Volunteer projects keep ‘em coming to Asotin Creek Wildlife Area
By Bob Dice, Asotin Creek Wildlife Area Manager
Every spring I get a call from RMEF volunteers Leonard Shotwell and Larry Hembroff about the annual work party the third weekend in May on the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area. They usually ask, “So what have you got for us this year?” We’ll talk about some ideas I have, and then we usually set up a date for them to travel to Clarkston to meet with me and finalize plans for the weekend.
The relationship began in 2004, a year after RMEF helped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife acquire 8,500 acres of prime elk and mule deer habitat on Smoothing Iron Ridge and George Creek near Clarkston. The majority of the volunteers are from the Tri-Cities Chapter, but others come from Colville, Moses Lake and other towns throughout Eastern Washington. They begin arriving mid-week with their campers, motor homes and tents. WDFW supplies most of the materials and supplies, but volunteers bring their own hand tools, ATVs and even mules.
We’ve experienced all kinds of weather over the years ranging from sunshine and temperatures in the 90s to pouring rain. But that’s May in the Blue Mountains, you never know what you’re going to get! One thing about these events: a person never has to worry about going home hungry. Some of the meals prepared after a long Saturday of work are some of the best I eat all year long. The Saturday evening potluck has it all, and Bob Meinecke’s barbecued salmon is to die for!
The volunteers have done a little bit of just about everything over the past seven years:
2004—removed a couple miles of old barbed-wire fencing, allowing for easier movement of wildlife from lower to higher elevations.
2005—cleaned up a spring box and installed a new water supply line, and reset the accompanying trough. WDFW crews also erected a fence around most of the spring area.
2006—installed four new water guzzlers, cleaned out and installed new aprons on one existing unit and built barbed-wire fences around all five structures to keep livestock at bay. WDFW biologists and licensed blasters Scott Rasely and Don Hand assisted us with blasting the holes.
2007—completed one and got started on another three-way exclosure for monitoring vegetation response to grazing livestock and wildlife. The exclosures are three acres in size with one acre designed to exclude livestock and wildlife with an 8-foot-tall, hog-wire fence; the second acre, meant to exclude livestock only with a barbed-wire fence; and the third acre, open to grazing by all and marked with stakes.
2008—installed a 2,000-gallon, big game guzzler and 100-foot x 20-foot collection apron, as well as an 8-foot-tall fence around the apron. Volunteers also constructed an informational kiosk at the public parking area near the ranch buildings.
2009—replaced a trough and a guzzler, and built a livestock fence around the guzzler. In addition, volunteers finished the second three-way exclosure fence.
2010—installed new catch tanks, rebuilt foundations, installed new critter boards for six spring/trough systems, cleaned out the catch basin for the guzzler built in 2008 and put out new bird houses.
Volunteers have also worked diligently to control noxious weeds on the wildlife area, helping Asotin County noxious weed coordinator Nelle Murray search for Mediterranean sage and musk thistle.
It’s still many months away, but already I’m looking forward to next year’s work weekend. I have many ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing them with Leonard and Larry when the time comes. As always, it will be a good time with good food and most of all, elk will benefit from another year of RMEF volunteer efforts.