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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reminding the public of its fire restrictions this summer

prescribed fire on public lands
National Interagency Fire Center
Flickr via public domain mark
A prescribed fire on Yellowtail Wildlife Management Area in northwest Wyoming. Though prescribed fires are meant to revitalize wildlife habitats, uncontrolled ones can cause both immediate and long-term damage to them in addition to affecting public access and even hunting season.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department issued fire restrictions earlier this summer to keep visitors safe and protect the public lands they manage. Fire restrictions, which are also issued by individual counties, are often issued during the summer months when the danger of fire is at its highest and drought conditions are most severe.

“One reason that Game and Fish institutes those fire bans, in addition to the counties, is because we're also concerned about fires on Game and Fish lands,” said Sara DiRienzo, Game and Fish Department spokeswoman. “Anything from a campfire to a stove to even an errant spark of any kind can spark up a fire on our wildlife habitat management areas. And those are places that we manage specifically for quality wildlife habitat.”

DiRienzo said she’s unaware of any fires that have burned this year on Game and Fish managed lands but stressed the effects of fire can have both immediate and long-term consequences for wildlife habitats.

“A fall wildfire can have much different implications than sort of a controlled springtime fire too, they're usually pretty hot in the drier conditions and they can scorch the soil and sterilize it to the point where native plants struggle to recover,” she added. “When they're big wildfires, it can prime the environment for weeds like cheatgrass to come in and those are extremely difficult to eradicate and plants like cheatgrass, which is an invasive plant, doesn't have a lot of nutritional value for wildlife.”

The Game and Fish reexamines fire restrictions as conditions change. They’re often implemented in the summer and lifted in the fall and winter months, though they may stay in effect during these periods as well if conditions warrant them, such as protecting the availability of lands during hunting season, which has been impacted by fires in the past. Campers should make sure that any campfires are contained to a fire ring and that plenty of water should be available to ensure that a fire can be fully extinguished. Fireworks are never allowed on any Game and Fish managed lands, DiRienzo said.

A full list of current fire restrictions can be found on the Game and Fish website.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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