MVD expands online appointments to include road tests

Driver license applicants can now fit road tests into their schedules

Driver license applicants can now fit road tests into their schedules

PHOENIX — Taking the road test for a driver license has long involved showing up at an Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division office early in hopes of getting a time slot to take the test that day. And often plenty of waiting.

That’s changing as of this week. Customers are now able to schedule road tests up to 30 days in advance through ServiceArizona.com for 11 office locations in the Phoenix metro area and northern Arizona. MVD will be bringing remaining offices online over the next two weeks.

The change, part of MVD’s efforts to continuously improve its customer focus, adds to online appointments launched in April for those converting a driver license or ID card to a Voluntary Travel ID.

“This new feature will provide a lot of value to our customers by allowing them to fit the test into their schedule instead of spending half a day at an office waiting to take it,” ADOT Motor Vehicle Division Director Eric Jorgensen said. “This is another step forward in achieving MVD’s vision of getting customers out of line and safely on the road.”

To schedule an appointment, visit azdot.gov/roadtestinfo, which has step-by-step instructions for arranging road tests. Customers can fill out and submit a driver license application online, get a list of documents needed to obtain a standard driver license or Voluntary Travel ID and schedule their road tests onServiceArizona.com.

Once at the MVD office, those with appointments can check in at a kiosk rather than waiting in line at the information desk.

Applicants must meet all requirements before taking the road test, including passing the written test. Appointments are only for road tests, not the written portion of the exam.

As part of ADOT’s agencywide commitment to continuous improvement, MVD is experimenting with other ways to reduce wait times, an effort that has led to process improvements that include printing temporary credentials at customer service windows instead of sending customers to a separate line. Customers who need to retake the driving test now go directly to the testing area instead of first waiting in line to re-verify their applications with a representative.

An experiment at MVD’s West Phoenix location has found that having customers line up rather than relying on the number-calling system dramatically reduces wait times, and that innovation is rolling out to other large MVD offices. MVD has also seen positive results in experimenting this summer with expanded office hours in the Tucson area.

“All of the process improvements, like road test appointments, help make MVD more efficient and customer-oriented,” Jorgensen said. “All aspects of MVD are on the table as we continue to experiment and innovate to improve the overall customer experience.”

For more information, please visit azdot.gov/mvd.

Amateur Radio Volunteers Assisting in Italian Earthquake Response

IARU R1 logo(1)Radio amateurs are taking part in the response to the 6.2 magnitude earthquake on August 24 in central Italy, International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1) President Don Beattie, G3BJ, reports. IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator Greg Mossop, G0DUB, has requested that 7060 kHz (LSB ±10 kHz) be kept clear of non-emergency traffic, as well as any other center-of-activity (COA) frequencies that may be in use for emergency communication within Italy. (On 80 meters, the COA frequency is 3760 kHz). Other frequencies reported to be active include 7045, 3643, and 3580 kHz (PSK).

The earthquake claimed some 240 lives, although rescue operations are still under way. According to the IARU Region 1 website, Italian radio amateurs are active in the emergency response, and no outside assistance has been requested at this time.

According to Beattie, the Italian Amateur Radio volunteers are “following their planned response with their government” and that any requests for information on missing persons should be made via the Red Cross or other recognized relief organizations.

The worst loss of life was in the town of Amatrice, where more than 180 people died. Tremors in the aftermath of the initial quake were felt as far away as Rome. Survivors are staying in tents or otherwise out of doors. A reported 4300 people were said to be active in rescue operations in the region.

Kaibab National Forest employee receives top award in wildfire prevention

bob-blasi003WILLIAMS — After achieving the objective of zero human-caused wildfires for two years in a row on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, fire prevention specialist Bob Blasi was recently honored with a prestigious award for his outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire prevention.

Blasi was selected to receive a 2016 National Smokey Bear Award, which is the highest honor one can receive for accomplishments in preventing wildfires.

“These awards remind us of the hard work our employees and cooperators do to reduce the threat of human-caused wildfires,” wrote James E. Hubbard, deputy chief for state and private forestry, U.S. Forest Service, in a letter announcing award recipients.

There are three levels of awards given each year – gold, silver, and bronze. All three of the award categories are the highest level of recognition possible, with the only difference being the geographical sphere of the nominated work – national, regional, and statewide. Blasi received a bronze award because of the statewide impacts of his efforts.

