HYRUM, Utah (ABC4) — Starting this year, there will be some new rules in place at the Hardware Wildlife Management Area in an effort to protect wildlife habitat, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

Two major changes will take place in the effort to “decrease damage and [to] make habitat better for deer, elk and other wildlife,” a release states.

The first change now limits camping to five areas: the Wapiti, Baxter-Rock Creek, Baxter-Rock Creek Livestock, Hardware Flats camp areas, and a fifth area consisting of four small hunting season camps along SR-101. This change is effective immediately, DWR states.

The second change establishes a camping season. According to DWR, the Wapiti, Baxter-Rock Creek and Baxter-Rock Creek Livestock camp areas will be open to camping as of May 26, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Additionally, the camping season in the Hardware Flats Camp Area, as well as the hunting season camps along SR-101, will begin August 1.

As for their reasoning, DWR says that the number of people camping on the Wildlife Management Area has increased dramatically over the past decade, and that allowing camping in the spring, when the habitat is wet and easily damaged, has caused problems recently.

“In the past, camping was allowed across most of the 14,000-acre WMA anytime of the year. However, the WMA is at 5,200 feet in elevation, and allowing camping in the spring — when the habitat is wet and easily damaged — has created issues in recent years,” the release states.

“It takes time for habitat to dry to the point that vehicles can travel on it without leaving ruts and damaging the vegetation,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Hardware WMA Manager Brad Hunt said. “Waiting until Memorial Day weekend to start the camping season on three of the camp areas will give the ground a chance to dry out so it isn’t as susceptible to damage. The fourth major camp area – Hardware Flats – is higher in elevation and takes even longer to dry out, which is why the camping season there doesn’t start until Aug. 1.”

There are reportedly 194 wildlife management areas and waterfowl management areas in Utah. DWR states the following reasons for acquiring these areas, dating back to the 1940s:

  • To conserve critical habitats for wildlife
  • To help minimize and mitigate wildlife depredation on private property
  • To provide anglers and hunters, who provide funding for the WMAs through the purchase of a fishing or hunting license, a place to hunt and fish in Utah

DWR conservation officers will reportedly be ramping up their presence on the WMA to enforce the new camping regulations.

“While we would like to provide recreational opportunities on our WMAs, these properties were purchased for the benefit of wildlife and wildlife habitat,” Hunt said. “These properties are public land, but they are not multiple use like many other state- and federally-owned properties. Restricting camping until the areas dry out — and limiting camping to the established camping areas and time frames — should allow visitors to have a good time camping without damaging the habitat the WMA was purchased to protect.”

More information on the Hardware WMA can be found here. For more information on wildlife management areas and waterfowl management areas in Utah, visit the DWR website here.