“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.

My Turn: GOP Must Once Again Embrace Conservation by David Jenkins, President of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

(Source: Arizona Republic, July 16, 2016).  The Republican Party’s newly adopted 2016 platform contains narrowly approved language calling for our national endowment of federal public lands, which currently belong to all Americans, to be surrendered to states in order to benefit special interests. Given the Republican Party’s strong conservation legacy, it is worth noting just how radical that position is.

The proposed platform language is way out of line with the public-land and conservation ethic that the country has embraced since the early 1900s when Republican president Theodore Roosevelt — responding to the rampant abuse of America’s natural resources — made conservation a priority.

The 1912 Republican Party platform was very clear about the party’s approach to our nation’s natural resources, proclaiming, “We rejoice in the success of the distinctive Republican policy of the conservation of our National resources, for their use by the people without waste and without monopoly. We pledge ourselves to a continuance of such a policy.”  Even though Roosevelt was not the GOP nominee that year, the party continued to embrace his conservation principles. This has also been the case in subsequent platforms.

Even more on point, the 1924 Republican platform declared, “The natural resources of the country belong to all the people and are a part of an estate belonging to generations yet unborn.”

What conservatism really means

That is the kind of prudent, reverent, unselfish and forward-thinking perspective one would expect from a genuinely conservative political party. And we have also seen it reflected in more recent platforms.

The 1988 GOP platform quoted Roosevelt and cited the party’s “long and honored tradition of preserving our nation’s natural resources and environment.” It called safeguarding “our God-given resources” a shared responsibility and stated, “We believe public lands should not be transferred to any special group” and that “we should keep public lands open and accessible.”

As recently as 2008 the platform Scenic view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon Nationalpledged to manage our lands in a balanced way that protects our “irreplaceable environment” and noted that the “Republican perspective” is in agreement with Theodore Roosevelt’s view that the conservation of the nation’s natural resources is our most fundamental challenge.

Contrast the respect for our natural heritage, ethic of stewardship and commitment to balance reflected in those platforms — which according to polls is consistent with the views and values of most Republicans — with the radical anti-conservation agenda being pushed now by some within the party.

Who’s peddling this agenda?

That agenda includes, as now indicated in the 2016 platform, the wholesale transfer of our national forests, wildlife refuges and conservation lands, many of which were first protected by Theodore Roosevelt, to state and private interests.

It includes efforts in Congress to eliminate or undermine the Antiquities Act, the 110-year-old Republican-passed law that Roosevelt used to protect natural and cultural treasures like the Grand Canyon and Montezuma Castle.

It even includes an assault on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a universally popular — and conservative — program that dedicates a small portion of oil- and gas-lease revenue to land conservation.

Who is peddling this agenda within the GOP? Primarily a handful of Western lawmakers, along with Koch-funded special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

They are trying to reverse more than 100 years of conservative stewardship, seize land that is the birthright of every American, and act against the long-term interest of our nation, in order to facilitate their own short-term gain. There is nothing remotely conservative about it.

Be alarmed, very alarmed

That this small faction can hijack and radicalize the Republican Party platform in such a way should alarm all Republicans who love to hunt, fish, hike or otherwise enjoy America’s great outdoors — and especially those whose livelihood depends on outdoor recreation or tourism.

The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan recognized the value of the nation’s public lands — its parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas — to both present and future generations of Americans. It recognized that protecting them is, as President Reagan reminded us, “our great moral responsibility.”

Republicans who still share those values, and who want their political party to do the same, can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.

Getting more vocal and more involved is the only way to prevent the anti-conservation agenda of a radical fringe from permanently supplanting the Republican Party’s long and storied conservation tradition.

David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national non-profit organization. Email him at djenkins@conservativestewards.org; follow on Twitter, @ConservStewards.

Where Does Arizona’s Lottery Revenue Go?

(Source: Arizona Republic,  July 1, 2016) – The Arizona Lottery celebrates its 35th anniversary Friday.  And while that has meant 35 years of big dreams, winning tickets and some dashed hopes, it has also meant 35 years of increased revenue flowing into the state coffers.

