Celebrate Arizona’s Centennial Through Conservation!

More than 100 Conservation Advocates Meet with State Legislators for Environmental Day at the Capitol.

January 31, 2012, Phoenix, AZToday at the Arizona State Capitol, more than 100 people from 25 different legislative districts and representing more than 20 groups met with their state legislators in support of environmental protection and conservation programs.

Volunteer advocates asked legislators to support adequate funding for State Parks and to specifically support legislation sponsored by Representative Karen Fann (R-1) that allows parks to keep revenue generated from the parks to support the park system.

“Our state parks deserve to be open, public, and keep the money they earn at the gate from visitors, said Bret Fanshaw with Environment Arizona.  “We hope the legislature will pass Representative Fann’s bill in good faith that state parks will be protected in this year’s budget and into the future.”

Conservation of state trust lands has long been a key priority for most Arizona conservation groups. While there is no comprehensive measure on the table to do that, advocates asked legislators to support conserving state trust lands and to support the bills being promoted by Senator John Nelson (R-10) to facilitate limited and transparent land exchanges for better management of state trust lands and public lands. They asked the legislators to refrain from trying to swipe the last of the Land Conservation Fund, a voter-protected fund that supports conservation of state trust lands and for which voters again expressed support on the 2010 ballot.

“We need to preserve certain state trust lands to save their natural resources, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and historic/geologic features so that our communities now and in the future have those treasures,” said Ann Hutchinson, Executive Vice President, North Country Conservancy – Daisy Mountain Preservation Effort. “The values go way beyond the obvious beauty of the land and the opportunities to recreate. The preserved open spaces have economic value. Businesses and residents look to preserves and parks to raise and maintain a high quality of life. Homes and land surrounding parks and preserves have higher value.”

Keeping funding for the Arizona Water Protection Fund was also a key issue for many advocates. The Arizona Water Protection Fund is the only dedicated funding source to protect and restore riparian habitats in Arizona. In 2011, the Legislature voted to permanently eliminate the general fund appropriation for the program.

Also on the priority list for advocates was a measure sponsored by Representative Steve Farley (D-28) that reinstates both the Heritage Fund and the Local Transportation Assistance Fund, which helps to fund transit. Prior to the Legislature’s elimination of the State Parks Heritage Fund as part of the FY2011 budget, these dollars helped fund natural areas, historic preservation, and local and regional park programs.

“An additional measure, HCR 2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones, is a referral to the voters for the 2012 election and would restore the language and funding of the Parks’ side of the Heritage Fund,” said Janice Miano, Director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “With the success of either measure, the voters’ Heritage Fund would once again be whole and functioning, providing countless jobs, community pride, and potential for increased tourism to both city and rural areas.”

Group leaders expressed concerns about the plethora of anti-environmental legislation, much of it aimed at ignoring or weakening federal environmental laws and land protections. Among them are bills that seek to control national forests and other public lands, measures whose intent is to assert total control of air and water and thus ignore the provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

“We need our state legislature and governor to step up to strengthen Arizona’s environmental protection laws, rather than seek to ignore or weaken the safety nets for clean air and clean water, as well as our endangered plants and animals,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Without the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, there would be few, if any, protections for these important resources.”

Heritage Fund gives head start to Chiricahua leopard frogs

[Source: AZ Game & Fish News Media, 2-23-2011]Celebrating 20 years of conserving Arizona’s wildlife

One of the most beneficial sources of funding for Arizona’s wildlife and outdoor recreationists is the Heritage Fund. Two decades ago, Arizonans overwhelmingly approved the creation of the fund, which, among other things, directs money from lottery ticket sales to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to invest in conservation efforts like educating children about wildlife, acquiring critical wildlife habitats for sensitive species, and protecting and recovering many of the state’s imperiled wildlife.
One sensitive species benefiting from the Heritage Fund is the Chiricahua leopard frog.  This medium-sized frog was once abundant throughout the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. It has a green-brown skin color with numerous dark spots on its back, thus its name “leopard frog.”

Reductions in the frogs’ distribution the past few decades prompted their listing as federally threatened in 2002 under the Endangered Species Act. Reasons for declines of wildlife species are not always clear, and several interacting factors are often at play. Biologists generally agree that predation by introduced species, especially crayfish, American bullfrogs and sport fishes, and chytridiomycosis, a fungal skin disease that is killing frogs and toads around the globe, are the leading causes. Other factors have also contributed to their decline, including degradation and loss of wetlands, recent catastrophic wildfires, drought and contaminants [to read the full article, click here].

Frog totals in the wild jump by 1,700

[Source: Sierra Vista Herald] – The Arizona wilderness became a bit more populated this week, thanks to a team of biologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation Center. 

More than 1,700 threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs were released into the Tonto National Forest. The frogs, including adults and tadpoles, were released at multiple sites in the forest near Payson. The frogs were raised from eggs collected near Young. Additionally, 100 frogs that were bred and raised at the zoo were released last week near Camp Verde in the Coconino National Forest.  

“Thanks in part to Game and Fish’s Heritage Fund, we are making great strides in re-establishing Chiricahua leopard frogs to their native habitat in Arizona, and this release marks a significant accomplishment and milestone for the recovery effort,” said Michael Sredl of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Our goal is to work through partnerships to preclude the need to list species on the federal endangered species list, or in cases where they are already listed, to recover them to a point where they can be removed from the list.”

 Until the 1970s, Chiricahua leopard frogs lived in ponds and creeks across central and southeastern Arizona, but populations have declined significantly since then due to drought, disease, habitat loss and threats from non-native species. They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2002.  A recovery team was created to help bring the species back from the brink of extinction. The team developed a recovery plan with the goal of recovering the species to the point where it can be removed from the endangered species list. The plan includes releases of captive-bred frogs, habitat restoration, and monitoring.

International conservation program brings endangered wild-born jaguar to Phoenix Zoo

[Source: wmicentral.com, AZ Game & Fish Department] – – After years of planning, an endangered jaguar made its way from Sonora, Mexico to Arizona recently.  On loan from Mexico, the young male cat will call the Phoenix Zoo home for at least the next year before returning to a zoo in Mexico. The loan was orchestrated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the zoo as a way to provide needed medical care to the animal. Illegally captured, the jaguar damaged its canine teeth while in an inadequate enclosure, which precludes it from ever being returned to the wild. The Phoenix Zoo agreed to provide the necessary dental surgery. “The arrival of this jaguar in Arizona is exciting for so many reasons,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department International and Borderlands Program Manager, Francisco Abarca. “Not many people realize that the jaguar is native to the United States, so to work in cooperation with Mexico and the Phoenix Zoo to bring it here provides us with an important chance to learn more about a virtually unstudied population segment of the species.” [Note: to read the full article click here.]