State shuts Wenas Wildlife Area to target shooting to reduce risk of wildfires

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this morning it has closed the Wenas Wildlife Area to target shooting until Oct. 1, after several wildfires have burned the property near Ellensburg.

The closure prohibits target shooting 24 hours a day. Notice of the closure is posted at all entry points and established target shooting sites within the area.

The department proceeded with the closure in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources, which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.

The agency earlier this month restricted target shooting to morning hours, something it has done the last three years to reduce wildfire risk.

“Even with the restrictions, four wildfires have been started on or near the wildlife area already this year,” Cindi Confer Morris, area manager, said in a news release.

Officials believe the most recent fire, which burned almost 10,000 acres, started at a nearby Cottonwood Creek shooting area and spread across the wildlife area. Two other fires within the wildlife area were sparked by target shooting. Fireworks started a fourth.

According to DNR wildfire experts, people cause 85 percent of the state’s wildfires. The most common causes include unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers on dry grass, target shooting and careless disposal of cigarettes.

For more information on the agency’s wildlife areas, see the department’s website.