Arizona Battles Feds, Again, Over D.C.'s Restrictive Forest-Use Rules

Not Abandoned propertyAZGFDState and federal officials in Arizona are fighting just the latest skirmish in a long-running war over just how restrictive rules should be over human use of forest and desert areas. The locals want fewer and uniform restrictions, while their D.C. counterparts like to play "What will we cite people for this week?" with campers, hunters, and pretty much anybody who likes the outdoors. The most recent battle is over a federal rule-switch, requiring hunters to move their camps every 72 hours. Decades-long practice, as the Arizona Game and Fish Department points out, is to allow campers to stay in place for 14 days.

The terse U.S. Forest Service press release (PDF) that set off the latest kerfuffle reads as follows:

Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Coconino National Forest is asking all northern Arizona -bound hunters to refrain from leaving their trailers unattended in the forest during the upcoming hunting season. In previous seasons, law enforcement officers have found numerous trailers parked in the forests for the purpose of reserving a location for the entire hunting season and also because the individuals did not want to haul their trailers back and forth.

Parking a trailer in the forest for this purpose violates Forest Service regulations. If trailers are left unattended for more than 72 hours, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and may remove them from the forest. Violators can also be cited for this action. Enforcing these regulations protects the property and allows recreational users equal access to national forests.

This regulation applies to all national forests in northern Ar izona, including the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott forests.

Unmentioned in the press release is that this is a change in long-standing policy. Everybody in Arizona knows that you're supposed to shift your camp every two weeks. This is to deter people from simply moving into the forest permanently.

It doesn't really work. Plenty of drifters, modern mountain (wo)men, and adventurous types live scattered through the desert and forest in tents, campers, trucks. and caves. Most stick it out during the pleasant weather before moving on, but a few set up fairly elaborate habitations and stay for years. One of my friends (who I'll write about in detail another time) used to work for a year or two, and then take to the wilderness. He lived in one of my tents for a few months after a wildfire cut him off from his main camp.

But you're not supposed to do that. So the two-week rule has a rationale behind it. You can camp, so long as you stop short of digging a root cellar or building a chimney. Parking in the forest during the hunting season and "reserving a location" isn't really an issue because, you know, the forest is big enough for frigging mountain men to hide out in on illegal homesteads.

In a very nice letter (PDF) to the Forest Service, Larry D. Voyles, Director of Arizona Game and Fish, points out that hunting and fishing is actually on the decline across the country, and his department is actually trying to get more people to go out in the forest by reducing and simplifying rules and restrictions.

Having worked as a game warden for more than 30 years, I am aware that many hunters are forced to hunt in chunks of days. Keep in mind that some hunters wait for years, if not decades to be drawn for a particular big game tag. There are many times when a hunter may be in camp for a few days, have to leave for work, and then return a few days later to finish his or her hunt.

So running the risk of a citation or even having expensive gear lifted by the feds is a bit of a downer, however unlikely it is that one or another green-uniformed dickhead will stumble across the camp. He pleasantly requested that the feds return to a uniform 14-day rule across all of Arizona's forests.

No dice. The Game and Fish folks sent out a warning last month that "the Department has met repeatedly with staff from the affected national forests to repeal this enforcement approach, with no success." With the sheriffs departments from Yavapai and Coconino counties, the state developed a placard for people to put on their vehicles, explicitly telling rangers that trucks and trailers have not been abandoned, although Game and Fish warns that the feds may well ignore them.

As I mentioned, this is not the first confrontation between Arizona and federal officials over land-use rules. During the government not-so-shutdown, Coconino County deputies cut the chains on the gate of a facility closed by the Forest Service because the closure was causing traffic jams. Sheriffs went head-to-head with the Forest Service over road closures. And now the whole Arizona Sheriffs Association adopted a formal resolution saying its members oppose and won't help the feds enforce their restrictions, including the new 72-hour rule.

The way things are going, I'm waiting for the first ranger with an attitude to get trussed and thrown over somebody's hood. You don't even need a tag for them.

Have I mentioned that I've written a novel about wilderness-living hermits, crazed rangers and general shenanigans?

