The closure order is expected to be signed Tuesday and remain in effect until the forest receives sufficient moisture to improve conditions, the forest's acting public affairs officer, Cam Hooley, said in a press release Sunday night.
"The closure order will prohibit entry into the San Juan National Forest, including entry by the general public, most administrative entry by Forest Service employees, and most uses authorized under Forest Service permits and contracts," the press release said. Under the Stage 3 closure, campgrounds, day use areas, roads and trails will be closed, Wilderness areas, hiking, dispersed camping and other recreational activities will be prohibited.
Exemptions might be granted on a case-by-case basis with a written authorization from the Forest Service, which would include specific requirements for fire prevention. Exemptions must be requested from the appropriate District Ranger (below). Federal, state, or local officers conducting specific duties are exempt.
The McPhee Reservoir boat ramp and marina will likely remain open, but no shoreline use would be allowed, the press release said.
The San Juan National Forest covers 1.8 million acres within the Dolores Ranger District, the Columbine Ranger District, and the Pagosa Ranger District across nine counties in Southwest Colorado. County and state roads and U.S. highways that cross Forest Service lands will not be affected by the order. On-going road closures due to the 416 Fire will continue to be managed by the La Plata County Sheriff. Businesses in local communities will remain open for business during the Forest closure at their discretion.
The San Juan National Forest implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions on May 1, and Stage 2 fire restrictions on June 1,
"The indices our fire team uses to predict fire danger are at historic levels well before we can expect any significant moisture from the seasonal monsoons," said Forest Fire Staff Officer Richard Bustamante. "Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property."
Violating Stage 3 fire restrictions or going into a closed area carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, and is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of up to six months, or both.
The signed closure order will be posted on the San Juan National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/sanjuan/home.
For more information, contact the forest supervisor at 247-4874, the Dolores Ranger District at 970-882-7296, the Columbine Ranger District at 884-2512, or the Pagosa Ranger District at 9264-2268.
To report a fire call the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 385-1324.