Long-Lasting High Fire Danger Keeps DNR Lands in Eastern Washington Closed

Department staff continue to evaluate fire conditions and preparedness, as well as staffing levels and weather forecasts

PLEASE NOTE: As of Sept. 16, 2021, DNR-managed lands in eastern Washington have reopened to all recreation activities including hunting. Learn more at dnr.wa.gov/open.

As August turns to September, Washington state continues to experience one of the hottest and driest summers on record, creating an exceptional drought and ongoing extreme wildfire risk east of the Cascades.

Because of the effects of these historic conditions, eastern Washington lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources continue to be closed to public access and recreation, including hunting.

“This year has been a challenging year for wildfires across the Evergreen State, and we appreciate the responsible decisions that Washingtonians have made to help mitigate fire risks,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “We know that our hunters are eager to return to the landscape, to continue their longstanding traditions and make new memories. Once it is safe for the public, and for DNR’s firefighters, we will reopen our eastern Washington lands to public recreation.”

Do you have questions about whether or not you are allowed to access your hunting area on DNR-managed lands? Check out this infographic for more information. 

Initially enacted July 23, 2021, the restriction applied to state forests, community forests, and other DNR-managed lands on the east side. DNR implemented this closure to minimize the number of fires started while the state continues to witness a summer filled with record-breaking heat and extreme and exceptional droughts covering a vast majority of the landscape. 

DNR decided to close recreational and public access to its managed lands in eastern Washington based on many 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. Many areas in eastern Washington have seen little to no measurable precipitation since June.

Already this year, more than 30,000 acres of DNR-managed lands have burned in wildfires, including 22,000 acres of forests — the largest amount of forested land burned since the Carlton Complex fire in 2015.

“Closing land is not something that DNR ever takes lightly,” said Andrea Martin, acting statewide recreation manager. “However, we have to take into account several different factors when looking at the safety of reopening public lands after such a dry season.”

A few of the factors that DNR takes into account when looking to reopen land is:

Because there haven’t been any significant rain events in months in many places, the fuel on the ground is very dry, creating conditions perfect for devastating wildfires on the landscape. 

One factor that DNR is monitoring very closely is the amount of rain on the eastside. There would need to be a significant amount of rain or a wetting event that would help to wet the fuel load. An event like that would help our firefighters to manage newly ignited wildfires better, and enough events like that would bring this wildfire season to a close. 

Before you head out on your adventure, make sure to “know before you go” and research all the latest restrictions at dnr.wa.gov/open.

Resources

And, remember, if you spot a wildfire, call 911 as soon as possible to report it.

Contact

Paige DeChambeau, recreation communications manager, paige.dechambeau@dnr.wa.gov, 360-790-1886

Ryan Rodruck, eastern Washington communications manager, ryan.rodruck@dnr.wa.gov, 360-706-3121