Since  the Arizona Lottery’s launch on July 1, 1981, its sales revenue has totaled $11 billion, with nearly $3.5 billion of that directed back into state funds and programs. While a majority — and growing — portion of that money has gone into the general fund where the governor and Legislature canThis was the first Arizona Lottery ticket. spend it as they choose, about $1.8 billion has been returned to Arizona communities through grants and programs that help people who are homeless, victims of domestic abuse and children in the foster care system.

“Whenever you hear lottery, people always think about jackpots and what they’re going to do with the dollars,” lottery executive director Gregory Edgar said. “But for us, it’s drilling into the numbers and seeing the impact we can have in our community. The investment of $3.5 billion over 35 years is a pretty significant impact.

Changing agendas

  • 1980: Arizona voters approved the creation of the Arizona Lottery by a narrow margin. Ballot literature promised proceeds would “pay for law enforcement, health services, education and other vital programs.” But the original proposition wording required only that at least 30 percent of revenue go into the general fund.
  • 1990: Voters required that $20 million in lottery revenue a year go into heritage funds for Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • 1993: Lawmakers required up to $23 million a year in lottery revenue to be put into a fund for local transit projects and up to $7.6 million a year to be divided among counties.
  • 1996: Voters required that $17 million in revenue be spent annually on specific health and social-service programs, including teen-pregnancy prevention, food assistance for infants and mothers, and disease research.
  • 2010: The Legislature borrowed against future lottery revenue, eliminated allocations to the counties and essentially cut in half lottery allocations to both the transportation fund and the heritage funds, sweeping nearly an extra $30 million a year into the general fund.
  • 2015: The Legislature allocated $900,000 a year in lottery revenue to the Internet Crimes Against Children Enforcement Fund, $100,000 to the Victims’ Rights Enforcement Fund and up to $160,000 a year to the tribal college dual enrollment program.

Where the money really goes.

An Arizona Republic analysis of 35 years of Arizona Lottery revenue and disbursements found that about $1.8 billion in lottery revenue has gone to the specific programs voters and lawmakers designated.

Local transportation projects got $782 million; economic development efforts got $201 million; the Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, which supports outdoor recreation and protects critical wildlife, got $384 million; health and welfare programs like teen-pregnancy prevention and food assistance for children and mothers got $219 million; the Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster children got $39 million; homeless shelters got $8 million; a state program for problem gamblers got $3.6 million; and a program to help law-enforcement agencies fight internet crimes against children got $2 million.

“The dollars touch every corner of the state,” Edgar said. “My dream as director would be that every time someone puts down that dollar, they’ve got the thought that I’m having some fun playing a game but also having some impact in our community.” As annual lottery revenue has grown over the years, the money allocated to these programs has remained relatively stagnant due to limits the Legislature and voters set.

Transportation programs got less in 2015 than they did in 1982. Counties for years got $7.6 million a year, but since 2011 have gotten nothing. The Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund got $10 million in 2015, compared with the $20 million a year it got during the 1990s and 2000s. Programs for economic development, health and welfare, foster-care advocates, homeless and gambling addiction have remained stagnant for decades.  The real winner in Arizona’s lottery game has been the general fund

Who really controls the money?

The lottery, overseen by a five-member, governor-appointed commission and an executive director, controls the marketing. But it’s the Legislature that has taken control of where the revenue is allocated.

As lottery revenue has grown and disbursements to specific programs have shrunk or remained stagnant, the Legislature has directed more money into the state’s general fund, where it is impossible to track how specific dollars are spent. That revenue might have gone to schools and public-welfare programs as lawmakers promised and the Lottery markets on its website, or it might have gone to private prisons and lawmaker pensions.

The general fund over the past 35 years has received $1.7 billion.  In fiscal 2015, $72 million — 9.7 percent of the lottery’s $750 million in annual revenue — went directly to programs touted to voters. Another $103 million went into the general fund. That compares with 19 percent going to designated programs in both 2005 and 1995.  Before the recession, the general fund received about $30 million a year. Over the past several years, the annual allocation has topped $100 million. This year, that trend is expected to continue.

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.