Black-Footed Ferret spotlighting

[Source: Matt Fesko, Arizona Heritage Alliance Vice-President] – 

I participated in the Fall 2012 Arizona Department of Game and Fish Black Footed Ferret spotlighting event in Aubrey Valley. Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are one of North America’s most endangered mammals. The primary goal of the Arizona reintroduction effort is to establish a free-ranging, self-sustaining population of black-footed ferrets in the Aubrey Valley Experimental Population Area (AVEPA). I was paired with two volunteers from Northern Arizona University. After a short introductory video and training session at the Game and Fish field house in Seligman, we headed out to Aubrey Valley with our spotlights and traps to trap ferrets from 10 pm until 6 am. It was a rewarding experience to see first hand these amazing creatures in their natural nocturnal habits. The Game and Fish staff and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job.

Below are the results of the outing that I received in a very nice thank you card from the Arizona Department of Game and FIsh BFF Team: “Thank you for your help during the 2012 fall spotlighting event. We really would not be able to get the job done without the invaluable help of so many dedicated volunteers. During the fall event we caught 65 ferrets, of which 57 were unique BFF’s. Fifty-one of these ferrets were brand new and 9 of the ferrets trapped had been caught during the previous events, which we like to see because we get an idea of long term survivability in the population. We had 44% trap success this event. Over the 5 nights we had a total of 144 volunteers, of which 103 were brand new. We broke our previous record of 22 ferrets caught in one night, with 23 captured on the first night! With a spring count of 53 individuals and a fall count of 57 individuals we have a minimum population of 110 ferrets; falling just short of last year’s population count of 116. Thank you again for your help and we hope to see you at another event!”


Heritage Grant Awarded to the Town of Clarkdale

[Source: Verde Independent] – The Town of Clarkdale has received a Heritage Grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the amount of $40,500 to develop accessible facilities on the Arizona State Parks property south of the intersection of Sycamore Canyon and Tuzigoot Roads. Improvements include a modified access road, two ADA parking spaces, and an approximately 400-foot wheelchair accessible trail to a viewing platform adjacent to the Verde River.

As part of the Town’s Sustainable Clarkdale Initiative, this access for all members of the public will be developed using best practices in green development. The Town and Arizona State Parks are working in partnership to develop this site based on an intergovernmental agreement recently executed by both parties. The first phase of the project, development of improvement plans and construction estimates, has been awarded to Shephard Wesnitzer, Inc. of Sedona, Arizona with the planning scheduled to be completed by June 2013.

The funds from the Heritage Grant will provide improved public access to the Verde River, especially safe access for people with disabilities. This is the first phase of the Verde River @ Clarkdale project, whose mission is to provide enhanced community access to a healthy, flowing Verde River.

Desert Vista Garden in Ahwatukee a boost for learning


[Source: Coty Dolores Miranda, the Arizona Republic] – An unused patch of ground on the Desert Vista High School campus is being planted with native plants and trees that organizers hope will not only be eye-pleasing but assist biotechnology and honors biology students with plants, bird and insect research. Students, staff and parents recently began planting Blue Palo Verde, Foothills Palo Verde, desert lavender, desert bluebells, wolfberry and jojoba, and other species they obtained through an Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund grant and monies from campus student groups and staff. The $9,555 grant resulted from the proposal written last year by guidance counselor Josephine Levy and parent Susan Norton, who have been working on the garden concept since 2010. This is Norton’s fourth school-garden proposal, all of which earned grants.

With a horticulture degree from Texas A&M, Norton has worked as a teen volunteer coordinator at Desert Botanical Garden, and is working with the Arizona State University engineering school as a K-12 outreach coordinator. The mother of three — 2012 Desert Vista grad Christopher Norton, Desert Vista junior Regan Norton and Kyrene Altadeña seventh-grader Leah — said she has always enjoyed community gardens. “I like to see any garden that brings people together to nourish the earth,” she said. Her Ahwatukee garden endeavors started with the concept, design and grant proposal for Monte Vista Elementary School six years ago when her children were students there. The school received $10,000 from the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund.

