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11/28/2013 6:00:00 AM
Officials right to fight forest service on enforcement of 72-hour limitation

Don Martin
The Great Outdoors


The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission, working with a number of county sheriffs in northern Arizona, have come out strongly against a U.S. Forest Service rule that opposes parking trailers during the fall hunting seasons.

A press release from the Coconino National Forest on Aug. 16 said, "If trailers are left unattended for more than 72 hours, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and may remove them from the forest. Violators can also be cited for this action."

The state Game and Fish Department responded to this release by saying, "This is an unprecedented application of Forest Service regulations that relies on Arizona statutes for establishing a presumption of abandonment for a vehicle left unattended for more than 72 hours. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department are opposed to this unprecedented application of state and federal law to hunters who have absolutely no intent of abandoning their property.

"A stay limit of 14 days has been in effect on national forest lands for decades and is well-understood and accepted by sportsmen and recreationists."

Commission Chairman John Harris stated, "The commission feels strongly that public lands belong to the public, who clearly enjoy using those lands," he said. "A 72-hour rule imposes unacceptable and artificial restrictions on sportsmen and recreational users of the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott national forests."

On Nov. 2, the commission voted unanimously to have Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles and the department coordinate with two county sheriffs, Bill Pribil of Coconino County and Scott Mascher of Yavapai County, to develop a notification placard that visitors could attach to their property.

The placards list the dates the property is going to be in the forests and states that the property is not abandoned.

The commission and the sheriffs hope these placards deter Forest Service personnel from impounding and/or pursuing enforcement action against the owners.

The commission also directed the department to communicate issues involving the 72-hour rule to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others agencies, and to begin discussing appropriate legislation with lawmakers at the state and local level.

I have to give the Game and Fish Commission and the department credit for standing up to the USFS, which wants to implement this draconian rule that is clearly aimed at hunters.

And kudos to Sheriff Bill Pribil and Sheriff Scott Mascher for joining with the department in their objection to the 72-hour rule.

Finally, there is a resolution from the Arizona Sheriffs Association that also objects to the 72-hour rule and the effects on law-abiding citizens. Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan is part of that group.

You can read more on this issue by going to the department's web site at www.azgfd.gov and vieweing in its entirety the news release on the 72-hour rule.

You can also find a letter Voyles sent to Coconino Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart regarding the issue.

You'll also find a letter from Voyles, Pribil and Mascher that was sent to Regional Forester Cal Joyner, who is head of U.S. Forest Service, Region 3.

Hunters and campers can also download the placard to put in their trailers or vehicles.

This 72-hour rule is just another way that those in some, but not all, federal land management agencies are trying to hinder recreation on public lands.

Travel management plans have been implemented on all of Arizona's National Forests that have closed hundreds of miles of roads on federal lands.

Now the department and sportsmen are being hit with this rule.

I'm just glad to see the commission and department, with the help of county law enforcement officials, standing up for the rights of Arizona's citizen's to use public lands.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, November 29, 2013
Article comment by: Just Wondering

Building a windfarm on Federal land is okay but parking a camper for more than 3 days is illegal? This administration just believes it can do whatever it wants. I have never seen such an abuse of power in my life.



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