UPDATED 8/31/21 — The United States Forest Service (USFS) has announced a closure of all national forests within California through September 17 due to the wildfire conditions, with the exception of the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. The Mendocino National Forest as well as nine others have been closed since August 22, but the order has now been extended statewide through mid-September to reduce risks to firefighters and the general public as wildfire conditions worsen. Some exceptions will be made including for landowners and specific permit holders — read the full announcement here.
Today’s USFS statement notes, “more than 6,800 wildfires have burned 1.7 million acres across all jurisdictions in California, and the National Wildfire Preparedness Level has been at a level 5 since July 14, only the third time in the past 20 years that the nation has reached that level by mid-July – indicating the highest level of wildland fire activity.”
Currently, firefighting as well as medical resources across the state are strained due to the ongoing wildfires and COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement also states:
“Although the potential for large fires and risk to life and property is not new, what is different is that the agency is facing: (a) record level fuel and fire conditions; (b) fire behavior beyond the norm of its experience and modeling, 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.”
You can read the press release with Here’s the original article when the first closure was issued:
Original: MENDOCINO Co., 8/20/21 — The United States Forest Service is temporarily closing the Mendocino National Forest and eight other national forests in Northern California beginning on August 22 and lasting through September 6 due to forecasts of extreme fire conditions. In addition, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is closing wildlife areas adjacent to these forests.
Forests included in the closure are: Klamath National Forest, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Lassen National Forest, Mendocino National Forest, Modoc National Forest, Plumas National Forest, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest, Tahoe National Forest. The El Dorado Forest was also closed earlier this week due to wildfire.
Here’s the announcement from USFS with additional details:
The USDA Forest Service has announced the temporary closure of nine national forests in northern California effective Sunday, August 22 at 11:59 p.m. through Monday, September 6 at 11:59 p.m. due to extreme fire conditions. A 10th forest, the El Dorado National Forest, was closed earlier this week due to wildfire.
In response, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will close seven of its properties that lie within or immediately adjacent to USDA Forest Service boundaries during this same period to support emergency response routes, firefighting efforts and protect public safety.
“We understand these closures — even temporary — will significantly impact our hunters, especially with archery deer seasons opening this weekend in many parts of northern California,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We have a public safety emergency and an environmental crisis on our hands with these wildfires. We thank hunters, anglers and others who cherish these public lands for respecting these closures and allowing firefighters and public safety personnel to secure these areas and help protect our wild places and our rural communities.”
Hunters are urged to check directly with the appropriate land agency about any wildfire-related closures before heading out on hunting trips.
Unfortunately, resident deer tag fees are nonrefundable regardless of land closures due to fire, weather or other natural disasters per the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 708.2(b). Refunds may be issued to nonresident tag holders (subject to specific requirements) and for select elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags.
Bonham said CDFW is evaluating options to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to refund deer tag fees — and other big game tag fees – for those areas closed due to wildfire conditions. Land closures announced this week are temporary. California’s deer seasons are just beginning to open. Many of California’s general seasons are still a month or more away from opening.
“Our hope, certainly, is that deer hunters will have the opportunity to hunt at some point and participate in part or all of their favorite seasons,” Bonham said. “But we also are prepared to support our deer, elk, pronghorn and sheep hunters who have done so much for conservation over the years.”
Premium deer tags awarded using a first choice in California’s Big Game Drawing, elk tags, pronghorn antelope tags, and bighorn sheep tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year. To be considered for preference point reinstatement, the tag must be returned (postmarked) prior to the first date the tag is valid for hunting.
Premium deer tags cannot be exchanged, but any hunter that has only been issued one deer tag during the hunting license year may purchase one additional deer tag from the list of available deer tags (PDF).
A complete list of tag return deadlines along with additional information on tag returns, exchanges and preference point eligibility requirements can be found on CDFW’s Hunting Licenses and Tags webpage.