SANTA FE – All Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) offices are closed today, June 18, in observance of Juneteenth National Independence Day, a new federal holiday passed by Congress this week and signed into law yesterday by President Joe Biden.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger and a unit of Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and announced that the approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were free. Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it only applied to states that had seceded from the Union, and it could not be enforced everywhere until the Civil War ended in 1865.
The Juneteenth holiday is already recognized by 48 states and the District of Columbia. Since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, the Office of Personnel Management announced that the first federal observance date would be today, June 18.
This year, the Forest Service is partnering with Outdoor Afro, a non-profit organization that promotes inclusion and diversity in outdoor recreation, nature and conservation, to commemorate Juneteenth by asking all Americans to spend 2.5 hours outdoors reflecting on what it means to be free. The 2.5 hours reflects the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas.
Anyone visiting the SFNF this Juneteenth weekend should remember that fire danger is very high. The SFNF is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibit all campfires outside of developed campgrounds. Recreate responsibly, plan ahead and know before you go, and follow Leave No Trace principles.