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Apache Sitgreaves wildlife projects that might affect your hunt.

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Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests work projects will affect some fall hunt areas


Sportsmen drawn for big game permits in Game Management Units 1 and 27 this fall are advised to be aware of two large-scale work projects being conducted by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNF) that will affect access to some hunt areas and close others, say Game and Fish Department officials.


In Unit 1, from Aug. 14 through Dec. 31, 2006, the Springerville Ranger District is realigning and reconstructing State Highway 273, beginning at the Forest boundary near the Sunrise ski area and extending to Highway 261 at Crescent Lake. During this time, that portion of the roadway between the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the junction of Forest Road (FR) 554, which is the turnoff to Winn Campground, will be closed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This includes the Sheep Crossing area. That section of Highway 273 extending east from the junction of FR 554 to Highway 261 will be closed weekly at 6 a.m. on Mondays through 6 p.m. on Thursdays, but will be open Fridays through Sundays during this construction period. Both the Winn and Gabaldon Campgrounds will also be closed Mondays through Thursdays, but open Fridays through Sundays. Hunters can check the hunt unit information document for Unit 1 on the department’s Web site for more detailed information on road, trail and campground closures.


In Unit 27, the Clifton Ranger District will conduct a prescribed burn in the Chitty Creek area, below the Mogollon Rim. The burn, planned for 14,000 acres, is scheduled for ignition during the last week of September and will continue for more than three weeks, weather and conditions permitting. The burn area is located west of State Highway 191, extending west along the Rim face south of FR 54 to the Bear Canyon Trail #26 access point. It will extend south along Highway 191 to Strayhorse Campground, then west along Highline Trail #47 to the junction with Crabtree Canyon, and extend south to East Eagle Creek, and again west to McBride Mesa.


Trails into the area will be closed prior to, during the burn and for a short time following the burn to ensure that any hazard trees are removed and that there is no chance of reburn. Hunters are encouraged to check with the Alpine and Clifton Ranger District offices and check local trail kiosks for signage and fire notices.


According to ASNF personnel, restoration of fire-adapted forest vegetation types is the number one priority for the U.S. Forest Service in the Southwest Region, and requires a landscape approach to be effective. Unfortunately, the window to conduct critical prescribed burning for meeting specific resource objectives often coincides with many fall hunts. While posing some inconvenience to some hunters during the burn period, the long-term benefits can be tremendous to wildlife. First and foremost is the expected reduction in natural fuel build up that has occurred in the upper portions of East Eagle, Salt House and Chitty Creeks over the last century. This area is currently very susceptible to damaging effects from uncontrollable wildfire similar to the Rodeo-Chediski Fire of 2002.

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