“We could not be more proud of Bob and the incredible work he has done over the years,” said Heather Provencio, supervisor of the Kaibab National Forest. “This is an enormous achievement and one that will hopefully draw attention to the critical role our fire prevention specialists play in keeping our forests and communities safe and healthy.”

Blasi’s selection for the Smokey Bear award was due, at least in part, to the fact that in both 2014 and 2015 he led the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest to achieve his longtime vision of zero human-caused wildfires, which according to forest records hadn’t happened since 1965, some 50 years earlier.

“Bob successfully reduced human-caused wildfires to zero for two years running,” said Quentin Johnson, fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District. “Given that the district receives millions of visitors each year because it is located immediately adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, this was an incredible challenge if not an almost impossible task.”

Johnson added that while the district had been averaging about seven human-caused wildfires per year over the last 20 years, there were actually many summers during which Blasi documented 200 or more abandoned campfires and extinguished them before they were declared wildfires. It quickly became clear to Blasi that he needed to focus his fire prevention efforts on chipping away at these abandoned campfires, which had become the leading source of human-caused wildfires in the Tusayan area.

Over time, Blasi worked to gain compliance in dispersed camping areas and issued citations when necessary. With increased early-morning patrols, an extensive signing program, visits to local schools, Smokey Bear presence at local events, and a consistent prevention message for 16 years, Blasi was able to systematically reduce the number of abandoned campfires and, therefore, the overall number of human-caused wildfires.

“Passionate and dedicated fire prevention specialists like Bob Blasi are preventing wildfires all season long. When they are not in the woods talking to forest visitors or extinguishing unwanted fires, they are in classrooms, chamber of commerce meetings, city council meetings, and other community meetings sharing why fire prevention is important and educating youth and adults on what they can do to prevent fires,” said Bill VanBruggen, director of fire, fuels and aviation for the U.S. Forest Service’s Southwestern Region. “Wildfire prevention is an important component in keeping destructive and unwanted fires from damaging our forests. Some of Arizona’s largest and most destructive fires have been caused by careless acts like abandoned campfires.”

Besides implementing more traditional fire prevention techniques such as patrols and signing, Blasi has also played an active role in the Kaibab National Forest’s overall commitment to restoring fire-adapted ecosystems. Blasi has been instrumental in helping manage lightning-caused wildfire that has been allowed to spread across thousands of acres of the forest and in supporting thinning projects and prescribed fires.

“Nearly 45 percent of the Tusayan Ranger District has been treated with thinning and fire over the last 13 years, and this is a huge part of reducing human-caused wildfire,” Johnson said. “Because most of the popular camping areas have already been treated with fire at appropriate times of the year, these areas are less likely to accidentally catch fire during the hottest, driest months.”

It was Blasi’s recognition that all of these fire prevention tools must be used in combination, and the fact that he consistently put energy into all of them, that he was able to be successful in attaining the goal of zero human-caused wildfires.

“We have a very proactive fire management program here in Tusayan that has been successful for over 20 years. I have been fortunate to be a part of this and several of the remarkable records that have been accomplished here,” Blasi said. “Our community has come to learn the importance of living in a fire-adapted ecosystem and understands the critical work we do to ensure long-term, sustainable forest health. That simply takes time. Eliminating unwanted, human-caused wildfire is just one of many beneficial consequences of this work being done by all the dedicated employees of the Kaibab National Forest.”

The National Smokey Bear Awards Program is sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Advertising Council. These merit awards have been bestowed on well deserving groups and individuals annually since 1957.

Arizona’s bald eagles break breeding-season records yet again in 2016

eaglesPHOENIX — Arizona’s bald eagles continue to impress biologists with their upward growth trends and year-after-year breeding records.

Key productivity records that were broken in 2016 include number of: breeding areas, occupied breeding areas, eggs laid, active breeding areas, successful breeding attempts and young hatched. All of these measures are important indicators of the species’ health.

The most notable: a record minimum of 93 bald eagle eggs were laid by a record 65 pairs of adult eagles with 78 young hatched.

“Bald eagles in Arizona continue to surprise us and surpass all expectations. The population continues to expand into new breeding areas and less typical habitats. What was most remarkable this year is that we had birds nest in areas extremely close to human activity, which is unusual for the species in Arizona. Thankfully those adults were very tolerant of the activity and successfully fledged their young,” said Kenneth Jacobson, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) bald eagle management coordinator.

