Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Summer monsoons are helping ease some of Utah's wildfire risks; however, with risks still high enough for concern, Utah wildlife officials are banning target shooting at a little more than two-dozen wildlife management areas across the state.
In addition to target shooting, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials announced Friday that the possession of explosives, such as incendiary or chemical devices or exploding targets, will not be allowed in 25 wildlife management areas, effective immediately. The measures were made with the help of corresponding county sheriff's offices.
The new ban will remain in place for at least the next two weeks and be reevaluated every two weeks. It does not apply to firearms used for hunting if the ban carries into the start of the hunting season.
The 25 wildlife management areas affected are:
- Apple Tree Springs (Sanpete County)
- Bald Mountain (Sanpete County)
- Big Hollow (Sanpete County)
- Black Hill (Sanpete County)
- Brigham Face (Box Elder County)
- Christensen Springs (Sanpete County)
- Cinnamon Creek (Cache County)
- Coldwater Creek (Box Elder County)
- Deep Creek (Juab County)
- East Canyon (Morgan and Summit counties)
- East Fork Little Bear (Cache County)
- Fountain Green Farm (Sanpete County)
- Hardware (Cache County)
- Henefer-Echo (Morgan and Summit counties)
- Kamas (Summit County)
- Levan (Juab County)
- Middle Fork (Cache County)
- Millville-Providence (Cache County)
- Richmond (Cache County)
- Santaquin (Juab County)
- Triangle Ranch (Juab County)
- Woodruff (Rich County)
- Six Mile (Sanpete County)
- Twelve Mile (Sanpete County)
- White Hill (Sanpete County)
- Wallsburg (Wasatch County)
Most of the bans are in central and northern Utah, which have received less precipitation from monsoons in recent weeks than parts of southern Utah.
Eighty-two percent of Utah remains in at least extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It's a slight improvement of about 1.5 percentage points from the previous week. And while Great Basin Predictive Services meteorologists said this week that wildfire risks have improved across Utah in recent weeks, there are very dry moisture content levels in dead fuels, particularly across central and northern parts of the state.
That's where target shooting comes into play in wildland areas. There were a pair of large wildfires at state wildlife management areas just two years ago that burned hundreds of acres of animal habitats — each caused by target shooting. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials said Friday that they don't want that ever happening again.
"With the (extremely) dry conditions, any spark can start a fire," said Eric Edgley, the division's habitat section chief, in a statement. "With firearm target shooting, sparks from metal targets, a bullet or other projectiles glancing off a rock is all it takes to cause a spark and a fire."
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources instead advises anyone looking to target shoot to go to an indoor range, such as the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range in Salt Lake County, or the Cache Valley Public Shooting Range in Logan, that the division manages. The division adds that there are "no shortages" of other shooting ranges available in the state, as well.
Ultimately, the division aims to protect the spaces set aside for Utah's wildlife to survive and thrive.
"Significant resources go toward improving the habitat in these wildlife and waterfowl management areas to make them more beneficial for a variety of wildlife species, which is why these proactive, preventative measures are so important," said Justin Shirley, the division's director. "Protecting these resources from wildfire is crucial for wildlife and is a huge benefit for the anglers, hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts who utilize these properties."