Yuma Quartermaster Depot turned over to city

[Source: Joyce Lobeck, YumaSun.com 10-28-2009] – A new chapter for the Yuma Quartermaster Depot began Wednesday morning when Gov. Jan Brewer presented the key for the historic park to the city of Yuma. The ceremony launched an agreement to have the city operate the state park temporarily to ensure the historic attraction remains open for residents and visitors alike until the state recovers financially.

The park is seen as a critical element in the city’s efforts to redevelop the riverfront and downtown area, said Charles Flynn, who heads up that effort. He noted the effort began 10 years ago and has involved a tremendous outlay of time, effort and funding, with the state continuously being an important partner. Flynn said efforts to date include the restoration of the East and West Wetlands and opening of the Hilton Garden Inn and companion conference center. Plans ultimately call for residential, retail, dining and entertainment development along the Colorado River [to read the full article click here].

Attend (or view) Arizona Game & Fish Commission meeting, March 6-7

The next meeting of the Arizona Game & Fish Commission is Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters facility at 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix.  The Friday portion of the meeting begins with an executive session at 8 a.m., followed by the public session.  The Saturday portion of the meeting begins at 8 a.m.

The public is invited to attend the meeting at the Phoenix headquarters or view the meeting via a videoconference feed at any of the department’s regional offices.  The department successfully initiated a pilot videoconference program last month and has improved and expanded the system so that the videoconference feed will go to all six regional office locations in Pinetop, Flagstaff, Kingman, Yuma, Tucson and Mesa.  For a list of office addresses, click here.

Those viewing the meeting at the regional offices will be able to submit “blue slips” to present oral comment on the “call for comment” portions of the agenda, just as if they were attending the meeting in person.  To view a copy of the meeting agenda, click here and click on the “commission agenda” link.

Arizona biologists begin monitoring collared jaguar

Animal determined to be oldest known jaguar in the wild.

[Source: Arizona Game & Fish] — Early data received from the tracking device on the recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging patterns.  With nearly a week’s worth of data, the Arizona Game and Fish Department noted that the jaguar moved several miles after collaring to a very high and rugged area that the cat has been known to use in southern Arizona.  The animal has stayed in that general vicinity for a few days with apparent patterns of rest and visits to a nearby creek.  During the collaring, the cat appeared to have just fed on prey, which will aid its recovery and allow it to go for a period of time without feeding.

The satellite tracking technology will allow biologists to study diet and feeding patterns to learn more about the ecological requirements of the species in borderland habitats.  Scientists have also confirmed the identification of the collared animal: The cat is Macho B, an older male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years…

This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue.  Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state including protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.  Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Viewpoint: Cut to Arizona state parks a cut at state’s voters

This December photo of San Xavier Mission shows completed restoration work on tower at left. Funding to restore tower at right has been elminated as part of the Legislature's effort to balance the state budget. (Photo: Rene Brachmonte, Tucson Citizen)

[Source: Anne T. Denogean, Tucson Citizen] — When state legislators cut Arizona State Parks funding as part of balancing the current fiscal year budget, they left nothing untouched.  The $26.3 million cut included a sweep of $4.9 million from the Heritage Fund, which, as its name implies, supports the heritage, history, and culture of Arizona.

Defunding state parks is bad enough, but in raiding the Heritage Fund, the Legislature gave the middle finger to Arizona voters.  Those voters created the fund in 1990, ordering that up to $20 million from the sale of lottery tickets be divided each year between the state park system and the Arizona Game & Fish Department.  The funds provide grants for projects to conserve our natural and wildlife resources.  They are used for historic preservation projects, for building and maintaining trails and for acquiring land for open space or outdoor recreation facilities.

Despite public support for the fund, legislators have been looking for ways to raid it since its inception, said Beth Woodin, president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance.  The nonprofit alliance formed in 1992 to protect the fund has helped fight off more than 30 previous attempts by legislators to pillage it.  Only once, in 2003, did the Legislature follow through with plans to take $10 million in Heritage Fund money from Game & Fish.

Woodin said just about every city and town in Arizona has benefited from the grants.  “The Heritage Fund represents education.  It’s a form of education about historic monuments, about wildlife, about habitats… To take that away is like taking away the foundation,” Woodin said.

Early this week, state park grant coordinators sent letters telling grant recipients not to spend the money that’s been awarded. Linda Mayro, Pima County cultural resources manager, said in excess of $1.5 million in Heritage Fund grants for projects countywide will be lost.  The Pascua Yaqui tribe had been awarded $430,500 to develop Pascua Yaqui Park.  Pima County is losing $59,700 it would have used to restore the historical Ajo Immaculate Conception Church.  The nonprofit Patronato San Xavier lost the $150,000 it had been counting on to start restoration of the east tower of San Xavier Mission.

The red-meat Republicans who dominate the Legislature may think they’re quite clever in sweeping this fund, thus avoiding cutting the budget elsewhere or raising taxes.  But it’s just another of their penny wise, pound foolish decisions and a poke in the eye to voters who told them two decades ago to keep their grubby hands off this money.

These projects often provide jobs, bring in matching federal and private grant money, and improve the assets that draw tourists to Arizona.  “These are our best amenities and it’s such a disinvestment to take this Heritage Fund away,” Mayro said.

Bill Meek, president of the Arizona State Parks Foundation, said chronic underfunding of capital needs is destroying our state parks.  “The state parks are a mess… What the customers don’t see very much of is the erosion that’s going on behind the scenes,” he said.  “They don’t see the wastewater systems that are being condemned by DEQ in almost every park in the state. They don’t see the walls that are about to fall down or did just fall down… because those things are sort of hidden from them.”

Legislative leadership has insisted that the budget must be hatcheted to address the state’s deficit, while ruling without any discussion of most alternatives, including — yes, I’ll say it — new taxes.  The deficit is daunting and deep cuts are unavoidable. But make no mistake about it, it’s the Legislature’s choice to swing the ax and let the parts fall where they may.  History, culture, and education be damned.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]