Updates on Hunter Access and Other Recreational Access to Areas of Units 1 and 27 in the Wallow Fire Perimeter
(Map of roads open to public access [below] updated Sept. 6, 2012)
Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) personnel in Region 1 have been coordinating with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Forest) staff throughout the past year to upgrade public access to affected areas within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter.
The following information outlines the key elements and framework the Forest 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 document, please be advised of the following key points:
- Many areas within the Wallow Fire perimeter continue to present significant public safety hazards and will for several years to come, 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 and liabilities.
- 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 evaluated in an ongoing process for consideration of opening, with open roads for motorized travel being designated with white arrows. Foot and nonmotorized access are available to all areas that are not designated as closed by the Forest. See below for information on routes open to motorized vehicle operation by hunters possessing a valid big game permit or by legally-licensed big game guides.
- 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. Always be aware of your surroundings – “Look up, look down and look around.”
WALLOW FIRE CLOSURE ACCESS – QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Information about the White Arrow System, hunting, fuelwood,
general recreation within the Wallow Fire perimeter
(The information below was developed and distributed by the Forest and Department on Aug. 24, 2012)
“White Arrow” Forest Road Signs to Stay in Place for 2012 Hunting
Season and Some Campgrounds Reopen
White Mountains, Aug. 24, 2012 — The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) will continue to use the “white arrow” signing system through the fall and winter seasons to specify roads within the Wallow Fire burned area that are open or closed for motorized use.
Road reopenings in the Wallow Fire burned area
As forest crews continue to abate road hazards, such as cutting snags and installing culverts, more roads will be re-opened for public traffic and marked with white arrow road signs. “The Forest Service is working hard to respond to public desires to re-open more roads in the Wallow Fire burned area, especially as hunting season gets busier. We’re concentrating our efforts in those areas and on those roads that we know are most popular with hunters and recreationists,” explained Ryan Domsalla, Recreation Staff for the ASNFs. Already since the end of last summer, the forests have been able to re-open 670 miles of road.
The forest closure order that was originally set in place following the Wallow Fire has been modified again to allow forest users possessing valid hunting tags and fuelwood cutting permits (excluding free fuelwood permits for salvage trees) access to roads not on the white arrow system. The entire forest order and a map displaying what areas and roads are open or closed can be found on the ASNFs Web site at: www.fs.usda.gov/asnf.
Access and safety tips for hunters
For those that are hunting with a big game tag during an open season for that big game tag, the ASNFs will allow hunters to use any road marked with vertical or horizontal numbered signs (designated National Forest System road), including those roads that are not marked under the white arrow system, and to travel on or park their vehicle within 30 feet of the road. Additionally, hunters in possession of a big game hunting tag may use motorized means to travel cross-country to retrieve their legally harvested game, unless prohibited by other laws or regulations (such as in designated wilderness areas). Hunters are urged to use caution when retrieving big game with a vehicle to avoid damaging habitat.
Big game retrieval is authorized throughout the ASNFs and is not limited in the Wallow Fire burned area. However, overnight camping is prohibited in the following six high-intensity burned areas: Auger Creek Closure Area, Fish Creek Closure Area, Middle Mountain Closure Area, Milligan Valley Closure Area, Prime Canyon Closure Area, and West Fork Closure Area.
Increased situational awareness is especially important for hunters traveling within the Wallow Fire burned area. Remember to look up, look down, and look all around. Snags and dead trees, flash floods, and unstable soils are just a few of the hazards to be aware of. Hunters are encouraged to carry the means to remove fallen trees, such as a chainsaw or handsaw, which may block their access on roads.
Campground reopenings for Labor Day weekend
Several campgrounds were kept closed this summer because of concerns for flash flooding. Two of these, Blue Crossing and West Fork, will remain closed. However, seven campgrounds will reopen on Tuesday August 28th and be available in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend:
- On the Alpine Ranger District, Aspen, Buffalo Crossing, Deer Creek, Diamond Rock, Raccoon, and Horse Springs Campgrounds, located on the East Fork of the Black River, will be available for day-use activities and overnight camping. For more information call (928) 339-5000.
- On the Springerville Ranger District, South Fork Campground, located approximately 10 miles west of Springerville-Eagar, will be available for day-use activities only. Apache County probation crews spent the prior weekend cleaning up the site and preparing it for visitor use, including removing hazard trees that will be cut up and available through a local firewood assistance program. For more information call (928) 333-4372.
Although the monsoon season is winding down, visitors should continue to exercise caution and alertness in these areas as rainstorms can still occur and the risk for flooding still exists. Depending on weather and road conditions, the Forest Service may close any of these campgrounds for the sake of public safety. Visitors are encouraged to contact the local ranger station for the current status of these campgrounds before heading out to the woods.