Annual productivity records indicate that bald eagles continue to flourish in the state. Bald eagles were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act in 2007. The department’s conservation efforts contributed to the species recovery. Nationally, the birds remain protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

The impressive growth of the population is attributed to the continued efforts of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee – a coalition of AZGFD and 25 other government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes – and its years of cooperative conservation efforts, including extensive monitoring by the nationally-awarded Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program.

The breeding season for bald eagles in Arizona runs from December through June, although eagle pairs at higher elevations nest later than those in the rest of the state.

Continued support from the committee, State Wildlife Grants and the Heritage Fund (Arizona Lottery ticket sales), will help ensure that Arizona’s bald eagles continue to thrive.

For more information on bald eagles in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/baldeagle or www.swbemc.org.

Honeywell recalls one lot of Eyesaline Eyewash Solution

In cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Honeywell is voluntarily recalling one production lot of 32-ounce bottles of Eyesaline Eyewash solution, which is used for emergency eye rinsing after an injury.

Although no injuries have been reported and we have not found any contamination in our batch testing, the voluntary recall is a precautionary measure due to a low risk of product contamination with Klebsiella pneumoniae. Although found in the normal flora of the mouth and skin, if the contaminant were present in a bottle, there is a potential for it to result in infections that may be sight-threatening.

Eyesaline Eyewash is sold through industrial sales distributors. Approximately 9,700 32-ounce bottles with lot number F16091-61 are subject to recall. No other lot number of the product is subject to this recall.

All of Honeywell’s distributors who received this lot have been notified by phone, e-mail and certified mail, and have been instructed to notify their customers. See instructions below on how to find the lot number to determine if your supply is covered by this voluntary recall.

Distributors must stop distribution of the affected product and return it to Honeywell for credit or replacement.  Commercial-industrial users of the product should also check whether their Eyesaline Eyewash is subject to recall. If it is, customers should stop using the solution and contact their distributor for replacement or credit.
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The affected product and lot number can be identified as follows:

  • Product: 32 ounce Eyesaline Eyewash
  • Lot number:  F16091-61 (no other lot number is subject to recall)
  • The lot number can be found on the outside of the product case, shown at left, and on individual bottles, as shown on the right below.

Customers with questions regarding this recall can contact their distributor or Honeywell Customer Care at 1-800-430-5490, Monday – Friday, and 8:00 am – 6:30 pm EST.  Customers should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have experienced any problems that may be related to taking or using this product.

Adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of this product may be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail or by fax.

ADOT, Federal Highway Administration prevail in South Mountain Freeway lawsuit

PHOENIX — Construction of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway is scheduled to begin in early September after the U.S. District Court in Phoenix dismissed legal challenges and ruled that the Arizona Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration completed all steps required to move forward.

“This is a momentous day, not only for ADOT but for our many partners – including the city of Phoenix, the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Federal Highway Administration – who helped develop the most extensive environmental review of any highway project to date in Arizona. More importantly, this is a clear victory for the region, which will benefit from a new transportation corridor and, with it, the economic development that will follow,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “This east-west alternative will connect people with employment, entertainment and educational centers in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area that are projected to see considerable growth. The ruling today affirms the good work of the entire project team.”

In a ruling released Friday, Aug. 19, the judge found that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate, as claimed, that ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration didn’t meet requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.

“Plaintiffs have not met their burden to show the Agencies’ actions were ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law …’ or ‘without observance of procedure required by law,’” the ruling concludes.

Construction of the South Mountain Freeway will begin in early September at the I-10/Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) traffic interchange. Crews also will begin relocating native plants along the right of way for transplanting later.

The 22-mile freeway, expected to open by late 2019, will provide a long-planned direct link between the East Valley and West Valley and a much-needed alternative to Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix. Approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985 and again in 2004 as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system in the Valley.

In February, ADOT finalized the state’s first highway public-private partnership agreement through which the project team, Connect 202 Partners, will build the freeway at a taxpayer savings of more than $100 million and will open it to traffic three years sooner than originally projected.

The fixed $916 million contract for design and construction makes this the largest highway project in state history. The development team will be responsible for 30 years of maintenance following the completion of the project, supporting construction with innovation and built-in cost efficiencies for the long term.

With construction scheduled to begin in early September, ADOT has been conducting preliminary engineering, addressing cultural resources in the right of way, acquiring and preparing properties, and relocating utilities. ADOT received final federal clearance to move forward with the project in 2015.

