Arizona Conservationists to be Honored at 2017 Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Press Release, July 25, 2017

The Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation, together with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, will induct five individuals into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame. Wildlife for Tomorrow was created in 1990 to enhance the management, protection and enjoyment of Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources. The foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works closely with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to provide additional support for projects and education activities where traditional resources are not adequate.

The Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame was developed in 1998 by the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation to honor those who have made significant contributions to Arizona’s wildlife, the welfare of its natural resources and the state’s outdoor heritage. The Foundation’s 20th Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place during the annual Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Embassy Suites Scottsdale at 5001 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.

The inductees for this year’s event include:

  • Steve Hirsch, of Phoenix, is being inducted posthumously. Steve was a prominent attorney, avid outdoorsman and the son of Bob Hirsch, a prior Hall of Fame inductee and acclaimed outdoors columnist. Steve’s passion for Arizona and its wildlife led him to serve as a director and the president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation for more than 16 years. Steve’s leadership and vision provided the driving force for Wildlife for Tomorrow as it worked closely with the department to support projects that benefited the management and enjoyment of Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources, youth educational activities and projects that made a difference to wildlife habitat in our state.
  • Larry Voyles, of Phoenix, has devoted his 43-year career to wildlife conservation and outdoor heritage, including nine years as director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He began his career with AZGFD as a wildlife manager and in 2008 was selected as the agency’s director. He worked to modernize the department and unified the 50 states’ conservation agencies to improve wildlife conservation efforts nationwide. He is a national leader in shooting sports, recruitment and retention.
  •  Jean Wilson, of Yuma, who has served Yuma County readers for decades through her outdoors column in the Yuma Sun and has dedicated her life to encouraging families and children to appreciate the outdoors. She regularly runs clinics and classes designed to get people to enjoy fishing, hunting and archery.
  • Steve Clark, of Glendale, who is a founding member of the Arizona Elk Society and has worked tirelessly for the past 17 years to carry the organization and its mission forward. He also serves on the Arizona Livestock Recovery Board and the Arizona Natural Resources Committee, was recognized as Civilian Conservationist of the Year in 2010 by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and Conservationist of the Year in 2015 by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • Warner Glenn, of Douglas, a fourth-generation Arizona cattle rancher who operates two ranches in Cochise County. In addition to ranching, he operates the hunting guide service established by his father – legendary hunter Marvin Glenn. In 1991, Warner Glenn was among the founders of the Malpai Borderlands Group, a conservation ranching organization that established a system of scientific-based ecosystem management on more than 1 million acres of ranch land in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

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.

Rockin’ River Ranch: Arizona’s Newest State Park

Source: Office of the Governor Doug Ducey Press Release, May 23,2017

Nestled between a leisurely stretch of the Verde River, one of the Southwest’s last free-flowing rivers, and open grasslands shaded by cottonwood trees sits the site of Arizona’s soon-to-be newest state park: Rockin’ River Ranch. The park, which is currently in the planning phase, received a $4 million appropriation in the budget recently signed by Governor Doug Ducey.

Once complete, Rockin’ River Ranch will provide visitors access to one of sdArizona’s most unique and pristine natural landscapes, as well as enhanced opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. More than one mile of riverfront will provide access for fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing; stables and hiking trails will connect visitors to Prescott National Forest; camping grounds and cabins will provide lodging for overnight guests; previously cultivated fields will lend space for community events; and did we mention the horses?

“Arizona’s state parks are known for their beauty and accessibility,” said Governor Ducey. “Rockin’ River Ranch, along the banks of the Verde River, is another impressive piece of our state’s exceptional landscape. I am looking forward to opening the park for Arizonans and visitors from around the country to enjoy.”

Currently, Arizona State Parks and Trails is taking special care to preserve the natural beauty of the ranch, and local community input is being sought on park amenities and design.

“This park will not only be an asset to Camp Verde, but all Arizona,” said Senator Sylvia Allen, LD-6. “I’m proud we were able to make this investment and help preserve this beautiful part of our state.”

“I just wanted to thank Governor Doug Ducey and State Parks Director Sue Black for their diligent work on Rockin’ River Ranch. This is a great investment for all of Arizona that will enrich our community, while preserving the Verde River’s rich heritage and natural splendor,” said Representative Bob Thorpe, LD-6. “I look forward to seeing this park come to fruition with the positive impact it will have for our citizens and our guests of Northern Arizona.”

“With Rockin’ River Ranch, generations of Arizonans and visitors to our state will be able to enjoy all the Verde River has to offer for years to come,” said Representative Brenda Barton, LD-6.

“We are working diligently, in coordination with the community, to keep the park a picturesque place for all to explore,” said Sue Black, executive director of Arizona State Parks and Trails.

Arizona’s state parks have proved to be important economic engines for rural communities, providing a quarter of a billion dollars in economic impact annually.

“From the economic development aspect, state parks are a huge asset for any rural community lucky enough to have one,” said Town of Camp Verde Mayor Charles German. “Today we feel very lucky and grateful to Governor Ducey, his team at Arizona State Parks and the legislature for choosing to invest in Rockin’ River Ranch State Park.”

“We’re happy to be able to help fund such an important development for our state,” said Rep. Noel Campbell, LD-1. “Investing in new state parks means more economic development for local communities.”

“Our job is to ensure that our state and our residents thrive,” said Senator Karen Fann, LD-1. “By investing in conservation and recreation, we can continue to provide opportunities for growth.”

Arizona State Parks not only support local economic growth, but also provide resources to invest across the state. According to Black, “The overall success of our parks system is what provided the revenue to fund Rockin’ River.”

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