Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8911
Greg Gerstenberg, CDFW Central Region, (209) 769-1196
Mary Sommer, Acting Deer Program Coordinator, (916) 445-3549
With the historic Rim fire in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties still burning, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding hunters about limited access and road closures in the Stanislaus National Forest.
The still burning wildfire is the third largest ever recorded in California. CDFW implores that all outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to be good stewards of the state’s wildland resources and obey all laws and restrictions regarding uses of valuable public land forests and ranges.
Deer hunters deal with wildfires and their impacts on hunting access nearly every year. Fish and Game Commission (FGC) regulations prohibit CDFW from allowing a hunter to exchange a deer tag after the earliest season (archery or rifle) has opened or if the tag quota for the zone has filled; and prohibits CDFW from issuing a refund to hunters after a season has started.
Archery deer season was underway when the fire started and so exchanges or refunds cannot be issued. CDFW staff will be reviewing our regulations to assess whether in 2014 we can recommend an approach to the FGC that would not inadvertently penalize hunters when such events occur.
CDFW considered recommending an emergency closure of the hunt zone for species conservation. The department chose not to because deer are an adaptable species that evolved with wildfire in the Sierra Nevada, that deer for the most part, had the capability to escape the fire, that the majority of the deer population in the area are female (does) and are not hunted anyhow, and that part of the zone remains unaffected and could be hunted. Typically in the Sierra Nevada, deer populations respond favorably to large wildfires because of the abundant growth of new herbaceous and shrub vegetation that deer rely upon. CDFW is cautiously optimistic about deer response to this fire in the coming years, while recognizing other environmental factors may influence herd productivity.
Many areas of the Stanislaus National Forest will be closed to public access on the opening weekend of zone D6 general deer season which starts on Sept. 21. Closures are in effect to protect firefighters in their suppression efforts as well as the public from hazards that exist in a recently burned area. CDFW is making recommendations to the Stanislaus National Forest on suitable areas to re-open once conditions permit, as well as on evaluations of fire damage and habitat restoration.
The closures will likely impact all types of hunting and other recreational activity for an extended period of time. Hunters should check the Forest Service websites listed below for the latest information before heading out.
Information on closures can also be obtained at the Ranger District Offices during regular business hours, or by calling the Stanislaus National Forest prior to traveling to the forest. In areas that are open, there are campfire restrictions in place and no open fires are allowed outside of the developed campgrounds.
The Power Fire, which was north of Highway 108 and east of Pinecrest also has a closure area. This fire started on Aug. 5 and is reported to have burned 1,070 acres. Although the fire is 100 percent contained, there is a temporary closure in place until the fire is declared out.