Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No fireworks allowed in Tonto National Forest

July 4 Reminder:  No fireworks on Tonto National Forest
Fire restrictions and area closures are also in place:  Know Before You Go

PHOENIX (July 2, 2012) – With closures and fire restrictions limiting some recreation opportunities on the Tonto National Forest, forest officials are advising people to look ahead when making weekend plans.

“We want people to know that the Tonto is open for business, and so are the towns and businesses that cater to our visitors,” said Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth, “From playing in the water at one of the lakes or rivers or camping in a cool pine forest, there are plenty of opportunities for folks to share the holiday weekend with us.”

The first rule for anyone who plans to visit public lands this weekend to know is that fireworks are strictly prohibited on national forests.

“Fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices are banned year-round on National Forest System lands, not just during fire season,” said Acting Fire Staff Helen Graham, “but the Independence Day holiday always provides that additional temptation to break out the firecrackers and bottle rockets. Put simply, we will not tolerate the use of fireworks on the Tonto National Forest, and people who break the law will receive hefty fines, and maybe some jail time.” 

“Recreational shooting is also banned throughout the forest under current restrictions, and is of particular concern,” emphasized Graham.  “We have had several fire starts this year due to recreational shooting.  Today, there was an indictment of an individual who, while target shooting, started the Sunflower Fire.  That fire is at about 17,500 acres and has cost $6,000,000.”   

Campfires limited to charcoal cooking fires only are allowed in fire grills and grates provided by the Forest Service in developed recreation sites on the Cave Creek and Mesa disticts (list below).  No wood or charcoal campfires are allowed anywhere else on the forest.

There are 7 closure areas on the forest.  There are 2 fire danger closure areas (Payson and 4 Peaks areas); 3 fire perimeter closure areas for the Sunflower, Poco and 257 fires; 1 flash flood closure for the Sycamore creek area below the Sunflower fire; and 1 public safety closure for bear activity around Ponderosa campground (Sharp Creek and Christopher Creek campgrounds are also closed). Closure and restriction orders, with maps, are available on the forest website.
Penalties for violating either the restriction or closure order include fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.
Outside these 7 closures, there are still ample opportunities to find a campsite in a cool pine forest. Numerous campgrounds can be found along Arizona Highway 288, leading from Roosevelt Lake to Young, Ariz. North of Young, both the Alderwood and Haigler Canyon campgrounds are open as well as Colcord, Upper Canyon Creek, Valentine Ridge and Airplane Flat campgrounds. On the Globe Ranger District, Timber Camp, Sulphide del Rey, Upper Pinal, Pinal and Pioneer Pass campgrounds are open. Campfire restrictions remain in effect at all of these locations, so gas or propane will have to be used for cooking and heating.
Campgrounds across the forest will begin to fill up early and many sites are first-come, first-serve. The earlier a camper arrives, the better opportunity for finding that perfect campsite.

Those wanting to camp or picnic at one of the Tonto’s six lakes or two rivers have even more opportunities. On Roosevelt and Apache lakes there are 1,150 campsites available. The Lower Salt River Recreation Area can host thousands of picnickers, including the tubing, rafting and boating available on Saguaro and Canyon lakes. Bartlett Lake and the Needle Rock Recreation Area near Cave Creek provide more recreation opportunities.

Beware of Bears. Be Bear Aware: The area around Payson is experiencing a high occurrence of bear sightings and three humans have been attacked by bears this past month.  It is critical to remember that they are wild creatures that are dangerous if provoked and attracted. Remember:  a fed bear is a dead bear.  Here are some tips to help you practice bear awareness.
·         Maintain a clean campsite.  Store food away from sleeping areas.  Do not leave food items out when not in use. 
·         “Bear-proof” food and garbage by using metal storage boxes in recreation sites.
·         Wash and store cookware and dishes promptly after meals.
·         Cooking odors attract bears:  If possible, your cooking area should be 100 yards from where you sleep, and don’t take clothing that smells like food into sleeping areas
·         Fragrant items attract bears:  Toothpaste, insect repellent, soap, candy bars and other fragrant items can attract bears. These items should also be securely stored away from where you sleep.
·         Don’t feed wildlife intentionally or accidentally.
·         For their safety, keep pets leashed at all times.

A variety of recreational opportunities are available for visitors to the forest this holiday and the weekends before and after.  Due to hot, dry conditions across much of the forest, officials once again stress the importance of responsible recreating on public lands.  Forest visitors are also reminded to ensure that all fires are extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving them.

While uncontrolled fire is always a great concern in the forest, the increased numbers of visitors  also impacts the resources due to the litter and trash left behind.  Visitors are urged to follow the Leave No Trace principles to help decrease potential long-term damage from camping without a conscience.

  • If you pack it in - pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food and other litter.
  • It is prohibited to take glass containers around any water areas on the forest (for example, the Salt River, Roosevelt Lake, the reservoirs, etc.).
  • Take only photos, leave only memories.

Visit www.lnt.org/programs/principles.php to learn more about the Leave no Trace principles.

And finally, visitors are encouraged to “know before you go.”  Become familiar with the area that you are visiting. Call the local Forest Service office near the area you will be visiting to check conditions, restrictions, and closures. Due to past fires, extreme fire danger and the potential for flash flooding, some parts of the forest are closed. For additional information on restrictions and closures, visit the forest website.

Visitors to the Tonto National Forest need to make sure they have the proper permits for their vehicles, watercraft and activities, as some vendors may have limited hours during the weekend.

Tonto National Forest administrative offices will be closed Wednesday, July 4 to observe the Independence Day holiday and will resume regular business hours on Thursday . For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/tonto or call 602-225-5200.          

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