Public comment invited on Arizona Game and Fish proposed strategic plan

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has released the draft of its new strategic plan, Wildlife 20/20, and wants your comments and input.

Wildlife 20/20 provides broad strategic guidance for all department programs. It is intended to be a living document that conveys policy direction that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has provided to the department to guide its work into the future. It will be complemented by additional plans designed to provide more specific direction, as needed.

The plan is available for review at http://www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/strategic_plan.shtml.

Written comments can be submitted through Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, by e-mail to agfdStrategicPlan@azgfd.gov.

Written comments can also be sent via U.S. mail to:

Strategic Plan
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Attn: Sherry Crouch
5000 W. Carefree Highway
Phoenix, AZ 85086

When submitting comments on particular portions of the document, please include a reference to the location within the document (such as a page and paragraph number) to which you are referring.

The department is planning a webcast about the new plan in the near future. An announcement will be sent out when the date and time are finalized.

After public comments are reviewed and considered, the final draft Wildlife 20/20 plan is anticipated to be presented to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission for consideration at its Dec. 7-8 meeting in Phoenix.

For more information, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/strategic_plan.shtml.

Come learn about high country hummingbirds in the White Mountains

[Source: Bruce Sitko, The Cerbat Gem] – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is again offering a unique opportunity for people to learn more about Arizona’s colorful forest hummingbirds at the 9th annual High Country Hummers Festival. On Saturday, July 28, Sheri Williamson, one of the nation’s foremost experts on hummingbirds, will lead a capture and bird-banding event that is free and open to the public at the department’s Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area located near Eagar in eastern Arizona.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for people to get up close and personal with these flying jewels,” says Bruce Sitko, spokesman in the department’s Pinetop office. “We are quite fortunate to get Sheri, who is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America, to come with her staff of volunteers and demonstrate her research.” This free, one-of-a-kind program will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at noon. Costs are underwritten by the department’s Heritage Fund. Supported by Arizona lottery dollars, the Heritage Fund is dedicated to the education, conservation and enhancement of Arizona’s wildlife, biological diversity, scenic wonders and environment.

Other fun programs will also be offered at the wildlife area that day. There will be educational exhibits featuring live hawks, owls and a bald eagle. You can even get your photo taken with one. Visitors can view presentations on hummingbird and eagle natural history. Department staff will lead a “birding basics” program, including identification tips, recommended field guides and technological tools available to aid in learning about our avian visitors.

People are also welcome to explore the visitor center’s interpretive displays on wildlife conservation, habitats and prehistoric culture. Breakfast and lunch concessions will be provided by the Springerville-Eagar Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We encourage visitors to come prepared to spend most of the morning outdoors with the potential of some summer rain,” says Sitko. “It’s a good idea to bring a camera, as there will be plenty of great photo opportunities. We also require that pets be kept on a leash.”

Williamson, together with her husband Tom Wood, founded and operate the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO), which is a non-profit scientific and educational organization based in Bisbee. SABO’s mission is to promote conservation of birds, their habitats and the diversity of species that share those habitats through research, monitoring and public education.

High Country Hummers is an officially designated Arizona Centennial event. To get to the wildlife area, take Highway 191 from Eagar toward Alpine 2 miles to the signed turnoff at the top of the first hill. Drive south 5 miles to the property on a gravel road suitable for cars. For more information, visit the High Country Hummers web page at www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/hummingbird.shtml.

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: YumaSun.com 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.