(The information below was developed by the Forest on Aug. 29, 2011)
NOTE - On Nov. 3, 2011, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Supervisor further lifted restrictions on access to allow nonmotorized travel and pursuit of game in the Auger Creek, Fish Creek, Middle Mountain, Milligan Valley, Prime Canyon, and West Fork Closure Areas. Dispersed camping is still prohibited in each of these seven closure areas.
ROADS AND THE WHITE ARROW SYSTEM
Where can I drive within Wallow Fire Perimeter?
Motorized use within the fire perimeter is only allowed on roads designated as open, indicated on the ground with white arrows. With certain exceptions for motorized big game retrieval and fuelwood collection, cross-country (off-road) motorized travel is not allowed (see hunting and fuelwood sections below). Roads within the burn perimeter are not currently maintained for passenger cars. High-clearance vehicles are recommended.
When will you open more roads?
Crews are working daily to evaluate conditions, mitigate hazards, and determine if additional roads or areas are safe for reentry. Remember that some open roads are still receiving extensive flooding and may need to be temporarily reclosed for safety purposes. We typically know of any changes by mid-week. Be sure to Know Before You Go – double check conditions with your local Apache-Sitgreaves office or the Apache-Sitgreaves website before you venture out.
If I encounter a road that is not shown as open on the map, but is posted with a white arrow on the ground, can I use it?
Yes, so long as it’s not barricaded/gated/signed closed. The map is only being updated on a periodic bases (weekly, at most), but changes on the ground are occurring daily. White arrows on the ground supersede the map; however, closed gates, barricades, and other closure signs supersede white arrows. Woodcutters and hunters with valid licenses may use other roads that are numbered with a horizontal or vertical sign as long as they are not posted or barricaded closed.
Can I use routes not designated with an arrow for non-motorized activities?
Yes, so long as the routes are not within the Escudilla Closure Area, you may use routes for non-motorized activities. Please keep in mind that any area affected by the wildfire can be prone to hazards such as falling trees, flooding and burned out stump holes. Any time you enter the forest, you should be aware of your environment and changing weather conditions. You are responsible for your own safety! Always Look up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Crews are installing several gates on the roads that are marked as open. Are you going to close those roads?
Not at this time. These gates are intended to remain open unless emergency situations warrant an immediate closure for public safety.
What hazards should I be aware of in burned areas?
Stump holes, flooding potential, washed out roads, falling trees/branches. Any time you enter the forest, you should be aware of your environment and changing weather conditions. The environment you are entering is highly susceptible to rainstorms and wind events. You are responsible for your own safety! Always Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around. Bear in mind that certain roads – such as FR275 and FR26 - are experiencing extensive flooding and damage during monsoon storms, and may be temporarily impassable or even temporarily closed. In addition, roads within the burn perimeter are not currently maintained for passenger cars. High-clearance vehicles are recommended.
What routes am I allowed to drive while hunting within the perimeter of the Wallow Fire?
Except in areas closed to motorized entry, individuals with a valid big game hunting license are allowed to operate motorized vehicles on any Forest Service system road (posted on the ground with either a horizontal or vertical road number) that is not barricaded closed. Hunters should be prepared with chainsaws or other equipment to clear the road should the exit be obstructed by falling trees. Other hazards such as stump holes and flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I drive off-road to retrieve my legally harvested big game animal within the Fire perimeter?
Yes, you may drive off-road to retrieve legally harvested animals so long as you do not cause resource damage or enter into areas designated as closed to entry. In certain circumstances, either the Apache-Sitgreaves or Arizona Game and Fish Department officials may consider limited entry into a closed area for retrieval of a deceased game animal. Entry is NOT guaranteed. You must contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief hotline or the ASNFs to obtain such permission. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to drive off-road to scout for game.
Can I pursue an animal that I wounded into a closed area?
In certain circumstances, Apache-Sitgreaves or Arizona Game and Fish Department officials may consider limited entry into a closed area (namely the Escudilla Closure Area; the Auger Creek, Fish Creek, Middle Mountain, Milliagan Valley, Prime Canyon, and West Fork Closure Areas are now open to nonmotorized travel) in pursuit of mortally wounded or deceased game animals. To request an exception permit, you must contact either the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief hotline (24-hour, 7-day/week) at-1-800-352-0700 or the local Apache-Sitgreaves Forest Service office (Alpine Ranger District Office at (928) 339-5000, or the Springerville District office at (928) 333-6200), prior to entering the closure area.
I am a CHAMP hunter, am I allowed motorized use off designated roads and trails, or in areas designated as closed?
No. With the exception of retrieving legally harvested big game animals by motorized means, you are not allowed to use motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
Where will I be able to collect firewood within the fire perimeter?
With a valid fuelwood permit (available only at the Alpine and Springerville District Offices), you may retrieve fuelwood within 150 feet from any Forest Service system road, numbered with a horizontal or vertical sign, except in closure areas and areas where fuelwood collection is normally restricted (campgrounds, wilderness, etc). Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I drive off-road to collect firewood within the perimeter of the Wallow Fire?
