|Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest officials have announced that vehicle and foot access to those portions of the forest impacted by the recent Rodeo-Chediski Fire opened to hunters, as well as the general public, beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, September 4.
"This is indeed good news for big game permit holders," stated Bruce Sitko, information and education program manager in the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Pinetop office.
Sitko explained that since permits were issued in July, the department has received a steady stream of calls from hunters asking about the status of the burn.
"Because of higher priorities and a tremendous work load, including immediate rehabilitation work on almost 50,000 acres, public safety and flash flooding from monsoon rains, we certainly understand that forest administrators have only recently been able to address access for fall hunts," Sitko said.
Sitko noted that forest officials have readily acknowledged the necessity of allowing deer and elk hunters into the burn area to allow the department to meet harvest management objectives. "Meeting wildlife management objectives within the area impacted by the burn will help the land to recover that much quicker, providing better quality habitat and healthier wildlife populations in the long run," he said.
Sitko emphasized that because of the extraordinary and devastating effects of the fire, there are special conditions that both hunters and the general public must obey if the area is to remain open:
No overnight camping will be allowed in the burn area. Hunters and other recreationists need to locate their camping sites on adjoining Forest or State Trust lands outside the designated burn perimeter.
Vehicle access is only allowed on roads that have been signed with white arrows as being open. Because of sensitive soil concerns and hazardous trees, many secondary roads and two-tracks will not be open.
Cross-country travel with any type of motorized vehicle, including all-terrain vehicles, is not be allowed, either for scouting, hunting, or game retrieval. You must stay on the roads. Period.
No smoking or campfires in the burn area. Numerous portions of the burn have been rehabilitated with grass seed and straw mulch, or are still susceptible to burn.
Hunters holding fall big game permits in Unit 3C will soon be receiving a direct mailing from the Game and Fish Department that will further clarify access into the burn and the special conditions attached to that access.
For questions, interested parties may call the Game and Fish Pinetop office at (928) 367-4281 or the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest's Supervisor's Office at (928) 333-4301.
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