“In that first grant proposal, I said I hoped to promote habitat gardens at other schools, and shortly after, Esperanza started one.” she said. “I moved out of state for a while, and when I returned, I worked in project management for Colina Elementary’s garden. It’s nice to see the first garden inspired other people.” The Desert Vista garden idea started serendipitously when Norris noticed a desert-landscaper certification from the Desert Botanical Garden posted on Levy’s guidance-counselor office wall. “Susan is really the driving force behind this project and it wouldn’t have happened without her,” Levy said, noting how notification of the grant propelled others on campus to become involved. “This is a remarkable demonstration of student, staff and community efforts to build something that benefits everyone,” she said. “Our hope is to show how a native desert landscape can be both educational and beautiful.”

The 76- by 67- by 44-foot Desert Vista Heritage Garden and green space makes use of an existing walkway between the gymnasium and cafeteria, and will offer space for outdoor classroom instruction and “personal solitude,” she said. “It is an awkward space, but what we like is it’s a highly-visible spot in the school so students can’t help but walk by it,” Norton said. “We’re putting in 11 benches to encourage students and staff to come use the space.” Student groups have sponsored the benches, with ceramic-tile artwork by Desert Vista alum Colleen Conlin and Ahwatukee mosaic artist Jeanne Rademacher. Solar lighting for the area, an idea of teacher Dan Zavaleta, will be installed by his technology students.

Lawmaker: Funding state parks improvements now saves costs later

[Source: Donyelle Kesler, Cronkite News] – Delaying capital improvements needed after years of deep budget cuts to Arizona State Parks will only exacerbate the problems and increase future costs, a state lawmaker said Wednesday. “If you don’t take care of your infrastructure, it’s like not taking care of your house and if you let that little $2 item go and don’t fix it, you end up with a $100 repair bill,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Fann, whose district includes five state parks, said Arizona has been doing roughly the same thing with its parks for too long. “Not only are we behind the curve on fixing what should have been fixed years ago, but now we have additional problems on top of them,” she said. Bryan Martyn, director of Arizona State Parks, is requesting $15.5 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget for capital improvements. Arizona State Parks hasn’t received money from the state’s general fund since 2009 and currently works off a $19.5 million budget. Officials say state parks have about $200 million in capital needs.

Fann, who pushed successfully last year to allow Arizona State Parks to keep all gate and concession fees, said that parks are vital to the state’s economy. “It is responsible for over 3,000 direct jobs, it is responsible for over $2 million worth of revenue, and so state parks is really something we need to keep open,” Fann said. “This isn’t a feel-good item, this is about our economy. The feel-good and the beauty and all that stuff, that’s just the icing on the cake.”

Cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget led to agreements allowing some communities to take over operations and keep parks operating. Arizona State Parks Board Chairman Tracy Westerhausen said the $15.5 million would be an investment. “It serves the people who come from outside of Arizona to see our parks and enriches the lives of the people who are here already,” she said. Westerhausen said the projects include improving water-treatment systems and electrification of campsites. “We’re under a state mandate to provide clean water to people who come to our parks, and one of the things we can’t do is improve our water structure in the parks,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said Brewer has taken Martyn’s request into account along with all of the proposals from other state agencies. “Of course state parks are a priority, but so is public safety, classroom education, road and transportation systems, Child Protective Services – all of these issues are important,” Benson said.

Grady Gammage Jr., who as a senior research fellow for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-wrote a 2009 report on ways to fund state parks said the facilities are assets to both the state’s economy and residents.

“Part of reason people want to live in Arizona is because of the open space and natural resources of parks and it can have a lot to do with what makes the state attractive to businesses and people moving here,” Gammage said. “If you don’t support that, you risk a lot more than just damaging the parks, you risk damaging this economic engine that drives Arizona.”