Oregon’s exceptionally dry spring, coupled with a string of record-setting high temperatures, has prompted a group of private timberland owners to close their properties to the public.
Five companies announced today that they were suspending access to a combined 600,000 acres, which stretches across much of the western half of the state. The affected land is located in Benton, Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Polk and Tillamook counties.
Those grounds are generally open for recreation outside of fire season, which is now officially underway. Since most of the state’s wildfires are human-caused, owners say restricting the public from that private land is a prudent move at this time.
“This historic heat wave is smashing records,” Casey Roscoe, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Seneca, stated in a press release. “It is important for us to proactively close our lands down to the public for the safety of our timberlands, firefighters and all Oregonians.”
Currently, all of Oregon is experiencing some level of drought. The lack of rainfall in the first half of the year means that woody debris is already parched, making vegetation even more susceptible to a blaze.
Fire conditions might become even more hazardous as summer pushes on, since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall throughout the Pacific Northwest in July and August.
Timberland owners say they’re also taking extra precautions because the number of fires this year is already 1.5 times higher than the 10-year average and they’ve torn through four times as many acres than what is standard.