National Forest closures in county remain in place

OKANOGAN – Hazards left in the wake of this summer’s fires necessitate keeping some of the area and road closures in place until next spring on National Forest Lands in Okanogan County. Fire weakened trees, hidden stump holes, loosened boulders and the potential for debris flows are all safety concerns on National Forest Lands burned by the Tunk, North Star, and Okanogan Complex Fires.

Updated closure information is available online at www.fs.usda/gov/main/okawen/ or at Forest Service Offices in Okanogan 509-826-3275, Tonasket 509-486-2186 or Winthrop 509-996-4000.

The closures associated with the North Star and Tunk Block fires, in the Bannon, Tunk, Dugout and Coco Mountain areas are expected to remain in place at least through the 2015/2016 winter. Likewise, the closure associated with the Okanogan Complex in the Bobcat and Beaver Mountain area as well as the Funk and Schallow Mountain area will remain in place at least through the winter.

“We know these closures come as unwelcome news to many who are anxious to get back out and enjoy their National Forest,” said Matt Reidy, Tonasket District Ranger. “Unfortunately, there are just too many hazards in place to safely re-open the Forest; at least until the winter snows and spring run-off have helped things settle back into place.”

“Root systems of trees have burned out beneath the ground creating hidden holes for those who may be walking through the Forest to unsuspectingly step into. Rocks and boulders that have held firmly in place for years have yet to re-settle after having the vegetation that was holding them in place burned away. Green and blackened trees are weakened by fire and can be heard falling throughout the burned areas and the moisture that comes with fall, winter and spring is likely to set off debris flows, blocking roads and changing the landscape,” he said.

In addition to the area closures, there are some road closures likely to remain in place.

· Black Canyon will likely remain closed through the fall to facilitate road work associated with Burned Area Emergency Response efforts.

· South Fork of Gold Creek will remain closed until there has been sufficient moisture to control the portion of the fire that is still burning in St. Luise Creek.

· A portion of South Fork Salmon Road (Forest Service Road 4200) will remain closed due to hazards from falling trees as will the West Fork of San Poil (Forest Road 3115-100).

“With more than a million acres burned across Washington State this summer, opportunities for hunting and other forest activities are reduced,” said Reidy.

For current information about forest closures and recreation opportunities, please call either the Methow Valley or Tonasket Ranger District at 509-996-4000 or 509-486-2186 or visit the Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/okawen.

 

About Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien is a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest