Sinlahekin Wildlife Area


Washington's oldest wildlife area, this 23,000-acre site is under restoration by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife to reduce fuels, increase wildlife habitat, and return fire to the landscape. In 2015, the areas that had been treated with prescribed fire helped stop the Okanogan Complex Fires from advancing.

Stopping Megafire in its Tracks

The Lime Belt Fire, part of the 2015 Okanogan Complex Fires reached into the Sinlahekin Wildlife Refuge, causing significant damage to some areas, but not others. What made the difference?

Controlled burns made the difference — between green and charred, between resilience and destruction. And once is not enough. While eventual maintenance burns are faster, less expensive, and produce less smoke, the need for fire never goes way.

Forests Need Fire

When most people think of wildfire, they think of dry forests — and there are 2.8 million acres in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest alone. But there is often little discussion of why these forests (and their inhabitants) actually need frequent, low-severity fire. 

  • Fire thins small ponderosa pines, creating larger, healthier trees with less competition for scarce water and nutrients.
  • Fire reduces ground litter allowing more understory vegetation to grow.
  • Heat from induces germination of buckbrush (mountain balm) which comprises over 50% of deer's winter diets.

For more on historic fire regimes and recent fires in the Methow Valley, check out this Conversation article.