AZGF comments on Ranching for Wildlife.

danr55

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> ARIZONA GAME AND FISH PROGRAMS DEVELOPED TO ADDRESS
> WILDLIFE-LANDOWNER ISSUES
>
> Background: Wildlife is a state asset, held in the public trust by
> statute. It cannot be gifted to private individuals. Value must be
> provided to the state for anything provided to the landowner.
>
> 1. 82% of Arizona's 72.6 million acres is in public federal, state,
> or municipal jurisdiction.
> Only 18% of Arizona's landmass is held in private ownership. a. Of
> that, only one half, of the state's private land is held in parcels
> greater than 40 acres. b. 1 million acres are owned by 2 ranches.
>
> Elk Management Through Hunting Strategies 1.
> Currently, statewide post-hunt population of elk is about 24,000
> adults. a. The statewide population is 1,000 below objective as
> outlined in the Department's strategic plan, which was developed
> through intensive public input. b. About 25,000 elk tags are issued
> annually through a draw process, generating a harvest of about 8000
> elk. i.
> Additionally, 100 supplemental elk permits are issued for population
> management hunts annually 2.
> Hunt structures have been tailored to specific management needs
> through a public process. These structures have addressed conflicts
> with wildlife populations. Specifically with elk over the past 6
> years, we have implemented. a. Limited Opportunity Hunts aimed at
> reducing elk-livestock conflicts on winter range. b. Population
> Management Hunts, which provide "surgical strikes," to reduce specific
> conflicts in as little as five days from issue identification. i.
> Population Management Hunt rules were enacted in 2002 after 2 years of
> rulemaking effort, which included massive public input to develop. c.
> Permits are issued to the public to address private lands concerns
> with elk. d. AGFD is currently developing new rules that would allow
> the issuance of big game tags to other hunters to address low-density
> yet problematic populations.
> This rule is intended for use in 16 hunts during fall 2005. e. In
> Limited Population Management Zones, hunt structures are designed to
> keep elk at low levels where populations are expanding.
>
> Programs Benefiting Landowners. 1. The AGFD's Landowner Incentive
> Program works with landowners to protect sensitive wildlife species
> throughout the state. This program has funded more than $750,000 worth
> of projects in the last two years on private deeded lands, including
> more than 14,000 acres of rangeland (removal of pinyon-juniper,
> planned reseeding riparian vegetation) that benefited both wildlife
> and livestock operations.
>
> 2. The AGFD's Habitat Partnership Committees are sponsored by the
> Department and chaired by an AGFD Commissioner. These committees were
> initiated specifically to deal with landowner-elk conflicts, using
> funding sources like the Special Big Game Tag Fund. Projects
> benefiting private landowners and wildlife have been developed and
> implemented on private lands and adjoining public lands. a. In 2002,
> AGFD funded 84 projects totaling $802,782. b.
> In 2003, AGFD funded 118 projects totaling $1,180,006. c. In 2004,
> AGFD funded 62 projects totaling $688,794.
>
> 3. The AGFD's Stewardship Projects are those that provide benefits
> to private landowners and wildlife through purchase of fertilizer,
> seed, forage improvement projects, fence building, and water
> availability. a. Since 1994, stewardship projects totaling over
> $1,525,000 have been implemented. b.
> Since 1992 within our Pinetop Region alone, the Department has entered
> into 78 different Stewardship Agreements with 58 different landowners.
> This represents a total of 7,663 acres affected and an expenditure of
> $356,759. c. As an example of an AGFD funded Stewardship Project that
> benefited livestock and wildlife, the Winslow Habitat Partnership
> Committee proposed the High Point Well Project in Unit 4A in the early
> 1990s. The project involved building a totally new water distribution
> system on Federal, State, and private lands. A well was drilled, pump
> and generator installed, 21 miles of water line buried and numerous
> watering troughs installed. The total cost was over $250,000 to
> complete the project. The ranch owners maintain the system, and they
> were funded last year through the Winslow Habitat Partnership
> Committee to extend the pipeline several additional miles. The
> Department continues to pay for fuel needed to pump the water.
>
> 4. The AGFD's Landowner Relations Program is responsible for working
> with private landowners in the State. Any landowner offering public
> access opportunities is currently eligible for an Access Stewardship
> Agreement. These agreements serve as a mechanism to complete on the
> ground operational improvements that benefit both wildlife and
> livestock, as well as provide for public access in exchange for the
> following kinds of effort. a. The Landowner Relations Program offers
> road maintenance services to those participants in the Access Program.
> b. Since July 2004 the Department has conducted about 800 hours of
> road maintenance throughout the state. c. About 200 miles of road have
> been improved for 12 participants, with a value of $49,800. d. Five
> more ranches are scheduled for road maintenance during spring 2005.
>
> 5. The Landowner Respect Program has spent about $150,000 for the
> benefit of landowners and sportsmen over the last 10 years. This
> program provides landowners with visitor sign-in/sign-out boxes and
> custom signage to explain to recreational visitors the expected rules
> of behavior while using private lands. These improvements are provided
> in exchange for continued public access to private lands. To date, 329
> individual landowners have participated in this program.
>
> 6. The Adopt-A-Ranch Program has matched volunteer groups to
> ranchers throughout the state. This program helps mitigate the
> conflict between private landowners and the recreating public. In 2004
> alone, 30 ranches participated in this program receiving more than
> 7,000 hours of volunteer labor. This labor has included heavy
> equipment operation, fence building, welding and corral building, dirt
> tank cleanout, litter collection, and prescribed burning and is valued
> at $105,000.
>
>
> Other AGFD Efforts 1. The Department annually spends over $30,000 to
