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Closure Remains For Welfare Of Bighorn Sheep

The Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Ranger District, has released an updated map and Special Closure Order for the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bighorn Sheep Management Area. The new map more clearly defines the east and north boundary of the management area through the use of National Forest System trails.

"Previous closure orders and maps relied heavily on descriptions using township, range, and sections or portions of sections for boundaries. Wilderness visitors often found these confusing and difficult to determine exactly where the boundaries are," said Deputy District Ranger Shalonda Guy. "The new map makes those boundaries much easier to identify."

Trails Within Pusch Ridge

Trails entirely within the Pusch Ridge Wilderness affected by the special closure order include Romero, Linda Vista, Finger Rock, Pontatoc, and Pima Canyon. Boundary trails affected by the closure order are Ventana Canyon, Cathedral Rock, and portions of Esperero, West Fork, Romero, and Sutherland Wash.

"It's important for the public to take note of the restriction on dogs along the boundary trails, especially on the Ventana Canyon Trail," said Larry Pratt, District Recreation Officer. "The Ventana Canyon section of trail has previously been open to dogs from the wilderness boundary to the junction with the Esperero trail. This will no longer be the case. From this point on dogs will be prohibited on that section of the trail."

Restrictions Placed, Affirmed

Restrictions were placed on the management area in 1996 and affirmed in 2001 to support the Arizona Game and Fish Department's project to reintroduce bighorn sheep onto their historic range in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

The updated special closure order states that it is prohibited to travel more than 400 feet off designated Forest Service trails from January 1 through April 30, during bighorn sheep lambing season (36 C.F.R.261.53a).

The order also states it is prohibited to bring in, possess, or allow dogs, except seeing-eye dogs or handi-dogs in the area, including the boundary trails, year round (36 C.F.R. 261.58s). The order retains prohibitions on day use group size of more than a maximum of fifteen (15) individuals, and a maximum overnight group size of six individuals year round (36 C.F.R. 261.50 (e).

A Few Exempt

Persons exempt from this order include any federal, state, or local officer or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty or persons with a permit to authorize the prohibited activity.

The Forest Service would like to remind the public that violations of these prohibitions can be punishable by a fine or not more than $5,000 for an individual, or $10,000 for a legal entity other than an individual, or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both (16 USC 551).

Educational Approach

Coronado National Forest personnel and partnering agencies are working diligently on an educational approach to inform the public of activities prohibited by the closure. Employees and volunteers are patrolling the area to talk with visitors about which activities are prohibited, when they are prohibited and why.

It is anticipated many users of the area will "do the right thing" and comply with prohibitions, as part of responsible use of the special places that are important to them.

This special closure order will remain in place for the welfare of the bighorn sheep that reside in the wilderness. The order also restricts the stress that dogs and large groups of people can cause bighorn sheep year-round.

For More Information

The updated special closure order and map are posted on the Coronado National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado/, the Santa Catalina Ranger District offices at Sabino Canyon, the Coronado National Forest Supervisors Office, and national forest system trailheads. Signs will be posted at locations where user-created trails cross the Pusch Ridge Wilderness boundary.

For more information on the Bighorn Sheep Management Area special closure order and map, please call please call (520) 749-8700. For more information on the Santa Catalina Mountains Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at http://www.azgfd.gov/CatalinaBighorn.


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