Is this my best side?

A mule deer doe stops in her tracks to look back at the photographer. Observing wildlife is one of the many ways the public can continue to recreate in the forest while following CDC public health guidelines by keeping a 6 ft. distance from others. Also avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 people.

APACHE & NAVAJO COUNTIES – If you like the outdoors, particularly the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF), you are in luck. While most designated campgrounds and restrooms are closed until June 30 or until orders are rescinded, many areas of the forest remain open for use with some restrictions.

Hiking, biking, wildlife watching, dispersed camping, bird watching, horseback riding, jogging, mountain biking, hunting (with permit), scouting and wood-cutting (with permit) in the forest can be enjoyed in a way that supports recommended social distancing.

The Forest Service is asking the public to enjoy the outdoors while being a “responsible outdoor enthusiast” by following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“For the health and safety of all visitors, we’ve decided to encourage activity in areas where social distancing and public health guidelines are easier and discourage activity in areas that are overly crowded and where visitors can’t practice appropriate social distancing,” said acting Forest Supervisor Anthony Madrid. “While we have some additional closures, most of the forest is open for hiking and biking. We encourage the public recreate responsibly, avoid crowded spaces and stay home if you feel sick.”

“Keep a 6 ft. distance from others and avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 people,” states the ASNF website. “Do not congregate at trail heads, parking lots, boat ramps or other areas,” and “avoid high-risk activities such as rock climbing that increase chance of injury” as search and rescue operations may be limited.

“Because of limited services, we are also asking the public to take their trash home,” says Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Public Affairs Officer Kacy Ellsworth. “As always, we also ask them to use the Leave No Trace and Pack It In, Pack It Out ethics.”

Ellsworth also provided clarification regarding a group closure order.

“Many people have been confused by it, thinking it closes the entire ASNFs and other forests/grasslands listed,” says Ellsworth. “That is not the case. It is an enforceable order that prohibits entering any of the restricted areas by groups in excess of the number specified in any public health order.”

“Those restricted areas are all of the national forests and grasslands in the southwest region,” confirms Ellsworth. “This is not stating no one can go into the listed forests or grasslands. It is stating do not exceed the group size the CDC is recommending when going into those forests or grasslands.”

Area specifics

Fool Hollow Lake is open with restrictions on the developed campgrounds, as described above and Scott’s Reservoir is temporarily closed through November 2020 due to vandalism of the restrooms.

From Az Game & Fish Dept.

“AZGFD recommends maintaining social distancing in all outdoor activities,” says Arizona Game and Fish Department Public Affairs Community Liaison Jackie Follmuth. “Individuals should check with the managing agency for areas they intend to visit to prepare appropriately for closures. Some roads may still be closed for winter weather throughout the state. Managing agencies and the Arizona Department of Transportation can assist in updates regarding which roads have been opened.”

AZGFD officers are still on patrol and fish are still being stocked as scheduled into regional waters said Follmuth. “All license and hunt permit-tag requirements, season dates, legal methods of take and bag limits are to be followed and will be strictly enforced.”

If someone sees a violation it can be reported to AZGFD’s Operation Game Thief Hotline at (800) 352-0700.

For more information:

For more information on what areas are open, visit the Interactive Visitor Map: https://www.fs.fed.us/ivm/.

Also call 928-333-6280 for more information including permits and maps.

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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