Conservation issues especially those focusing on hunting, fishing and the use of public lands are often controversial and emotional subjects.
In more than two decades of covering those types of stories for the Payson Roundup and White Mountain Independent, I've learned to value and trust the opinion of former Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Tom Woods.
As an avid outdoorsman, Tom's common sense approach and extensive knowledge lends clarity to complex issues.
When Tom called me earlier this week to voice his concerns about an election, I asked that he share his apprehensions with our readers.
As a registered Republican, Tom is troubled by his party's stands on some issues.
Tom and his friends have written this statement:
We rarely take a prominent public stand on a candidate for political office unless we sense a real urgency. This is one of those times! As we see it, if Janet Napolitano does not win this election for governor, wildlife, habitat and all associated subjects are in for a long, dark winter of despair.
Hunting, fishing, protection of wildlife habitat, access to public lands, the Arizona Heritage Fund (currently funded by the Arizona State Lottery), a decentralized, apolitical Game and Fish Department and gun rights - all those values which bring so many of us to Arizona and keep us here - will be in good hands with Janet Napolitano as governor. Her past actions in some of these areas are a matter of record. Her present plans and thoughts for the future ring convincingly true. Why should we doubt them? She has done nothing in her service to Arizona as Attorney General or in her private practice that would convince us she would do otherwise if elected.
The possession of firearms as we now know and appreciate it in Arizona is fine with Ms. Napolitano. She is in favor of enforcing the gun laws already on the books while emphasizing gun safety. In fact, while (she was) in private practice, Smith & Wesson was one of her clients.
Access to public lands for fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, hiking, biking, and many other recreational activities is high on her list. She supports the continuation of a fully funded Heritage Fund for the protection and preservation of culturally and biologically important sites conducive to parks and trails, and she believes in the importance of educating the public about Arizona's natural world and its inhabitants.
Janet Napolitano feels that the Game and Fish Department as presently constituted with a governor-appointed, Senate-confirmed Commission who hires the director, represents a good system wherein wildlife and wildlife habitant, as well as wildlife pursuits such as hunting, fishing and birding, are well protected from the whims of politics. She does not want those who hold our wildlife in trust for all citizens becoming part of a large, politically oriented Department of Natural Resources as other candidates have suggested.
She sees an Arizona in which ranchers, sportsmen and conservationists work together to utilize prudently the state's wildlands and precious water resources. She knows, too, that the sharing of our natural gifts with those from other regions of the world helps Arizona's lucrative outdoors and cultural tourism industries continue to thrive.
In short, Janet Napolitano fully appreciates Arizona's natural beauty and bounty as well as their social and economic value. As governor, we believe that she will support and protect Arizona's natural world and those outdoor activities we hold dear. We, therefore, believe that she is the outstanding candidate for governor and hope you will join us in helping her win on November 5. If she does not, we fear that the voice for Arizona's wildlife, its home and funding will be effectively silenced for at least the next four years.