SANTA FE – The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) will implement a forest-wide closure order at 8 a.m. Friday, June 1, prohibiting public access to the 1.6 million-acre forest.
Fire danger on the SFNF remains very high to extreme due to acute drought conditions. The closure order will remain in effect until the forest receives significant moisture and conditions have improved.
The closure order prohibits all recreational activities on the SFNF. Campgrounds, trails and trailheads, and National Forest System roads will be closed to the general public. The only exception is the Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River corridor, jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which will remain under Stage 2 fire restrictions. County and state roads that cross Forest Service lands are not under the Forest Service’s jurisdiction and will remain open to vehicular traffic.
The SFNF implemented Stage 2 fire restrictions May 7, which prohibited campfires and other activities. In spite of the Stage 2 restrictions, forest law enforcement and fire prevention personnel have counted more than 120 abandoned campfires across the forest, including at least 84 over the Memorial Day weekend.
“The indices our fire team uses to predict fire danger are at historic levels well before we can expect any significant moisture from the seasonal monsoons,” SFNF Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. “But in addition to extremely dry conditions across most of the forest, we have also seen widespread noncompliance with Stage 2 restrictions. Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care.”
Businesses in local communities will remain open for business during the closure. “Our tourist attractions, restaurants, shops and galleries are ready to welcome visitors,” Village of Jemez Springs Mayor Roger Sweet said. “We are all worried about current conditions on the forest. Although a closure does affect our local economy, if wildfire destroys the forest, we have no economy.”
Pecos business owner Frank “Pancho” Adelo concurred that the closure order is necessary given current conditions on the forest. “We hate to see it happen, but too many people don’t respect the rules of the forest or understand the consequences of a wildfire.”
The closure order to prohibit all public access is expected to be signed Thursday prior to implementation on Friday. In addition to government employees on official duty, firefighters and private property owners, the order may include additional exemptions for special use permit holders, contractors, Native American tribes and others whose business on Forest Service lands does not raise the risk of wildfire.
Violations of the closure order carry a mandatory appearance in federal court and are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and/or by imprisonment for not more than six months.
Forest managers use several criteria to determine when to implement restrictions, including fuel moistures, current and predicted weather, values at risk from wildfire, fire activity levels and available firefighting resources.
Know before you go. The order imposing fire restrictions this Friday will be posted under Alerts and Notices on the Santa Fe National Forest website. Fire restrictions in New Mexico can be found at https://firerestrictions.us/nm/ and fire updates are posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website at www.nmfireinfo.com.