This ode to publicly owned land still rings true today. National Forest lands are owned by the American public and are managed for multiple uses that deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits: clean water, fish and wildlife, range, timber, minerals, and recreation. There are also “special uses” of forest lands that benefit society as a whole. Specialists and technicians employed by Prescott National Forest aim to manage all uses such that future generations can continue to reap the benefits of our treasured landscapes and waterways.
SPECIAL USES: Strengthening Communities
Highways, byways, and easements that cross forest lands are examples of special uses that benefit society. Other special uses that benefit area communities include: communications towers, power lines, pipelines, and solar electric production. The Highlands Center for Natural History and the Walnut Creek Center for Education and Research provide nature programs for people of all ages. Recreation special uses include weddings, organization camps, commercial filming, outfitter-guides, and the Lynx Lake Café and Marina. Races and other special events held across the Forest attract residents and visitors from around the country.
Water is a precious resource—especially in the desert. Prescott National Forest’s rugged topography provides important watersheds: large areas of land that collect rain water and send it to the Verde and Agua Fria Rivers. Within these watersheds are many continuously or seasonally flowing streams and drainages—important aquifer recharge areas that supply clean water to neighboring communities. The public enjoys recreational activities on the Forest’s lakes and rivers, and these waterways support a wide variety of vegetation, fish, and wildlife.
Patient photographers and bird-watchers may catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon, painted redstart, or spotted towhee. Hunters have opportunities to pursue mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, mountain lion, and turkeys. Hikers and campers may cross paths with javelina, bobcats, king snakes, and tassel-eared squirrels. Anglers at local lakes share the water and fish with bald eagles, ospreys, and many different waterfowl. This wide array of wildlife occurs within the unique transition of plants influenced by the soils, geology and climate of the forest’s mountains and valleys.
HERITAGE: Who passed this way?
The Desert Southwest holds an extraordinary record of the past. Rock shelters, cliff dwellings, pithouse villages, pueblos, incredible rock art, and the remains of historic homesteads, railroads, and “ghost towns” are but a few of the wonders that await your discovery. Archeological sites give visitors the opportunity to peer into the past which can spark wonder, delight, surprise, and reflection. Numerous federal and state parks, historical societies, and museums adjacent to Prescott National Forest attract students and visitors from around the globe to experience first-hand the long-time use of this area by humans. More recent Forest history was shaped by mining, grazing, and timber harvested to satisfy the needs of settlers of European descent.
MINERALS: Precious Metals to Flagstone
Discovery of gold in the mineral-rich Bradshaw Mountains in 1863, followed by discoveries of copper and silver, sparked an influx of newcomers, giving rise to boomtowns later abandoned when the mines played out. Jerome and Crown King are former mining towns brimming with small businesses that attract visitors who enjoy history, art, music, food, and outdoor recreation. Today, working mines produce minerals used in numerous products including cement (buildings and roads), flagstone (patios, fireplaces, and exterior siding), and precious metals for jewelry and for manufacturing electronics such as computers.
RANGE: Grass-fed Beef & Mutton
Grazing livestock is widespread on Western forests and provides economic and social benefits to working farms and ranches and small rural communities. The public’s increasing appetite for naturally raised beef and mutton is supported by grazing open range. Range managers focus on maintaining productive rangelands into the future that can sustain livestock production for society while also providing for wildlife habitat, sources of clean water, and recreational opportunities.
RECREATION: The Pursuit of Happiness
Central Arizona’s mild climate allows for year-round outdoor recreation which provides physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual benefits to people and society.
Physical & Emotional Health: Healthy societies need healthy people. Fresh air and exercise promote physical health which in turn contributes to life satisfaction. Mastering new skills and tackling challenges boosts self-esteem. Shared recreational experiences strengthen family bonds and deepen friendships. Most developed recreation facilities on the Forest are accessible to wheelchairs and can be enjoyed by anyone!
Economic Benefits: Breath-taking scenery, starry nights, and abundant recreational opportunities draw a multitude of visitors to central Arizona —and make it a great place to call home! Outdoor recreation fuels demand for goods and services including sporting goods, outfitter-guides, food and lodging, and transportation. Recreation-related businesses are a major source of local employment, and real estate values increase with proximity to public lands. House hunters and businesses seeking to relocate covet the quality of life in the area with its natural setting, open space, and convenience to outdoor recreation.
