(GOLDEN, COLO.)-With Memorial Day just around the corner, thousands of travelers are getting ready to kick off the summer outdoor recreation season. As people begin getting tents and gear ready, the U.S. Forest Service encourages the public to be safe when enjoying their national forests.
“Throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, national forests offer more than 17 thousand miles of trails, 1,295 campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps and other developed recreation sites. There are also more than 27 million visitors to forests in the Rocky Mountain Region every year,” Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Regionsaid. “Although a majority of forest visitors enjoy the forests without incident, there are always potential dangers involved with outdoor recreation. Part of enjoying the outdoors is to understand those hazards and know what to do to stay safe.”
The U.S. Forest Service is encouraging visitors to “know before you go” as the first line of defense. Many areas on forests throughout the Rocky Mountain Region are still inaccessible due to late-season snow and rain. Know the weather forecast, road conditions, fire restrictions and what to expect before arriving at a destination.
Some potential hazards that people should be aware of this season include:
–The mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle as they continue to kill pine and spruce trees, leaving behind dead, dying and potentially dangerous tree stands. The U.S. Forest Service is continuing to remove these trees from developed recreation sites, but there are many non-developed or minimally developed areas where they are still standing. Dead trees can fall at any time, so don’t camp or park near them, and keep away during strong winds.
–Wildfires can start at any time. A careless cigarette or unattended campfire can start a wildfire. As conditions change, some National Forests may be under fire restrictions. Check with local Forest Service offices before embarking on a trip to the forest.
–Heavy snowpack along the Continental Divide in Colorado and Wyoming has extended winter recreation, but increased avalanche danger. Check snow and avalanche conditions before venturing into the back country.
–Due to high run off, late-season snow and wet conditions, some recreation areas or roads may remain closed later than usual. Saturated soils also have the potential to cause landslides and road slumping. Be prepared to turn around when slides have crossed roads or roads have eroded away.
–Flash floods can occur at any time, even if you don’t see any rain. Check the forecast before you head out, and be extra cautious when camping near stream bottoms or low lying areas.
Below are 10 helpful safety tips to remember:
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid dense patches of dead beetle-killed trees; they can fall anywhere, anytime and without warning.
2. Stay out of the forests when there are high winds. Strong winds blow down trees. If you’re already in the forest, find a clearing that’s out of reach of any trees that could fall. Check the forecast before you head out.
3. Place your tent and park your vehicle in areas that can’t be hit by a falling tree.
4. Make camp before dark, and never hike or camp alone without telling someone your itinerary.
5. Bring an ax or chainsaw with you, in case you become trapped along a road by a fallen tree. Know alternative routes out in case of landslide or road failure.
6. Don’t completely rely on your cell phone for safety. There is limited or no cell phone coverage in many areas of your national forests.
7. Avoid low lying areas or drainages during thunderstorms. A flash flood can occur even if the storm is miles away.
8. Build fires in fire rings or in developed camp sites, and never leave a camp fire unattended…ever!
9. Store food in/under vehicles or tied up in camp, and never feed wildlife.
10. Always tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return.
In the Forest Service, safety is the number one priority for visitors and employees alike. Be safe this season and enjoy your national forests and grasslands.
–U.S. Forest Service