State celebrates 75th anniversary of its first wildlife area

Posted on May 17, 2014 

The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Washington's first dedicated wildlife refuge and public hunting area turns 75 in June.

The first land comprising the now 14,314-acre state wildlife area in the Sinlahekin Creek valley between Conconully and Loomis was originally bought in 1939.

Protecting winter habitat for a portion of the Okanogan's migratory mule deer population was the reason for purchase and was made possible in part though the existence of a federal law, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act. 

PRA enacted by Congress in 1937, imposed an 11 percent federal excise tax on sporting firearms and ammunition and held the mechanisms to disperse that revenue annually to the states to aid in wildlife and habitat restoration.

Washington has 33 widely distributed fish and wildlife department owned complexes, most acquired with at least some if not mostly with PR monies, dedicated to providing refuges for wildlife as well as supporting season public hunting and wildlife viewing.

The Whatcom Wildlife Area is one such grouping of wildlife lands here in the county totalling 4,960 acres including the Lake Terrell Unit which is its origin parcel and now anchor unit.

Terrell, a former wetland, drained and turned fizzled farmland, then bought reflooded and turned into wildlife and public recreation area, serves resident and migratory waterfowl, provides public fishing and in their season's bird hunting and wildlife viewing for both web-footed and upland gamebird species. PR money was used by the then Washington Department of Game to buy the wetlands and some surrounding uplands. 

Federal PR monies also were and are used by Washington in wildlife management studies and re-introductions of game animals into areas where they were eliminated.

Saturday, June 7 there will be ceremonies kicking off activities that week and throughout the summer at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. For details and a calendar of anniversary events, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/sinlahekin/.

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