Benefits to Land, Air & Water: Spending time in Nature can inspire its stewardship. WILDERNESS is designated by Congress as “an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence.” Wilderness is a repository of clean air and water, unfragmented wildlife habitat, and natural areas for research and education. The forest’s eight wilderness areas are ideal places to view wildlife, hike, ride horses, backpack, find solitude, and connect with Nature. Part of the Verde River has WILD & SCENIC RIVER status protecting its outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values.
Focus on Forest Health
The Prescott Forest Reserve, what is now Prescott National Forest, was set aside in 1898 to protect water sources for area communities. By this time unregulated logging, mining, grazing, hunting, and recreation had dramatically changed the forest from its natural state. This was also when the Forest Service instituted a policy of suppressing ALL fires that resulted in unhealthy, overgrown forests.
Today, natural resource managers seek to protect nature’s benefits for current and future generations by restoring health to forests, grasslands, and waterways. Projects to protect water sources include cleaning up contaminants at abandoned mine sites; eradicating non-native species—such as the thirsty Tamarisk invading the banks of the Verde River; controlling erosion by maintaining and improving roads and trails; and implementing travel management to keep the area’s fragile soils and vegetation in place.
TIMBER specialists work hand in hand with fire managers to restore forest health. Excess timber that crowds otherwise healthy trees is identified by foresters and harvested by commercial logging companies. This win-win partnership provides jobs while improving forest health and supplying fuelwood for heating buildings, pallets for shipping goods, lumber for construction, and other wood products.
FIRE: Protecting Values
Prescott National Forest is a complex mix of vegetation, topography, and the wildland-urban interface where residents and business exist adjacent to the Forest’s boundary. This complexity, coupled with thousands of visitors to the forest and lightning during the monsoon season, increases potential for unwanted fires. Unwanted fires can occur at times when conditions are at their worst and severely damage things we value: homes, trees, wildlife habitat, scenery, and clean water sources.
As elsewhere in the United States, Prescott National Forest is comprised of fire-adapted or fire-dependent ecosystems. Along with prescribed fire, the Forest uses other tools and methods to reduce fuels and restore forest health, such as thinning dense vegetation with chainsaws and the use of large, low-impact mulching equipment. These mechanical treatments are often used where and when prescribed fire is unavailable or in an attempt to reduce smoke emissions that can be generated by prescribed fire.
FIRE PREVENTION: A Community Effort
The alternative to prescribed fire and mechanical fuels treatments is—unfortunately—an unhealthy forest destined to succumb to wildfire, insects, and disease. Prescott National Forest has a rich history of partnering with private landowners, homeowner groups, local fire departments, Native American tribes, and other public land agencies in forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction. The Forest also partners with these organizations to bring land conservation and fire prevention messages to students in area schools.
The Travel Management Rule is a federal rule that requires all national forests and grasslands to designate a system of roads, trails, and areas for motorized use, and to prohibit all motor vehicle use beyond the designated system. Travel management balances the public’s enjoyment of motorized travel while caring for the land and its natural and cultural resources, and protecting its water sources. This system also benefits hikers and horse riders who seek peace, quiet, and solitude on forest trails away from motorized traffic.
Free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)
MVUMs indicate what roads, trails, and areas are open to motor vehicle use. Electronic copies are available at the preceeding link, and hard copies are available at district offices. It is your responsibility to ensure you are driving on an open road or trail or within an open area. The free MVUM will provide you with this information.
Alerts & Warnings
- Crooks Fire Closure Order Effective May 18, 2022
- STAGE 1 FIRE RESTRICTIONS NOW IN EFFECT; RESTRICCIONES DE FUEGOS ETAPA 1
- Fossil Creek & Forest Road 708 Closed until 12/31/22 for public health and saf
- Target Type restrictions implemented across the Prescott NF
- Temporary Camping Restrictions along Highway 260 and Salt Mine Road Corridor
- Drones Use on Forest Service Lands