Natural Resource Committee Attempts To 'Bring All Sides Together'

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Powerful forces in the Rim country have long been at odds over the proper directions to take in managing, preserving and harvesting the state's supply of wildlife.

One of the most controversial of the governing and hunting blueprints traditionally involve elk -- the state's most abundant large game animal.

Because elk compete with cattle for grazing lands, some ranchers would like nothing better than to see fewer of the animals.

Hunters, especially licensed guides, stand in direct opposition and lick their chops at the thought of having an unlimited supply of elk for clients to stalk.

Caught directly in the middle of the controversy is the Arizona Game and Fish Department whose job it is to maintain a healthy wildlands ecosystem while satisfying as much of the public as possible.

Each year, game and fish officials put together a Regional Elk Management Operational Plan which provides directives for managing the resource in a particular area. The REMO Plan for both the Payson and Pleasant Valley Ranger Districts -- known as Region 6 -- is formulated Mesa.

In an effort to give all concerned a venue for expressing wildlife management concerns, the Payson Natural Resource Committee was formed and meets on a regular basis.

Principal members of the committee include rancher Larry Boeschling, sportsman Brent Riddel and Game and Fish Officers Dave Carrothers and Henry Apfel. Payson-area G&F officer Carl Lutch also participates.

Lutch said the committee discussions are "win-win" situations because both sides of the management controversy are able to have a say in formulating the plans.

"It's an attempt to bring all (concerned) together," Lutch said.

If those sympathetic to ranching believe there is an over-abundance of elk, those concerns may be expressed at the meeting.

Conversely, if others believe elk populations should be protected, those opinions may be discussed.

The number of elk tags Arizona Game and Fish issues and in which units, is partially decided by information received at the natural resources meetings, Lutch said.

Other topics include methods of properly regulating elk populations, habitat improvements, elk enclosures, water development projects, elk jumps and prescribed burns.

Some of the issues and projects expected to be addressed at the next meeting of the committee Wednesday evening include:

  • the Canyon Creek enclosure that is set to begin this summer. The projects has been funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to the tune of $5,088. Arizona Boys Ranch was to supply the labor, but the PNRC may solicit volunteers;
  • a $10,335 prescribed burn and water development project to treat approximately 1,940 acres in a mosaic pattern in the Crackerjack Mesa area. A component of this project is to install a wildlife guzzler on the mesa. That is expected to occur this spring, game and fish officials said. The project was funded by the mule deer tag receipts from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Other prescribed burns are scheduled near Gibson Creek (Round Valley), Dripping Springs, Geronimo and Catholic Peak;
  • The possible construction of more forage cages on the Payson Ranger District in Units 22 and Pleasant Valley District Unit 23. Ten new cages have already been put out in Unit 22 and eight in 23. The cages, which keep wildlife at bay, are scientific tools used to compare and measure the affects wildlife have on the landscape.

Other topics include on-going salt and elk jump projects being administered by Apfel and seed collecting and storing program administered by Carrothers.

For more information on the PNRC, call AGF Game Specialist Jon Hanna at 602-981-9400.

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