Petrified Forest National Park Under Threat from Underfunding

[Source: Environment Arizona]

A new report, The Best of America: Under Threat from Underfunding released today by Environment Arizona and Mayor Jeff Hill of Holbrook showed that visitorship to Petrified Forest National Park is on the rise. But even as Petrified Forest draws more and more visitors, it could face budget cuts in the coming year- leaving it with fewer resources for maintenance, upkeep and stewardship.

“Last year, visitors poured into Petrified Forest to explore one of the world’s largest collections of petrified wood and go hiking in the Painted Desert,” said Bret Fanshaw of Environment Arizona. “Yet just as its popularity grows, Petrified Forest is under threat from underfunding.”

Petrified Forest National Park relies on its operating budget to hire park rangers, for programs like natural history and geology and to maintain general facilities and trails. The proposed National Park Service budget for the coming fiscal year calls for cutting Petrified Forest’s operating budget by $35,000. With 87,899 more people going to the park in 2009, budget cuts will make it harder for park stewards to keep up with increased usage.

“Now is the time Petrified Forest National Park should be best protected,” said Fanshaw. “Instead, it could be facing painful cuts, which could force park keepers to delay maintenance, hire fewer rangers or cut back on programs.”

Mayor Jeff Hill of Holbrook pointed out that Petrified Forest National Park is also an important cornerstone of the region’s economy.

“Petrified Forest National Park is a driving engine of tourism,” noted Mayor Hill. “It is a crucial part of our economy, our culture and our history.”

Similar threats to Arizona’s state parks have been seen in the last year. Parks like Homolovi Ruins are now closed because of major sweeps to conservation funds by the state legislature. Sweeps of $71 million in the last two years nearly forced two-thirds of Arizona’s state parks to close last spring, but many have stayed open temporarily with help from local communities. Advocates noted that the state parks will need to establish a permanent funding source this year or many others will shut down.

“Arizona’s state parks bring in $266 million in tourism revenue every year,” Fanshaw remarked. “Instead of stealing conservation money, the legislature should invest in our parks to keep them open and benefiting local communities.”

The threats to Petrified Forest National Park are also being seen around the country. Environment Arizona’s report reveals that nationwide, two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw visitorship climb. However, almost three-quarters of parks that saw this increase in visitors last year could face a budget cut in the coming year.

In addition to operations and maintenance funding, national parks are threatened by overdevelopment and pollution on lands adjacent to or within its boundaries. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to give parks grants for land acquisition as privately-held parcels of land near the park come up for sale. Unfortunately, many parks never receive these funds.

“Just like Petrified Forest, parks throughout America are becoming more popular destinations. Parks still offer affordable family vacations and are ideal places for people of all ages to explore the great outdoors,” said Fanshaw. “We need to give our parks the resources to ensure they are just as majestic in 2999 as they were in 2009.

Environment Arizona urged the Obama administration to prioritize national park preservation in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Advocates also called on Senators McCain and Kyl to secure funding for the National Parks Service.

“The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to protect America’s greatest places and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. Here at Petrified Forest, we see that happening everyday, as more and more families come to see ancient trees turned to stone; now is the time to fulfill the promise of America’s national parks,” said Fanshaw. “We urge our leaders to fully fund the National Park Service and permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can all enjoy what is truly the best of Arizona for generations to come.”


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Hopi Tribe signs agreement to reopen Homolovi Ruins

[Source: Louella Nahsonhoya, Navajo-Hopi Observer]

Courtesy photo Norman J. Honanie (left), representing the Hopi Tribe and Renee Bahl, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks. Photo Courtesy of the N-H Observer

The Hopi Tribal Council approved a resolution that will keep the Homolovi Ruins State Historic Park opened, which will allow safeguard and protection of the cultural and religious site.

Resolution No. H-068-2010, sponsored by Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa and endorsed by Norman Honanie, was passed by the Council on Oct. 19 with a vote of 12-0. With the approved resolution, the Tribe entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona State Parks Board in an effort to assist with the operation and maintenance of the park – a move that will help preserve it.

