Fire And Access Restrictions Require Extra Planning For Upcoming Hunting Seasons
August 1, 2015
OLYMPIA—Hunters may need to consider alternative locations for their traditional hunts this year because of drought- and fire-related access restrictions on Washington’s public and private lands.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials say hunters should confirm before heading into the field that they will have access to their preferred locations for hunting big and small game, including bear, deer and upland birds. The fall black bear season opens Aug. 1 or 15 in some game management units. Archery deer, forest grouse, mourning dove, and other small game seasons open Sept. 1.
“For most hunters, these conditions may simply mean they can’t have a traditional campfire,” WDFW Game Division Manager Mick Cope said. “But with several wildfires currently burning and with extremely dry conditions across the state, some hunters may need to find different routes into traditional hunting areas or choose different places altogether.”
Cope said WDFW is not considering hunting regulation changes at this time. He also said the game management units for which hunters have drawn special permits are currently accessible, although fire restrictions are in place.
In the unlikely event that fire prevents access to all of the areas covered by a special permit, Cope said the department will work with permit-holders to restore special permit points or help them find alternative locations.
Cope said WDFW and other public land management agencies have prominently posted fire and access restrictions on their websites, where hunters can learn what areas are open or where there are restrictions. Updated information on wildfires in Washington, including local travel and access restrictions, is available at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/49/#.
The U.S. Forest Service manages more public hunting lands in Washington than any other agency and provides information on several national forests at http://www.fs.usda.gov.
Information on WDFW’s 33 wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/. Fire prevention restrictions on many of these areas were enacted by emergency order last month, consistent with efforts by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other agencies to minimize the risk of wildfire. The following activities are prohibited or restricted:
Fires or campfires: However, personal camp stoves or lanterns fueled by liquid petroleum, liquid petroleum gas, or propane are allowed.
Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Parking is permitted in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway; in developed campgrounds; and at trailheads.
These restrictions, under the DNR burn ban, will be in place at least until Sept. 30. More information about fires and fire prevention on state lands is available at http://www.dnr.wa.gov.
Private landowners, like timber companies that allow hunting access, have also posted access and fire use restrictions on their websites.
“We encourage all hunters to be extra careful when they’re in the field this fall. Whether they’re on public or private land, it’s good to take extra steps to reduce wildfires,” Cope said. “Hunters should report immediately to DNR if they see signs of a new wildfire or if they see others doing something that might spark another fire.”
The DNR Wildfire Division can be reached at 1-800-527-3305, 360-902-1300, or RPD@dnr.wa.gov.
More information on preparing for hunting seasons is available from the WDFW Hunter Education program at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/prepare/.