Chadron, Nebraska (PressExposure) October 22, 2012 -- Portions of the Pine Ridge Ranger District were closed to the public after late summer wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service is rescinding the closure order for most of the 25,000 acres that were closed and replacing it with a much more limited closure, said Forest Supervisor Jane Darnell. The Pine Ridge Trail and some specific roads and trails through the burned area will remain closed because an elevated risk of falling trees and erosion still exists.
"The public needs to understand that if they go into the burned area there is still a risk," Darnell said. "Trees can fall even in the reopened areas."
Visitors can call the forest service at 308-432-0300 for closure details or read the restrictions on the Forest Service website (www.fs.usda.gov/main/nebraska/home), said Pine Ridge District Ranger John Griesinger. Hunters should check in at the Chadron Forest Service office, 125 N. Main St.
Roger Kuhn, a Nebraska Tourism Commissioner and the parks division administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said he is pleased to hear that more national forest land is opening to the public after the recent devastating fires in the Pine Ridge area.
"The Game and Parks Commission works closely with the U.S. Forest Service to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to tens of thousands of people," Kuhn said. "This will not only benefit Game and Parks, but all the visitors to the Pine Ridge who enjoy the state parks and federal lands."
Visitors should continue using caution in all areas of the forests and grasslands, Griesinger said.
"The recent snow in western Nebraska was a welcome relief," Griesinger said. "It gave us a temporary reprieve, but we're still in an extreme drought and fire restrictions remain in place."
He noted that the seasonal changes--cooler temperatures and shorter days--will also provide some relief.
"We had a six-inch snow last weekend and by golly it's just what we needed," said Nebraska Tourism Commissioner Mike Kesselring, who owns High Plains Homestead near Crawford. "It was a Godsend, no question about it."
In the central portion of the state, all of the campgrounds, roads and trails in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey reopened this week, according to District Ranger Tim Buskirk.
A summer wildfire forced the Whitetail campground and nearby roads in the southern portion of the district to close, but crews have completed the needed rehabilitation and road work, Buskirk said.
He too urged visitors to use care and stay on roads and trails. "We have not had any significant precipitation, so the sandhills remain quite fragile, and our Stage II Fire Restrictions will continue," he said. Those restrictions can also be found on the Forest Service website