Continental Divide Trail closure extended for safety reasons

SANTA FE — The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has extended the closure of a segment of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) on the Coyote Ranger District to provide for public safety as fire crews continue to work on the Ojitos Fire in the Chama River Wilderness.  The temporary closure is in effect until Dec. 31, 2017, unless it is rescinded earlier. 

The restricted area includes CDT #813 from the Ojitos Trailhead at Skull Bridge on the Chama River to the CDT crossing at NM Highway 96, known locally as Ojitos Trail #298.  Potentially hazardous conditions may exist on this trail section, and through hikers on the CDT should plan a reroute around this section. 

Since July 7 when lightning struck a tree in the 90,000-acre Rio Chama block that has been cleared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for forest restoration, fire managers have been managing the Ojitos Fire for resource objectives, including the removal of hazardous fuels to mitigate the risk of future high-intensity wildfire. 

While the fire is no longer in the Ojitos Trail area, SFNF staff still need to make sure there are no safety hazards along the trail, including snags, standing dead or dying trees that can fall without warning, before reopening this segment of the trail. 

Under the closure order, people are prohibited from entering or being upon the closed section of the trail.  Federal, state and local officers, members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force, and any others authorized by permit are exempt from the closure order.  Organizations working under an agreement with the Forest Service may also be allowed to work in areas cleared by the Coyote Ranger District as safe to enter.

Violation of the closure order is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.