State seeks help finding vandals who broke Upper Verde Wildlife Area gate lock

[Source: Prescott Daily Courier] – The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Yavapai Silent Witness are seeking information about vandals who broke the lock on a road gate at the Upper Verde River Wildlife Area east of Paulden.

The locking mechanism for the gate was broken sometime during the week of April 18, which then allowed for illegal vehicle access. Previous repeated problems with vandalism, littering and illegal off-highway vehicle use led the Game and Fish Department to close the property to vehicle access on April 22, 2010. This marks the second time the lock tab has been broken to allow vehicle access onto the property. The first incident took place sometime between March 11-13.

Yavapai Silent Witness is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible. Those with information should call (800) 932-3232. Caller identities will remain confidential.

“This is the same type of behavior that led to closure of vehicle access in the first place,” said Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Game and Fish Region 3 office in Kingman. “The property had been open to vehicle access, but it became clear the situation was not going to improve without this closure.”  Game and Fish bought the Upper Verde River Wildlife Area, located at the headwaters of the Verde River near Paulden, in 1996 with money from the Heritage Fund.

The property consists of 1,089 acres of prime riparian habitat, which includes three miles of the Verde River and one mile of Granite Creek. Human use of the property must be appropriate to the primary goals of managing the wildlife area for the benefit of sensitive species, Mocarski said.

In 2009, the wildlife area was included in the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has designated the Upper Verde River as critical habitat for the endangered spikedace fish.Mocarski said he has heard many of the arguments about motorized access, and most center on taxes. “I hear the argument a bunch: ‘Game and Fish bought this land with my taxes,'” Mocarski related. “This simply isn’t true. It was purchased with Heritage Funds, which come from the Arizona lottery. Game and Fish does not receive general fund tax dollars.”

To report acts of vandalism or other illegal activities, call (800) VANDALS. Callers should provide as much information as possible without contacting offending individuals.