The South Mountain Freeway will be constructed with four lanes in each direction – three general-use lanes and one HOV lane – and include modern features including rubberized asphalt and aesthetics reflecting the neighboring communities.

Local sportsmen’s groups awarded $75,000 in grants

sports-groupsPHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department has awarded $75,000 in grant funding for local sportsmen’s organizations to provide public, hands-on, mentored projects focused on the retention of new hunters and anglers.

Of 22 proposals submitted in this latest grant cycle, 16 were approved by a three-member panel that rated and scored the proposals. The grants were awarded through a competitive application process that closed July 14.

“The Local Sportsmen’s Group grant program is an investment in local organizations that, day in and day out, are teaching people how to be safe, ethical and responsible hunter-angler conservationists,” said Doug Burt, hunting and shooting sports program manager. “We wish we could fund them all, but the demand always exceeds our available funds.”

The department is committed to developing and retaining the next generation of hunter-angler conservationists. A growing body of science points to the need for multiple experiences, social support and the mentoring required to develop hunter-angler conservationists. The 16 projects approved meet those objectives.

Burt pointed out that these organizations represent the “boots on the ground,” or the backbone of wildlife conservation and habitat restoration in Arizona. Many are involved in the building of water catchments, making “wildlife-friendly” fence modifications, and reaching out to the public through advocacy and education.

The following projects have been awarded:

  • Anglers United Inc., “Just for Kids Fishing Festival,” awarded $4,500.
  • Arizona Deer Association, “ADA Youth Deer / Elk Hunters Camp,” awarded $5,513.
  • Arizona Elk Society, “AES Junior Elk Camp Units 6A/5B,” awarded $3,900.
  • Ben Avery Clay Busters, “Upland Bird Hunting for Women and Youth,” awarded $2,717.
  • CouesWhitetail.com, “2016 Women’s Javelina Hunting Camp,” awarded $4,300.
  • Desert Christian Archers, “Desert Christian Archers 2016 Javelina Camp,” awarded $4,700.
  • Kahuna Kids, “Mentoring Kids Fishing Derby,” awarded $2,368.
  • Mule Deer Foundation, “Mule Deer Foundation Youth Camps,” awarded $16,500.
  • Southern Arizona Quail Forever, “Southern Arizona Quail Forever Youth Quail Camp,” awarded $3,390.
  • Southwest Fur Harvesters, “SWFH November Youth Trappers Camp,” awarded $5,122.
  • Youth Outdoors Unlimited, “Junior Javelina, Small Game & Predator Camp Units 20C, 18B, and 16A,” awarded $3,900.
  • Youth Outdoors Unlimited, “Junior Deer / Javelina Camp Units 18B & 20C,” awarded $2,515.
  • Youth Outdoors Unlimited, “Unit 1 Squirrel Camp,” awarded $2,000.
  • Youth Outdoors Unlimited, “Wallow Fire Turkey Science and Hunting Camp Units 1 & 27,” awarded $6,575.
  • Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, “2016 Cibola Junior Waterfowl Camp,” awarded $2,500.
  • Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, “Youth Small Game Camp,” awarded $4,500.

To learn more about the annual Local Sportsmen’s Group grant program, as well as a listing of Outdoor Skills Network recruitment and retention events, visit www.azgfd.gov/LSG.

There is no cost to Arizona taxpayers for the Local Sportsmen’s Group grant program. The program is funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, hunt permit-tags and stamps, and is an investment in the continuance of wildlife conservation efforts and outdoor recreation participation in Arizona. Game and Fish does not receive any of the state’s general funds and operates on a user-pay, public-benefit model.

Joint project identifies valued hunting, angling destinations

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PHOENIX – When it comes to telling others about their “secret” spots, hunters and anglers are famous for holding their cards close to their game or fishing vests.

Yet, more than 1,200 Arizona sportsmen have willingly tipped their hands, circling their favorite destinations on a map, as part of a national initiative to conserve fish and wildlife habitat while protecting and improving public access for hunting and angling.

The statewide effort recently was completed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), in cooperation with Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Maps from the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project are available to the public, as well as state and federal agencies.

“Some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona are at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions, limited access and increased development pressures,” said John Hamill, TRCP’s field representative in Arizona. “With the help of sportsmen, we’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas.”

