The Gila National Forest is a sportsman's oasis in the desert Southwest – 3.3 million acres of the most remote and diverse country in the lower 48. One of the more remote and least developed national forests in the nation, the Gila is surrounded by cacti-filled desert grassland. The Mogollon Mountains rise to 10,000 feet in the Gila, creating a semi-arid transition zone between the desert and the alpine Rockies that is home to both trout and bass, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, Coues deer, turkey, blue grouse and three species of quail.
The nation's first wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness, was designated here thanks to the efforts of Aldo Leopold, who was a forest supervisor in New Mexico at the time. Combined, the Gila Wilderness, along with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness and the Blue Range Wilderness, make up the nearly 760,000-acre heart of the Gila.
The elk hunting in the Gila is highly coveted and one of the toughest draw hunts in New Mexico. Several 390-class bulls have come from the Gila, as well as a 430-inch non-typical bull taken in 1998. Native Gila trout were recently downlisted from endangered species status, and some opportunities are now available to fish for these amazing trout for the first time in 40 years.
The Gila has been a popular destination for off highway vehicle users for many years. Unfortunately, the forest is facing increasing damage by reckless and irresponsible OHV riders who are damaging habitat and eroding wild country by blazing unauthorized trails and roads in the forest. Fortunately, the Gila National Forest, like all other forests in the US, is currently undergoing travel management planning. This process will designate a system of roads and trails for motorized use, and prohibit cross-country motorized travel except on designated routes. Once the travel management plan is completed, the forest will begin implementation of the plan, including improved signage, mapping and habitat restoration.
As a sportsman or sportswoman, your comments and ideas can help the Gila National Forest implement a travel management plan that is truly effective in protecting the fish and game habitat of this unique area while still providing access for motorized recreation. Visit the USFS Gila web site , click on the Travel Management link and get involved in the process. Add your comments to the process whenever aspects of the plan are open to review. Better yet, if you live in New Mexico, watch the web site for announcements on public meetings where the public is invited to review the plan.
If you ride an OHV, trail motorcycle or enjoy taking your jeep or SUV off road, visit Tread Lightly  on the internet before your next outing and learn what you can do to make sure your next ride into fish and wildlife habitat is a responsible one.
Finally, join Trout Unlimited  and our 140,000 members nationwide who are working to keep the best wild places on our nation's public lands the best places to hunt and fish in the future.