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 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.
Forest Service Announces Preferred Alternative for a New Planning Rule
Today the Forest Service announced the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the planning rule, bringing us one step closer to a new rule. It's been a long journey since we published the Notice of Intent in December 2009 and asked for your help to develop a new planning rule. We've held over 63 public meetings across the country and received over 325,000 comments between our discussions on the NOI and the proposed rule and DEIS. On behalf of Forest Service leadership and the Planning Rule Team, I want to thank each of you for your participation in this rule making effort to date.
After receiving and considering 300,000 comments on the draft environmental impact statement and proposed rule, the Forest Service developed Modified Alternative A as the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative includes the same concepts and underlying principles as the proposed rule, with a number of changes to rule text and organization in response to public comments. The preferred alternative reflects the diversity of input the Forest Service received throughout the rulemaking process from the public, Tribes, scientists, and all parts of the Agency. It meets the need for a collaborative and science-based planning process that will guide management of National Forest System lands so they are ecologically sustainable and contribute to social and economic sustainability.
The Under Secretary of Agriculture will review the alternatives in the PEIS and issue a final rule and record of decision in approximately 30 days. There will be several opportunities for you to continue to contribute to the planning process once a final rule is issued. We'll be developing directives to provide more specific direction on how to consistently implement the new rule, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the directives before they're finalized. Most importantly, forests and grasslands will soon begin revising and amending their plans under the new rule and you'll have opportunities to be involved throughout those processes.
We are also forming a Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee to continue to engage a diverse and broad set of interests in the planning process. The FACA committee will work to incorporate lessons learned and best practices into the planning process and provide advice on the development of the directives. You'll find the application form for nomination at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/planningrule/faca. The 45-day nomination period closes February 21, 2012.
I encourage you to visit the Planning Rule website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule to review the PEIS, a video message from the Chief, and some frequently asked questions.
Thank you again for your interest in the Forest Service and in the planning rule. Your continued participation in land management planning is critical to our success.
Director, Ecosystem Management Coordination
The Four Forest Initiative
The Four Forest Initiative, more popularly known as the 4-FRI project involves the four forests in Arizona with large stands of ponderosa pine and will implement projects that treat huge tracts of forested land to reduce tree density. One important thing to remember about forest fires is that to burn, they need fuel and oxygen. If we can restore fuel loads and tree densities to more closely mimic pre-settlement conditions, the risk of stand-converting fires such as the Rodeo-Chediski and Wallow fires will be greatly reduced.
One of the great features of the 4-FRI project is the high level of public involvement that the resource management agencies have allowed. There are several working groups planning different elements of this forest health project. The Arizona Elk Society has a member on the Stakeholders group, the group that is actively helping the agencies develop a plan that can be implemented quickly and in a fashion that derives the greatest benefit to forests and for the people and animals that depend on healthy forests.
One of the very important features of 4-FRI is that it blends many different sciences into a single approach to restore forest health. Silviculturists have looked at tree size and density and identified those portions of the forest where tree conditions are most prone to extreme fire behavior. Fire ecologists have used their latest tools to determine where fires would be most destructive and when blended together, the ponderosa pine stands that are at greatest risk of a Wallow-type fire are identified. Mechanical thinning and management fires are two of the primary tools that will be used to make the forest a better and safer place. To begin to make progress, the Forest Service have several approaches in place to begin to make Arizona forests healthier and less fire prone.
For More Information on 4-FRI, See The Official Four Forest Initiative Website.