Environmental Study Ranks Arizona Second Lowest Among Western States

Source:  Joshua Bowling, The Republic/azcentral.com, October 18, 2017

It found Arizona’s access to public lands and responsible energy development need improvement.

Arizona Game and Fish Officials Honroed by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Source:  Western Outdoor Times, September 1, 2017

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) honored four leaders from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) for their conservation efforts at an awards ceremony last month.

Craig McMullen received the WAFWA Professional of the Year Award for achievements during his 24-year career with AZGFD. Starting with the department in 1993 as a Wildlife manager, McMullen quickly moved into positions of increasing responsibility including as chief of the Wildlife Recreation Branch and regional supervisor in Flagstaff for the past five years. In July, he was promoted to role of assistant director of field operations for AZGFD. “I am honored to have received the award of Professional of the Year,” McMullen said. “The award reflects the great and important work done by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and everyone who is a part of those efforts.”

The President’s Award was presented to the Mule Deer Working Group, which is led by Jim Heffelfinger, Wildlife science coordinator for AZGFD. The Mule Deer Working Group develops strategies to assist in the management of Mule Deer populations throughout the West, works to improve communication among Mule Deer biologists, and provides a forum to respond to information needs from agencies. “Our success rests entirely on robust collaboration and communication to deliver Mule Deer conservation across state and provincial boundaries,” Heffelfinger said.

AZGFD Wildlife Recreation Branch Chief Scott Lavinreceived the Contributor of the Year Award for his work on WAFWA’s Hunter, Angler, Shooting Sports and Wildlife Recreation Participation workgroup. Lavin’s efforts in Arizona continue to maintain a longstanding and active statewide R3 collaboration with strong industry support.

Recently retired AZGFD Director Larry Voyles was awarded with a WAFWA lifetime membership for his career accomplishments and service to the department.

The awards were presented in Vail, Colo., at WAFWA’s annual conference.

Arizona Conservationists: Save Our National Monuments

Source:  By William Thornton and Tom Hanagan, Special to the Arizona Daily StarJune 4, 2017 

The president’s executive order to review national monuments could recommend downsizing or abolishing monuments over 100,000 acres designated since 1996. A brief history of the Antiquities Act and case study from Ironwood Forest in our own backyard might clear up some misconceptions.

Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, the Antiquities Act gives the president authority to, by proclamation, create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. The law was necessary after decades of looting and desecration at Native American sites such as Chaco Canyon. Roosevelt went on to designate 18 national monuments. Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in Arizona have been upgraded to National Park status.

National Monuments are owned by the American people.  Each of Roosevelt’s successors, Democrat or BighornSheep1FromAZGF-300x200Republican, has used the Antiquities Act to protect lands in the public domain. Opponents of new national monuments have characterized the process as “arbitrary, capricious” and subject to manipulation by “tree huggers” who draw lines on a map, and before you know it, the public is “locked out” and economic activity comes to a screeching halt.

In reality a monument proposal must make a compelling case that the area contains natural or cultural features worthy of protection. For Ironwood Forest these features include: the only surviving indigenous herd of desert bighorn sheep in the Tucson area, the largest stand of desert ironwood trees, numerous archaeological sites and critical habitat for an endangered cactus.

What does monument designation mean for Ironwood Forest?

DSCN0353-585x438Monument land has benefited from thousands of hours of hands-on work by hundreds of volunteers from the Friends of Ironwood Forest, Arizona Native Plant Society, Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sierra Club and many others. Invasive buffelgrass is one of the most serious threats to our Sonoran Desert. A coordinated effort to control it is making progress, but it may not have been possible without monument designation.

Free access is available with restrictions deemed necessary to protect the resource. Hunting is permitted subject to regulation by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. Privately owned parcels within the monument remain available for use subject to local zoning laws. When funds are available, land may be purchased from willing sellers. Land has been donated, but the BLM cannot seize or force the sale of private land.

Historically, mining and ranching have been major economic activities in the area. Grazing leases on monument land remain in force and are renewable. The Pioneer Materials quarry continues to operate.

Outdoor recreation is big business in Arizona, bringing $10.6 billion in consumer spending, $787 million in state and local tax revenue, and supporting 104,000 Arizona jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Parks and monuments are a big part of the picture.

National monuments do not belong to the president or Congress. They are our lands and heritage but will remain so only if we speak up. Comments may be submitted through monumentsforall.org or regulations.gov.  Deadline is July 10. Also, please contact Senator Flake and Senator McCain and your congressperson and respectfully request that they stand up for our monuments.

William Thornton is a second-generation native Arizonan, lifelong conservationist, and outdoor enthusiast. He serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Heritage Alliance and is vice president of Friends of Ironwood Forest. Tom Hanagan is president of Friends of Ironwood Forest.

“Work with Us, Naysayers” – Opinion by Pat Madden, Chairman, Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source:  Arizona Central, September 11, 2016

My Turn: Listening to our critics, you’d never know we invest $6 million each89ad1681-20eb-40ea-b511-5d058eaceeb2 year in Arizona to help conserve species.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department conserves and protects the state’s diverse wildlife and promotes safe, compatible outdoor recreation. That’s our mission and we have a long history of successfully managing all 800-plus wildlife species in Arizona.

Political special-interest groups that disagree with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife conservation mission are complaining because we don’t buy into their political agenda.

Our message to agenda-driven ideologues: Work with us.

Listening to the critics, you wouldn’t know that the Game and Fish Commission and the Department invest more than $6 million annually into projects benefiting threatened/endangered species and other non-hunted wildlife. That’s $6 million in on-the-ground conservation, improving the lives of Arizona’s wildlife. We’ll work with any group that will lend a hand.

Here are just a few success stories

Because we collaborated with a coalition of bald-eagle advocates, Arizona’s bald eagles are now plentiful enough to have been delisted from the federal Endangered Species list in 2007.  Since delisting, the breeding population has increased by 30 percent, and the average annual fledgling count has gone from 21 in the 1990s to 55 since 2010. This year, a record 65 pairs of adult eagles produced 78 hatchlings.

Endangered Sonoran pronghorn were on the brink of disappearing from the U.S. by 2002, with only 21 remaining in southwest Arizona. Active management by Game and Fish and our partners has increased Arizona’s herd to more than 350 Sonoran pronghorn, and even more in Mexico.

In 1998, there were no Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Since then, Game and Fish has dedicated significant staff and financial resources to bring the wolf back while working to build social tolerance in local communities.  By collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Arizona and New Mexico now host 97 known collared wolves and 18 packs, with 42 natural-born offspring last year alone.

We’ll work with anyone to save species.  We also put substantial resources into recovering native fish species with proactive conservation efforts that can reverse the need to list them as endangered. Since 2006, we’ve conducted 300 native fish stockings at 130 sites, helping 18 native species and fostering 112 new native fish populations.

California condors, on the brink of extinction by the early 1980s, now number nearly 430, more than half of which live wild in Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico. Their comeback got an assist from Arizona hunters who voluntarily use non-lead ammo in condor country.

Many other species — desert bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, Apache trout, Gould’s turkeys, Chiricahua leopard frogs, and black-tailed prairie dogs to name a few — have benefited from collaborative on-the-ground conservation. We’ve achieved successes because we work with partners who roll up their sleeves and put boots on the ground.

The department will cooperate with any group that values and works toward on-the-ground conservation. We just have difficulty with organizations that focus their resources on rhetoric-laden fundraising letters, scare tactics and litigation. Conservation, like everything in life, only happens when you do the work.

Edward “Pat” Madden is the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Email him at PMadden@azgfd.com.