SANTA FE – The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is preparing for big crowds this Fourth of July holiday weekend as more and more people seek solace from COVID-19 in nature
All are welcome, but if you plan to spend the holiday camping, hiking or otherwise enjoying your public lands, please do so responsibly.
Although the monsoons are expected soon, New Mexico is still in fire season. Moderate to severe drought conditions with well-below-normal rainfall and above-average temperatures translate to elevated fire risk across northern New Mexico, and fire managers do not expect that to change soon.
“What we’ll need to get out of the danger zone is a few weeks of consistent cloudy skies and widespread rain. The fuels in the forest right now are so dry that a few days of rain followed by a hot-dry pattern only gives us a short break,” fire planner Rich Sack said.
To help reduce the risk of wildfire, the SFNF is currently under Stage 2 fire restrictions, which include a ban on campfires. Fireworks are always prohibited on national forests and grasslands.
“Celebrating the Fourth of July on the national forest is a wonderful tradition for many families,” Acting Forest Supervisor Debbie Cress said. “But this year, gathering around a campfire is not part of that tradition. It takes only one illegal firework or campfire to start a wildfire and put human lives, natural resources and property at risk.”
SFNF offices will be closed Friday, July 3, in observance of the Fourth of July holiday, but fire personnel, law enforcement officers and recreation staff will be patrolling the forest over the long weekend.
You can be cited for setting off fireworks or building a campfire on the SFNF. The maximum penalty for both is a $5,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Anyone who starts a wildfire can also be held liable for the costs associated with putting out the fire.
Responsible recreation, especially under COVID-19 conditions, extends beyond fire prevention. Visitors should be prepared to follow “Leave No Trace” principles, including disposing of waste properly and respecting wildlife. Ideally, “pack it in, pack it out” means you take your trash home with you if trash receptacles on the forest are full. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed in developed recreation areas (campgrounds and picnic sites), parking lots and on interpretive trails. Review this recent press release for additional guidance on dog owner’s responsibilities.
In the interest of public health and safety, please follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and comply with state public health orders to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Avoid crowded areas and park only in designated areas. Do not impede emergency access by blocking roadways, fire lanes or driveways.