LA GRANDE – (Release from Wallowa-Whitman National Forest ) The Starkey Experimental Forest and Range (Starkey) is now closed to overnight camping or other overnight uses in response to the Extreme Fire Danger, the Forest Service announced today. Starkey remains open to public entry, but public uses must adhere to current fire-prevention measures established for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest under Phase C Public Use Restrictions, which can be found at: https://go.usa.gov/xFTCG.
“The extreme fire danger this early in the fire season necessitated our decision to close Starkey to overnight camping,” said Mike Wisdom, research wildlife biologist with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “We will be monitoring fire risk and how best to adapt to the situation going forward.”
The 25,000-acre experimental forest and range is located 28 miles southwest of La Grande on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Formally designated for research in 1940, the area is jointly managed by the Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and is a research site for collaborative studies of deer, elk, and cattle and their interactions with public land uses. The Forest Service partners with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to conduct wildlife management at Starkey, which includes hunting.
Planned public hunts, administered by ODFW, begin at Starkey on August 1, and will occur as proposed for hunters who have successfully drawn a controlled hunt permit. Hunters are being contacted to share current fire restrictions and ensure that they are aware of the no-camping restriction.
“If conditions improve related to fire risk, we can consider a resumption of camping at Starkey sometime later this summer or fall,” said Wisdom. Hunters can continue to camp at sites on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest outside of Starkey.
Phase C Public Use Restrictions include: No campfires*, only liquid and bottle gas stoves or, within the Eagle Cap Wilderness, wood stoves equipped with a chimney at least 5-feet in length and a spark arresting screen consisting of ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth, and clear of all flammable material within a 3-foot radius. No chainsaw use or internal combustion engine operation, except motor vehicles on improved roads or generators in specific conditions (see website for details).No smoking, except in enclosed vehicles and buildings or areas cleared of flammable material with a minimum clearance of 3 feet. No vehicles off National Forest System roads, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway. No travel on roads not cleared of standing grass or other flammable material, and no vehicle travel on roads where access has been impeded or blocked by an earthen berm, logs, boulders, barrier, barricade, or gate.
* Please note: Separate rules apply within the Eagle Cap Wilderness (printed on the back of Wilderness permits). Separate rules also apply within ¼ mile of the Wild and Scenic portions of the Snake River. Public lands in Idaho follow separate Idaho Fire Restrictions.
La Grande District Ranger Bill Gamble provided additional comments on the current situation: “Fire danger is extreme across the national forests in the Blue Mountains, and tinder-dry conditions are prime for human-caused forest fires. We ask that you be extremely careful when out in the forest and understand your responsibilities under the current restrictions.”