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:
- 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.
Arizona Game and Fish Department conducts 2011 population surveys in state for multi-agency Mexican wolf program
February 03, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department and other partners in the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project announced earlier today that the endangered Mexican wolf population count increased to a minimum of 58 wolves compared to last year’s count of 50.
The increase is encouraging news for the multi-agency program, especially considering that the state’s largest wildfire, the Wallow, burned through three packs’ denning areas within weeks of pups being born.
The wolf project stimulates high public interest, and the public often asks Game and Fish how wolf population surveys are conducted and what the department’s role in the project is.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department dedicates five staff to the Interagency Field Team (IFT), the multi-agency group that oversees on-the-ground wolf conservation activities. Game and Fish’s IFT staff are responsible for the day-to-day management of wolves; coordinating and conducting the annual population counts; and, any helicopter-associated wolf captures in Arizona on public lands and on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
In addition, the department provides pilots and fixed-wing planes to assist in locating wolves via telemetry signals prior to the helicopter counts and any capture efforts throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA), which encompasses parts of Arizona and New Mexico. This year the department conducted the surveys in Arizona, while FWS conducted them in New Mexico.
Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) Update
For the last two decades, large-scale forest fires like the Rodeo-Chediski and the Wallow fires have scarred huge tracts of land in the Southwest leaving in its wake huge economic loss as homes and businesses are lost to the ravages of fire. The wildlife value of over a million acres has been drastically changed and an unknown number of wild creatures have perished. The causes are fairly straightforward; lack of fire regime, poor forest management practices, and untimely litigation all have set the stage for these fires.
The real challenge is how to restore healthy forests before more catastrophic fires occur when the main problem is small-sized trees that have very little economic value with current forest product technology. A few years ago, the 4FRI program was initiated, which is a collaborative planning approach to forest health that is on the verge of awarding contracts to begin to long process of restoring ecosystem health in our valued forests. The AES has been at the table and will continue to work for the success of the 4FRI project for to do otherwise only facilitates yet another major fire.
Arizona Elk Society, Elk, Aspen and the Wallow Fire
One of the key issues affecting elk management in parts of Arizona forests is the role that elk play in aspen regeneration. For the past couple of years, the Coconino and Kaibab national forests have asked the Department and the Commission to increase elk harvest to reduce grazing on aspen shoots. The AES has pointed out that the issue of aspen decline is the result of a multitude of factors including climate change, forest management that has resulted in proliferation of conifers that shade out aspen, lack of fire or other sources of disturbances that are key to aspen regeneration, and elk grazing.
With the Wallow Fire, there is a golden opportunity to examine how large-scale fires affect aspen regeneration and more importantly recruitment of trees to large sizes. In early January, Jim deVos and Ron Eichelberger represented the AES at the formative meeting for a workgroup that will help design a monitoring protocol that will answer some of the key questions posed about aspen regeneration. The Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department were also present as was an aspen researcher from Utah State University. The workgroup will continue to frame the design of a monitoring plan that will begin to answer many questions related to the conditions needed to help regrowth of aspen in Southwestern forest. The AES will continue to play an active role in this workgroup on behalf of the membership and the elk in the state.
Mexican wolf and the Arizona Republic Editorial Panel
Many of you likely saw a recent editorial on the Mexican gray wolf in the Arizona Republic and disagreed with what you read. If so, you were not alone and the leadership of the Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Deer Association and the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society were upset to the point of action. A meeting was scheduled with the Republic’s Editorial Board to present our viewpoint to them in a clear and succinct fashion. We were able to meet with the panel for an hour and a half and as a group we felt that the panel had listened and understood the points that we wanted to make. One of the key issues that we wanted to make sure were heard were the following four points:
- Reestablishment of a stakeholder group that meets regularly and provides an effective forum for public input into wolf management issues.
- That the current recovery planning initiative becomes more transparent and inclusive.
- That the Service re-establish effective and respectful working relationships with those entities that have jurisdictional wildlife management authorities.
- That the Service develops a communication plan for Mexican gray wolf reintroduction that provides regularly scheduled information releases.
What the outcome of this meeting is remains to be seen, but the AES and the other wildlife conservation organizations are out there trying to make a better place for Arizona’s wildlife.
Arizona Elk Society Receives $20,000 National Forest Foundation Grant
One of the key issues that became apparent as the AES purchased the grazing allotment on Buck Springs was that the riparian headwater meadows were in poor condition and didn’t really function as water retention areas that allowed water to be released slowly into the creeks in the area. One of the early goals that the AES established for the area was to use water and forage to spread elk out of the riparian bottoms and wet meadows. To do this, we are working with the Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to improve water storage capacity in water sources that are on ridge tops to entice elk away from the fragile riparian areas.
The AES recently received checks in the total amount of $20,000 to remove the silt from five water tanks on the Buck Springs allotment. The work will be done in spring in time for monsoons to refill the tanks and give elk and other wildlife a place to water outside the riparian areas and allowing them to take advantage of upland areas on Buck Springs. We have more and bigger plans for Buck Springs and will keep you apprised as we make progress in turning this allotment into a showcase for what collaboration can do forwildlife.
Fishing and Hunting Protection Bill Introduced in the U.S. Senate
(Columbus, OH) - Protection of fishing, hunting, and shooting on national forest and public lands has taken a step forward with the Senate introduction of the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act. Introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), the measure is backed by the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, American Sportfishing Association, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, and others in the angling, hunting and wildlife conservation community.
The bill will protect fishing, hunting, trapping, recreational shooting and wildlife management practices on more than 400 million acres of public land across America managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The measure mandates that these public lands are open until closed for angling, hunting and shooting while enabling the agencies to make specific closures or restrictions determined to be necessary and supported by sound facts and evidence. The bill is patterned after the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act which made fishing and hunting "priority public uses" on federal wildlife refuge system lands and has helped protect fishing and hunting there from anti-fishing/anti-hunting zealots.
The new Senate bill also fixes loopholes created by lawsuits by anti-hunting organizations that have hampered hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation. For example, under the bill, the Forest Service can keep its public lands open for hunting and fishing even if nearby state and private lands are also open. Previously, a court had ruled that federal public lands might have to be closed if other nearby lands hosted hunters. Similarly, fish and wildlife conservation and management will remain primary purposes on BLM, Forest and Wildlife Refuge lands reversing court rulings from San Francisco. Restrictions in the 1964 Wilderness Act on motorized access, logging and other commodity uses are expressly not affected by the bill and remain in place.