Surveys of endangered Mount Graham red squirrel show decline due to impacts from the Frye Fire

PHOENIX — An annual survey of the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel showed a significant decline due to the effects of the lightning-caused Frye Fire in the Pinaleño Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

The annual survey, conducted jointly by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), Coronado National Forest, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Center for Nature Conservation – Phoenix Zoo, and the University of Arizona, resulted in an estimate of only 35 squirrels. This is a significant decrease from the 252 squirrels estimated in 2016. Evidence of the Frye Fire was observed in 95 percent of the surveyed locations, 80 percent showed at least some habitat loss, and 44 percent were completely burned.

“Although the estimated numbers were significantly lower this year, we are uncertain if our standard survey method allows for an accurate estimate in severely burned areas,” said Tim Snow, AZGFD terrestrial wildlife specialist. “Our current survey methodology does not account for squirrels that dispersed from fire-impacted areas. Surveyors observed some squirrels in previously unoccupied areas.” Annual red squirrel surveys consist of visiting all known middens, which are areas where red squirrels store or cache their cones. Activity at these middens is used to estimate the population size.

“This year the Forest has experienced a particularly challenging fire season, with 79 fires burning over 125,000 acres,” said Coronado National Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry. “Several fires covered large portions of the mountain ranges we manage, including the Frye Fire at over 48,000 acres in the Pinaleño Mountains. We appreciate the efforts of fire suppression personnel, and of the Burned Area Emergency Response Team. Their evaluation and recommendations will guide us as we work to stabilize and protect those areas on Mount Graham that sustained damage from the fire, including Mount Graham red squirrel habitat.”

“This is a textbook example of how species with low population sizes, especially those confined to a small geographic area, are vulnerable to natural events such as fires, floods, and severe drought,” said Steve Spangle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor. “We’re grateful to have a cadre of the best squirrel biologists and habitat specialists dedicated to this subspecies’ survival.”

“Survival through this winter may be the key to the persistence of this species given the fire effects on their habitat,” said Snow.

Immediate conservation measures under consideration due to the effects of the Frye Fire include: assessment of the remaining habitat, reducing food and habitat competitors, supplemental feeding during this winter, as well as the enhancement of natural middens. These actions will be followed next spring by a complete census of the population in the Pinaleño Mountains.

The subspecies was listed as endangered in 1987. Mount Graham red squirrels live only in the upper elevation conifer forests of the Pinaleño Mountains and feed primarily on conifer seeds. This subspecies is highly territorial and has lower reproductive rates than red squirrels in other locations. Other long-term impacts to Mount Graham red squirrels and their habitat include insect infestations, competition with non-native Abert’s squirrels, and poor cone crops caused by drought, all of which influence population size; however, this year’s fire had unprecedented impacts. Biologists continue to explore new methods to conserve the species, including continued squirrel research, developing long-term forest management strategies across the fire-impacted landscape such as reseeding and planting coniferous trees, and a managed care breeding program. The Mount Graham red squirrel population peaked at about 550 animals in the late 1990s, but typically ranges between 200 and 300 individuals.

Please help locate a bit of Arizona Highways history

PHOENIX – Since it began showcasing the state’s beauty and diverse landscapes, Arizona Highways has been a collector’s item. People around the country have not only subscribed but held on to the monthly issues of the magazine, produced by the Arizona Department of Transportation, so they could go back again and again to look at the photos and read about the history.

Now Arizona Highways needs a little help finding a piece of its history, in this case a December 1930 issue to add to its digital collection.

“We know that many of you are collectors,” editors shared on the magazine’s Facebook page. “Is there any chance one of you could give us a hand in locating a copy?”

Editors say they’d like to have a copy of the December 1930 edition to keep, but they’d gladly scan and return the edition if the owner wants to keep it.

Arizona Highways began as a simple newsletter in 1921 and became a magazine in April 1925. From the beginning, it contained travel stories and scenic photographs. In the early years the photos were black-and-white, and the magazine contained page after page detailing the Arizona Highway Department’s (now the Arizona Department of Transportation’s) road-building projects. Editors added cartoons to liven up those pages.

Arizona was one of several states to develop a magazine to entice drivers to explore their newly developed roads. Of these magazines, none dates as far back or has featured the iconic photography that has made Arizona Highways a national treasure.

If you can help by sharing a December 1930 edition of Arizona Highways, please contact the magazine through its website at arizonahighways.com.

No access to eastbound Interstate 40 from A-1 Mountain early Friday

BELLEMONT – Northern Arizona drivers who access eastbound I-40 at A-1 Mountain (milepost 191) will need an alternate route during early hours on Friday because of resurfacing. The Arizona Department of Transportation advises drivers to allow extra travel time as the nearest interchange–at Bellemont—is five miles to the west.

The A-1 Mountain on-and off-ramps to eastbound I-40 will be closed from 4:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 20. Drivers will use westbound I-40 to Bellemont (milepost 185) and turn around at the Bellemont traffic interchange to access eastbound I-40.

