Arizona’s Wilderness Areas

Source:  Western Outdoor Times by Margie Anderson , May 5, 2017

There are 90 wilderness areas in our state – a total of 4,512,120 acres. That’s a lot of country! But what exactly is a wilderness area, what can you do there, and how does a place become a wilderness area? A wilderness area is a place where the lands are designated for preservation and protection in their natural state and where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by men (from the Wilderness Act of 1964). These lands remain undeveloped and no permanent improvement or human habitation is allowed. They are devoted to public purposes of recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historic use (Wilderness Act).

No Motors Involved

Wilderness areas are set aside for the enjoyment of the people, and any outdoor activity you can think of is permissible, as long as it doesn’t use mechanical transport or motorized equipment. So you can hike, boat, kayak, ski, swim, fish, hunt, bird, etc. – anything you want as long as there are no motors involved. The National Wilderness Preservation System has 109,127,689 acres, which is just 4.8 percent of the land in the United States. But 52 percent of that is in Alaska so in the mainland United States just 2.75 percent is set aside as wilderness. This is to protect some of the most beautiful and wild places.

Four Agencies Share Management

There are four agencies that share the managing of the wilderness areas: Bureau of Land Management, s_bottomTEMP-4624Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service. They share the responsibility of protecting the wilderness areas from human influence, and they have to take into account things like grazing, access to private lands, mining, fish and wildlife, cultural sites, fire, and even insects and disease.

Some wilderness areas have restrictions on group size, campsite location, or length of stay, and some of the more popular ones even require permits. All of this is to protect the wilderness from people, but also to ensure that the people who use the areas get some solitude. In some places, dogs may be prohibited or only allowed on leashes, and sometimes parts may be closed to protect sensitive habitats or to protect people. Only ten wilderness areas are completely closed to people and they are all island wildernesses.

What’s It Like To Visit?

So what’s it like to visit a wilderness area in Arizona?  We recently visited the Hummingbird Springs Wilderness Area near Tonopah, which is off I-10 west of Phoenix. First of all, it was a bit difficult to find the right road, since on our maps the roads were not numbered, and my favorite mapping app, Trimble, no longer works. But, we did find the road in spite of having no interactive map. Hummingbird Springs is a bit different – there is a road that goes right along next to it, and that road divides Hummingbird Springs Wilderness from the Big Horn Mountains Wilderness Area. Hummingbird Springs Wilderness Area is 31,200 acres and includes eight miles of the Big Horn Mountains.

Tonopah Desert Is Gorgeous In Spring

The Tonopah desert is gorgeous in the spring, and there were wildflowers everywhere – the cacti were in bloom and so were the palo verde trees, and there were even tiny flowers about a quarter-inch across all over the ground. Bright yellow brittle bush blossoms were massed everywhere. We saw a deer, many beautiful birds, lizards, ground squirrels, and not a single other human being. The road is rough – it took us over two hours to go 14 miles, which is probably one reason why we never saw any other people.

Hummingbird Springs, Sugarloaf Mountain

Once you get to the end of the road, a fence bars you from using your vehicle to enter the wilderness area. There is a go-through for walking, and the road is now a hiking trail. It’s just over a mile to Hummingbird Springs from the fence. The spring is abandoned and the fins have fallen off the windmill, but the old cachement tanks are there, looking like the foundations of a house. There are several ruins around, and walking in to the spring is the only way to get a complete view of Sugarloaf Mountain, which is a pretty spectacular place. The base of the windmill is down in a ravine, and there is a hole beneath it with some water in it, so there are lots of animal tracks around. We thoroughly enjoyed our little hike and the drive in.

West Clear Creek and Miller Peak Wilderness Area

Another fantastic wilderness area to visit is the West Clear Creek Wilderness Area. It consists of a canyon that is only about a ½ mile to two miles wide, but it’s gorgeous and allows you to be by yourself in some of the most gorgeous country in Arizona. There is water down there and if you want to hike the whole canyon, you’re going to get your feet wet.This isn’t a trip you want to do during monsoon season – flash floods are a definite danger. You can even fish for trout in the creek. Start at Bull Pen Ranch for a pretty easy trail that follows the creek for six miles then goes up the northern slope and out of the canyon. It’s just east of Camp Verde and you can find maps and information online . . . We have also visited Miller Peak Wilderness Area near Sierra Vista in the Huachuca Mountains. This place is gorgeous and includes Miller Peak, which is 9,466 feet high. We took the grandkids up there last summer. The road to the top is one of those narrow, twisting gravel roads that are so much fun to drive.