The negotiated agreement allows the park to remain open thanks to the Hopi Tribe’s contribution, which will be used to employ park rangers and others working at the park. Funding for the park was designated by the Land Team in accordance with the agreement for the remainder of 2010 and is funded for Fiscal Year 2011. Funding for future years will be subject to the Council’s appropriations of additional funds.

According to the agreement, the park would be open and operated by State Parks for 12 months. There is an option to renew the agreement for two additional one-year periods. The tribe will provide $175,000 to subsidize the park operations and the State Parks will retain fees. The park will be subject to quarterly reviews of its operation by the State Parks and the Hopi Tribe.

Cedric Kuwaninvaya (Sipaulovi), Hopi Council Representative and member of the Hopi Land Team, is thankful for the agreement.

“I am glad the park will reopen and it will be safeguarded and protected,” Kuwaninvaya said. “It is because of the budget deficit the Homolovi State Park was closed by the state. Hopi became worried that once again, the pot hunters could start desecrating our ancient homelands. Hopi began discussions with state park representatives, the city of Winslow and others to formulate a plan to keep the park open. Thus an agreement was developed and approved. As a result, we will protect and preserve our ancient homelands and share our cultural heritage.”

Earlier this year, the state’s budget deficit threatened funding for 19 of the state’s 28 parks, including Homolovi Ruins State Historic Park. Various entities and municipalities throughout the state began efforts to help fund the operations of state parks across the state. It is estimated that the budget for the state parks was drastically reduced from $28 million a few years ago to $18 million, an effort by state lawmakers to tackle the budget deficit.

The re-opening day of the Homolovi Park has not been determined yet, according to Ellen Bilbrey with Arizona State Parks. Bilbrey said some parks are still closed, some are managed by others and some operated in conjunction from others to stay open.

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Verde Valley honored for economic development

[Source: Jon HutchinsonVerde Independent]


Chip Davis. Photo Credit:

The Verde Valley placed well in the annual Excellence Awards at the 36th Annual Arizona Governor’s Rural and Regional Economic Development Conference taking home two of the four top awards. The 2010 Conference was held Thursday and Friday at the High Country Conference Center at Northern Arizona University. Gov Brewer presented the awards.

Yavapai County won the award the top award for Innovation in Economic Development. District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis and Arizona State Parks Director Renee Bahl were presented with the 2010 Excellence in Economic Development.

Davis had supported the local funding to operate the State Parks in Camp Verde, Jerome, and Sedona. The money came from the District 3 parks improvement fund. The town of Camp Verde, the Jerome Historical Society and the town and the Benefactors for Red Rock State Park joined Davis in funding the continued operation of parks that would otherwise have been closed by the State Budget funding cutbacks.


Read the entire article [here].

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Number of Breeding Bald Eagles in Arizona Grows

[Source: Gateway to Sedona] – With the bald eagle breeding season in Arizona coming to a close, the state’s population continues to flourish, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. For the 2010 breeding season, three new active breeding areas were identified bringing the total number of occupied breeding areas in the state to 52. The total number of breeding adult bald eagles also grew to 104, which is the highest on record.

This year, under the careful watch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and a coalition of 22 other partners that make up the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee, 44 eaglets also reached the critical point of taking their first flight, an important milestone for a young bird’s chances of survival.

Bald eagle numbers over the past 30 years have grown more than 600 percent in the state.

“Identifying three new breeding areas in the state is a positive sign that our population of bald eagles continues to grow and do well,” said Kenneth Jacobson, Arizona Game and Fish Department bald eagle management coordinator.

The breeding season for bald eagles in Arizona typically runs from December through June, although a few bald eagle pairs at higher elevations nest later than those in the rest of the state.

The bald eagle program is supported by the Heritage Fund,
a voter-passed initiative that provides funding for wildlife conservation through Arizona Lottery revenue [to read the full article click here].