Forest Service seeks public input on issuance of new permit to operate Elk Ridge Ski Area near Williams

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest is seeking input and responding to any inquiries members of the public may have regarding issuance of a new permit to operate the Elk Ridge Ski Area near Williams.

The Forest Service is considering issuance of a new term permit to reflect a change in the ownership of the ski area, which is being purchased by Arizona Snowbowl to include in the Mountain Capital Partners collection of resorts – Arizona Snowbowl, Purgatory Resort, Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, and Hesperus Ski Area.

The issuance of the new term permit by the Kaibab National Forest is dependent on evaluation and acceptance of an application from Arizona Snowbowl and would be for assuming the current operations at Elk Ridge starting this winter. No changes to existing facilities or operations would be authorized with the issuance of this new term permit.

Following issuance of a new permit, Arizona Snowbowl may propose updates to the facility master plan in the future, which would be considered by the Forest Service in a separate environmental analysis in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Elk Ridge Ski Area encompasses 37 acres and is located on Bill Williams Mountain on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. The current ski area term permit authorizes public operation of the ski area during the winter from November through April to provide downhill skiing and tubing opportunities.

Existing improvements within the permit area boundary include two surface lifts, a ski lodge, a parking area, eight cleared ski and tubing runs, and other supporting infrastructure. Under current conditions, some of the existing ski area improvements will require considerable maintenance and repairs and possible replacement. Summer operations include maintenance activities and infrequent, small special events held at the lodge, which are approved on a case-by-case basis by the Forest Service.

The issuance of a new permit for an existing ski area is considered an administrative change when the only modification is in ownership of ski area improvements.

Members of the public with questions or seeking to provide comments about the issuance of a new term permit should do so no later than Nov. 3 by contacting Liz Schuppert, Public Services Staff Officer, Kaibab National Forest, 800 S. Sixth Street, Williams, Arizona 86046; telephone 928-635-8367; fax 928-635-8208, or e-mail comments-southwestern-kaibab-williams@fs.fed.us.

Members of the public can find additional information on the Kaibab National Forest through the following sources:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
Kaibab website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Kaibab Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF

Innovative job training program launches this month

FLAGSTAFF – The Coconino County Career Center is launching an innovative job-training program this month to reach individuals ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not working. StartHere offers these individuals training, resources, mentors, internships and jobs with community businesses.

The initiative kicks off at 2 p.m., October 19, in Bushmaster Park with a public celebration with food, T-shirt giveaways, pickup basketball and a hands-on spray chalk gallery.

“The County is reaching out to individuals who are not in school and not working, and providing a supportive environment for them,” said Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Liz Archuleta. “We will facilitate a training program to connect the youth with local businesses so they can get job experience and learn new skills. This will empower these individuals to grow into an integral part of our community.”

The Career Center is building a network of community support for the program to help individuals gain work experience and exposure to career paths. StartHere has identified six career pathways in growing fields to train program participants in: manufacturing, property maintenance, health care, commercial driving, computer information technology and an exploratory option for undecided individuals.

“There is a shortage in skilled labor across the U.S., and Flagstaff is no different,” said Nestlé Purina Human Resources Manager Jeff Springborn. “As our long-time employees begin to retire, there is a high demand for new skilled workers in manufacturing. Because of this, we recognize that promoting and providing opportunities for training and career development is vital for the sustainable growth of our business and the manufacturing industry.”

Workforce Development Board Member, and Flagstaff Mayor, Coral Evans has been a champion for disconnected youth through her work with the County in the past and is a strong advocate for the new initiative. “I’m really excited about it, it’s long overdue. We live in a world where we expect everyone to graduate from high school and go to college. A lot of us don’t take that direct route. I didn’t. StartHere allows those individuals who don’t fit into a neat box of expectations to grow and take a direct hand in who they are going to be.”

StartHere will be funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) established by the federal government in 2014 to serve disconnected youth who are 16 to 24 years old, are not in school and not working.

“We are implementing a unique public awareness campaign to reach these young people where they are,” said Coconino County Career Center Director Carol Curtis.

For more information, call 928.525.4642 or visit StartHere.jobs.

Arizona Red Cross chapters responding to California fire crisis

PHOENIX — The American Red Cross is working closely with government and community partners to coordinate relief efforts and provide evacuation centers where people can find safe refuge from the fires. Meals, health services, comfort and other support is being provided for the affected residents. Red Cross volunteers from across the country are now traveling to California to support relief efforts, including 9 Red Cross volunteers from the Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso Region (3 from Phoenix Chapter, 2 from Southern AZ Chapter, 4 from Northern Arizona Chapter). Additional supplies, such as, cots, blankets and other relief supplies are also being mobilized to support the effort.

People with loved ones in the affected area can visit the Red Cross Safe and Well website at http://www.redcross.org/safeandwell. The site allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is always available, open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website. Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876.

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. You can help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY or IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

Two Search and Rescue Missions on San Francisco Peaks Wednesday

FLAGSTAFF – Coconino County Sheriff’s deputies and its Search and Rescue Unit conducted two search and rescue missions on the San Francisco Peaks Wednesday

About 3:00 p.m. Wednesday October 11, 2017 the Flagstaff 911 Center received a call from a woman who reported she was lost after starting a hike the Peaks. The woman and her three children—ages 2-to-11—from the Phoenix area had parked on the Snowbowl Road and started off on a hike. The woman reported she was currently on a trail, but was confused and did not know the way to return to her vehicle.

