Stick Structures and Painted Rocks Do Not Belong on the SFNF

Contact(s): Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE, NM – Oct. 19, 2020 – Sticks and stones are everywhere on national forests. But the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is seeing them in certain places and configurations that are not acceptable.

In 2017, the SFNF reported a rash of human-built conical stick structures near Aspen Vista and other popular trails on the Española Ranger District. Another one of the mysterious stick structures recently appeared along the Alamo Vista Trail in a usually pristine meadow known locally as “Carl’s Meadow” – much to the chagrin of forest staff and hikers who frequent this trail. With the help of a much-appreciated volunteer, this specific structure has been dismantled.

“We don’t know who is building these structures and why, but we do know they pose significant health and safety hazards,” Española District Ranger Sandy Hurlocker said. “The structures are not stable and the wood is extremely dry, raising the risk of collapse or catching on fire. Given the extreme drought and high fire danger right now, we worry about the potentially catastrophic consequences of a wildfire in one of our most popular recreation corridors.”

Another unwelcome trend is impromptu “art projects,” including painted rocks, spotted on the forest. No matter how good the intention, painting rocks on the forest is not only illegal but can have negative environmental impacts. And please don’t bring painted rocks to the forest and leave them. Paint and sealants break down when exposed to the elements and can cause harm to wildlife and watersheds.

The construction of stick structures on National Forest System lands is prohibited under Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which prohibits “constructing, placing, or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, significant surface disturbance, or other improvement on National Forest System lands or facilities without a special-use authorization, contract, or approved operating plan when such authorization is required.” (36 CFR 261.10(a))  Graffiti, including painting rocks, is considered destruction of government property under the same title of the CFR.  Violators are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

The SFNF asks members of the public to report stick structures, painted rocks and other improper installations and their approximate location to Forest Headquarters at 505-438-5300 or any of the Ranger District offices.

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