A coalition of Arizona's wildlife and sportsmen/women groups today called for better management of public lands.
In a policy statement and letter to Harv Forsgren (Regional Forester of the U.S. Forest Service) and to Duane Shroufe (Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department), the coalition is calling for more emphasis on fish and wildlife habitat, restrictions on cross-country travel, limitations on open roads, strong enforcement of the travel management policies, protection of traditional dispersed camping areas and limited use of motorized vehicles for big game retrieval.
"Arizona's public lands are the key to developing, managing and sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and high quality habitats within the state," said Ryna Rock, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.
"As Arizona's population continues to grow, our national forests are vitally important for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and watching wildlife."
In Arizona, registered Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) have grown from 51,453 in 1998 to 230,000 in 2006.
It is estimated that there are more than 350,000 OHVs in the state, including unregistered users.
"Our wildlife populations and habitats are threatened by the proliferation of roads and illegal OHV uses that are occurring on our public lands," said Steve Clark, president of the Arizona Elk Society.
"The Forest Service Travel Management Planning process provides a great opportunity to ensure that our public lands are managed for generations to come, providing essential wildlife habitat and countless recreation opportunities for Arizona's citizens," said Jeff Collins, president of Arizona Council for Trout Unlimited.
Sportsmen and women, and recreational users across Arizona need to become very active to ensure that wildlife habitats across Arizona are enhanced, protected and scientifically managed for the future, the three said.