ISSUES

As we identify key issues, the Arizona Elk Society will provide more background information and a sample letter to enable our members and others to voice their position to the decision makers on that issue.

The Arizona Elk Society, in support of our mission, is committed to:

    Thirst Elk drinking water provided by AES
  • Conserving and enhancing wildlife habitat in Arizona.
  • Protecting and promoting our hunting heritage.
  • Promoting sound wildlife management and habitat through partnering with government agencies and other organizations.
  • Implementing special programs for youth education regarding conservation, hunting and outdoor activities.
  • Informing the general public about issues concerning wildlife conservation, as well as scientific and biological wildlife and habitat management.



Game and Fish Commission votes to oppose proposal To create Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

May 11, 2012

PHOENIX – Citing a long list of concerns, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission today (May 11) voted to oppose the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which as envisioned would encompass 1.7 million acres of northern Arizona.

The Game and Fish Commission also adopted a resolution concerning the continuing and cumulative effects that special land use designations have on multiple-use lands, including effects on access, conservation efforts and wildlife-related recreation (see resolution below).

The commission pointed out that the resolution does not preempt future discussions and dialogues, but sets the appropriate stage for them.

The Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument is being proposed by the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, Center for Biological Diversity and the Wilderness Society.

The proposal encompasses 1.7 million acres of mostly public land spread across five geographical areas: the Kaibab Plateau; Kaibab-Paunsagunt Wildlife Corridor, Kaibab Creek Watershed, House Rock Valley, and the Tusayan Ranger District, south rim headquarters.

The Game and Fish Commission pointed out that the vast majority of lands in question are already public lands currently managed and conserved under multiple use concepts, primarily by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, although the proposal would also impact State Trust Lands and private holdings as well.

The issue, pointed out various commissioners, is not conserving these lands and associated wildlife habitats – that is already being done very effectively, which has led to the largest un-fragmented block of wildlife habitat in Arizona.

However, the new monument is being proposed to “preserve” and in some cases lock away these lands rather than conserve them, which could impact public access, recreation, grazing, and the ability of the commission to manage wildlife.

“It’s not as if these lands aren’t already being managed and conserved. This is really about changing the status of these lands and adding another layer of federal bureaucracy, which has far ranging implications,” said Commissioner Kurt R. Davis.

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Conserving the Grand Canyon Watershed A Proposal for National Monument Designation

April 23, 2012

The Arizona Elk Society has partnered with groups concerned about the proposed Grand Canyon National Monument proposal from the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups. CLICK HERE to read the CBD proposal. In a nutshell the CBD proposal would like the President to designate 1.7 million acres of public land north of the Grand Canyon and including the Kiabab Plateau as a National Monument. The Arizona Elk Society and other groups have written a letter in response to personnel and agencies in charge of this piece of land.

You will notice that we have used the letterhead for the Arizona Alliance for Responsible Land Users. To be clear it is not our attempt to form a new conservation group but it does provide a vehicle that we can use in situations where multiple user groups want to sign on to a common letter without having the letter be placed on an individual organization’s letterhead. This format was suggested by Jim deVos and reflects the approach that groups like the Center for Biological Diversity uses effectively. Recall that the recent letter regarding wolf issues sent from the CBD had 30 groups signed on as did another letter to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission about changes in the lion management prescription in the Aravaipa Canyon area.

As you will note on the letter, there is a variety of organizations that have signed on to this letter and on future issues we will likely use this format again because is gives a wide variety of groups a common letterhead to use on important conservation issues. Today it was the proposed conversion of the last large block of land north of the Colorado River to a national monument, which was very likely the first of several similar proposals. Tomorrow, who knows what the issue might be but rest assured that wolves, national monuments, and more are on the agenda of radical environmental organizations and we need to have a common approach to counter these actions.

Arizona Elk Society letter to Coconino National Forest appealing the Travel Management Plan

Appeal Deciding Officer

Southwestern Region
USDA Forest Service
333 Broadway Blvd. SE
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Dear Appeal Deciding Officer:

The Arizona Elk Society, P. O. Box 190, Peoria, Arizona 85380, is filing for an administrative review/appeal pursuant to 36 CFR 215 of the September 28, 2011 decision by Ms. Kristin Bail, Acting Coconino National Forest Supervisor, approving the Travel Management Project for the Coconino National Forest. The publication date of this decision was November 3, 2011. This appeal was approved by a unanimous vote of the Arizona Elk Society’s Executive Board at its regularly scheduled Board meeting on December 12, 2012.

We are asking for a review/appeal on four issues related to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the related Record of Decision (ROD). Specifically, our concerns rest in the following four issues:

  1. Reasonableness of Motorized Big Game Retrieval (MBGR) restrictions.
  2. Reasonableness of extreme restrictions on areas where OHVs/UTVs have access to forest trails.
  3. Reasonableness of excessive closure of roadways.
  4. Unnecessary restriction on dispersed camping.

