Purchase opens 32,600 Arizona acres near Coronado Forest to hiking

The U.S. Interior Department’s purchase of a plot of private land will allow public access to 32,600 acres of previously isolated forest land in Arizona, a move that drew praise from wilderness advocates and hunters alike.

The deal opens up two parcels of public land, one in the Coronado National Forest and one northwest of Safford, that had been inaccessible because they were surrounded by private property. It was pulled off through a collaboration between state, federal and private organizations.

The newly accessible parcels in the Santa Teresa Mountains offer “some of the most pristine backcountry experiences” in the nation, said Mike Quigley, Arizona director for the Wilderness Society. The society is “very much about having people enjoy the public lands,” he added.

The Bureau of Land Management worked with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the South Eastern Arizona Sportsmen Club and the Trust for Public Land over several years to acquire the land needed for access.

After years of planning by those groups, the deal came together this year when a 600-acre ranch bordering the forest land went up for sale in January. The trust bought the land, and the Sportsmen Club and Arizona Game and Fish spent months getting an easement for “a primitive road across the property and a spot for parking and camping.”

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