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.

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.

“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.