Information provided by the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Central Coast Field Office has temporarily closed vehicle access to the Panoche Hills Recreation Area in Fresno and San Benito counties as of April 2. According to a recent release, the closure will help prevent unnecessary destruction of plant life and wildlife habitat due to abnormally hot and dry weather conditions. The Tumey Hills Recreation Area, also in Fresno and San Benito counties, remains open to vehicle access until April 15. Normally, the annual seasonal closure for both recreation areas runs from April 15 until Oct. 15.
Researchers have observed that the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard has emerged earlier than normal from hibernation in their burrows. The lizards that live on the Panoche Hills Plateau are part of a captive breeding program with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to aid in recovery of the species. BLM explained that motorized vehicle closure will prevent disturbance to the lizard’s habitat during the critical breeding season.
Recreationists can still access the Panoche and Tumey hills by hiking, biking or horseback riding year-round. BLM has made facility improvements at the Tumey Hills Recreation Area to provide safer parking options and help reduce impacts to private property, creating a more enjoyable outdoor experience. BLM asks recreationists to be respectful of neighbors, not to block private driveways or park on private property, and stay on designated routes as the shrubs that grow in the Panoche and Tumey hills are critical to wildlife survival.
The release cautions to know what to expect: “Visitation to managed recreation sites has increased during the pandemic. While you still may find moments to be alone with nature on the trail, getting there may be more challenging. The key to a relaxing time is to plan ahead and prepare, have a back-up plan and manage expectations. If you are longing to get away to nature, chances are your neighbors and friends are too.”
Recreate Responsibly: Know your county’s COVID-19 tier assignment, stay local, do not gather in large groups, practice safe social distancing, take your own soap and hand sanitizer and wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
Pack It In – Pack It Out: Practice Leave No Trace ethics while recreating on public lands. Regarding trash, if you pack it in, pack it out and consider picking up additional trash along your way. Dispose of pet waste in a trashcan at your next stop, and not along the trail, as it can be hazardous to wildlife.
For more information, please visit the Panoche Hills Visit Us webpage at https://www.blm.gov/visit/panoche-hills or the Tumey Hills Visit Us webpage at https://www.blm.gov/visit/tumey-hills. For specific questions, contact the Central Coast Field Office at (831) 582-2200 or [email protected].