The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has temporarily banned campfires and target shooting with a firearm in its wildlife management areas to help prevent wildfires during extreme drought conditions.
Faith Jolley, DWR’s public information officer, said Wednesday’s order went into effect immediately and will be in effect until the conditions improve.
The affected WMAs in the Cache Valley area include Hardware Ranch, Millville-Providence and Richmond.
Jolley said the order came because the DWR wanted to be proactive and protect wildlife from potential wildfires. Target shooting was included because when the conditions are this dry, any kind of spark can lead to a wildfire.
“Last year, we had two large wildfires on our wildlife management areas that ended up burning several hundred acres of this habitat,” she said. “Those were both linked to target shooting with firearms.”
Because the wildlife management areas aren’t established campgrounds, there aren’t campfire rings. Jolley said burning fires on those undeveloped sites is unsafe and can lead to wildfires.
Target shooting is still available in designated areas in three Utah wildlife management areas: Big Hollow, Fillmore and Hobble Creek. People can also shoot targets at Cache Valley Public Shooting Range or other ranges in Utah.
The DWR’s ban comes one day after Gov. Spencer Cox issued a third state order regarding Utah’s drought conditions, which further restricted water use at state facilities and banned fireworks for all state and unincorporated lands.
“All indicators show this could be the worst drought year on record,” Cox stated in a media release. “Utah state government is leading the way by cutting back on water use at all state facilities, but all of us — from private businesses to local governments to individuals — need to conserve water now more than ever.”
According to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, this year in Utah there have been 326 wildfires, of which 294 were human caused. Over 12,000 acres have burned statewide.
Data from Drought.gov shows that 62% of Utah is in exceptional drought conditions, with other parts of the state in severe or extreme drought.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is asking Utahns to avoid burning fires for both agriculture or recreational purposes.
“Farmers and ranchers are being greatly affected by the extreme drought conditions this year,” UDAF Commissioner Craig Buttars said. “Feed for livestock will be scarce, which is why it will be even more pertinent that we have as much rangeland as possible. Wildfires would be severely detrimental to Utah’s farmers and ranchers.”
The UDAF recommends that farmers who have necessary prescribed burns avoid burning on windy days and to let the fire department know in advance.