For additional information about roads, camping areas or general conditions on the Medicine Bow-Routt national forests, call 970-870-2299 or stop by for maps and informational brochures at the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District office, 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Visit the district's Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r2/...
Steamboat Springs Fall is upon us and with it comes frosty air, changing leaves and hunting trips. Officials with the Medicine Bow-Routt national forests would like to remind hunters about some key safety strategies before heading into the woods this fall.
Take the time to know your environment - the area where you'll be hunting - and make sure to leave word with a responsible party of your whereabouts and when you expect to return. You also might want to consider carrying extra food, water and some sort of emergency shelter with you in case things don't turn out as planned. Another thing to bear in mind is the weather because at high elevations it can change in minutes. Carrying an extra set of dry clothing and/or an extra layer always is a good idea. Finally, don't rely on your cell phone in case of an emergency - coverage is spotty in mountainous terrain. The bottom line: Don't get caught unprepared.
Although fire danger is moderate to high, currently there are no fire restrictions in place on the Medicine Bow-Routt national forests. However, the possibility of frost early in the fall can cause fuels - forest litter, dead branches and dry grasses - to dry out substantially, which can promote fire occurrence and rapid fire spread. Always clear a reasonable space around your campfire and keep your firewood out of reach of the flames. Also, remember to keep plenty of water handy, have a shovel close by and never leave the campfire unattended. If in doubt, take a camp stove. Suppression of wildfires results not only in high costs to the taxpayer, but also in habitat loss for elk, deer and all other forest critters. This is a difficult thing to bear when our animals are heading into the winter months.
Remember that you are required to obtain a firewood collection permit at a minimal cost from the Medicine Bow-Routt national forest office if you are loading wood to take home. Your chain saw and all other internal or external combustion equipment, including ATVs, must be equipped with an approved spark arrester. Collecting wood for an evening campfire is considered "free use," but be sure to burn only downed or dry wood.
Aging forests and extended drought have triggered bark beetle epidemics in most areas of the forest, causing red, gray or brown crowns and substantially weakened tree trunks. The area's dominant conifer species that are affected by this epidemic are subalpine fir, lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce. However, other species also can be affected. Assess your surroundings and the possibility of wind-blown snags falling during the night. Place your camp well away from problem areas.
Visit your local U.S. Forest Service office in Steamboat Springs to obtain information about roads or trails that are closed or otherwise restricted to specific uses. If you encounter a man-made barrier across a Forest Service road, it likely was installed to protect a natural resource. We ask forest users to adhere to road closures and be mindful of protecting wetlands and water sources. As always, respect private property rights within national forest boundaries. Forest maps usually don't have the most recent land ownership status on them; check county records for private property status and ownership.
Currently, Forest Service Road 110, known as the Black Mountain Road north of Craig, is closed at Lost Park north to the national forest boundary at Slater Park. This closure is effective until Oct. 14, as multiple culverts are replaced along the road. Beginning Tuesday, FSR 133, known as the West Prong Road, will be closed for additional culvert replacement - this closure will remain in effect until work is completed. While FSR 550 is open to motorized use, the Forest Service is cautioning forest visitors to slow down and be alert. Harvest operations to remove beetle-killed trees along the road are wrapping up, and there are numerous log decks that may reduce visibility along the road and may make passing more difficult.
Melissa Martin is the acting public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt national forests. Call her at 307-745-2371.