On Monday, August 30, 2021, the United States Forest Service closed all 20 million acres of California’s national forest land due to extreme wildfire risk. At the time of the announcement, this closure is anticipated to be in effect until at least September 17, 2021, but may be extended if necessary.
Not only does this closure keep visitors out of the active fire perimeters, but it also allows California (and surrounding states) to allocate its resources to the large active fires, as well as (attempt to) eliminate the possibility of people-ignited fires in areas that aren’t currently on fire.
This affects the following nineteen California national forests:
- El Dorado
- Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
- Los Padres
- Rogue River-Siskiyou
- San Bernardino
- Six Rivers
The only California national forest that will not be closed is the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
This order does not affect state and national parks in California.
To read the Order, please visit here.
“Although the potential for large fires and risk to life and property is not new, what is different is that we are facing: (a) record level fuel and fire conditions; (b) fire behavior that is beyond the norm of our experience and models such as large, quick runs in the night; (c) significantly limited initial attack resources, suppression resources, and Incident Command Teams to combat new fire starts and new large fires; and (d) no predicted weather relief for an extended period of time into the late fall.”U.S. Forest Service, August 20, 2021
What does this mean for me?
California’s national forests will be closed to all recreation: hiking, biking, camping, and all other activities conducted on forest service land. All campground reservations and wilderness permits have been canceled.
While this does seem like an extreme measure to take, the consequences of newly-ignited fires in these national forests are catastrophic. Canceled plans are never fun, but it is imperative that we adhere to these closures.
Is this normal?
This is the second time in history that California has closed its national forest land statewide. The first and only time that all California National Forests closed to the public was during late summer/fall 2020.
While this is not common, it does appear to be the new normal as wildfires continue to rage seemingly at an increasingly larger and faster pace across the western United States each summer.
My thoughts go out to the firefighters battling these unprecedented blazes, their family and friends, and those whose homes are in harm’s way. To provide monetary help, consider donating to Cal Fire Foundation’s SAVE, the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Recovery Fund, or the American Red Cross.