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    http://www.durangoherald.com/asp-bin/article_generation.asp?article_type=new s&article_path=/news/news020611_2.htm Government considers closing San Juan forest
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 11, 2002
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      http://www.durangoherald.com/asp-bin/article_generation.asp?article_type=new
      s&article_path=/news/news020611_2.htm

      Government considers closing San Juan forest
      June 11, 2002
      By Jim Greenhill
      Herald Staff Writer
      The Missionary Ridge Fire has prompted talk about closing the San Juan
      National Forest – and forest officials faced with a massive fire apparently
      caused by carelessness won’t rule out the option.
      "Naturally, we’re having discussions about future fire restrictions," said
      Pauline Ellis, district ranger for the Columbine Ranger District. "As far
      as I know, we have never closed the forest up here. We are monitoring this
      on a day-by-day basis. The number of human-caused fires may influence how
      we handle it."
      John Kelley, a cattle rancher whose property north of Lemon Reservoir was
      threatened by the advancing fire, said Missionary Ridge should have been
      closed long ago.
      "They should have done that about a month ago," he said. "Then this
      wouldn’t have happened. They should only let people past the cattle guard
      if they’ve got cattle or business up there."
      The Missionary Ridge Fire appears to have started Sunday in a ditch next to
      Missionary Ridge Road. Firefighters have said it might have been started by
      a cigarette butt or ash dropped out a car window.
      "What we’re seeing here is what I’m more used to in Flagstaff," Ellis said.
      "Things are explosive here. Things that we normally get away with – running
      a saw in your garage or throwing a cigarette in a ditch – we can no longer
      get away with."
      If the San Juan National Forest was closed, it would not be the first in
      Colorado.
      The Forest Service closed much of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest
      indefinitely Monday for the first time in at least a quarter century after
      a wildfire consumed 70,000 acres. The area covers five counties southwest
      of Denver and is a popular destination for campers, hikers and other
      outdoors fans.
      Landowners, residents needing access through forest and Bureau of Land
      Management land, and firefighters were exempt.
      Forests in other states – including New Mexico and Arizona – have closed in
      recent weeks.
      "This is a very serious step to take, and they took it very carefully,"
      said Dave Steinke, Forest Service spokesman. "We tend to take the public
      lands for granted, and now that they’ve been taken away, we’re getting a
      dose of reality, and maybe we’ll take them less for granted."
      Gov. Bill Owens supported the Forest Service’s decision.
      "They’re the experts," he said. "We have to rely on their judgment. Who in
      Colorado after seeing what’s happened could possibly second-guess them?"
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