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Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

OLYMPIA, WA. -( The 75th anniversary of the state’s first wildlife area will be celebrated Saturday, June 7, kicking off a summer-long series of public events sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson will be joined at the celebration by local, state, tribal and federal officials, including Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the wildlife area headquarters on Sinlahekin Road south of Loomis.

The public is invited to participate in all of the activities on June 7, including a barbecue lunch sponsored by the Mule Deer Foundation, dedication of a hiking trail, and fishing clinics at lakes in the wildlife area.

At about 1:30 p.m., a hiking trail will be dedicated in the memory of Dave Brittell, a WDFW wildlife biologist and former head of the department’s Wildlife Program, who was instrumental in the development and stewardship of the department’s 33 wildlife areas across the state.

After the dedication, WDFW Okanogan Lands Operations Manager Dale Swedberg and Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Manager Justin Haug will lead conversations about living and working in the Sinlahekin area. Both events will take place at the Sinlahekin headquarters.

Later in the afternoon, local anglers and WDFW personnel will conduct clinics about how to fish the lakes in the Sinlahekin as part of Washington’s annual Free Fishing Weekend on June 7-8, when no licenses are required.

Sinlahekin events later this spring and summer will include free public field trips and presentations by WDFW personnel and other experts on the area’s diverse wildlife, vegetation, geology and history. Those events are scheduled for June 14-15, July 5-6, July 26-27, August 23-24, and September 6-7.

The Sinlahekin celebrations will conclude with a fun run through the wildlife area and events recognizing Washington’s hunting and fishing heritage on Sept. 27, which is National Hunting and Fishing Day and National Public Lands Day.

The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, which covers 14,314 acres west of U.S. Highway 97 between Loomis and Conconully, was established in 1939 to protect winter range for mule deer. The first parcels were purchased with revenue from a federal tax on sporting arms and ammunition. The purchase was the state’s first use of what are known as “Pittman-Robertson” funds, after the program’s prime congressional sponsors. Pittman-Robertson funding, administered by USFWS, also supported the re-introduction of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep on the Sinlahekin in 1957.

“The Sinlahekin was the first of our 33 wildlife areas across the state,” Anderson said. “Each area conserves lands that are critically important for sustaining wildlife and ensuring sustainable recreational opportunities for Washington residents. The Pittman-Robertson law enables hunters to make major contributions to these efforts.”

Nate Pamplin, who heads the WDFW Wildlife Program, said the Sinlahekin and other department lands also play an important economic role.

“Conservation and recreation stimulate economic activity in local communities across the state,” he said. “People who hunt, fish and watch wildlife in Washington not only have great experiences, but they also contribute significantly to the state’s economy.”

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