Mark your calendar for 2009 Governor’s Rural & Regional Development Conference

Save the date for the 2009 Governor’s Rural and Regional Development Conference, which will be held August 26-28, 2009 at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park.  This year’s conference will examine opportunities and initial progress resulting from Arizona’s share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Additional sessions include an update on the national, state and regional economies; Arizona’s competitiveness in site selection and incentives; renewable energies, and more.

The conference is a partnership between the Arizona Department of Commerce and the Arizona Association for Economic Development.  Registration will begin in June, and updates will be posted at the Department of Commerce’s website.

4 condors to join wild flock at Vermilion Cliffs

[Source: Ron Dungan, Arizona Republic] — Witness the release of four California condors at 11 a.m. Saturday at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona. “Arizona is privileged to be home to one of only three wild California condor populations in the world, so residents and visitors to our state have a unique opportunity to watch this release,” said Kathy Sullivan, a condor biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Condors were added to the federal endangered species list in 1967. In the 1980s, biologists captured the remaining 22 birds and started a captive-breeding program. Condors produced in captivity are periodically released to help expand the wild populations. [To read the full article, click here].

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.]

Flagstaff-area family relieved as Riordan Mansion park gets reprieve

[Source: Michelle Price, Cronkite News Service] — Rita Gannon, a descendant of a Flagstaff pioneer, can breathe a sigh of relief — for now. The Arizona State Parks Board decided Friday to keep her ancestors’ property, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, operating.  But its fate — along with seven other parks — depends on the Legislature, which is considering a bill that would restore money cut from the Arizona State Parks budget.  The board voted to close Jerome State Historic Park in Jerome, McFarland State Historic Park in Florence and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson until at least June 30.  Depending on what the Legislature does, more parks could close in early March, members said.

Mike Davis, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park manager, speaks at ASP Board meeting. (CNS/Daniel Newhauser)

If Riordan Mansion were to close, the property would revert to Gannon’s family as part of an agreement that transferred it to the state. Rita Gannon, granddaughter of Timothy Riordan, a logging business owner who played a key role in the early growth of Flagstaff, said her family can’t manage that.  “If they close it and we take it back, we cannot afford it, and it will fall to pieces,” said Gannon, who attended the hearing with her daughter Eileen. “It would be a shame.”  Mike Davis, park manager at Riordan Mansion, which saw 26,209 visitors last year, said repercussions from closing the parks would be felt for years. “To walk away is an egregious example of throwing out the baby with the bath water,” he told the board.

Three other northern Arizona parks were on the list for closure: Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow, and Red Rock State Park in Sedona.  Shifra Leah Boehlje, a volunteer at Fort Verde, told the board that closing the park would jeopardize its preservation of the past.  Fort Verde is considered the best-preserved example of Indian Wars-era military architecture in Arizona.  “I know we are concerned about money, but at what sacrifice to our history, which would be lost forever,” she said.  “The risk of losing our history is just too great.”  Fort Verde drew 15,992 visitors in 2008.

Susan Secakuku spoke of the importance of Homolovi State Park near Winslow to the Hopi culture. (CNS, Daniel Newhauser)

Susan Secakuku, a project manager with the Homolovi Park Project, said the Homolovi ruins, which include four pueblo sites, are an important part of the Hopi Tribe’s heritage.  “Homolovi is a place that the Hopi Tribe considers part of our ancestral homelands,” she said.  “The historic and cultural heritage of the Hopi Tribe is the foundation of our life ways, including our connection with our historic villages.”  The board rejected a motion to add Homolovi to the closures approved Friday because representatives said the Hopi Tribe could help staff the park.  “We feel wonderful that they took a measured decision regarding Homolovi,” Secakuku said later.  Dale Sinquah, a member of the Hopi Tribal Council, urged the board to find other ways to address the budget cuts.  “These are trying times, and during trying times we need to think of innovative ways to keep things going,” he said.  Homolovi had 15,200 visitors last year.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]