Campers “Prohibited From Entering” Entire National Forest as Gov’t Closes More Public Land
If you’re planning on camping or hiking in central or north Arizona anytime soon, it may be time to rethink your travel plans. Quickly.
The Coconino and Kaibab National Forests are implementing fire restrictions starting this Wednesday. These restrictions include full closures with punishments to include steep fines and prison time.
Let’s take a closer look at these closures and what they mean for outdoor enthusiasts.
Coconino and Kaibab National Forests To Close Wednesday
The Coconino and Kaibab National Forests in Arizona are undergoing full closures starting on Wednesday, June 23rd at 8am.
Coconino National Forest is located in central Arizona and surrounds the cities of Flagstaff, Sedona, and many other small towns.
Kaibab National Forest is just north of the Coconino forest and borders both the south and north rim of the Grand Canyon.
These closures are due to dry conditions, extreme fire danger, and persistent wildfire activity with limited firefighting resources.
Keep in mind: The closure includes all of these free campsites on the Grand Canyon South Rim.
What Is a Full Closure?
Both forests are employing “full closure” measures for public safety. A full closure means that all recreational activity within the forests are halted until further direction is given.
This means camping, off-roading, hiking, and all other activities within the national forest boundaries are prohibited.
According to a press release for the Coconino National Forest:
“Only those with private inholdings will be allowed to access their property, as well as utility personnel providing support where necessary, and firefighters performing their duties.”
Work on all projects within the forest will also come to an immediate halt including logging, watershed projects, and concessionaires and outfitters within the forests must also halt business.
Violators will be fined up to $5,000 or six months in prison, or both.
What The Closure Means for Campers and Boondockers
According to the forest service, forest service personnel will attempt to reach as many campers and boondockers as possible to vacate the forests before the closures take effect.
In an alert shared into the Facebook Group: Boondocking and Free Camping USA, one commenter states:
“So sad. We were there today and was told to start evacuating.”
Campers and visitors to the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests should vacate their campsites before the closures take effect.
Word is rapidly spreading online through various news outlets, Facebook groups, email lists, and more.
If you are or know of anyone camping or boondocking within Coconino or Kaibab National Forests, let them know immediately.
Uh Oh… Some of these awesome Sedona campsites will be shut down during these forest closures.
Extreme Arizona Wildfire Danger
These national forest fire closures come during a time of heightened wildfire activity. There are currently several wildfires burning in Coconino National Forest and more dry weather in the forecast.
Many wildfires begin naturally, from events like lightning strikes, but humans cause others. Removing the public from the National Forest areas prevents wildfire outbreaks from human activity.
According to the release, parts of the national forest will receive sporadic rainfall in the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be enough to eliminate wildfire danger.
These closures will continue until hot, dry conditions are no longer in the forecast and the area receives enough precipitation to prevent wildfires.
Rethink Your Arizona Travel Plans
Wildfire season is upon us. So if you were planning on visiting the Kaibab or Coconino National Forests for camping or hiking in the near future, you need to change your plans!
The Coconino National Forest surrounds Sedona, so most Sedona hikes will be off-limits.
Nearby national forests like Prescott and Tonto have not yet announced fire restrictions, but they might be next on the list.
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Really, this is the best thing the forest service can do. It is FAR more important to protect these fragile, dry forests to preserve them for the future, than to allow access to campers right now. So, you have to replan, or relocate— it’s a small price to pay for keeping these places safe for the future. And, summer is NOT the time to be going to the desert. Head north, or east, or up in elevation. There’s other places—come back to the southwest in the winter.