PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- State wildlife officials are voicing their disapproval of an effort by federal officials to warn hunters not to leave unattended trailers in northern Arizona's national forests.
The Daily Courier reports that the U.S. Forest Service is getting complaints about hunters leaving trailers unattended for days so they can reserve spots. Federal officials say the vehicles could be vulnerable to theft or vandalism and could impede fire crews trying to conduct prescribed burns.
"If we start allowing people to store things on the national forest for convenience, then we open the floodgates," said Brady Smith, public affairs officer for the Coconino National Forest. "This is about equal access."
State and county officials say hunters should be able to leave trailers on the forest while they work during the week and return to hunt on weekends.
Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles accuses the Forest Service of changing the rules on the usual 14-day camp limit, but federal officials explain that the rule remains unchanged. People can stay 14 days, but they can't leave property unattended for more than 72 hours.
Federal law prohibits abandoning property on federal lands but doesn't define abandonment. So, the forest officials used Arizona's definition of 72 hours, Smith said.
Most of the Game and Fish Department's money comes from hunters and anglers, and the agency has been going to a lot of trouble to reduce a decline in hunting and fishing, Voyles wrote to Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart.
Faced with the loss of property and a ticket, people might decide hunting isn't worth the trouble, Voyles wrote.
Game and Fish said state officials met repeatedly with Forest Service officials to repeal their enforcement approach, but to no avail.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously this month to have Voyles work with others to design a placard that hunters can download, print and place on vehicles. The placard says the property is not abandoned and any attempt to remove it during a 14-day period "will be treated as an act of theft and reported to the Sheriff's Office for investigation."
Information from: The Daily Courier