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Recreators in Eastern Washington will have to adjust their summer plans if those plans previously involved utilizing lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, as well as other lands in the region as multiple other agencies are following suit in the department’s decision to close lands due to extreme wildfire risk, effective tomorrow.

According to a DNR press release, Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz announced the upcoming closures while she visited the Red Apple fire in Chelan County on Tuesday.

“This summer is smashing all our records and leaving the state bone dry, leaving Eastern Washington to face an ongoing, tremendous risk of wildfire,” Franz said in the release. “Over the past year and a half, we have been reminded just how important our public lands are, so closing them is not a decision we take lightly. But with the drought leaving the region as dry as ever we must do all that we can to prevent human-caused fires. Our firefighters are already stretched thin fighting major fires across our state. We must take reasonable steps — and make sacrifices — in order to protect them and our communities.”

The release said DNR decided to close recreational and public access in Eastern Washington based on a number of factors, including current extreme hot and dry conditions, a forecast that shows no meaningful precipitation in the near future, current fuel loads, and a concern for public safety.

“After a late-June heat wave that shattered many all-time temperature records across Washington, the vast majority of the state is currently in a drought emergency,” the release said. “Additionally, the number of fire ignitions in the state is approximately double the 10-year average, with months of fire season still to go. In all areas of Eastern Washington, fire danger is at very high or extreme levels. DNR staff will continually monitor conditions, and a reopening date for recreation access will be determined once these factors improve.”

LOCAL IMPACT

Along with the DNR’s closure, multiple other agencies have added restrictions on how their land can or cannot be used starting Friday. In Kittitas County, lands affected by the restrictions include overnight use at recreation areas in the Yakima River Canyon, the Teanaway, and dispersed camping in the Wenas area. Along with the state-managed lands, The Nature Conservancy announced in a Wednesday press release it would be following suit and closing access to the land they manage within the county, also effective Friday.

The lands managed within the county by The Nature Conservancy comprise the Central Cascades Community Forest, a 49,000-acre preserve that spans I-90 near Cle Elum and is spread out over six different geographic regions, according to the organization’s website.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website, all lands managed by them will also be closed starting tomorrow for overnight use. In a ray of hope for recreators in the region, they will still be able to utilize WDFW-managed lands for day use activities.”

“The overnight use and Methow and southeast Washington wildlife areas closures will be in effect until further notice,” a press release from WDFW stated. “State land managers will meet weekly to assess the possibility for further closures or reopenings. Current closures apply to both motorized and on-foot uses. Water access areas that are not part of a wildlife area will not be limited to day use only unless posted otherwise.”

In addition to overnight closures and the existing closures in north central and southeast Washington, the release said smaller area-specific road or other closures may also be implemented as necessary. The public is asked to check wdfw.wa.gov/wildlifeareas for further details before departing to their intended destination.

Reporting for the DR since March 2018. Lover of campfires, black labs and good vibes. Proud Humboldt State alum!

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