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.]

San Xavier could be hurt by decision that saves Arizona state parks

Budget sweeps caused group restoring San Xavier Mission to lose a grant for east tower restoration. (Photo: Jonathan J. Cooper)

[Source: Jonathan J. Cooper, Cronkite News Service] — Late last year, crews removed scaffolding that covered the west tower of San Xavier Mission.  Preservation experts had spent years removing a concrete coating, replacing disintegrating brick and restoring the original lime mortar cover.  

Restoration work was supposed to move this year to the mission’s east tower, where the structure is disintegrating from the inside. But the scaffolding could stay on the ground and the tower could continue to slowly crumble now after lawmakers closing the state’s budget deficit swept millions from a fund that had committed $150,000 in lottery proceeds to the work here.  “The whole thing is frustrating because you want to believe the state lives up to its word,” said Vernon Lamplot, executive director of Patronato San Xavier, a nonprofit organization created to restore the 212-year-old mission south of Tucson.

An Arizona icon dubbed “The White Dove of the Desert,” San Xavier stands a vision of contrasts.  One tower is gleaming white, while the other has yellowing paint and mold.  The exterior is cracked, with stucco falling from the brick walls.  The restoration at San Xavier is one of about 120 projects, some already under way, that stand to lose grants from the Heritage Fund, which designates up to $20 million of state lottery revenue annually for parks, trails, historic preservation, and wildlife conservation.  Voters created the fund in 1990.

There is some hope for the grants.  A bill by Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler, was amended to reallocate money to help prevent some state parks from closing and, among other things, replace the $4.9 million swept from the Heritage Fund.  A House committee endorsed the bill, but it would require a three-quarters vote from both chambers to pass.  The plan may prove unpopular because it would take the money from the Growing Smarter Fund voters created in 1998 to conserve land.

The dozens of Heritage Fund grants around Arizona are especially important now to stimulate the economy and encourage tourism, said Doris Pulsifer, grants director for Arizona State Parks, which administers much of the money.  “To develop these projects provides jobs because someone has to go out there and build them,” she said.  “And money is spent on the equipment and the materials.”

Dennis Hoffman, an economics professor at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said the Heritage Fund grants probably do create some jobs and have a small economic benefit.  But he said it’s hard to argue that one state program is more beneficial than another as they all fight for a dwindling number of dollars.  “You’ve got a million ducks fighting over two croutons,” Hoffman said.  “We need more croutons.  There’s just not enough money going around to fund everything that most Arizonans would agree needs to be funded.”

Beth Woodin, president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, an organization that lobbies the Legislature to continue supporting the Heritage Fund, said the sweep shows a lack of commitment to historic preservation, parks, and wildlife.  “It would seem that sane and reasonable and educated people would care about the Heritage Fund,” she said.  [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.]

Legislature to cut park construction funding

[Source: Michael K. Rich, 85239.com] – – Passed as a voter initiative in 1990, the Heritage Fund was designed to act as a steward of good relations between man and the environment: promoting parks, conserving habitats and protecting wildlife.  However, as the state faces a more than $1.4 billion dollar budget shortfall, the fund, which generates money through the sales of several Arizona Lottery games, could be one of the first casualties.

“It is important to protect during this difficult time core Arizona resources, our true capital: parks and wildlife, prehistoric and historic sites, trails and other cultural and outdoors amenities which will serve the citizens of Arizona during this bleak period,” said Janice Miano, director of administration for the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created in 1992 to protect Arizona’s Heritage Fund and its objectives. [Note: to read the full article click here.]