YAKIMA – For the second straight year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will restrict target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area after bullets sparked wildfires on the 114,150-acre property near Ellensburg.
Under a temporary rule in effect from June 8 through Sept. 30, target shooting will be restricted to the hours between sunrise and 11 a.m. when the risk of starting a wildfire is less severe.
Public notice of the limited hours will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.
WDFW, which manages the wildlife area, adopted the rule in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within its boundaries.
Cindi Confer Morris, who manages the WDFW wildlife area, said one wildfire was reported June 1 and another the following day by target shooters who noticed smoke rising beyond their targets. Unable to contain the fires, each group called 911.
The first fire burned about 25 acres along Buffalo Road near Selah before it was contained by crews from Selah Fire District, Confer Morris said. The second fire scorched less than an acre along Durr Road near Ellensburg before it was contained by DNR.
“Despite recent rainfall, annual grasses have already cured out, making for very dry conditions,” Confer Morris said. “These conditions require additional precautions.”
Last year, WDFW restricted target-shooting hours in the wildlife area after a bullet sparked a seven-acre fire at the Cottonwood Creek shooting area. In 2011, a bullet touched off a 470-acre blaze near the Sheep Company shooting area.
Confer Morris said the latest restriction applies to this year’s fire season only, and that WDFW has been meeting with the public to discuss more comprehensive rules for target shooting on the wildlife area.
Like all of WDFW’s wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has restrictions on campfires and prohibitions on exploding targets and fireworks to reduce the risk of wildfire.
For more information on WDFW wildlife areas, see the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/.