We will provide specific information on each of these issues, but first want to provide an overall context for our appeal on these issues. We believe that National Forest system was created for the use and enjoyment of these lands for past, current, and future generations so long as excessive resource damage in not incurred. Further, restriction to allowable uses of these lands should embrace a wide array of users and not discriminate (fair treatment) against any segment of our Society as directed in Executive Order 12898. As stated in the FEIS (Page 260) fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, or tribal programs and policies. We believe that hunters comprise a group of people as prescribed in this Executive Order.

Further, as stated in several places in the FEIS, areas where the American public can recreate is contrasting for several reasons. Stand converting fires such as the Wallow and Schultz fires have resulted in less area for the public to use and enjoy our national forests. Restrictions on private lands also have resulted in reduced outdoor areas for legal and lawful public recreation. Simply, as the FEIS points out, for many reasons, places where legitimate use of publicly held lands can occur are being reduced. Therefore, it is the position of the Arizona Elk Society’s Executive Board, that restrictions in lawful use of National Forest lands should be the result of clear and present resource impacts or to abate user conflicts and not solely for administrative convenience.

It is also important to note that many of the resource impacts described in the FEIS and the ROD constitute actions that are already illegal under existing rule or law and that adding another layer of regulation will simply not solve the problem.

Arizona Elk Society comments on Tonto National Forest Travel Management Plan

February 2, 2012

Gene Blankenbaker
Forest Supervisor
Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Rd.Phoenix, AZ 85006

The Arizona Elk Society, P. O. Box 190, Peoria, Arizona 85380, is filing these comments on the Environmental Assessment relative to the Tonto National Forest - Motorized Travel Management, which was made available on January 6, 2012 for public comment.

In reviewing this document, the Arizona Elk Society has a very favorable overall impression on the quality and thoroughness of the document. It is well written and strives to achieve a balance for the multitude of users of the Tonto National Forest. That said, though, we do have concerns in three areas as follows:

  1. Decision on the use of motorized big game retrieval (BGR).
  2. Restrictions on traditional methods of dispersed vehicle-based camping.
  3. Designation of roads for administrative purposes.

We will provide specific information on each of these issues, but first want to provide an overall context for our comments on these issues. We believe that National Forest system was created for the use and enjoyment of these lands for past, current, and future generations so long as excessive resource damage in not incurred. Further, we believe that Federal Executive Order 13443 as promulgated by then President Bush (Dated August 16, 2007 provides clear guidance to the Forest Service (and other federal agencies) that program implementation should provide for the enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat (see Section1 and Section 2.a). For reasons stated below, we believe the limitations on BGR and dispersed motorized camping are both unreasonable and contrary to this Executive Order.

Further, that the clear lack of consistency with other forests in Arizona presents an unfair burden on the lawful user of this states’ forests. Where one can camp or use motorized vehicles for BGR is so variable that a legal nightmare is created for recreationists on the different forests, particularly when these forests share common boundaries. We believe this inconsistency will be very problematic for the public and likely make violators out of people who have no intention of violating.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project News

Monthly Status Report: March 1-31, 2012

The following is a summary of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project (Project) activities in Arizona on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNF) and Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR) and in New Mexico on the Apache National Forest (ANF) and Gila National Forest (GNF).  Non-tribal lands involved in this Project are collectively known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA).  Additional Project information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at http://www.azgfd.gov/wolf or by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website athttp://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf.  Past updates may be viewed on either website, or interested parties may sign up to receive this update electronically by visiting http://www.azgfd.gov/signup.  This update is a public document and information in it can be used for any purpose.  The Reintroduction Project is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), USDA Forest Service (USFS), USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS WS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT).

To view weekly wolf telemetry flight location information or the 3-month wolf distribution map, please visit http://www.azgfd.gov/wolf.  On the home page, go to the “Wolf Location Information” heading on the right side of the page near the top and scroll to the specific location information you seek.

Please report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations to:  (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653.  To report incidents of take or harassment of wolves, please call the AGFD 24-hour dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.

Numbering System: Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history.  Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older.  Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate wolves younger than 24 months or pups.  The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate alpha wolves.

Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an established territory.  In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status.  The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it.  The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs.  If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.

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U.S. House Votes to Protect Hunting / Shooting on Public Land

April 17, 2012

(Columbus, Ohio) –With bipartisan support the U.S. House of Representatives today approved the most significant pro-sportsmen legislation in 15 years. H.R. 4089, which passed by a vote of 274-146, is a package of high priority issues supported by every nationally prominent conservation and sportsmen’s organization. The bill was supported by 235 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

Entitled The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, H.R. 4089:

  • Classifies Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands as open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless closed or restricted based on scientific evidence;
  • Confirms that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot ban lead in traditional ammunition or in sport fishing gear;
  • Protects recreational shooting on BLM National Monument land; and
  • Allows the import of legally hunted polar bear trophies now tangled in federal red-tape.

A major focus of the organizations that helped craft H.R. 4089 is to prevent frivolous lawsuits that unfairly restrict the rights of hunters, anglers and shooters and limit wildlife conservation and management.  Over the last decade anti-hunting groups and their trial lawyers have filed multiple suits in courts arguing that existing federal law does not allow, or requires restrictions on fishing, hunting, and shooting on federal public lands.  Defending against these suits has cost state and federal wildlife agencies and sportsmen’s organizations, including the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), millions of dollars. 

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