'Extreme fire danger' leads to Santa Fe National Forest closure
June 01, 2018 11:42 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. – The entire Santa Fe National Forest is now closed. That means no camping or hiking on forest land.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service says there's a good reason why they're taking such an extreme measure.
At a news conference Thursday, Forest Manager James Melonas said it hasn't been this dry since 2003, thanks to a historically dry winter and continuing drought.
"We know that this closure impacts communities and folks that recreate on the forest, but we’re in the place where we have to go to this because of the extreme fire danger," he said.
The last time the forest completely closed was in 2013.
Stage 2 fire restrictions have already been in place for three weeks, meaning no campfires. During that time, Melonas said they've responded to more than 120 illegal campfires with 58 in the Jemez Ranger district over Memorial Day weekend alone.
"And not only do those fires have the potential – any one of those because of the conditions – create a large wildfire but in addition to that, that really stretches our resources," Melonas said.
State roads through the Santa Fe National Forest will remain open, but people will not be able to camp or hike.
"We know we have a lot of small communities that are reliant on tourism and folks enjoying the forest. Those communities are still open for business," Melonas said. "There's a lot of great things that people can do in places like Pecos and Jemez Springs and other places around the Santa Fe area."
When will the forest reopen? It could be during monsoon season. The Forest Service says the monsoons start to come around the Fourth of July, but it just depends on Mother Nature. There is no set date for when the forest will open to the public again.
"We know that we'll need to be in closure until we get significant moisture, and that’s normally when the monsoons come," Melonas said.
Updated: June 01, 2018 11:42 AM
Created: May 31, 2018 04:43 PM
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