DNR Closes Whatcom County Rock Pit to Target Shooting, Public Access
March 16, 2023
North Fork rock pit, northeast of Deming, contains elevated levels of lead, recent field tests found
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources closed the North Fork rock pit in Whatcom County to target shooting this month after recent testing found significantly elevated levels of lead there that far exceed environmental standards.
The rock pit, located on DNR-managed trust lands northeast of Deming, has long been a popular target shooting destination. However, the site has struggled with garbage dumping, illegal shooting, and other public safety issues.
“Limiting public access to recreation is not a decision that we take lightly, but the safety of our staff and the public is our primary concern,” said Jay Guthrie, DNR’s Northwest Region manager. “It is important that all target shooting on state lands is done in a safe and responsible manner, and that includes observing the closure of areas where target shooting can no longer be done safely.”
During a joint site visit with DNR, initial field tests by the Washington State Department of Ecology found results ranging from 6,420 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil to 58,100 milligrams of lead per kilogram within the North Fork rock pit. The soil cleanup level for unrestricted land use in Washington state is 250 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil.
Lead accumulations at these levels can be unsafe for the health of humans and wildlife.
In the wake of the initial test results, DNR will work with Ecology to begin the cleanup process under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act. The next step is to thoroughly study the site to find out the types and extent of the contamination. Risk-based screenings have not yet taken place.
Pursuant to DNR’s authority under Washington Administrative Code 332-52, department staff have posted “no shooting” signs near the entrance to the rock pit and will be installing a locked gate and concrete barriers to limit access to the site.
The majority of DNR parcels allow target shooting, except where prohibited by local ordinance. Target shooting restrictions do not apply to licensed hunting.
Shooting on DNR parcels is allowed 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset and requires biodegradable targets and an earthen backstop. Target shooting is prohibited along, across, or down roads or trails, or within 500 feet of a recreation site or structure. Incendiary devices – such as exploding targets, sky lanterns, or tracer ammunition – are illegal on all 13 million acres of DNR-protected lands. Violators of the shooting closure could be subject to fines.
Learn more about the rules for safe shooting at dnr.wa.gov/targetshooting
DNR Recreation and Leadership
DNR manages 1,200 miles of trails and 160-plus recreation sites in 3 million acres of working forest state trust lands and 92 natural areas. DNR trust lands provide clean water, and generate revenue for public services and school construction. DNR also oversees 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, rule administration for 12 million forested acres, the Washington Geological Survey, and wildland firefighting across 13 million acres of forestland. To learn more about recreation on DNR-managed lands, visit dnr.wa.gov/go.