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Acting regional forester Jennifer Eberlien announced and signed an order Tuesday to temporarily close developed recreation sites in the Rocky Mountain region to align with local, state and federal orders and guidelines.

Developed recreation sites include campgrounds, day-use areas and picnic areas. It also includes any other constructed facility amenities such as potable water stations, fire rings, grills, picnic tables, restroom facilities with flush toilets, trash cans and trash collection services.

Parking facilities, trails and trailheads will remain open. Dispersed camping, hiking and river activities are allowed, but discouraged.

Dispersed camping is camping in a national forest or on grassland where recreation facilities or services are not provided. Campers are expected to pack out trash and human waste.

Developed campgrounds were not expected to open until mid-May, but that date could be extended further.

“While we know that going outside provides forest and grassland visitors needed space, exercise and satisfaction, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” Eberlien said in a press release. “We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus, as well as protecting and keeping communities and natural and cultural resources safe from unwanted human-caused wildfires.”

Eberlien also signed an order to implement fire restrictions. The following is prohibited in forest areas:

• Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire.

• Using charcoal grills, barbecues, coal-burning stoves, wood-burning stoves and sheepherder stoves.

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building.

Those with a forest permit are exempt from the order. Federal, state or local officers or members of an organized rescue or firefighting force are also exempt from the prohibitions during performances of official duties.

Pressurized liquid or gas devices such as stoves, grills or lanterns with shut-off valves in an area that is at least three feet from any flammable materials are exempt from the first prohibition. Residents who are using a fire in a permanent dwelling unit with an effective spark arrestor are also exempt from the first prohibition.

The decision to implement fire restrictions is based on fire activity levels, current and predicted weather, fuel moisture and the availability of emergency and firefighting resources. Additional restrictions may be required if conditions warrant.

Forest and grassland visitors are still encouraged to adhere to safety guidelines such as staying close to home, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others and avoiding crowded areas.

Entering closed areas or violating fire restrictions is a violation of federal law and may result in fines or possible jail time.

The Rocky Mountain region includes 24 national forests and grasslands across Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

All National Forest Service offices are conducting business and providing virtual services. Updated information regarding national forest facility closures can be found on fs.usda.gov.

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