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.

Arizona Game & Fish’s Heritage Fund celebrates 20 years of conserving Arizona’s wildlife

If you voted in Arizona in 1990, chances are you voted in favor of the initiative that created the Heritage Fund. Arizonans showed their overwhelming support for wildlife by passing the measure by a 2-to-1 ratio.

For the past 20 years the Heritage Fund has made a difference not just to wildlife conservation efforts, but also to the state’s economy, public access, environmental education and outdoor recreation.

Notable accomplishments of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage dollars over the past two decades include:

  • Contributing to local economies through the awarding of more than 640 grants totaling nearly $13 million dollars across all of Arizona’s counties.
  • Supporting the award-winning and nationally-recognized Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program, which has been key in helping the state’s bald eagle population grow more than 600 percent over the past 30 years.
  • Reintroducing black-footed ferrets, California condors and black-tailed prairie dogs, which had disappeared from the state.
  • Recovering Apache trout to the point where the species could be downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened,” allowing fishing opportunities for this native species.
  • Managing the conservation of more than 600 species, including threatened and endangered species like the Sonoran pronghorn, desert tortoise, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Mount Graham red squirrels.
  • Supporting representation of Arizona’s interests with regard to wildlife conservation, land use and water policy decisions.
  • Providing funding to acquire nearly 18,000 acres for public enjoyment and wildlife recreation, including wildlife areas at Becker Lake, Whitewater Draw, the Verde River, and Sipe White Mountain.
  • Constructing barrier-free fishing piers to increase angler access at Woodland, Mittry, Patagonia, Kaibab, Riggs and Rose Canyon lakes.
  • Development of the award-winning Urban Fish Stocking program to provide urban recreational opportunities to the public.
  • Creation of schoolyard habitats for student learning that have been awarded the “Governor’s Pride” and Westmarc’s “Best of the West” awards.
  • Securing public land access to more than 2 million acres in the state.

“Sometimes voters approve a measure, and they don’t know what happens after that,” says Larry Voyles, director for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We want to make sure Arizonans know this money went to the cause they chose and help them see the far-reaching effects it has had not only on Arizona’s precious wildlife, but also on the economy, especially in rural communities, and their local area.”

The Heritage Fund gives money from lottery ticket sales to conservation efforts like protecting endangered species, acquiring habitat for the benefit of sensitive species, providing access to outdoor recreational opportunities, and educating children and adults about wildlife.

The Heritage Fund constitutes 12 percent of Game and Fish’s overall budget and is a critical funding source for leveraging federal grants for even greater conservation benefit. The department does not receive any of the state’s general tax revenues. It’s funding for wildlife conservation and management comes primarily from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise taxes on certain hunting and fishing gear, and a couple of other key sources such as the Heritage Fund.

Attend (or view) Arizona Game & Fish Commission meeting, March 6-7

The next meeting of the Arizona Game & Fish Commission is Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters facility at 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix.  The Friday portion of the meeting begins with an executive session at 8 a.m., followed by the public session.  The Saturday portion of the meeting begins at 8 a.m.

The public is invited to attend the meeting at the Phoenix headquarters or view the meeting via a videoconference feed at any of the department’s regional offices.  The department successfully initiated a pilot videoconference program last month and has improved and expanded the system so that the videoconference feed will go to all six regional office locations in Pinetop, Flagstaff, Kingman, Yuma, Tucson and Mesa.  For a list of office addresses, click here.

Those viewing the meeting at the regional offices will be able to submit “blue slips” to present oral comment on the “call for comment” portions of the agenda, just as if they were attending the meeting in person.  To view a copy of the meeting agenda, click here and click on the “commission agenda” link.

Arizona biologists begin monitoring collared jaguar

Animal determined to be oldest known jaguar in the wild.

[Source: Arizona Game & Fish] — Early data received from the tracking device on the recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging patterns.  With nearly a week’s worth of data, the Arizona Game and Fish Department noted that the jaguar moved several miles after collaring to a very high and rugged area that the cat has been known to use in southern Arizona.  The animal has stayed in that general vicinity for a few days with apparent patterns of rest and visits to a nearby creek.  During the collaring, the cat appeared to have just fed on prey, which will aid its recovery and allow it to go for a period of time without feeding.

The satellite tracking technology will allow biologists to study diet and feeding patterns to learn more about the ecological requirements of the species in borderland habitats.  Scientists have also confirmed the identification of the collared animal: The cat is Macho B, an older male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years…

This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue.  Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state including protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.  Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]