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June 25, 2015
Contact: Scott McCorquodale, (509) 457-9322

WDFW prohibits target shooting until Oct. 1
at Wenas Wildlife Area to reduce wildfire risk

OLYMPIA - To reduce the risk of wildfire, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will close the Wenas Wildlife Area to target shooting until Oct. 1.

The closure, effective July 1, bans target shooting 24 hours per day at the wildlife area, located between Ellensburg and Yakima. Public notice of the closure will be posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites within the Wenas Wildlife Area.

Scott McCorquodale, regional WDFW wildlife manager, noted the agency restricted target-shooting to morning hours in May.

"Conditions on the wildlife area have worsened over the past month, due to hot, dry weather," McCorquodale said. "We expect that trend to continue with even warmer weather forecast for the area."

Last week, WDFW restricted fires and other activities on department lands across eastern Washington. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has expanded its burn ban on DNR-protected lands from eastern Washington to west of the Cascades. DNR's burn ban includes forested lands on WDFW wildlife areas and access sites in western Washington.

WDFW adopted the closure in cooperation with DNR, which owns lands within the 114,150-acre Wenas Wildlife Area. According to wildfire experts at DNR, people cause 85 percent of Washington's wildfires. Common causes include unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers on dry grass, target shooting and careless disposal of cigarettes.

Target shooting has caused several wildfires on the Wenas Wildlife Area in recent years, McCorquodale said. In 2014, target shooting started a fire that burned 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat and threatened nearby homes.

"It's important to take steps to protect public safety and preserve public recreation lands and wildlife habitat," McCorquodale said.

The target-shooting ban applies to this year's fire season only. In addition to this closure, however, the department is considering a proposal to permanently restrict target shooting to two designated sites and would continue to restrict target shooting to morning hours during late spring and summer, when fire danger is the greatest. The department held two public meetings this spring to discuss this target-shooting proposal for the Wenas Wildlife Area.

The department expects to make the decision later this fall, McCorquodale said, adding that WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing a plan 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 prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.

For more information on fire restrictions on WDFW wildlife areas and access sites, see the department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/