A week ago, I wrote of the battle between state and federal officials over restrictions on use of Arizona's wild areas. Specifically, back in August, officials managing the Coconino, Kaibab, and Prescott National Forests issued a terse press release threatening to seize property and issue citations if hunters camped in one place for more than 72 during upcoming hunting seasons. This, even though many hunting seasons last for a week or more, and after decades of a 14-day rule on campsites. Arizonans screamed, the Arizona Game and Fish Department demanded a retraction and an apology, and the Arizona Sheriffs Association objected and refused any help in enforcing the rule. In fact, state and county officials promised to treat any property seizure as a theft. Yesterday, the feds backed down. Sort of.
In an opinion piece distributed to the media for publication, Mike Williams, Kaibab National Forest Supervisor, and Earl Stewart, Coconino National Forest Supervisor, "set the record straight" that they'd been referring to actual abandoned property, not hunters' campsites.
Back in August, the Forest Service distributed a news release that attempted to explain rules regarding abandoned property on the National Forests. The intent of the release was to provide information and clarification on a growing issue facing forest managers. We regret the confusion and concern, particularly among the hunting community in Arizona, caused by our miscommunication.
Let us be 100 percent clear. Forest visitors camping and actively engaging in hunting or other recreational activities are not at risk of being cited or having their property considered abandoned after 72 hours. Hunters and other campers have never been required to move camp every 72 hours and will not be required to do so in the future.
The Kaibab and Coconino National Forests are not implementing any new regulations or policies. Both forests have orders in place for a 14-day stay limit for camping occupancy. Forest users may camp and occupy a site for up to 14 days in a 30-day period. Most of our hunters and campers have long been familiar with this 14-day stay limit, and it has not changed.
That's all fine and dandy. We'd hate to have any miscommunication now, wouldn't we?
But, as I write, the original press release remains available online. It reads, in whole:
Parking trailers in forests prohibited during hunting season
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 reserv ing 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 fore st for this purpose violates Forest Service regulations. If trailers are left unattended for more than 72 hour s, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and may remove t hem from the forest. Violator s 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 fo rests in northern Arizona, including the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott forests.
For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest at (928) 527-3600
Thanks for the clarification, Mike and Earl. Arizonans might have really misunderstood your intentions without it. Then again, people living around wide open spaces tend to know the smell of horseshit.