Volunteers needed for wildlife habitat project

AJO — The Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF), in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and Arizona Game and Fish Department, is seeking volunteers for a fence construction project on Saturday, January 27, on BLM land in southern Arizona, about 18 miles northeast of Ajo.

The project involves building a new fence around a seasonally filled earthen livestock water tank. Presently, when the tank is full it attracts feral cattle and horses from nearby reservation lands onto the western edge of the Sonoran pronghorn habitat. The fence project will permit access to the water by all wildlife but prevent access by trespass feral livestock.

This project, located on the eastern boundary of historic endangered pronghorn habitat, is part of BLM’s long-term plan of removing up to 54 miles of unneeded livestock fence in this zone to make it more attractive to Sonoran pronghorn.

Volunteers should plan to meet at 7 a.m. on January 27 at the AAF campsite, located on BLM lands about 9 miles east of the Pipeline Road and SR85 intersection. Directions: From Gila Bend, drive 43 miles south on SR85 to Ajo. Once you reach the plaza in the middle of Ajo, continue on SR85 for 1.85 miles to Pipeline Road. Turn left onto Pipeline Road and travel approximately 9 miles east to the campsite. The project site is approximately another 9 miles northeast on the Pipeline Road. Access to the site is along a maintained travel corridor route. There will be some wash crossings, but the road should be trailer friendly.

The Arizona Antelope Foundation will provide volunteers with dinners Friday and Saturday nights, as well as continental breakfasts Saturday and Sunday mornings. Bring your own lunch to eat in the field Saturday.

Volunteers also should bring work gloves (AAF will have a limited supply), snacks, water, and personal gear.

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP by January 22 by e-mail to info@azantelope.org so AAF can plan on having enough food and tools on hand. If you have questions or would like more information about the project, contact Glen Dickens at (520) 247-4907. For a printer-friendly map to the campsite, visit www.azantelope.org.

Mexican wolf population survey flight operations begin January 22

PINETOP — Residents of Alpine, Arizona, Reserve, NM and surrounding areas may notice a low-flying helicopter in the region between January 22 and February 3, as biologists conduct their annual Mexican wolf population survey and capture.

The flights are part of the Mexican wolf Reintroduction Project, a multi-agency cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Service Inspection Service – Wildlife Services and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The aerial operation is scheduled to run January 22 to February 3, weather permitting. Survey flights will occur on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation; the Apache-Sitgreaves, Gila and Cibola National Forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico; and possibly some locations immediately outside forest boundaries.

“Data collected during this annual survey and capture operation is critical to help us to determine and evaluate the overall population status of Mexican wolves,” said Paul Greer, AZGFD Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team leader. “The survey helps to chart progress in documenting the Mexican wolf population in the Southwest, and it helps us know how these animals are using local habitat.”

As part of the operation, biologists will attempt to capture selected wolves born in 2017 that have not yet been fitted with a radio telemetry collar, in addition to those with collars that need a battery replacement or any wolf appearing to be sick or injured. Wolves are captured after being darted with an anesthetizing drug from a helicopter containing trained personnel.

After being immobilized, the wolf is then brought by air to a staging area for processing and any necessary veterinary care. The wolf is then returned to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) and released on public land.

The field team is contacting private landowners to gain permission to property to capture a wolf, if necessary, and will be coordinating with land management agencies and county sheriff offices on survey operation details.

There were a minimum of 113 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2016, according to a survey by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team. The survey found that there were 63 wolves in Arizona and 50 in New Mexico.

The 2016 total represented a more than doubling of the population since 2009.
Results of the survey will be made available to the public in March. For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/wolf or https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman deluxe workshop is back again

PHOENIX — With the new year comes new experiences and the opportunity to get a fresh start and enjoy a fun filled weekend with like-minded women. The Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) deluxe program will be held Jan. 26-28. Sponsored by the Arizona Wildlife Federation with support from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the workshop will feature lots of outdoor fun without the inconveniences of camping!

Nestled on the banks of the Salt River at the Saguaro Lake Ranch, women will develop outdoors skills while enjoying the beauty that Arizona has to offer.

This year, BOW will offer sessions on hunting, fly fishing, kayaking, desert survival, birding, archery and more. Women also have the opportunity to relax on a trail ride and enjoy views of the picturesque Bulldog Cliffs.

Along with outdoors skills development, award winning photographer Lisa Langell will be teaching landscape photography.

BOW offers something for every kind of woman and every kind of interest. The $380 registration fee (add $95 for the trail ride) includes instruction, program materials, use of equipment, deluxe lodging, and meals. There will also be evening entertainment and a wine and cheese tasting for women to enjoy.

Create new connections, learn, laugh, and enjoy. To get a taste of everything BOW has to offer, check out this video produced by AZGFD in 2016.

Details of class descriptions and a registration form can be found at http://www.azwildlife.org/ht/d/sp/i/60573/pid/60573 or by calling 480-644-0077

Arizona winter visitors: prepare to clean, drain and dry

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds boaters to “clean, drain and dry” – and especially decontaminate — their watercraft and equipment before exiting waters designated as having aquatic invasive species (AIS).

