Land Use

Forest Service Denies Threatening Hunters' Property, But the Threat Remains Online


Forest Service
United States Government

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.

Forest Service press release
U.S. Government

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  1. “Let us be 100 percent clear.”

    Bullshit detector pegged this early… It’s going to need some recalibration.

    1. They have the same tell as the Lightworker!

    2. “let me be clear” is bad, but “let me be 100% clear” is like the Bullshit Pitcher signalling the Bullshit Cathcher…”I’m bringing the heat now…”

  2. They’re not going to steal hunters’ property. Only abandoned property. With abandoned being defined as hunters’ property that hasn’t moved in 72 hours.

  3. Who are you going to believe? Your lying eyes, or your trailer in that impound lot?

  4. I remember the guys at university who were headed for state and federal possum-cop jobs.

    Mike and Earl…, breathing ‘you might be a redneck’ joke.

    1. What did these future possums major in? Poli sci or criminal justice?

  5. So, they put out something that was clearly wrong, but instead of just admitting they screwed up, they went with the “you just must have misunderstood us” meme. Yes, this is pure Obamessiah messaging.

    “No, I wasn’t wrong when I said that. You just didn’t understand me.” President Barack Obama.

  6. I’m sorry, but in this case the bureaucrats are right. There are rude jerks who set up their rigs in a prime spot two weeks before opening day just to keep other people from using it. Two weeks later, they head out, use the spot for one or two nights, then head home. So, in the process of getting one or two days’ enjoyment, they’ve deliberately denied the same opportunity to others that could have used that same spot if someone else’s shit wasn’t parked there.

    As it is, the Forest Service is STILL giving you 72 hours so I don’t see the beef. It would be a completely different thing if people were paying a daily fee, but as it stands everybody is paying taxes to maintain those forests and everybody has the right to enjoy them. All it takes to make it work is a little consideration and politeness, which MOST hunters have in spades. It’s just a few assholes that spoil it and force the bureaucrats to issue edicts like the one in question.

    1. Boo hoo?

      1. Me, I haven’t hunted in over thirty years, so no. But bad manners are bad manners no matter the situation.

        This is a classic “tragedy of the commons” problem. You would think a publication that prides itself on promoting “free minds and free markets” would have treated this story a little differently. The bottom line, though, is that any time there is a commons there will be those who abuse their use of it. Those in charge then have to keep coming up with rules to try to temper the abuse. Those rules can range in severity from mild to very harsh. In this case, the USFS is leaning way towards the mild side in my opinion. The vitriol from Tuccille would be better vented on outrages from the drug war or Obamacare.

        1. Except that this is not a tragedy of any kind. If these guys are doing as you say, setting up in advance and then only hunting for a day or two after the season starts, who cares? They are exercising their legal use of the space whether they are present or not.

          If they were actually present the space would still be occupied. Mind your own business and find your own space. We don’t need a new law or interpretation of the existing law. No one’s rights are being violated.

          1. Well, their “legal use of the space” is whatever is defined by the Forest Service. I’m not defending the current system, just trying to explain how it is.

            Congress has tasked the Forest Service, BLM, Reclamation, etc. with providing recreational opportunities to hunters, fishermen, hikers, equestrians, etc. In turn, those agencies issue (tons and tons) of regulations to implement Congress’s wishes. Those regulations, like it or not, define what “legal use” is.

            Unfortunately, as more and more people use these public spaces, there will be more and more restrictions. This is inevitable and is going to happen anyway, but the process is greatly hastened by those who are determined to take as much as they can while the taking is good.

            The bureaucrats aren’t stupid and they generally figure out that market forces are the best way to ration scarce things like good camping spots. Already there are many places where you have to purchase a permit, sometimes months ahead of time, just to park an RV for a night. When that’s the case for the forests we’re discussing here sooner rather than later, you’ll know who to thank.

            1. Dan, there is no “market” in these camping spaces. If rationing by waiting in line is a market mechanism, the Soviet Union was a libertarian paradise.

        2. Hunting “wildlife” these days is pretty much like shooting goats in a petting zoo anyway. This shit should be privatized.

        3. What Bones said.

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