funding to continue this level of forest health treatment in future years.
Prescribed fires in the following popular areas will begin in April, as conditions allow. Click each location to view a map:
- Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County,
- Methow Wildlife Area in Okanogan County,
- Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County,
- Rustlers Gulch Wildlife Area in Pend Oreille County,
- Colockum Wildlife Area in Chelan County,
- L.T. Murray Wildlife Area in Kittitas County,
- Oak Creek Wildlife Area in Yakima County, and
- Grouse Flats Wildlife Area in Asotin County.
The Department may plan and announce additional eastern Washington burns on WDFW lands as conditions allow.
"By burning off accumulations of vegetation and logging debris, we can reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfires that destroy wildlife habitat and threaten communities," said WDFW Prescribed Fire Manager, Matt Eberlein. "It's not a question of whether we'll have fires on these lands in the future, but rather the degree to which we can reduce the damage they cause."
Controlled burns are monitored continuously until out, according to Eberlein. Public safety is the primary concern and signs are posted to inform recreationists about the fires. Noting that smoke from planned fires can still make its way into populated areas, Eberlein warns drivers, "We work to minimize smoke, but watch for fire personnel or equipment and slow down if you experience reduced visibility on roadways, particularly at night or in the early morning."
As the state agency tasked with protecting land and water for wildlife and people, WDFW partners with other area agencies and community groups to provide active and ongoing management of public lands. Through this work, WDFW serves as steward for Washington's natural places and wildlife.