On August 16, 2013, the Coconino National Forest issued a press release entitled “Parking trailers in forests prohibited during hunting season.” The press release is specific to the Coconino, Kaibab, and Prescott National Forests, and is directed exclusively at hunters and recreationists who leave their trailers and/or motor homes unattended on the forest for more than 72 hours. These sportsmen may be subject to enforcement action, including citations or impoundment of vehicles, trailers and/or motor homes. The release specifically states,
If trailers are left unattended for more than 72 hours, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and may remove them from the forest. Violators can also be cited for this action.
This is an unprecedented application of Forest Service regulations that relies on Arizona statutes for establishing a presumption of abandonment for a vehicle left unattended for more than 72 hours. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department are opposed to this unprecedented application of state and federal law to hunters who have absolutely no intent of abandoning their property. A stay limit of 14 days has been in effect on national forest lands for decades and is well understood and accepted by sportsmen and recreationists.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department, along with the Coconino and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Offices, are committed to protecting Arizona’s citizens and recreational visitors on national forest system lands.
The Department has met repeatedly with staff from the affected national forests to repeal this enforcement approach, with no success. Specifically, Director Larry Voyles, in a letter dated September 12, 2013, requested the following from Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart: 1) that all national forests in Arizona establish a uniform approach to address length of visitation, and 2) that national forests in Arizona return to an enforcement approach that allows visitors or their property, including trailers, to remain on the forest for 14 days, whether or not the property is continuously attended.
“The Commission feels strongly that public lands belong to the public, who clearly enjoy using those lands,” said Chairman J.W. Harris. “A 72-hour rule imposes unacceptable and artificial restrictions on sportsmen and recreational users of the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott National Forests.”
On Nov. 2, Chairman Harris moved and the Commission voted unanimously to have Director Voyles and the Department coordinate with Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil and Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher to develop a notification placard that visitors to Arizona’s national forests can affix to their property. The purpose of the placard is to provide notice that the owner or occupant of any property left temporarily unattended on the national forest has not abandoned the property. The placard lists the dates the property will be on the forest, states that the owner has not abandoned the property during any period of absence during those dates, and establishes that the length of stay on the forest will not exceed 14 days. Providing such notice may deter Forest Service personnel from impounding the property and/or pursuing enforcement actions.
The placard includes this disclaimer: The Arizona Game and Fish Department provides this placard as a courtesy to sportsmen with no guarantee, representation or warranty that the notice placed on property will prevent impoundment, an enforcement action or be a defense to such actions. Any person using the placard understands and agrees to assume any risk that the notice will not prevent property seizure/impoundment or an enforcement action.
Hunters and other outdoor recreationists may click on the link below to download and print the placard.
The Commission also directed the Department to communicate issues involving the 72-hour rule to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other relevant agencies, and to begin discussing appropriate legislation with lawmakers at state and national levels.
Specific questions can be directed to the following forest officials:
- Brady Smith, Coconino Forest Public Affairs Officer, (928) 527-3490
- Dean Jones, Coconino Forest Deputy Public Affairs Officer, (928) 527-3643
- Brienne Magee, Flagstaff Ranger District Public Affairs Officer, (928) 527-8290
- Jacque Banks, Kaibab Forest Public Affairs Officer (928) 635-8200
- Debbie Maneely, Prescott Forest Public Affairs Officer (928) 443-8000
Hunters who experience unreasonable property seizures while recreating on national forests are encouraged to call the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief hotline 1-800-352-0700 or the appropriate county Sheriff’s Office.
- Coconino County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: (928) 774-4523 or (800) 338-7888
- Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: (928) 771-3260
Visit the AZGFD website at www.azgfd.gov/forestservicecamping72hourrule for additional links to:
- Coconino National Forest news release on the 72-hour rule
- Letter from AZGFD Director Larry Voyles to Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart
- Letter from AZGFD Director Larry Voyles, Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher and Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil to Regional Forester Cal Joyner (U.S. Forest Service Region 3)
- Resolution from Arizona Sheriffs Association
Logo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department