NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – After a major dose of monsoon energy, fire restrictions across several national forest lands in New Mexico are changing. In a series of news releases Thursday morning, officials say the toughest restrictions will be lifted on most areas of the Valles Caldera and the Lincoln, Cibola, Carson and Santa Fe National Forests by Friday morning.
However, some restrictions will still apply. Here’s a brief rundown of the expected changes.
Starting with the Valles Caldera National Preserve, National Park Service Spokesman David Krueger says the area will lift its Stage II and Stage III fire restriction at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 24. With that, most of the park will be open for exploring, including “the full extent of its backcountry vehicle route,” according to the NPS.
The park has been closed since late April due to extreme fire danger. Popular with outdoor enthusiasts, fly fishers and more, the preserve is known for its massive mountain meadows, wildlife, and winding streams.
Valles Caldera lands affected by the Cerro Pelado Fire will remain closed due to “public safety risks posed by hazard trees, and high potential for post-fire flooding,” the NPS says. That includes areas like Rabbit Mountain, Scooter Peak and the Coyote Call and Rabbit Ridge Trails.
Valles Caldera is open daily, with the main vehicle entrance and visitors facilities open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit this NPS.gov website.
Santa Fe National Forest
The Santa Fe National Forest will also lift Stage II and Stage III fire restrictions for most of the 1.6-million across forest starting at 8 a.m. on Friday, June 24. Two recent wildfires have affected the area: the Cerro Pelado fire near Jemez Springs and the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire near Las Vegas.
A closure order will remain in place for the Cerro Pelado Fire area on the Jemez Ranger District, according to SFNF Spokeswoman Julie Anne Overton. More details on the exact boundaries of that closure area can be found in this closure order on the USDA’s website.
As the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire continues burning across multiple jurisdictions in northern New Mexico, the SFNF says the entire Pecos / Las Vegas Ranger District will remain under a fire closure order. As of Thursday, June 23, the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire is around 72% contained.
SFNF officials says the Pecos / Las Vegas District “may be able to safely open portions of the east side of the district to the public in the near future,” however, there is no exact timetable on how soon that could be. The SFNF initially closed on May 19 due to wildfire danger.
Broadly, the reopening means visitors are once again welcome to recreate on the SFNF. That includes recreation sites, roads, trails and trailheads on the Coyote, Cuba and Española Ranger Districts as well as areas on the Jemez Ranger District not impacted by the Cerro Pelado Fire. Those areas will be open to the general public, and campfires will be allowed, according to the SFNF. For more information, visit the SFNF’s website on USDA.gov.
Cibola National Forest
Friday, June 24 will also mark the reopening of Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands west of Socorro. Several nearby fires, including the Pine Park Fire near Dati and the Bear Trap Fire near Magdalena have kept most areas closed since mid-April.
While the Magdalena Ranger District is expected to lift Stage II fire restrictions, the Bear Trap Fire area, road and trail closure order will remain in effect. For more details on the exact parameters of that closure, you can view the order on the USDA’s website.
Several other ranger district will reopen, lifting Stage II fire restrictions on June 24. Those include the Mountainair, Mt. Taylor, Sandia, Kiowa/Rita-Blanca and Black Kettle Ranger districts. More information can be found on the Cibola National Forest’s USDA.gov website.
Lincoln National Forest
The Lincoln National Forest in southeast New Mexico will reopen on Friday, June 24 at 8 a.m. after being closed since May 25 due to fire danger. The district covers areas near the communities of Carrizozo, Capitan, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft and Carlsbad.
According to Lincoln National Forest spokeswoman Laura Rabon, over the past month, the average rainfall in the forest was four inches, with some areas seeing up to five inches.
“Average rainfall in the summer months ranges between 7.6 and 13.9 inches depending on the location, so the rain we’ve gotten is significant,” said Lincoln National Forest Fuels Specialist Josh DuBoise. “The ongoing rains have actually increased moisture levels to above-average for this time of year, which is why we decided to reopen the forest and lift fire restrictions.”
Lincoln National Forest officials were among the first to respond to a fast moving wildfire in April, when the McBride Fire destroyed at least 207 homes. In total, the fire burned more than 6,100 acres of private, state and federal forest land. Visit the Lincoln National Forest’s website at this link to USDA.gov.
Carson National Forest
Late Thursday afternoon, the Carson National Forest announced it will lift most fire restrictions at 8 a.m. on Friday, June 24 following “a week of significant rainfall with more in the forecast.” However, several closures will remain in place throughout various ranger districts.
The Camino Real Ranger District near the north end of the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire will remain fully closed Friday and “until next week.” According to Carson National Forest Spokesman Zach Behrens, this will keep trails closet to Taos unavailable. CNF says staff are in the process of creating a “small closure footprint” to include the fire burn area and “related debris flow and flash flooding locations,” as well as roads and other areas affected by continued work on a fuel break line north of the fire area.
Areas near the Midnight Fire will also remain closed. A detailed map should be posted on the CNF’s USDA.gov website by Friday.
Other closures will remain, including several enacted in early May, related to elk calving. Those include closures around Valle Vidal and “a handful of roads west of Tres Piedras.” Those closures are outlined in a news release on the CNF’s website.
CNF staff also remind visitors that some campground will have “delayed reopening” due to staff operations. For more information, check the CNF’s website.