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National Forest Service Closes All Southwest Region National Forests in California

re: Where to Photograph in a State Largely Veiled in Smoke?

National Forest Service Closures, 2021-09-01

One size fits all. Doesn’t matter if you want to visit an area which doesn’t even have trees (eg 11K feet on up). Understandable from a practical policy perspective, but frustrating as hell.

UPDATE, September 14 2021: now mostly open, see Forest Service Ending Regional Closure Order Two Days Early; Five Forests to Remain Closed Under Local Orders

ALTERNATIVE: Workaround for Closed National Forests in California: Use Yosemite Day Pass System.

You’d hardly know it was a bad year here where I live—clean clear air the past few days, with temps around 75°F at mid-day. Glorious.

The National Forest Service (NFS) has closed all southwest-region national forests. You may not enter the forest at all, nor use the roads.

  1. Closure of the following National Forests: Stanislaus National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, and Cleveland National Forest.
  2. Prohibition of the use of any ignition source on all National Forest System lands (campfires, gas stoves, etc.) throughout California.
  3. Closure of all developed campgrounds and day-use sites on National Forests in California.

A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. 16 U.S.C. 551 and 18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571, and 3581.

So I’ll not be photographing in the Eastern Sierra or White Mountains until at least September 18. My guess is that these orders will be extended until at least October 15, barring some lucky wet storm. What a bummer.


These closure orders do not appear to affect Yosemite National Park, e.g., for day-use or for wilderness travel. I asked NFS and got this response:

The U.S. Forest Service manages the National Forests; Yosemite National Park is under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service and you would have to check their website.

Thing is, the NPS is often out of date on the web site, and I've had great difficulty reaching anyone by phone. But at least by the web site as it stands, it looks like wilderness permits remain available within YNP. Do your own diligence on it, as things could change. Reader Rich S writes to say that Yosemite is operating normally.

Forest Service Temporarily Closes Eight National Forests, Adds Prohibitions in Others

USDA Forest Service Temporarily Closing All California National Forests for Public Safety

VALLEJO, Calif., — August 30, 2021. To better provide public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing California wildfire crisis, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region is announcing a temporary closure of all National Forests in California. This closure will be in effect from Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. through September 17, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. This order does not affect the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is not in the Pacific Southwest Region.
[DIGLLOYD: foregoing is incorrect, see closure order for Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest]

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.” Factors that led to this decision include:

1. By temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency circumstances.

2. The closure order will also decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources, and enhance firefighter and community safety by limiting exposure that occurs in public evacuation situations, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact human health and strain hospital resources.

3. Due to state-wide conditions, any new fire starts have the potential for large and rapid fire growth with a high risk to life and property. The Forest Service and our partners are absolutely doing all we can to fight these fires and will continue to do so, but the conditions dictate the need for this region-wide closure order.

4. Forecasts show that conditions this season are trending the same or worse as we move into late summer and fall.

5. 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.


HUMBOLDT-TOIYABE NATIONAL FOREST Carson Ranger District Emergency Closure Order


Pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 551 and 36 CFR § 261.50(a) and (b), the following acts are prohibited on all National Forest System Lands described in this Order, within the boundaries of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Carson Ranger District beginning September 1, 2021 at 12:00 a.m. and continuing until September 17th, 2021, or until rescinded, whichever comes first.

1. Going into or being upon any national Forest System Lands or Roads located in the state of California as shown on the attached map. 36 CFR § 261.52(e) 36 CFR 261.54(e)


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