From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 1 - 8/31/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wildfires Cause Hunters and Agencies to Eye Opening Day with Caution
Commissioners prevent fires on private lands
by Jennifer Binning

Concerns about wildfires have local hunters and the Federal and State agencies which monitor them warily eyeing the opening day of the hunting season on September 15.

Betty Hunt of the Pinedale Chamber of Commerce said she is fielding call after call from people concerned about the fire danger, but only about a half dozen callers have decided to forgo trips to Wyoming this fall.

The Game and Fish as well as the Forest Service have also been inundated with hunters, both local and out of state, wanting to know if the hunting season will be shut down.

Outfitters in the southern end of the county, where fires still burn uncontrolled, are concerned about the snippets of rumors they hear about a complete closure of the forest, thus shutting down hunting season.

That is not a likely scenario, says Dave Swank of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. "Right now we are expecting no change in the status of the closure" said Mr. Swank on Monday, adding that the late summer storms seem to have finally arrived which will hopefully mitigate the fire danger.

Game and Fish representative Al Langsdon in Cheyenne said that the Game and Fish has not closed any public lands yet, and that they will more than likely follow the Forest Service's lead on land closures.

In response to questions about the possibility of canceling the hunting season, Mr. Langsdon said there is only one area that looks a bit dicey at the moment in the Teton Wilderness. A letter was sent out to all hunters holding limited quota licenses for elk in area 60, and sheep in area 4 that there was a remote possibility of a closure, effectively canceling their hunting season. If a complete closure is placed on these areas, limited quota license holders will be refunded part or all of their money, depending on when a closure takes place. Moose and sheep license holders would be allowed to use their licenses next year. General license holders are not eligible for this refund, as they may go to another area to hunt.

As far as the animals are concerned, Mr. Langsdon said there is generally very little game mortality due directly to the forest fires, but in areas where fire has impacted the forest, hunters will probably find the animals in different places than they have in the past.

The Wyoming Fire Prevention Education Team is an interagency group in Casper that is working with Federal and State agencies to increase public awareness of the fire danger in the State. Their campaign "Wildfire-Beware and Prepare" is aimed primarily at out-of-state hunters who may be unaware of the extreme fire danger in Wyoming going into the hunting season.

Over 5.5 million acres have burned this year, just about halfway through the fire season, and with hunters beginning to gather in Wyoming in preparation for opening day, the Education Team has issued a press release to help hunters and campers remain in compliance with the fire bans on public, and now private, lands.

Most importantly, says Barb Franklin of the Forest Service, don't hesitate to report any "smokes" or evidence of a forest fire as soon as possible.

Commissioners Ban Fires

On Saturday, August 26, County Commissioners Bill Cramer and Gordon Johnston met via speakerphone in order to sign a resolution restricting the use of fire on all land within the borders of Sublette County.

Effective since 5 p.m. on Saturday, "open burning fires" are banned, and the "discharge of fireworks and all outdoor fires are prohibited in unimproved areas."

The resolution was needed, said Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford, because there was no way to enforce the partial fire ban that had been brought before the Commission several weeks ago.

According to the resolution, the County Fire Warden John Blaha had recommended to the Commission that a partial closure be implemented as long as the high fire danger continued to exist.

There are a few exceptions to the closure, however; citizens may burn trash inside containers with spark arresters located within a cleared area 10 feet in radius between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Campfires within an established ring in an established campground are permitted. Charcoal fires within an enclosed grill are permitted. Acetylene cutting torches and electric arc welders are permitted only in areas that have been cleared in a ten-foot radius. Propane or open fire branding activities are permitted only in cleared areas with a ten-foot radius.

The County Fire Warden will stay in contact with the Commissioners and inform them when the high fire danger has been mitigated and decreased. The Commission will then decide whether the partial closure should be continued, modified or rescinded.

People found in violation of the fire ban will face a fine not to exceed $100, and/or 30 days in prison.

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