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Washington DNR announces closure of recreation lands east of Cascades, Fish and Wildlife announces overnight closures

UPDATED: Tue., July 20, 2021

A group of Ralph Moses’ horses which survived the Chuweah Creek Fire graze on ground near his home that wasn’t burned when the fire passed through earlier in the week on Friday, July 17, 2021, near Nespelem, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
A group of Ralph Moses’ horses which survived the Chuweah Creek Fire graze on ground near his home that wasn’t burned when the fire passed through earlier in the week on Friday, July 17, 2021, near Nespelem, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

It’s official: Recreation lands east of the Cascades managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources will be indefinitely closed due to the wildfire season beginning Friday.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced the extraordinary action on Tuesday morning.

“Our firefighters are already stretched thin fighting major fires across our state. We must take reasonable steps – and make sacrifices – in order to protect them and our communities,” said Franz.

Washington DNR will continually monitor drought and wildfire conditions, and a reopening date will be determined once the factors improve, according to a Washington DNR press release.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also announced Tuesday that their recreational lands will only be open for day use in Eastern Washington starting Friday.

There is no timetable for when this measure could end, but state land managers will meet weekly to decide if the partial closures can be lifted.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Staci Lehman said that this measure would apply to the vast majority of its over 700,000 acres of public land in Eastern Washington.

“We decided that this was the best compromise,” said Lehman.

Lehman said that the rule is meant to prevent the fire dangers that show up when campers stay overnight.

Areas close to Spokane that are relatively popular and affected by the overnight closure include Waikiki Springs, Audubon Lake Wildlife Area and Rustlers Gulch.

No significant precipitation that could improve drought conditions is expected in Eastern Washington through the end of July, according to the National Weather Service Office in Spokane.

The total acreage of the DNR public land closure will amount to about 1.6 million recreation acres.

Other agencies that govern public lands haven’t taken as dramatic of a step. 

The Washington State Parks and Recreation commission is not planning on temporarily closing state parks across the board as of DNR’s announcement but all of its lands are under burn bans, according to communications manager Amanda McCarthy.

Spokane County Parks, Recreation, and Golf also is not planning on any closures but will continue to monitor the situation.

This story will be updated

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