Deputies were able to get her location from her call to 911 and had her start walking out. A deputy responded to the area, who walked in on the trail, meeting the woman and assisting her back to her parked car.

About 6:35 p.m. the Flagstaff 911 Center received another call for a rescue on the Peaks. A 19-year old male and his girlfriend from the Phoenix area were hiking the Humphreys Trail when the male injured his ankle and reported a possible fracture.

The Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue unit responded and prepared for a liter carry of the injured hiker. The hiker had been able to make his way partial down the trail. Searchers made their way up the trail and made contact with the hiker and assisted him off the mountain. The hiker refused medical treatment.

No access to eastbound Interstate 40 from A-1 Mountain this week and early next

Northern Arizona drivers who access eastbound I-40 at A-1 Mountain (milepost 190) will use an alternate route this week and early next week because of guardrail replacement work. The Arizona Department of Transportation advises drivers to allow extra travel time as the nearest interchange — at Bellemont — is five miles to the west.

The A-1 Mountain on-ramp to eastbound I-40 is closed to 6 p.m. today and again from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16. Drivers will use westbound I-40 to Bellemont (milepost 185) and turn around at the Bellemont traffic interchange to access eastbound I-40.

Crews are scheduled to replace the guardrail at the A-1 Mountain interchange in conjunction with the ongoing project to rehabilitate 12 miles of pavement along I-40 between mileposts 179 and 191, approximately four miles west of Flagstaff. Learn more at azdot.gov/I40Paving.

US EPA Proposes to Authorize Arizona’s Hazardous Waste Management Program Revisions

Between May 26, 1998, and July 28, 2006, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised certain rules under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). To maintain equivalency of state and federal programs after these changes, Arizona has applied to EPA for authorization of changes to its hazardous waste program under the RCRA.

EPA has reviewed Arizona’s application with regards to federal requirements and is proposing to authorize the state’s changes. EPA’s proposed determination is subject to public review and comment.
View the Proposed Rule Document >
View Arizona’s Authorization Application >

You may also view Arizona’s application by contacting the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Records Center at 602-771-4380, Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Comment Period
Ends Nov. 6, 2017
Comment Now >

EPA will prepare a document summarizing how public comments were considered in the final EPA decision. The summary of comments and responses will be available at EPA’s website when completed. This notice is given in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 271.21(b)(4).

As boating season winds down, prepare your safety gear for 2018

PHOENIX – Fall marks the end of boating season for many in Northern Arizona and as owners prepare to stow their watercraft until the spring, it’s an ideal time to inspect life jackets, safety gear and mechanical equipment. Getting repairs done in the offseason and taking stock of safety equipment will help ensure a successful start to the 2018 boating season — and it’ll give you a few more quality hours with the boat before storing it.

“Take advantage of the end of the boating season to look for anything that may need repairing and to take inventory of life jackets and other safety gear,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “By doing this now, you will have a head start in the spring and can make sure all the mechanical equipment is working properly and that all safety gear is stored correctly.”

The following steps will help ensure the boat or watercraft is stored properly for next year and you’re ready to safely hit the water in 2018:

1. Inspect life jackets for any rips, tears, mold, mildew and worn areas. Also check to see whether the label is still readable before storing life jackets in a dry location. Arizona’s climate is tough on life jackets, and on average they need to be replaced every five years. If you own an inflatable-type life jacket visually check to ensure there are no rips, tears, excessive abrasion or holes, all seams are securely sewn, and the cover, straps and hardware are still strong. It would also be a good idea to test the inflatable for leakage. Orally inflate your life jacket until firm and then let it sit inflated for 16 hours. A life jacket with a leak in it will not hold its firmness and should be replaced.

2. Check the fire extinguisher to ensure it’s sufficiently charged. If not, make a note to recharge or replace it before the next boating season or your next outing.

3. As every watercraft owner should do every time he or she leaves the lake, pull the vessel’s drain plug, and dry and clean the hull. Doing so helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels.

4. Make sure propellers are free of dings, pitting, cracks and distortion, and that they are secured properly. Inspect the hull for blisters, distortions and cracks.

5. Check the fuel system for any leaks or damages, giving special attention to fuel lines and connections. Damaged fuel hoses could either be cracked, brittle or soft. Also ensure the engine exhaust and ventilation systems are functioning properly. As with fuel lines, inspect all belts, cables and hoses that may have been damaged during the season. Ensure belts are fitted tightly and that there are no cracks on the outer jacket of the throttle, shift and steering control cables.

6. Brush up on your boating knowledge by taking one of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s free safety courses. The classes are offered in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City every month to provide boaters with the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. Get more information and sign up for a course online.

For more information about storing your boat or watercraft during the offseason, BoatUS has numerous articles covering topics like tips for storage on the water as well as a PDF checklist detailing the steps to winterize a boat.