> conduct predator management activities. Although the primary
> benefactor is wildlife, livestock operators also benefit from this
> program.
>
> 2. The Commission is currently supporting the passage of the
> Voluntary Public Access and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, in the
> U.S. Congress.
> This program could allocate to the states $50 million annually for
> private landowners who provide public access. Arizona Representative
> Ed Pastor is a cosponsor.
>
> Answers to Questions Concerning Current Landowner Litigation over
> Elk Issues
>
> 1. The Department recently received a letter representing 19
> landowners who were claiming depredation damages according to A.R.S.
> 17-239. a.
> 19 landowners in original notice, 1 subsequently withdrew, resulting
> in 18 ranches run by 14 landowners. In a subsequent letter, the
> Department was noticed of 27 ranches (9 new ones), but none of the new
> ranches submitted any information as to what their complaints were and
> did not actually begin the
> 17-239 process. i. 9 offer unrestricted sportsmen access. ii. 7 offer
> very restricted sportsmen access or charge trespass fees. iii. 2 do
> not offer sportsmen access. b. Participation in Department programs i.
> 1 unwilling to allow Department access and did not respond to
> depredation mitigation suggestions from Department. ii. 4 have issues
> that could best be resolved by exclosure fencing and a fifth is
> constructing exclosure fencing now. iii. 13 were unwilling to
> participate in any of the formal "contract" programs (e.g.,
> Stewardship, Access, Landowner Incentive Program) until the A.R.S.
> 17-239 process is completed at the earliest. Some of these
> 13 were willing to accept PVC, fence materials, feed blocks (e.g.,
> minor material items), if no reciprocal agreements were implied or
> public access was not a requirement of accepting those items. iv.
> 5 expressed a willingness to discuss or consider involvement in one or
> more of the programs. v. The landowners that currently allow
> unrestricted public access all indicated a willingness to adjust hunt
> structures or hold population management hunts to reduce elk numbers.
>
> Opportunities for public input 1. The public, including the private
> landowners, have numerous opportunities to participate in assisting in
> setting guidance for the Department. Public input process
> include: a. Strategic plans b. Rulemaking c. Species management
> operational plans, e.g., elk d. Hunt guidelines and recommendation
> meetings e. Habitat Partnership Meetings f. Outreach including booth
> at Annual Arizona Cattle Growers Meeting
>
> 2. Several programs that provide funding for forage and habitat
> restoration are available to landowners other than traditional hunt
> programs and
> include: a. State Wildlife Grants, b. Open spaces c.
> Several Farm Bill programs, including the Landowner Incentive Program
> d. Partners for Fish and Wildlife
> (USFWS) e. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality grants f.
> Arizona Department of Water Resources grants g. Arizona Water
> Protection Fund grants h. Special Big Game Tag Funds
>
> Questions Regarding Ranching for Wildlife Program
>
> 1. What impact does this program have on other landowners that do
> not or cannot participate in the program? In other words, what effect
> will this have on small landowners that rely on public grazing lands?
>
> 2. What is the minimum size of private land area to participate in
> program? Would Federal and State leased land provide entrance into
> program?
>
> 3. What access to tags does the public hunter have? Are there
> limitations on permit classes, (e.g., doe/cow/calf tags only to the
> public)?
>
> 4. Are there other alternatives to tags that would meet landowners
> needs or concerns?
>
> 5. What impact does this have on violation rate?
> Other states have documented that violation rate increases following
> implementation of landowner tag programs because much more activity
> takes place behind locked gates and enforcement becomes a larger
> problem. Would this program support officer presence as provide in
> statute?
>
> 6. What is the ultimate goal of this proposed program, to decrease
> elk or derive an additional source of income? Aren't these two goals
> contradictory?
>
> 7. Have you ever worked with the Department on an existing program?
> Are you currently actively involved with these programs?
>
> 8. As a landowner, would you allow hunters on your land without
> charge to address wildlife damage issues?
>
> 9. What species of big game would fall within this program?
>
> 10. How much public land access would this program affect?
>
> 11. How would the number of tags be determined and how would they be
> allocated?
>
> 12. What private land that is currently open would be closed until
> they get on the financial program?
> Would this have a negative impact on access pending program
> implementation?
>
> 13. Has Utah completed a sportsman's satisfaction evaluation for the
> landowner tag program there?
>
> 14. What proportion of applicants in Utah is able to actually hunt
> elk? Utah has several general elk hunts with permits available over
> the counter. In Arizona, there are about 90,000 applicants annually
> for the 25,000 elk tags available.
>
> 15. Considering the limited number of elk tags available to the
> public in Arizona each year, shouldn't we be concerned about the
> impact this program would have on the ability of the hunter of modest
> means to hunt Arizona's elk in the future?
>
> 16. Doesn't this program seem to favor the wealthy hunter, possibly
> allowing them to hunt elk in Arizona every year, at the expense of the
> average hunter?
>
> 17. Are Utah landowner permits eligible to be used on public lands?
> There are 3 different kinds of landowner tags available in Utah, each
> with different applications. Should these tags be eligible for use on
> public lands in Arizona?
>
> 18. Is it possible that the lure of economic returns from landowner
> tags might encourage landowners to increase elk in areas where the
> Department is trying to limit their growth because of impacts to
> habitat and private lands?
>
> 19. How can you economically grow desirable wildlife (e.g., big
> bulls) without increasing the overall population size and thereby
> impacting other land managers?
>
> 20. How will the cow segment of the population be managed?
 

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