Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) personnel in Region I have been maintaining coordination with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Forest) staff to work toward finalizing the Forest’s decisions related to public access to those areas within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter. With fall hunting seasons rapidly approaching, this is a process of significant priority for the Department.
The following information outlines the key elements and framework the Forest has announced and will utilize in opening the area of the Forest (those portions of Game Management Units 1 and 27) impacted by the Wallow Fire. In reviewing this information, please be advised of the following key points:
- Many areas within the Wallow Fire perimeter continue to present significant public safety hazards, primarily associated with dead (falling) trees and flash flood impacts. The amount and level of public access provided is largely dictated by these public safety concerns/liabilities.
- The scope of these phased openings of the areas within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter allows general forest access to the public, with the timing accelerated as soon as possible to provide hunters time to scout for upcoming hunting seasons.
- A prerequisite to reopening the Forest within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter has been clearing and preparing designated/priority roadways for safe public travel. Roads are being evaluated in an ongoing process for consideration of opening, with open roads (for motorized travel) being designated with white arrows. Roads and trails not having white arrows are closed to all motorized travel. As a result, vehicular access will be limited to white-arrow roads for a certain time, but foot and nonmotorized access will be available to all areas that are not designated as closed by the Forest.
- Forest users are responsible for their own safety and are encouraged to use caution as they utilize their Forest, and to do so in a responsible manner to ensure the protection of life, property and natural resources. Be aware of your surroundings – “Look up, look down and look around.”
(For a list of frequently asked questions, see link toward bottom of this page).
EMERGENCY CLOSURE ORDER
APACHE NATIONAL FOREST
WALLOW FIRE AREA CLOSURE ORDER FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
AUGUST 3, 2011
Purpose: This document will act as an interim plan for mitigating hazards and other resource concerns within and adjacent to areas affected by the Wallow Fire. Priorities associated with this interim management plan include (listed in order of priority):
1) Protection of public and employee safety;
2) Protection of property (i.e., roads, trails, campgrounds, buildings, vehicles, etc.); and
3) Protection of resources (i.e. soils, vegetation, water quality, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, heritage, etc.).
Scope: Guidance within the Forest’s Amended Emergency Closure Order applies to all National Forest System Lands contained within the perimeter or adjacent to the perimeter of the Wallow Fire, within the State of Arizona.
Vehicular use/access to reopened areas of the Forest within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter:
- The Forests have designated roads and trails (routes) within the fire perimeter and on adjacent land as open to motorized travel to provide access for forest users. These routes are denoted on the ground with a white arrow (sign) at each of the termini of the routes and with “reassurance” white arrow signs at two-mile intervals and/or at greater intervals, if deemed necessary.
- Prior to designating a route as open, hazards associated with the route to be opened will be assessed by the Forest and mitigated to the greatest extent possible.
- As motorized routes are assessed and opened for motorized entry, they will be depicted on a map, which will be available to the public. This map will be updated on a periodic basis to accurately reflect conditions as they appear on the ground.
- Emphasis will be placed on the (re)opening of level passenger car-rated roads (maintenance level 3-5 roads) over more primitive roads (level 2 roads), based on available resources.
- Although a road is identified as a passenger car-rated road (maintenance level 3-5 roads), the actual level of maintenance associated with the road may be less because of increased need for temporary drainage and/or increased potential of erosion.
- With certain exceptions described below, motorized routes not designated as “open” (with a white arrow) will be closed to entry and/or use with a motorized vehicle.
- Roadside parking within one vehicle length or a specified distance of up to 30 feet of a designated motorized route (white arrow route) will be allowed.
- Certain routes will be closed to motorized travel in an effort to mitigate increased erosion potential, minimize impacts to vegetation, and limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users.
Nonmotorized use/access within reopened areas of the Forest within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter:
- Unless otherwise restricted by Federal law, State law, and/or Forest Order, nonmotorized activities including, but not limited to, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, skiing, sledding, non-motorized camping, etc., within identified portions of the Wallow Fire perimeter and on NFS Lands adjacent to the perimeter will continue.
- Certain areas and routes will be closed (see link to map below) to nonmotorized travel in an effort to mitigate increased erosion potential, minimize impacts to vegetation, and limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users. Forest users should consult the Forest map of the Wallow Fire area to determine where these closures to any entry exist.
- Unless otherwise restricted by Federal law, State law, and/or Forest Order, camping within the Wallow Fire perimeter and on NFS Lands adjacent to the perimeter will continue.
- Camping within developed campgrounds affected by the Wallow Fire will be allowed as hazards are abated and/or mitigated.
- Dispersed camping will be allowed within one vehicle length or a specified distance up to 30 feet of any motorized or nonmotorized route identified as open.
- Individual dispersed campsites will not be identified as open or closed, only motorized and/or nonmotorized routes will be identified as open.
- Certain areas, sites and campgrounds will be closed to camping in an effort to mitigate increased erosion potential, minimize impacts to vegetation, and limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users.
Motorized big game retrieval and forest product gathering:
- Unless otherwise restricted by Federal law, State law, and/or Forest Order, motorized cross-country travel use within the Wallow Fire perimeter and on adjacent Forest Land will continue for retrieving legally harvested big game species and other lawfully permitted forest products.
- Certain areas have been identified as being closed to all public access, including motorized big game retrieval, in an effort to mitigate increased erosion potential, minimize impacts to vegetation, and limit potential exposure to significant hazards by forest users.
- Permitting of any forest products will continue to be managed under the terms and conditions associated with the existing Forest Product Permit System.
- Specific areas have been identified as closed to cross-country motorized travel for all public access and associated forest product gathering in an effort to mitigate increased erosion potential, minimize impacts to vegetation, and limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users.
- Provisions for hunters possessing lawful hunting permits entering closed areas to pursue verifiable and lawfully wounded/downed game are currently being reviewed by Forest and Department personnel, and will be announced when completed.
- Exceptions for cross-country motorized use by mobility-impaired individuals (i.e., Challenged Hunter Access/Mobility Permit) within the Wallow Fire perimeter will not be allowed, unless the use is for the retrieval of a legally harvested big game species.
- Exceptions for hunters entering closed areas in pursuit of big game species, including those using dogs, will not be allowed.
Note – The next Forest amendment to the Wallow Fire Area Closure Order is expected to occur prior to Aug. 15. It is anticipated that the next amendment will open the entire area of Units 1 and 27 impacted by the Wallow Fire (remainder of the Apache Forest within the burn perimeter) for general nonmotorized access, plus motorized access on those roads and trails identified as open via the white arrow program. An updated map will also be developed and available at that time.
- For a list of frequently asked questions and answers, click here.
- To view the latest burn area access map, click here.