Inyo Forest reopens; Eastside breathes sigh of relief
Camping, trails, campgrounds open today
The Inyo National Forest has reopened as of today, Sept. 16, two days earlier than forecast, according to the Southwest Region of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region (also called Region 5).
The forest opened at one minute to midnight last night, according to Region 5.
The Eastern Sierra missed out on the Labor Day weekend economic boon that has been so important to the area when the forest closed on Aug. 31 due to extreme fire danger, sending campers, hikers and backcountry travelers scattering, many with memories of a similar situation one year ago when the forest shut down the day after Labor Day. That shutdown lasted for months due to then-extreme fire danger and the ever-present threat of the huge Creek Fire, which poured smoke into Mammoth and the Eastside for six solid weeks.
This time, however, fire conditions are somewhat better than they were two weeks ago (see below), allowing the Region to reopen the forest and many other forests as well.
As such, the entire Eastern Sierra breathed a sigh of relief today with the news that trails, campgrounds, dispersed camping areas, and all other normal, legal activities are once again allowed, just in time for the beginning of fall color season.
The Humboldt-toiyabe National Forest (north of Conway Summit) is largely in California but is in the Intermountain Region (R4) and is not impacted by the previous closure order.
However, the Inyo will remain under fire restrictions, with NO campfires allowed anywhere, even in developed campgrounds, according to local officials.
For those hoping to get a wilderness permit or campground reservation, the systems for reservations will be up and running again starting Sept. 18. Any permits that were in place from Sept. 18 on will be honored, said Inyo National Forest Deb Schweizer.
“Visitors are encouraged to obtain their permits via email
at email@example.com,” she said, “In person pick up is still an option at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center and Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center with their hours of operation (see below).
Many of the other forests in the state-wide Region 5 National Forest closure, which includes all forests in the state except the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, also re-opened today, with some exceptions; forest-wide closures will remain in place and be extended until midnight on Sept. 22 on the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests in Southern California due to local weather and fire factors, as well as a temporary strain on firefighting resources supporting large fires in other areas of the state, Region 5 said in a recent news release.
“In addition to the four National Forests that will remain closed in Southern California, some National Forest System lands throughout the state will be closed under local closure orders in areas of ongoing wildfires to ensure public safety,” they said. “This includes the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California, which has a forest closure order until Sept. 30. Fire restrictions also remain in place across all National Forests in California to prevent new fire starts. Please refer to the local National Forest that you plan to visit to obtain specific information on closures and restrictions.”
“We are constantly evaluating weather and fire conditions in California, as well as regional and national firefighting resources available to us so that we can ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “Some factors are more favorable now, which is why I decided to end the regional closure order. I want to thank the public and our partners for their patience and understanding during these challenging times.”
Factors leading to this decision include:
1. Anticipated increase of firefighting resource availability to California due to fire danger lessening in other areas of the country.
2. Regional weather systems
and related climate zones becoming more variable as the seasons change, leading to less uniform conditions across California. Where weather and fire danger remain high, tailored fire restrictions and closures remain in place locally and may be added where necessary.
3. Peak summer visitation has tapered off significantly since the Labor Day holiday weekend. The public is a critical partner in mitigating risk and recreating responsibly on our National
4. We recognize the important role of National Forests to peoples’ livelihood and quality of life. Favorable fire conditions remain throughout many parts of the state, and the public’s role in recreating responsibly has never been more important, the Region said in a recent news release. “We remind visitors to practice self-sufficiency during visits to National Forests, be aware of fire conditions in the area you are visiting and follow guidelines to prevent humancaused fire starts.”
Best practices include:
• Heed local information regarding trails and campgrounds, especially fire restrictions and closures. Generally, camp stoves with a shutoff valve will be allowed.
• Be proactive in your thinking about preventing fire starts. Smoking, parking in grass, flammable material, and other activities could cause fire ignition under dry conditions.
• COVID-19 remains a concern. Maintain at least six feet distance from others.
• Do not gather in groups and please follow the latest guidance from officials.
• Communicate with others as you pass. Alert trail users of your presence and step aside to let others pass.
• Pack out your trash and leave with everything you bring in and use.
• All ser vices may not be available, so please plan accordingly. More than 7,404 wildfires have burned over 2.25 million acres across all jurisdictions in California, the Region said. “The nation remains at Preparedness Level 5 (PL5); the Northern California Geographic Area is at PL5, and the Southern California Geographic Area has moved up to PL4.”
The Forest Service thanks our partners and the public for their cooperation and understanding. Citizens with specific questions within their area should consult their local forest website or social media pages for more information, Region 5 said in the news release.