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  • ||

    Coconino counties

    I just had a Herriman moment.

  • fish||

    The way things are going, I'm waiting for the first ranger with an attitude to get trussed and thrown over somebody's hood. You don't even need a tag for them.

    I wouldn't eat them though....I hear they taste like shit!

  • creech||

    If you like your campsite, you can keep it. Unless, of course, Top Men determine it is better you should live in an urban area, use mass transit, and depend on the kindness of farmers to bring you food.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I, too, am a fan of the denizens of Coconino.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The NSA will be using satellite imagery to locate campsites. Because that is an essential national security issue.

  • From the Tundra||

    Have I mentioned that I've written a novel about wilderness-living hermits, crazed rangers and general shenanigans?

    Maybe once or twice.

    When's the sequel coming out?

  • sarcasmic||

    It would be nice to see sheriffs arresting feds, but I don't think it's going to happen.

  • ||

    I dunno. The water fight in Tombstone that I linked to below had the Rangers keeping a very low profile. I could see it happening here in Arizona soon.

  • ||

    This Guy threatened to. Unfortunately, the Feds didn't take him up on his offer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Mack

    The urban Sheriffs here are pretty much on the leash of the party they belong to. The rural Sheriffs seem to guard their turf regardless of political party.I can see them arresting Feds.

  • ||

    They also tried to make the "Town too Tough to Die" die from lack of water.

    http://tinyurl.com/m34w9sz

  • Loki||

    And now the whole Arizona Sheriffs Association adopted a formal resolution saying its members oppose and won't help the feds enforce their restrictions, including the new 72-hour rule.

    Now if only more state and local law enforcement agencies would take the same approach. I was kind of hoping the CO LEO community would take the same approach with pot, but sadly I think they're a little too domesticated, and the state too overrun with fedgov fluffers for that to happen.

  • Almanian!||

    Fuck the Feds. Fuck the states, too.

    But fuck the Feds MOAR.

  • Paul.||

    In a very nice letter (PDF) to the Forest Service, Larry D. Voyles, Director of Arizona Game and Fish, points out that hunting and fishing is actually on the decline across the country, and his department is actually trying to get more people to go out in the forest by reducing and simplifying rules and restrictions.

    Here in Washington, officials gripe about the dropping use. If you go to any trailhead in Washington, the 'rules' sign is something like 19 paragraphs long, including a list of passes, licenses, fees and permits required for you to use your public land-- not to mention the byzantine list of things you're not allowed to do. It's no wonder people don't want to go out in the woods any more.

  • Enough About Palin||

  • Bubba Jones||

    Are the feds actually requiring the hunters to move every 72 hours?

    As I read it, the rule is that you can't leave it unattended more than 72 hours. So, you can continue to camp for 2 weeks, you just can't leave your trailer there M-F while you go back to work.

  • Paul.||

    Huh, I guess I would need a definition to 'unattended'.

    Ie, you didn't touch it for 72 hours, or no one with a badge saw you touch it for 72 hours.

  • Agammamon||

    The latter, of course. And it does't really matter what the ruling *says*, it will be interpreted as having to move no matter what.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Yeah, the devil is in the details, but perhaps the key is a sign that you put in different places.

    For abandoned vehicles, they put an orange sticker on the window (in Texas). A similar system for trailers would give you the chance to remove it and demonstrate your presence.

  • Monty Crisco||

    " however unlikely it is that one or another green-uniformed dickhead will stumble across the camp."

    Don't be so sure. Was in Dolly Sods in WV and thought me an my buddy were well-esconced from anyone...drove off the main road to camp in the deeper forest and- whaddya know?- got sighted by two hunters who were VERY friendly with the local fish cops and - boom! - not 30 minutes later I am being hassled by the Tree Fuzz.

    Motherfucking statist cocksucking fuckholes... If you cannot avoid being hassled by uniformed idiots in the remotest parts of our country, WHAT THE FUCK CAN YOU DO?!?!?!?

  • nyneurologists||

    Rules are set in place to protect people, and if you dont think that's true then I think you should visit a neurology center.

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