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.

Lyman Lake to close for winter on Sept. 7


Photo Credit: Karen Warnick – The Independent

APACHE COUNTY-Lyman Lake will again be closing down on Sept. 7, but this time there is good reason to believe that it will open again next summer. Rumors have circulated that the park will close down permanently after Labor Day, or be sold to a private company. Those rumors are not true, according to both the County and the State Parks Board.

“The county is willing to do whatever we can to keep Lyman Lake open,” said county manager Delwin Wengert. “It will take a group effort and we will work with the Parks Board and the communities of Apache County.”

During a phone interview with Assistant Parks Director Jay Weems and Public Information Officer Ellen Bonnin-Bilbrey on Aug. 24, it was made clear that the Parks Board does not want to permanently close Lyman or any of the State Parks and they are also committed to “looking at all possibilities” to keep Lyman Lake open. Even if it means operating it on a seasonal basis, which is not something that the Parks Board has done with any of the State Parks up to this time.

Lyman Lake is not actually totally owned by the State of Arizona. Lyman Water Company, the Arizona State Land Department and the Bureau of Land Management all own part of the property. No State Park has been ever sold, nor is it considered possible to do so under the state Constitution.

Weems said in the interview that if Apache County had not come forward with the $40,000 it raised, drastic measures would have been needed to shut it down.

Lyman Lake is considered a “high maintenance” park in that it is in a remote location and runs it own water and waste treatment facility, and its own law enforcement with the help of the Sheriff’s Department. Weems said they anticipated spending about $100,000 during this summer’s season. Of that amount, $75,000 is needed for staffing and the rest for utilities and supplies.

So far this season, the Park has brought in about $70,000 and with the money donated by the county, will break about even.

Weems said the Park made about $6,000 over the Memorial Day Weekend, which is $3,000 more than last year and $2,000 more than in 2008. During the month of June, the Park brought in $18,000, which is about $2,000 less than in both 2008 and 2009. July brought in $29,000, the same as in 2008 and $6,000 more than 2009. August is projected to be the same as both years at around $14,000.

Weems also stated that the arrangement with the County is unique, but has been done with other communities.

PIO officer Bilbrey said that the economic impact to the County from visitors to the area is over $2.5 million directly and over 35 jobs are provided by the impact. Bilbrey has been working vigorously promoting Arizona State Parks to the rest of the world and states that more visitors are needed to help the rural communities and their parks.

The Parks Board has budgeted money to leave one law enforcement officer at the Park over the winter to protect the park and its artifacts. Negotiations will start soon with the County and possibly a private company to operate it next year. Many people thought that Lyman was closed this summer. In fact, Bilbrey said that many people thought all of Arizona’s Parks were closed and there needs to be a concerted publicity effort to get the word out which will bring in more visitors.

Lyman Lake will be open through the Labor Day weekend.

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Arizona’s Parks In Peril: Kartchner Caverns State Park

[Source: Gretchen Mominee,]

Photo credit: Arizona State Parks

The volunteer leading our tour, John, tells us that being dripped on during the tour is good luck, sort of like a blessing from the cave. He says those drips are called “cave kisses.”

Kartchner Caverns is a living cave, which means that it is still in the process of becoming, still growing and changing. It is a work in progress. As you read this sentence, drops of mineral-rich water are slowly dripping from the tip of a stalactite or slipping from the end of a soda straw, a skinny hollow tube growing from the cave’s ceiling.  The stalactites and stalagmites are infinitesimally growing toward one another. The incredibly beautiful and majestic formation, Kubla Khan, continues to form.

This cave was forming long, long before the day in 1974 when two University of Arizona students, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, chiseled an opening wide enough to wriggle through and become the first human beings to ever stand inside it. Imagine the wonder of knowing that you’ve just discovered something miraculously beautiful that no one else has ever seen.

Tenen and Tufts knew they had made an incredible discovery. Because they were avid cavers and had seen the damage done to other caves by carelessness and vandalism, they kept their find a secret for a long time, eventually sharing it with the landowners. Together, they spent years ensuring that the cave would be protected, and that they could be shared with the public in a responsible way that would allow people to experience and learn about the cave without harming the fragile formations inside.

Kartchner Caverns State Park opened in 1999. It was one of the parks that Arizona legislators voted to be closed this year, despite the fact that Arizona State Parks make $260 million for the state annually. To call this decision short-sighted is an understatement.

The cave doesn’t need us. If they close Kartchner Caverns State Park and no human ever sets foot in it again, it won’t matter to the cave. Bats will continue to roost and raise their young in the Big Room. The massive 58 foot column Tenen and Tufts call Kubla Khan will still stand as a testament to what nature can do with water, minerals and tens of thousands of years. Stalactites and stalagmites will continue their inexorable journey toward one another and in time will be joined. Soda straws will grow and fall. The ghosts of the good intentions and efforts of many will linger in the cave, but the cave will be fine.

The cave doesn’t need us. But maybe we need the cave. Maybe we need the opportunity to see geologic time at play. To be able to access the fragile beauty of a place that has been forming for so long it’s almost unfathomable.

Maybe we need to be able to stand inside the cave and hear the story of two college kids who found something magical and wondrous and wanted to share it with the world in such a way that it would be available to all of us and future generations.

Maybe we need the possibility of being baptized by cave kisses, of receiving a blessing from a living cave, to be reminded that we are all, after all, works in progress.

Maybe, as John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

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