FORT APACHE - According to White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Ronnie Lupe, restrictions on public travel to and within specific areas on the Fort Apache Reservation previously closed because of the Wallow Fire have been lifted.

Lupe made the announcement in the July 1 edition of the Apache Scout.

The story states that the original intention of implementing restrictions to specified areas on the reservation was to protect Apache lands, wildlife, economic resources, security, health, welfare and public safety threatened by the human-caused Wallow Fire which was started May 29.

After nearly 37 days of fighting the fire and uncertainty about when, or if, certain areas would be reopened to the public, news that Lupe has signed an executive order allowing limited access comes with an almost audible collective sigh of relief from White Mountains residents.

Bear in mind, however, that lifting the restrictions does not mean people can camp wherever they want on the reservation.

Even in improved recreation sites absolutely no campfires are allowed as Red Flag restrictions allowing only propane stoves for cooking and smoking only in enclosed vehicles or structures remain in place until further notice.

Also keep in mind that penalties, which will be enforced to the fullest extent of the law, according to Lupe, can be expensive and severe.

Lupe said that the Tribal Forestry Department, Tribal Forest rangers, fire and rescue, Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division, game rangers and police officers, in conjunction with BIA Fire Management, will patrol the reservation ensuring fire restrictions are followed by everyone be they members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe or non Native American visitors.

According to The Apache Scout, restrictions on the reservation are as follows:

Campfires and charcoal grills are strictly prohibited anywhere on the reservation with absolutely no exceptions unless authorized by the Tribe.

There is also a standing 100 percent restriction on the use, sale or distribution of fireworks, blasting caps or any other incendiary devices anywhere on the reservation.

Open burning of any kind is prohibited, including during wakes, dances or other community or ceremonial events.

The standing prohibition does not apply to burning at homes for cooking purposes, provided that such burning is in compliance with Tribal codes or any other applicable restrictions or regulations issued by the Tribe, the BIA or the Fort Apache Agency Fire Management Division.

The use of power driven equipment is also prohibited as is woodcutting except in the case of wakes, religious functions and ceremonies which will be subject to inspection by the agencies listed above.

"All woodcutters must contact the BIA, Fort Apache Agency Fire Management Division for clearance to ensure that such activity is proper and authorized on the Reservation," Lupe said.

Reach the writer at mleiby@wmicentral.com

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