Accomplishments of the Arizona Heritage Alliance 2008-2009

  • For 2007-2008, the Arizona Heritage Alliance Board initiated a visionary project of a more protected and additive funding concept for both Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. We engaged a public dialogue, with the goal of a consensus among the parties. A Heritage Fund 2 Working Group was formed from this initial meeting and met several times.


  • This same working group designed a simple Pledge for our Arizona lawmakers in 2008. Our Legislators’ Pledge on behalf of the Heritage Fund is an investment in safe playground equipment for our children; new parks and trails; the reintroduction of endangered species into Arizona; the restoration of historic buildings; and the conservation of wild and open spaces and critical habitat for wildlife.


  • Commencing in 2009, the Arizona Heritage Alliance Board in collaboration with the Arizona Preservation Foundation and Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter composed a sign-on letter to our Legislators to protect the Heritage Fund. We solicited over 175 organizations concerned with parks, trails, wildlife and habitat; tribes; cities/towns/counties; parks & rec departments; schools; businesses; and more.


  • We hosted the event, Papago’s Past, Present & Future, at the Arizona Historic Preservation Conference in June 2009. We provided a lively presentation and enriching experience which included a discussion on the historic significance of Papago Park and the importance of the Heritage Fund to Arizona’s wildlife, habitat and special places.


  • Also at the Arizona Historic Preservation Conference in 2009, we organized a panel discussion regarding the future of the Heritage Fund. The panel included: Anthony Verrkamp of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Bonnie Bariola, Florence Preservation Foundation; Renee Bahl, Director of Arizona State Parks; and the Honorable Kyrsten Sinema, LD15 Arizona House of Representatives.


Arizona’s Heritage Fund celebrates 20 years of helping Arizona wildlife

[Source: Gretchen Mominee,]

Photo: Gretchen Mominee

Twenty years ago, Arizona residents voted almost two to one to create the Heritage Fund, showing a “huge groundswell of grassroots support” from a “broad base of different groups” according to Lynda Lambert, Public Information Officer for  Arizona Game and Fish Department. What’s not to like? The Heritage Fund benefits native wildlife and habitats, it benefits rural communities, and it benefits anyone who loves the outdoors — all at no cost to the taxpayers.

The Heritage Fund is supported entirely by sales of Arizona Lottery tickets, and the Fund allows the Arizona Game and Fish Department to effectively operate a number of their programs and projects. In addition, the Fund is matched with federal dollars, which creates a statewide impact, helping not only the wildlife itself, but also helping the state economy. It is particularly an asset to rural communities, where the Fund has helped purchase land, restore habitat and create public access areas which draw hunters, anglers, hikers and birdwatchers. In fact, the Heritage Fund has been responsible for opening two million acres for public access in Arizona.

The Heritage Fund also supports environmental education, reaching out to almost 40,000 fourth graders annually. The Fund has given 640 grants that have gone toward projects such as creating schoolyard wildlife habitats and funding school outings so that students are able to directly experience the impacts of invasive species such as crayfish.

The Heritage Fund has also helped with bald eagle management. Lambert noted that the state has gone from 11 pairs of bald eagles in teh 1970s to 52 nesting pairs today. Part of the reason for their numbers increasing is undoubtedly due to DDT being banned, but the Heritage Fund has also played a role in their comeback, establishing a program in which teams of seasonal field employees monitor the nesting sites, estimating when the eggs hatch and intervening in cases in which babies have fallen.  The teams also help educate the public, ensuring that seasonal closures are respected and explaining to hikers and boaters the reason for the closures.

The Heritage Fund has also been integral in assisting with reintroduction projects such as bringing the black-footed ferret, California condors and black-tailed prairie dogs back to their native habitat. The Fund also supports habitat restoration efforts which help all the native species in those areas, not just one reintroduced species, since a healthy habitat for a black-footed ferret is also going to tend to be a healthy environment for other native plants and animals. And, Lambert noted, “Arizona has the highest

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The gift of the Arizona Monsoons

[Source: Tom Brossart, The Payson Roundup]

Tom Brossart photo

We were looking for elk, maybe a deer or even a pronghorn antelope, but the largest wild animal we saw was a jackrabbit — she was big, but not quite the wildlife we were looking for on our hike along Rudd Creek at the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area.

What we found was a wide variety of wildflowers along the nearly three-mile hike, which starts at the visitor center follows Rudd Creek to the Mckay Reservoir and then loops back around to the visitor center, which is the old ranch homestead and worth seeing in its own right.

There are more obvious areas in the White Mountains for a hike, hunt for wildflowers or wildlife, but few nicer than the wildlife area outside of Springerville for an early morning or evening adventure.

My wife and I were in Springerville for a different photo shoot at the Casa Malpais, and a Forest Service ranger had told us about the Sipe Wildlife area, which is managed by Arizona Game and Fish Department. Always up for a hike in the wilds, it was just too inviting to resist.

Tom Brossart photo

Since photographing wildlife was the goal of the day we rose early at 4 a.m., grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and drove the five miles on U.S. Highway 180/191 to the turnoff to Sipe. At the top of the mesa there is a sign and pretty good forest road that takes you to the 1,362-acre wildlife area, which is surrounded by national forest. The road is good, I don’t know that I would take a car on the road, but we did see one person with a car.

The night before the visitor center manager told us they spotted a large herd of elk, but after searching during the evening hours we found none. But we still had high hopes for the next morning’s hike.

Starting the hike at around sunrise we expected to see some wildlife, but they all must have known we were coming. There were lots of sign and tracks, but no wildlife this morning.

