DNR Closes Its 6 Million Acres In Washington For Next 2 Weeks

Updated 12:20 p.m., March 25 with a new third paragraph reporting on another closure, this one tribal lands.

Six million more acres of state land in Washington will close to recreational activities as DNR shuts down its forests and other grounds for at least two weeks starting Thursday, March 26.

A DATED (2012) STATE LANDS MAP SHOWS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES PROPERTIES IN DARK AND LIGHT GREEN; TAN IS WDFW LANDS AT THE TIME. (DNR)

It follows on WDFW and State Parks move yesterday affecting all of those two agencies’ wildlife areas, water access sites and state parks, over a million acres.

And late this morning the Colville Tribes closed their North-central Washington reservation “to visitors until further notice.”

All of it is meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and remove the impetus to travel and instead stay home or close to it as much as possible in accordance with Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” statewide order announced Monday evening.

DNR’s Hilary Franz termed it “not an easy decision.”

“But, I cannot ignore the unfortunate reality of what we saw this weekend: crowded trails, people shoulder to shoulder, and large gatherings. This behavior undercuts the sacrifices that Washingtonians of all means and ability are making in order to adhere to social distancing. And it undercuts the heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses, and first responders who risk their lives each day responding to this unrelenting epidemic,” she said in a press release.

At least 123 residents have died from coronavirus and there are another 2,469 confirmed cases, according to Washington health officials. The state’s goal is to flatten the curve of infection as much as possible as quickly as possible.

DNR’s order lasts at least through April 8.

It applies to “trailheads, trails, roads, free flight launch sites, campgrounds, water access sites, day-use areas, and dispersed recreation (camping, off-trail hiking, hunting, target shooting, etc.).” It does not impact logging or farming on leased lands, DNR said.

Most state forests are located in the foothills of the western and east-central Cascades, the Black Hills, rim of the Olympics, western Okanogan Valley and scattered parcels in Northeast Washington.

Those and WDFW wildlife areas are prime places to hunt for spring turkey. WDFW continues to say that at this time hunting and fishing seasons are still open.

DNR says enforcement staff will be patrolling its lands.

“Ultimately, we are counting on people to do the right thing and comply … If you are found on state land, our staff will provide information about the closure and ask you to leave. Citations can be issued to individuals who refuse to leave,” DNR said in an FAQ.

WDFW’s and State Park’s closures run through at least April 7.

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