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Entire San Gorgonio Wilderness is finally reopened to the public for hiking, hunting


The squeaky wheel still gets the grease, and this time you – members of an outraged hiking and hunting community -- were the squeaky wheels.

San Bernardino National Forest officials reopened the entire San Gorgonio Wilderness to public access on Thursday this past week. The entire wilderness was closed “for public safety” July 6 because of the Valley Fire, which started that day and burned 1,350 over the next couple of days. The fire was hammered on the flanks where it could spread, and stalled in steep, inaccessible terrain, going nowhere from about July 10 on.

But the wilderness remained closed because the fire wasn’t able to be “contained” – a complete fire line around the perimeter – past 30 percent initially because the terrain was so rough. But then, the third week of August, half of the wilderness was reopened when the “containment” reached 82 percent. Then this week, the whole wilderness was reopened even though the “containment” was still 82 percent.

How do you pull that decision out of your bag of tricks?

The real threat to the public is still the same – realistically – as mid-July, but the closure shrunk and then disappeared.

The public’s howling eventually made the difference. Office phones were ringing, social media were buzzing, and the bureaucrats who made these nonsensical decision found their ears ringing. But they couldn’t just admit they made a mistake and reopen the forest, they had to drag it out for almost two months. All those cancelled trips and wilderness permits can’t be replaced, and perhaps those of you who did voice your outrage will keep a closer eye on the decisions often made by bureaucrats that have nothing to do with sensible management of the forest or visitors.

They need and deserve to be watched and hounded otherwise next time they will get away with it – just like they have in the past. The Lake Fire region, a fire that burned in 2015, remained closed to the public for nearly two years. Two years! There is simply no justification for that. This closure was going to remain in effect until hiking and hunting seasons were long over. The sad reality is that a lot of the bureaucrats simply don’t want you and I out there, for a whole variety of made-up reasons they use to justify closing our public lands.

Keep those U.S. Forest Service phone numbers and e-mails handy. The next insane closure has already happened somewhere over something specious.

Dove opener good in some public

places, pretty dismal in others

The dove season hunting opener on Saturday was a mixed bag for Southern California hunters, but across the board numbers of hunters was reportedly down from 2017 – a baffling situation considering the weekend opening day.

Bruce Kenyon, a volunteer with Quail Forever who has helped maintain the Camp Cady Wildlife area east of Barstow, said the number of hunters at Cady opener was less than half of normal.

“There were a couple of guys on the Harvard Road field got five birds each, according to the wardens I spoke with,” said Kenyon. “And the best anyone in our group got was six.”

He said that overall, the average was probably around two to three doves per hunter for the 60 to 70 hunters who shot the area opening day.

Carlos Hernandez of Whittier hunted Cady with a couple of buddies, arriving 30 minutes after shoot time. Reporting that his group bagged six doves between them.

In the Imperial Valley’s public land spots, the wheat fields on the Wister Unit shot very well.

“We had a blast,” said Jason Mathiot, a Moreno Valley hunter who was on Wister’s 413 East field in the morning. “I shot darn near a box of shells before I got one.” He was using steel shotshells for the first time for doves, but once he got on the birds he had an opening day limit that included 10 whitewings.

Mathiot was hunting with his son Conner and his wife Selena along with their two "retrievers," Mathiot’s youngest son Cameron and a new Labrador puppy, Remi. Mathiot said it was Connor’s first year of hunting as a 12-year-old, and he bagged his first dove opening morning.

Mathiot said the field only had about 20 other hunters opening morning, while the Game Bird Heritage fields across the street had over 100 cars parked around them, but even that is down from most years.

At the San Jacinto Wildlife Area in western Riverside County near Lake Perris, the hunting was dismal. Kevin Sarno of Westminster said he hunted three different areas at the wildlife area and didn’t see one dove.

“I spoke with two guys who walked past week and they said they had one each, but they walked 3 1/2 miles to get those two birds and I didn’t think my four-year old daughter who was with me was up for that much walking,” said Sarno.

The Bridge Street field, so good last year, Sarno said didn’t produce a single bird that he could tell, and he also noted the lack of hunters compared to last season.

The first half of dove season continues through September 15.

Montana judge stops grizzly

bear hunts in Wyoming, Idaho

The first grizzly bear hunting season in more than 40 years was stopped temporarily for 15 days by the federal judge in Montana on Thursday this past week, and then the Wyoming Fish and Game Department suspended the entire 2018 season on Friday after the ruling.

“It’s frustrating after all the work that’s been done,” said Loren Grosskopf, Wyoming Park County, in a story published Friday in the Cody Enterprise. Grosskopf has been a member of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and helped draft the conservation strategy.

“After years of work, 99 percent of biologists and scientists agree the bear is recovered,” he said. “Wyoming has put $50 million into recovery. I knew this might happen. Secretly, I hoped a judge might say try it for a year.”

The season was set to begin yesterday (Sept. 1) in Wyoming, where up to 22 bears out of the estimated population of 700-plus bears in the greater Yellowstone region could have been shot by hunters drawn in a lottery. In would have been the first first grizzly bear hunting season in the Lower 48 states since 1974.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s wrote, “The threat of death to individual bears posed by the scheduled hunts is sufficient” to justify a delay in the state’s hunting seasons, even though the government scientist who have been studying the bears and implementing recovery efforts since 1975, said the great bears didn’t deem to be on the threatened or endangered species list any longer. When first listed, the grizzly population was estimated to be just 130 individuals in the region.


Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.

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