As we move from summer into autumn, many of us Washingtonians are looking for some final nice-weather outdoor adventures. October offers cooler days, changing leaves, crisp air, and much more for the outdoor adventurer. But after the summer months of heavy traffic on trails, campsites, hunting lands, and more, many of our public lands require restoration. With this need in mind, we focus our attention of the the State Lands Restoration and Enhancement category this month. This WWRP category provides funding to two state agencies to help repair damaged plant and animal habitat. These grants focus on resource preservation and protection of public lands. Projects in this category help bring important natural areas and resources back to their original functions by improving the self sustaining and ecological functionality of sites.
Our highlighted project this month is the Sinlahekin Ecosystem Restoration – Phase 1 (which was completed in 2014). This beautiful area of Okanagon County was in need of the use of controlled burns and other fuels reduction techniques to restore and enhance undeveloped lands for the purpose of increasing wildlife values, improving watershed hydrology, and improving the value of grass and forest lands through improved vegetation health. The legislature approved a WWRP State Lands & Development Restoration grant of $778,345 for the project, which was matched by $74,972 from the community.
The project sponsor (the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) used this grant to thin, prune, pile, and burn areas in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, which is dependent on fire for a healthy ecosystem. Fire, a key ecological process, has been excluded for nearly 100 years. Fire and its byproducts help maintain a mosaic of plant communities, in various stages of succession across the landscape. The project helped improve conditions for many wildlife, including flammulated owls, pygmy nuthatchs, and white-headed woodpeckers. Also, the project helped reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, rejuvenated mule deer winter range, improved forest health, and provided jobs. The project also began the implementation of the recently completed Sinlahekin Fuels Reduction and Fire Regime Restoration Plan and complimented the ongoing cooperative efforts with the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, whose lands respectively intermingle and adjoin the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.