November 23, 2013
Mr. Cal Joyner, Regional Forester
United States Forest Service, Region 3
333 Broadway SE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102
Dear Mr. Joyner,
Recently the Arizona Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) became aware of a press release by the Coconino National Forest entitled “Parking trailers in forest prohibited during hunting season.” This release covers three Arizona forests, the Coconino, Kaibab, and the Prescott. The release is directed specifically at hunters who leave their trailers unattended on forest for 72 hours. This can and will result in hunters being subject to citations and/or of their vehicles, trailers and/or motorhomes. Our chapter is strongly opposed to this action taken on these Arizona forests as we believe it will unnecessarily impact our members who appear to be unintended casualties of an unvetted and ill-conceived policy which we cannot see solves any heretofore stated problem.
Currently, we are aware of the 14-day maximum stay limit and have been told that a person can receive permission from the forest to stay beyond that time if they apply for the extension. In our experience, the new direction will cause and unprecedented and unnecessary negative impact on legal hunters and other forest users.
It has been a well-accepted and longstanding practice that hunters establish a camp for the duration of their hunt and even a few days before and after the hunt. In many cases the hunter may hike farther into the forest to establish a backcountry “spike” camp for a few days or more while leaving base camp unattended. In reality (and based on history and the law) the hunters have not ‘abandoned’ their main camp. The new direction would allow law enforcement action to be taken unjustifiably and when the hunters return they find their transportation and trailers have been impounded. Not only do hunters leave vehicles unattended but so do backcountry anglers and hikers. How does the Forest Service plan to differentiate between users? This also brings into question why the forest service is seemingly targeting only hunters?
We also understand that there was no coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department or local law enforcement agencies before this direction was taken. We have to ask, what the actual ‘problem’ is that the forest has identified and is taking action on? Another question is why are three forests taking a unilateral direction that the other forest in Arizona and the Region are not?
We are also aware of a resolution from the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association that is opposed to this policy as well as the Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Yavapai County Sheriff, Scott Masher.
We request that the policy be rescinded and that the forests in question work with the local law enforcement agencies and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to resolve the issue as soon as possible. The Arizona Chapter of Backcountry Hunter and Angler is willing to be a participant in this process.
Kurt Bahti – Co-chair
Ross McCollum – Co-chair