This reminder is especially important for out-of-town visitors who moor their boats at AIS-infected waters and are preparing to head out of state.

Afraid you might be transporting aquatic hitchhikers?

AZGFD has contracted with a local business to provide free decontaminations for those with boats that have been on a quagga mussel-infected water for six or more consecutive days.

Call the Arizona Game and Fish AIS Program two to three weeks in advance of departure to schedule a free inspection and decontamination at (623) 236-7608 or Woods to Water LLC. at (602) 920-4891.

“As outdoor enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to be stewards of the places that we love,” AZGFD Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator Erin Raney said. “Stopping the spread of AIS is a big job, but with everyone pitching in, we can all do our part to protect our waters. All it takes is a few minutes.”

Aquatic Invasive Species are non-native species that are often unintentionally introduced by human movement. They do not have predators outside of their native range, and are able to outcompete native species. They can be animals, plants and even pathogens that cause disease in native fish or other aquatic animals. They can often be invisible to the naked eye, making them even more difficult to control. Once introduced, they can alter ecosystems by interrupting food chains, cause damage to boats and other recreational gear, clog up water and power infrastructure and pose safety hazards.

Stop the spread of AIS and keep our waters clean and beautiful for ourselves and future generations.

Remember to:

  • Clean boats, waders, anchors, equipment and gear by removing mud, plants, attached animals such as snails or quagga mussels. Freeze waders overnight to eliminate fish pathogens and other hitchhikers.
  • Drain all residual water from engines and motors, ballast tanks, live wells and bait wells. Pull your bilge plug and leave out during transport. Store in a location where you will remember before launch; for example, next to boat keys in glove box.
  • Dry all equipment that comes in contact with water, such as life jackets, ropes, buoys, tubes, etc.

Under Arizona law, boaters and all recreationists who take watercraft and other equipment out of waters designated as having aquatic invasive species must use the above steps when leaving a listed water.

There are additional steps to complete for watercraft that have been on AIS-listed waters for six or more consecutive days.

Arizona’s Operation Game Thief program issued 76 citations for wildlife violations in 2017

PHOENIX — “Poachers are criminals.” If you talk to any of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s wildlife managers, you’re likely to hear that phrase repeated as they go about their work as part biologist, part law enforcement officer. As part of their duties, the department’s 97 wildlife managers work to investigate potential poaching cases to ensure that the state’s most precious natural resource — its wildlife — is effectively managed so that future generations can enjoy the more than 800 species found in Arizona.

At the heart of the effort to eliminate and investigate poaching is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program, a silent witness initiative that encourages the public to report information or suspicious activity. Last year, more than 1,000 calls came into the Operation Game Thief hotline (1-800-352-0700) as well as 75 submissions via the online form. Those reports contributed to 76 citations being issued statewide for wildlife issues including the illegal take of big game, fishing violations and the unlawful killing of raptors.

“Poachers are thieves. They do not represent the hunting community, and the majority of the reports come from hunters and anglers who are out in the field and witness suspicious activity,” said Scott Fischer, program manager for Operation Game Thief. “The hunting community does a great job of policing itself. If you see something, say something. Together we can make a difference for Arizona’s wildlife.”

2017’s top five reported violations were:

  1. 356 for the illegal take of big game (resulting in 55 of the 76 citations)
  2. 63 for fishing violations
  3. 59 for feeding wildlife
  4. 52 for the illegal take of raptors
  5. 52 for possession of restricted live wildlife

Individuals who make a report to Operation Game Thief will remain confidential and can report anonymously if needed. The program pays rewards for information that leads to an arrest.

In 2017, wildlife violators were assessed $74,500 in civil fines, and that money goes directly into the department’s Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund, which pays for the rewards as well as promotion of Operation Game Thief. In addition, 51 individuals had their hunting and/or fishing license revoked by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission as part of their penalty, one of which was a lifetime revocation. The department receives no general fund money from the state of Arizona.

It’s also important to note that mistakes and accidents happen, and the department will work with hunters and anglers who immediately self-report their actions to the Operation Game Thief hotline.

“Mistakes happen in any endeavor, and the amazing thing about hunters is they frequently report themselves,” Fischer said. “Hunters respect wildlife and because of that respect they’re willing to risk penalties in order to ensure meat from the wildlife they take is not wasted.”

Meat from seized wildlife is inspected by department wildlife managers and typically donated to charities for human consumption.

Arizona’s Operation Game Thief program began in 1979, making it the second oldest initiative of its type in the U.S. The hotline (1-800-352-0700) was implemented at the time and takes reports of wildlife violations 24×7. Wildlife is the property of the state, meaning that every Arizonan has a vested interest in protecting it. Anyone who witnesses a violation — whether it’s related to hunting, fishing, feeding wildlife or illegally possessing wildlife — is encouraged to report that information to Operation Game Thief and act on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, the wildlife.

Three new specialty plates available at ServiceArizona.com

PHOENIX – The sound of freedom over the West Valley, classic cars and the wonders of science and technology are celebrated in the newest batch of Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division specialty license plates.