Maps are available on AZGFD’s website at www.azgfd.com/recreation/valuemapping (click on “Open the Map”). The site features maps for 15 species, or species groups, in the following order: elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, turkey, cold-water fish, quail, dove, warm-water fish, predators, pronghorn, squirrel, waterfowl, other small game, and bighorn sheep.

The species tabs at the top of the webpage are ranked by the number of survey responses – for example, areas valued for elk hunting opportunities received the most responses, making it the first tab. The map for each species is color-coded: The most highly valued areas are red and orange; moderately high-valued areas are yellow, and less highly valued areas are green. The maps allow the user to view, pan, and zoom in or out to explore the most highly valued hunting and angling locations in Arizona.

While the maps will be useful to sportsmen, they largely were developed to guide conservation efforts. The maps have been assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where they can be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, land ownership and other data. The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:​

Balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers.
Identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved.
Identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities.
Identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen.
Justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing areas.​

A random sampling of 7,500 Arizona residents who had purchased state hunting and fishing licenses were mailed a postcard last fall, inviting them to participate in the survey. Those who received a postcard were directed to a specially designed website where they could highlight on a map their most valued hunting and fishing destinations.

The survey included questions about why sportsmen identified a particular area as being important. The highest valued areas usually were those that offered the greatest chance of harvesting game. Other primary factors included whether a particular area was close to home, or was someone’s “traditional” spot, or that it provided the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish or game species. The results demonstrate the importance of maintaining quality fish and wildlife habitat and providing readily available public access for hunting and angling.
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The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by TRCP. The project has been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of more than two dozen Arizona sportsmen’s groups. For more information about TRCP, visit http://www.trcp.org/.

Enter to win UTV, support “Respected Access in Arizona” campaign

utvPHOENIX — Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a customized camouflage 2016 Polaris Ranger EV, exploring the backcountry, getting away from it all . . .

Well, stop dreaming and get busy entering to win the UTV, valued at more than $15,000, courtesy of RideNow Powersports.

Tread_Lightly__-_Image_1Proceeds from each $20 raffle ticket purchased through Oct. 15 will benefit Tread Lightly!’s “Respected Access in Arizona” campaign, which aims to protect public access for off-highway vehicle use, recreational shooting and other outdoor pursuits through ethics education and stewardship programs.

The winner will be announced Oct. 15 during the third annual “Respected Access in Arizona” fundraiser, presented by RideNow Powersports and hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Tread Lightly!. A fun-shoot, barbecue dinner, raffles and auctions are planned at the OneAZ Credit Union Pavilion, located at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix.

Visit https://go.rallyup.com/3628f0/Campaign to purchase raffle tickets. The raffle only is available to Arizona residents. For complete rules, visit www.respectedaccessarizona.org.

To purchase tickets for the fundraiser, visit https://www.treadlightly.org/respected-access-in-arizona-fundraiser/. The cost of the fun-shoot (which includes targets and two boxes of ammunition) and dinner, catered by Bobby Q restaurant, is $65. The cost of only the dinner, which includes beverages and a door-prize raffle ticket, is $40.

For more information about the fundraiser, call (800) 966-9900, Ext. 14, or e-mail respectedaccess@treadlightly.org. For more information about the “Respected Access in Arizona” campaign, visit www.respectedaccessarizona.org.

Hunters, please save that tracking collar

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is encouraging hunters who harvest a big game animal affixed with a GPS or VHF tracking collar to return that collar undamaged to any department office statewide.

While harvesting a collared animal is legal, Game and Fish asks hunters to refrain from cutting, damaging or otherwise destroying any portion of a collar. A collar easily can be removed from a harvested animal’s neck by loosening two nuts on the black “drop-off” box on one side of the collar. A crescent wrench, socket wrench or multi-use tool can be used to loosen only those two nuts.
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The department relies on valuable data that collars provide in making science-based decisions that determine the most effective wildlife management practices. The stored data can include an animal’s behaviors, movement patterns and frequency, individual and group dynamics, home-range size and more.

The technology is not inexpensive. A collar can range in cost up to several thousands of dollars. When factoring in additional costs of human resources, equipment and capture, the department is making a substantial investment in each collared animal. A portion of the funding comes from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program, a stalwart national funding source for state conservation and recreational opportunities.

It’s also helpful for hunters to report the date and location of their harvest when returning an undamaged collar. For more information, call (602) 942-3000.