The USDA Forest Service has announced the temporary closure of nine national forests in northern California that took effect Sunday, Aug. 22 at 11:59 p.m. and runs through Monday, Sept. 6 at 11:59 p.m. due to extreme fire conditions. A 10th forest, the El Dorado National Forest, was closed earlier this month due to wildfire.
In response, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has closed seven of its properties that lie within or immediately adjacent to USDA Forest Service boundaries during this same period to support emergency response routes, firefighting efforts and protect public safety.
“We understand these closures — even temporary — will significantly impact our hunters, especially with archery deer seasons opening this weekend in many parts of northern California,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We have a public safety emergency and an environmental crisis on our hands with these wildfires. We thank hunters, anglers and others who cherish these public lands for respecting these closures and allowing firefighters and public safety personnel to secure these areas and help protect our wild places and our rural communities.”
Hunters are urged to check directly with the appropriate land agency about any wildfire-related closures before heading out on hunting trips.
Unfortunately, resident deer tag fees are nonrefundable regardless of land closures due to fire, weather or other natural disasters per the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 708.2(b). Refunds may be issued to nonresident tag holders (subject to specific requirements) and for select elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags.
Bonham said CDFW is evaluating options to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to refund deer tag fees — and other big game tag fees – for those areas closed due to wildfire conditions. Land closures announced this week are temporary. California’s deer seasons are just beginning to open. Many of California’s general seasons are still a month or more away from opening.
“Our hope, certainly, is that deer hunters will have the opportunity to hunt at some point and participate in part or all of their favorite seasons,” Bonham said. “But we also are prepared to support our deer, elk, pronghorn and sheep hunters who have done so much for conservation over the years.”
Premium deer tags awarded using a first choice in California’s Big Game Drawing, elk tags, pronghorn antelope tags, and bighorn sheep tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year. To be considered for preference point reinstatement, the tag must be returned (postmarked) prior to the first date the tag is valid for hunting.
Premium deer tags cannot be exchanged, but any hunter that has only been issued one deer tag during the hunting license year may purchase one additional deer tag from the list of available deer tags.
A complete list of tag return deadlines along with additional information on tag returns, exchanges and preference point eligibility requirements can be found on CDFW’s Hunting Licenses and Tags webpage.