Plates commemorating Luke Air Force Base, the Arizona Science Center and the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction are now available at ServiceArizona.com.

Specialty plates typically cost $25 annually. Of that, $17 is committed to the organization being supported. In the most recent fiscal year, sales of the plates generated nearly $10 million for charitable causes statewide.
Continue reading “Three new specialty plates available at ServiceArizona.com” »

Safest decision when snow is forecast? Put off driving

PHOENIX – Because of the rapidly changing nature of winter storms, the Interstate 40 grade west of Williams got so much snow in brief period overnight Tuesday that the freeway temporarily closed.

This illustrates one of the central messages of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Know Snow campaign: If you can put off driving when snow is expected to be falling, do so. The amount of snowfall can exceed initial forecasts and be especially heavy in areas that make driving an even greater challenge in winter weather, as is the case with Ash Fork Hill on I-40 between State Route 89 and Williams.

In addition to the obvious safety risks, slide-offs and crashes on highways slick with snow and ice can tax first responders, exacerbate traffic backups and make it more difficult and time-consuming for ADOT snowplow drivers to clear roadways. For the snow that began Tuesday night, slide-offs and crashes also occurred on Interstate 17, which remained open but slowed to a crawl in areas.

When driving on a slick roadway, the keys to safety include slowing down, leaving plenty of room between your vehicle and the one ahead, and avoiding sudden braking that can result in a skid.

Those looking to head north this weekend to play in snow should park in designated areas and keep in mind that highway shoulders for emergencies only. Parking on a highway shoulder can endanger you, your passengers and other drivers. In addition, first responders may need to use the shoulder.

ADOT has installed 24 signs at higher elevations of US 180 northwest of Flagstaff to remind drivers that shoulders are for emergencies.

Those traveling to popular snow-play areas should leave prepared to spend significant time in winter weather, as traffic at day’s end is often heavy on highways including US 180 toward Flagstaff. Locations of designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff are available at flagstaffarizona.org (click the Winter Recreation link) or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.

ADOT’s winter-driving tips available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow include dressing for frigid temperatures, having a fully charged cellphone, keeping your tank at least three-quarters full and packing an emergency kit that includes blankets, extra clothes, snacks and water, sand or cat litter for traction, and a small shovel.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

Better than ever: MVD door-to-door time at historic best 30 minute goal surpassed two months in a row

PHOENIX – The amount of time it takes for customers to do business at Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division offices continues to go down and has reached historic levels of improvement.

MVD has established a goal of getting customers in and out of offices in an average of 30 minutes or less; and for the months of November and December that goal was easily surpassed.

For both months, door-to-door customer time averaged slightly over 22 minutes in urban offices and approximately 18 minutes in rural locations. In the same period just one year ago, average times were just over 30 minutes in both rural and urban regions. Two years ago, that number was 52 minutes.

“This is a testament to the hard work and commitment of all MVD employees,” said MVD Director Eric Jorgensen. “As part of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Arizona Management System, MVD empowers employees to find ways to do things to better serve our customers. That means more efficient service methods in offices, opening urban locations earlier and offering more options to do business online. Every day we’re exploring new ways to get better, and exciting new innovations are on the way to fulfill the MVD vision to get Arizona out of line and safely on the road.”

A total of just over 207,000 customers were served at physical locations in November with a slightly lower number in December, not counting those who took advantage of MVD office kiosks.

Meet the Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Saturday, January 13

PHOENIX — The public is encouraged to meet the members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in an informal setting and hear about the commission’s upcoming priorities at the “Meet the Commission” event this Saturday, Jan. 13, beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Courtroom MN, 11111 N. 7th St., Phoenix.

The meeting will begin with the chairman’s welcome and commissioner introductions, followed by a discussion of commission priorities. The public is welcome to ask questions or provide comments. No official action will be taken by the commission.

Share your thoughts on ADOT’s State Aviation System Plan update

PHOENIX – Members of the public are welcome to provide input on an update to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s State Aviation System Plan.

The update, which evaluates the current and future performance of Arizona’s 67 publicly owned, public-use airports, will help guide ADOT’s long-term planning so the state’s aviation system can safely meet the evolving needs of residents, visitors and businesses.

State aviation system plans are typically updated every seven to 10 years. Arizona’s was last updated in 2008.

Three public meetings are scheduled this month in Mesa, Tucson and Flagstaff. Each meeting will be an open house with a formal presentation at 2 p.m. The same information will be shared at each:

Mesa
1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, January 23
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, 5835 S. Sossaman Road |Airport Administration Building, Airport Board Room

Tucson
1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, January 24
Tucson International Airport, 7250 S. Tucson Blvd. | Airport Terminal Board Room, Second Floor

Flagstaff
1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, January 25
Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET), 2201 N. Gemini Road | Accelerator, Alternate EOC Building, Room 100

Additional information is available at azdot.gov/SASPUpdate, which lists contacts for those unable to attend the meetings but wishing to comment by email or phone.