Clarkdale to look at ways to pay for development

[Source: Philip Wright, Verde Independent] –The Clarkdale Town Council will hold a work session Tuesday night on possible ways to fund new development without creating a financial burden on current citizens. The work session will be on the agenda of the June 12 regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

New state legislation reduced the town’s ability to collect impact fees. Consequently, Town Manager Gayle Mabery suspended the collection of all development impact fees effective Jan. 1. Town staff has been looking into ways to cover costs of new development. One idea being considered is the use of a capacity fee for water and wastewater, which allows a customer to buy into the system. A staff report to the council states that the town attorney believes the collection of water and wastewater capacity fees would be in compliance with state law.

The council also will approve in the consent agenda an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona State Parks Board. To move ahead with the Arizona Fish and Game Heritage Fund Grant public access project, which will provide handicapped access to the Verde River, the town must have site control of the three parcels owned by the Parks Board and known as the Tuzigoot River Access Point.

Another consent agenda item will approve the town becoming an inaugural member of the Healthy Headwaters Alliance, organized by Carpe Diem West. The alliance works to educate stakeholders and decision makers about the critical need to protect and restore the watersheds that provide water security and ecologically vibrant landscapes for communities across the West. A staff report states that the alliance does not lobby, but only educates, promotes and informs. There is no cost to the town for joining the alliance. Tax-deductible contributions are used to fund the alliance.

Yuma Legislator right to seek funding vote opportunity

[Source: Editorial] – It looks like Arizonans may not get to vote on whether they want to set aside money to support outdoor programs and parks in the state. A legislative measure sponsored by Yuma’s State Rep. Russ Jones to accomplish this goal appears to have been smothered in the State House before it could even get a full debate. The House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, said there were more important uses for the money and denied it a hearing.

It is a shame that Jones’ effort to give voters a voice in this decision was dismissed so casually. In our view, Kavanagh feared voters would make a different choice than they did and that is why an end was brought to the measure. Jones’ goal was to let voters decide whether to restore the state’s Heritage Fund that was created by Arizona voters more that 20 years ago. Each year $10 million in Arizona Lottery money was given to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and $10 million to the State Parks Department. The funds were used to support state parks, protect endangered wildlife and promote outdoor activities.

Unfortunately, lawmakers decided they needed the money for other purposes during the economic downturn and eliminated the fund in 2010. This is one reason that communities like Yuma have had to come to the rescue of state parks operations in recent years. Jones was right to try to let voters decide where the priority should rest. It would not be a matter of asking for more taxes for the fund. The money comes from Arizona Lottery revenues.

Supporters hope they can get around the roadblock, but that may not be possible. There is an alternative and that is for supporters to gather signatures to put the measure directly on the ballot rather than going through the Legislature. It is difficult and costly, but it may be the only option.

Game and Fish seeks public input at meeting on Heritage Fund wildlife areas

[Source: Karen Warnick, White Mountain Independent] – Five large wildlife management areas in Apache County are owned and operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Four of the areas are Heritage Fund sites: Becker Lake Wildlife area, Wenima Wildlife area, Sipe Wildlife area, and the Grasslands area. The fifth is the Springerville Marsh Wildlife area.

Employees of Game and Fish held a public meeting March 6 at the Eagar Town Hall for a property management review and to encourage the public to comment on the next six years of operation in the five areas.

Sandhill cranes benefit from Heritage Fund

Arizona’s winter sandhill crane population has boomed from about 4,000 in the late 1970s to more than 34,000 today, in large part because of the state’s Heritage Fund.

Money from the Heritage Fund has secured ideal habitat for the birds in southeastern Arizona. Voters created the fund in 1990 and authorized Game and Fish to use Arizona Lottery dollars to support wildlife conservation. The fund gets as much as $10 million annually. Game and Fish doesn’t get any state general fund money.

“One reason for the increasing number of cranes in the Sulfur Springs Valley is the availability of prime wetland habitat that the birds require and that the Game and Fish Department has provided,” said Mike Rabe, a migratory bird biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Cranes that used to fly south to Mexico now stop in Arizona because of those habitats.”

The impressive increase in sandhill cranes is good news for wildlife enthusiasts. Seeing hundreds or even thousands of cranes take to the skies, feed in the fields or come in to land is a thrilling sight. Adult sandhill cranes can have wingspans of 6-7 feet and stand five feet tall.

The Heritage Fund’s direct impact on wildlife conservation is compounded by the economic benefit that wildlife viewing has on communities across the state, especially in rural areas.

The city of Willcox estimates that $60,000 to $80,000 comes into the local economy from hotel, gas, restaurant, and other related purchases just during Wings over Willcox, an annual four-day bird viewing event. Two state wildlife areas – the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area near Willcox and the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near Douglas – offer visitors good viewing facilities, including bathrooms.

The Wings Over Willcox website at features maps of viewing sites and all kinds of information about sandhill cranes. The cranes migrate to southeastern Arizona in September and stay as late as March, with most of the birds present between November and February, according to the Wings Over Willcox site.

Sandhill crane viewing tips:

• The best viewing time is at first and last light when the cranes head out to feed, although it is possible to see them throughout the day during winter.

• Listen for the birds: They are very vocal and can often be heard before they are seen.

• Don’t forget your binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras and bird field guides.

For more information on wildlife viewing opportunities in the state, visit

For more information on the Heritage Fund and other state wildlife conservation programs, go online to