SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz. – Several agencies are working together to assess and open burned areas of the Apache portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNF) to outdoor recreation, where safe and appropriate to do so.
“We fully recognize the public desire to continue recreation on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests is paramount. Getting the Apache side of the forest open for all users is a huge undertaking, because of the vast area impacted by the fire. It will be a gradual progression of identifying and removing safety hazards. Reopening the severely burned portions could take several years dependent on manpower and resources available,” according to Jim Zornes, ASNF deputy forest supervisor. “These hazardous conditions, such as flash flooding and dead-standing trees, pose exceptional problems; however, ultimately, safety is the responsibility of recreationists, hunters, and forest users.”
Three key issues determine all decisions being made: public safety, protection of public property, and protection of natural resources.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and Arizona Department of Transportation are in ongoing discussions to determine access protocol to portions of Game Management Units 1 and 27 that were impacted by the Wallow Fire. Discussions include access roads, dispersed camping, and motorized big game retrieval.
All fall hunts will occur and take place as scheduled. Protocols will be agreed upon and the public will be able to access this information at www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf and www.azgfd.gov. Ongoing map updates will be supplied through these websites and hard copies at the Pinetop Game and Fish office, the Apache-Sitgreaves Supervisor’s office, and local ranger district offices.
“Game and Fish fully understands the ASNFs’ very difficult situation with the enormity of the Wallow Fire and all its associated issues. We deeply appreciate the Forest working diligently with us in a close relationship to reopen many of the fire-impacted areas in such a short time-frame. The Forest has been receptive to our suggestions and has gone out of their way to ensure hunts take place that have been scheduled this fall. We ask the hunting community and general public to understand the scale of this situation and to have tolerance and patience as we all work together to restore access back to the National Forest lands affected by fire,” said Jon Cooley, regional supervisor in the Pinetop Game and Fish office.