With a valid permit, you may retrieve your fuelwood by motorized means as far as 150 feet off the numbered road, so long as you do not cause resource damage. Under no circumstances will you be able to enter areas designated as closed. Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I go fishing within the Wallow Fire Perimeter?
Yes, with a valid fishing license, and as long as you remain in areas designated as open and along routes designated as open with a white arrow. Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I go camping in the campgrounds associated with the Wallow Fire?
Yes. Most of the developed recreation sites within the burn perimeter are open, except South Fork Campground and all the developed recreation sites in the East Fork and West Fork of the Black River. Please keep in mind that certain campgrounds have been closed for an indeterminant length of time until hazards can be mitigated, and flooding potential subsides.
Can I camp in dispersed areas, outside of campgrounds, within the perimeter?
Yes. Dispersed camping supported with a motorized vehicle will be allowed within 30 feet of any motorized route, which is identified and posted on the ground as open with a white arrow. Dispersed camping is not allowed in the Auger Creek, Escudilla Mountain, Fish Creek, Middle Mountain, Milliagan Valley, Prime Canyon, and West Fork Closure Areas. Dispersed camping not supported by motorized means (e.g., backcountry camping, etc.), will be allowed within areas designated as open. Please keep in mind that certain areas remain closed to dispersed camping in order to limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users, mitigate erosion potential, and minimize impacts to vegetation.
Can I camp further than 30 feet away from an open road if I walk in?
Yes. If you walk in, you may camp in any area designated as open. Vehicles must remain within 30 feet from an open road. Bear in mind that these areas have not been mitigated for hazards and pose a higher risk to your safety. Hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I hike on trails within the fire perimeter?
While the trails within the open areas can be used, they have yet to be mitigated of hazards and they pose a higher threat to your safety. We recommend that you try to find other locations across the ASNFs. Remember that you’re responsible for your own safety. While you’re hiking, continue to Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around.
THE CLOSING/OPENING PROCESS
Why do portions of the Forest need to remain closed after the fire is out?
Our number one priority is human safety. We’re dedicated to avoiding accidents and injuries as much as possible. After the fire is out, many hazards still exist, including stump holes, falling dead trees, and the potential for flash flooding. We’ll continue to work hard mitigating some of these hazards so we can begin opening certain areas for public re-entry. Some areas may continue to be closed for several months, and some areas we open may need to be re-closed if conditions change.
How long until the entire area within the fire perimeter is open?
The length of closure is dependent upon many criteria, including public safety, protection of property, and protection of forest resources (i.e., soils, vegetation, water quality, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, heritage, etc.). We’re working diligently to remove hazards and restore the forest to safer conditions for public use. We’ll be able to open some areas over the next several weeks. Other areas with severe damage will have to remain closed for some time. Keep in mind that some areas that have been opened may need to be re-closed if safety conditions change.
What is the penalty for going into areas or on routes that are designated as closed?
Any violation of the closure order is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for individuals, $10,000 for organizations and/or imprisonment up to than six (6) months.
Where can I get a map of the routes designated as open to motorized use?
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. The most recent maps are available at any Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests office or on the ASNFs website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf. Updated information is also posted at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website at www.azgfd.gov/wildfires.
How often will the map be updated?
The map will be periodically updated to reflect changes. Be sure to call one of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests’ offices, or check the Apache-Sitgreaves website prior to venturing into the forest to ensure you have the most recent information.
Does the white arrow program pre-empt Travel Management Rule?
No. The white arrow designation of motorized routes within the Wallow Fire Perimeter is being used as an interim measure for the protection of public safety, property and forest resources. Further assessments will occur at a later date, which will aid Travel Management planners in determining how best to move forward in the Travel Management process.
OTHER KEY INFORMATION:
- You are responsible for your own safety!
- Check in with a friend or family member; tell them where you are going, when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return.
- Whenever possible, travel in pairs.
- When parking your vehicle, look up for overhead hazards within 1 ½ times the length of the tallest tree close to your vehicle.
- Don’t camp in areas that have dead trees within 1 ½ tree lengths.
- Carry a communication device and check-in at regular intervals.
- Locations in, near, and downstream of recently burned areas are very susceptible to flash flooding and debris flows.
- Remember...it does not take a heavy downpour to result in flash flooding on a burn scar. Even a short period of moderate rainfall on a severely burned watershed can lead to flash floods or debris flows. After soils and vegetation have been charred, rainfall that would normally be absorbed will run off extremely quickly. Severely burned soils can be as water repellent as pavement.
- Do not attempt to cross washes and roads when water is present!
- Rapidly moving flood waters can pick up large amounts of debris that can damage or destroy culverts, bridges, roadways, and buildings, potentially causing injury or death. Flash floods in and near burn scars can be life threatening.
To view Wallow Fire burn area information on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests web site, click here or visit www.fs.usda.gov/asnf.