Due to concerns about wildfires this summer, target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area near Selah and Ellensburg will be restricted to the morning hours from sunrise to 11 a.m., July 1 through Sept. 30.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), which manages the 114,150-acre area, has been working for the past month to develop the restriction in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the wildlife area boundaries.
The new restriction will be posted at access points to the Wenas Wildlife Area and in traditional target-shooting areas.
WDFW wildlife area manager Cindi Confer Morris said the temporary restriction addresses an immediate need to reduce wildfire risks by limiting target shooting to the cooler, more humid morning hours. As an example, she cited a fire sparked June 23 at a target shooting area in the wildlife area.
“Just last Saturday afternoon, a fire started at our Cottonwood Creek target shooting area after shooters saw smoke behind their paper targets,” Confer Morris said. “Luckily the Selah Fire District responded and kept the fire to less than seven acres.”
Confer Morris noted the new restriction is for this year’s fire season only. “We have been meeting with the public to discuss more comprehensive rules for target shooting in the wildlife area,” she said, “but we need to act immediately to address the risk of wildfires.”
In public meetings held last month, managers from WDFW and DNR discussed management strategies for target shooting in the wildlife area designed to address not only wildfire risks, but also environmental damage, safety issues, and conflicts among visitors to the wildlife area.
“Fish and Wildlife and DNR are working together on a long term plan that will improve safety for all users,” said Todd Welker, DNR southeast regional manager. “We will continue to solicit public input as we develop the final plan.”
WDFW Southcentral Regional Director Jeff Tayer of Yakima agreed that activities such as target shooting that increase wildfire risks need to managed.
"It’s critical for us to work closely with DNR, not only because of our co-ownership of the Wenas but because they provide fire fighting response,” Tayer said. “Part of the Wenas is within the Selah Fire District, so we also need to be responsive to concerns expressed by Chief Jerry Davis about the need to reduce fire risks.”
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 fireworks to reduce the risk of wildfire.