There Is An Area For You

The world wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful if there weren’t wilderness areas. I think they are great, and I’m glad that there are places set aside where you can hike without seeing and hearing off-road vehicles tearing up the countryside. Wilderness areas are places to get away and relax and enjoy some solitude. Many are so out-of-the-way that you probably won’t see another soul the whole time you’re there. Arizona is particularly lucky because we have such a variety of terrains and habitats. Whether you want to see the desert in bloom, hike through a pristine forest, or adventure through a canyon, you can find a wilderness area that will satisfy your heart’s desire

Arizona Volunteers Provide Critical Support to County and State Parks

Source: Public Insight Network Bureau

During the Spring 2017 semester, an ASU student and representative from the Public Insight Network Bureau spent some time with the community of individuals involved in environmental20170225_100527 protection and conservation. The student explored how these Arizonans are working to address the environmental issues that concern them, both through volunteer work and political activism within the state. At the PIN Bureau, they aim to increase public participation in journalism and believe that every person has insight or a newsworthy experience they can share.  Part of their work includes engaging with a community, and reaching out to voices that can sometimes go somewhat unheard in the mainstream media.  Click here to read the student’s final project.

Arizona Forward: Open Letter to Their Members

Source:  Email blast from Arizona Forward, February 8, 2017

The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that includes a repeal the Arizona State Parks Board (HB2369), which we strongly oppose.  As part of Arizona Forward’s historic advocacy of parks and open space, as well as our work in creating a primer on the economic benefits of Arizona’s natural assets, we have registered our opposition to this measure and encourage you to do the same!

The State Parks Board provides citizens’ oversight to State Parks and is composed of people with various backgrounds, including recreation, tourism, and livestock, as well as the general public. Its purpose is to “select, acquire, preserve, establish, and maintain areas of natural features, scenic beauty, historical and scientific interest, and zoos and botanical gardens for the education, pleasure, recreation, and health of the people….”

On February 2, 2017, the House Government Committee voted 5-3-0 to repeal the Arizona States Park Board. I testified against the measure and will keep you updated as it moves the legislative process. Elimination of this important board will result in less transparency, fewer opportunities for public engagement on a broad level, and one less entity to advocate for a parks system badly in need of more advocates.

Please take action by sending a message to your state representatives today! If you are not sure who your legislators are, go to Find My Legislator and click on the link where you enter your address. You can then select legislators to find their contact information. Be sure to leave a message with an assistant or on voicemail.

We must be good stewards of these amazing resources, and need your help to ensure that happens!

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DIANE BROSSART
President & CEO
Arizona Forward

Since the publication of this letter, HB2369 is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:45 p.m. in HHR4.  Here is a link to the agenda. 

Producers of “Arizona Wildlife Views” Took Home Seven Regional Emmy Awards

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Alert, October 14, 2016

The producers of “Arizona Wildlife Views,” the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s1476480651553-w5yxxrlbfpceapak-e5bca87f87889372a20ed7386556ba39 television show, took home seven regional Emmy Awards in four different categories
from the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) on Oct. 8. The awards ceremony took place at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. The award recipients and categories were:

Program Feature/Segment/Special

  • Arizona Wildlife Views – 2016 Show 2.  Featured wildlife conservation stories about saving endangered species and assisting injured golden eagles. (https://youtu.be/FVQeJ6FJFrk).  Producers Ben Avechuco, Carol Lynde, David Majure.

Environment – Program Special

  • Arizona Wildlife Views – 2016 Show 1.   Featured some of the state’s most iconic wildlife, as well as efforts to conserve majestic bald eagles. (https://youtu.be/ugJJxjV2E0Q).  Producers Ben Avechuco, David Majure.

Director (non-live)

  • A Triumph for Pronghorn Antelope.   See the impressive results of a 4-year project designed to save a diminishing herd of pronghorn antelope in southeastern Arizona. (https://youtu.be/Bb4pyyHzs6Y).  Producer David Majure.

Video journalist

  • Bats and Burned Forests.   See how Arizona Game and Fish is helping Northern Arizona University researchers who are looking into the impact of the State’s largest wildfire on tree-roosting bats. (https://youtu.be/4iN3T6VPsWg). Producer David Majure.

More than 900 entries were submitted for this year’s Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter Emmy Awards by television and video production professionals in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and El Centro, Calif. For more information, visit: http://rockymountainemmy.org.  

“Arizona Wildlife Views” is a half-hour original series produced by the Information Branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The show airs on local PBS stations, city cable channels across the state and YouTube. The current 13-week season is airing at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays on Arizona PBS Channel 8.  More information can about Arizona Wildlife Views Television can be found online.