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17 wildlife management areas temporarily closed to target shooting due to wildfire concerns

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Thick smoke rises into the air as a wildfire burns in the Dutch Hollow area of Midway on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Dry and hot conditions have prompted the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to temporarily close 17 of its wildlife management areas in central and northern Utah to recreational shooting of firearms due to wildfire concerns.

According to fire officials via Utah Fire Info, 712 wildfires in Utah had been caused by people as of Aug. 5, which is 333 more than in 2019 and 202 more than in 2018 at this same time in the summer wildfire season. 

So far this season, 28 wildfires have been caused by target shooting, costing nearly $1 million to taxpayers.

The temporary restriction comes less than one week after people who were target shooting at the Richmond wildlife management area in Cache County — shooting a .50-caliber rifle at a metal target — ignited a fire that burned 2 acres of wildlife habitat. A bullet ricochet was also the likely cause of the 438-acre Big Hollow Fire that burned near Heber City in mid-July, according to officials investigating the incident. The Big Hollow Fire burned several hundred acres of Wallsburg wildlife management area.   

Effective immediately, target shooting with firearms is not allowed anywhere on the following wildlife management areas until fire conditions improve: Coldwater and Brigham Face in Box Elder County; Richmond and Millville/Providence in Cache County; East Canyon in Morgan County; White Hill, Black Hill, Six Mile and Twelve Mile in Sanpete County; Henefer/Echo and Kamas in Summit County; Santaquin, Dairy Fork, Lassen Draw and Spencer Fork in Utah County; Wallsburg in Wasatch County; and Middle Fork in Weber County. 

Fireworks and explosives are never allowed on any wildlife management area, and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has also restricted open fires of any kind on state lands, except in improved campgrounds, picnic areas or home sites where running water is present. Campfires aren’t currently allowed on any wildlife management area because there are no established campgrounds.

Conservation officers with the division will be enforcing the temporary restrictions. Visitors to the areas are encouraged to keep their eyes open and report any campfires or any firearm target shooting to the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline at 1-800-662-3336. 

During the temporary closures, Utahns can target shoot at the division’s two public shooting ranges, and there are a variety of public and private indoor and outdoor shooting ranges throughout the state.