What we did find were isolated areas of a wide variety of wildflowers. There were no meadows blanketed with brightly colored summer blooms, but there were enough wildflowers to add interest to the hike since the elk were not cooperating.

The hike is an easy one. It follows a meandering trail along the creek up to an old cabin, and then circles through a forest area to the reservoir where you can find migrating birds in the fall and spring, but only one duck and his mate in July.

On the way back to the visitor center you pass an old Native American ruin with its own history that is worth a quick look.

Tom Brossart photo

The wildlife area is the former White Mountain Hereford Ranch, which according to the visitor center host, had problems with too many elk. Seems the rancher planted alfalfa to harvest for winter feed, but the elk ate the grains before it could be harvested despite the best efforts to the contrary. No harvest meant no winter feed for the Herefords, which probably meant it was too expensive of a proposition. So the ranch was sold and the state game and fish folks purchased it in 1993 to meet the objectives of the Arizona Heritage Fund Program for threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their habitats and also for recreational opportunities.

The site has several wetlands area, several easy to moderate hiking trails, a wildlife viewing area and a visitor center with numerous displays.

The visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the wildlife area is open from one hour before sunrise and to one hour after sunrise.

Wildflowers are nice right now, but the best time for wildlife is fall and spring. There are special programs from time to time: such as the recent event that allowed the public to observe and photograph hummingbirds; and in early September AGFD conducts a basic wildlife-viewing workshop. For more information on special programs at Sipe, call (928) 367-4281.

Originally published on August 11, 2010

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Historic Arizona Icon in Danger

[Source: Arizona Republic; by Kathleen Ingley, columnist]

The mission known as “The White Dove of the Desert” shimmers with the unworldly glow of a mirage in the dry flatlands south of Tucson.

Kathleen Ingley/The Arizona Republic

San Xavier del Bac, with its asymmetrical towers, elegant curves and exuberant decoration, is the best example of Spanish colonial architecture in the nation. It’s such an important window into the past that it was one of the original listings when the National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966.

But the White Dove is in danger.

The Legislature drained the Heritage Fund, wiping out a $150,000 grant that was supposed to help pay for repairing the east tower. The job was the final part of a two-decade restoration project. Without it, the tower and the entire structure are at risk.

Go to San Xavier, and you can’t miss the problem. The mission’s two towers look like “before” and “after” pictures for plastic surgery.

The west tower has brilliant-white stucco, new balustrades, reworked volutes and a reconstructed balcony made with mesquite.

The shorter east tower, which doesn’t have a cupola, is dingy, chipped and mottled with black mold stains. Parts of the finials and cornices are loose and could come crashing to the ground.

The Revolutionary War had just officially ended and southern Arizona was still part of New Spain when construction started on Mission San Xavier in 1783. The structure, made from fired-clay bricks in an unusual series of 11 domes, has the fluidity and openness of the Spanish baroque style.

Thanks to a series of factors, including a 50-year abandonment, isolation and scarce resources for making major changes, the mission has remained relatively unaltered since it was built. Architect Bob Vint, who has worked on the restoration, calls it “a time capsule.”

Virtually all the art inside, which has been cleaned by an international team of conservators, dates from the late 1700s. The sculptured-plaster altar is covered in gold and silver leaf.

The mission, which sits on the San Xavier Tohono O’odham Reservation, still functions as a parish church. But the building itself is a cultural monument and a major tourist attraction, drawing about 200,000 visitors a year from around the world.

In an ironic twist, most of today’s problems come from past efforts at restoration. The exterior was coated with concrete in a misguided attempt to protect the mission. But the concrete ended up trapping moisture, melting away the centuries-old bricks.

The current restoration project strips off the concrete and goes back to the original way the mission was built. The bricks for it are produced in Mexico using a traditional process – including a mule-powered mill to sift sand out of the clay – to match the mission’s bricks in density, porosity and salt content. The mortar is mixed with local sand and lime, plus a natural glue made from cactus pads.

The Patronato San Xavier, a non-profit that promotes the mission’s conservation, has managed to keep the restoration rolling with a combination of fundraising and grants.

The west tower was finished in 2009, and the scaffolding was about to go up on the east tower when word came that the Heritage Fund grant was in jeopardy.

We are not talking enormous sums of money. The Heritage Fund has put in $230,000 over the course of 15 years.

The current grant was just $150,000. But it would have triggered an equal amount of matching money and provided a solid base for starting the east tower project. The total cost is estimated at $1.5 million.

Voters established the Heritage Fund in 1990, dedicating money from the state Lottery to several grants programs for recreation and historic preservation. But the Legislature has been raiding that part of the Heritage Fund for the past three fiscal years, taking a total of $26.3 million.

The San Xavier grant was canceled. And there’s no prospect of getting it back. Lawmakers quietly abolished the cultural and recreational portion of the Heritage Fund.

Interestingly, the part of the Heritage Fund that is administered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department has taken hits in the past but didn’t fall victim to this year’s budget crisis. Maybe advocates of culture and history would be more persuasive if they carried rifles and fishing rods.

San Xavier’s restoration should have been finished in time for Arizona’s centennial in 2012.

That’s impossible now. But it would be a disgrace not to have the work well under way on the state’s 100th birthday.

We’re in a real race against time.

“That east tower is deteriorating,” says Vern Lamplot, executive director of the Patronato. “The longer it sits, the more damage is done to it, which ultimately threatens the whole thing.”

These are tough times for fundraising. But the remaining cost of restoring this irreplaceable piece of Arizona’s history and culture is remarkably small. It’s inconceivable that Arizonans won’t raise it.

Reach Ingley at or (602) 444-8171.

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