Wild Creatures Aren’T Always Good Neighbors


Don’t mess with the elk.That’s the object lesson offered by the strange tale of the renegade elk in today’s paper.

Lori and Jeff Limebeer have enjoyed the wildlife wandering through their front yard in Chaparral Highlands for years. So when a curiously solitary female paused in their front yard and stared impassively at Lori as she watered the flowers, she wasn’t worried. In fact, she got her camera and snapped a few photos.

Abruptly, the elk charged — for reasons that remain mysterious.

The elk knocked her to the ground and started kicking her. Fortunately, Jeff heard his wife’s cries and rushed out of the house in his PJs to drive off the errant elk.

Game and Fish officials say that they will shoot the elk if they can find her, although they admit she will probably disappear into the crowd of normally well-behaved herbivores.

The incident serves as a reminder of the care we must all take in living in Rim Country, where encounters with elk, javelina, deer and even bears, coyotes and mountain lions comes with the territory. Most of us live here precisely because we treasure that pristine sense of wildness exemplified by the sight of an elk in the twilight — even the haunting call echoing through the dark trees in the fall.

Many of us came from other places — busy places with traffic jams and acres of asphalt, where you can go all year without once hearing the sound of a stream. Some of us have lived all our lives here, so that the sound of wind through the leaves and the rustle of something moving in the underbrush has become essential. Either way, the natural world that comforts us has its own, necessary rules.

So don’t feed the elk — or the javelina or the deer or the raccoons. Don’t try to turn them into free-ranging pets. Respect the boundaries of their world and of ours.

Maybe that means you can’t have the rose bed you would in some other, tidy, trampled corner of the world. Maybe you must turn the vegetable garden into a fortress — and keep the cat indoors.

So when you settle in Rim Country, you can give up traffic jams, 115-degree summer days and obsessive interest in the crime report.

But up here, you’ve got new neighbors to which you have to adjust. So, please — don’t mess with the elk.

Towns build a relationship

Such a difference a year makes. Well, make that two years. In any case, one of Arizona’s most dysfunctional municipal relationships has been transformed into a remarkable partnership.

We’re talking about the relationship between Payson and Star Valley, who have become partners on issues of vital concerns to their residents.

Star Valley and Payson have climbed into the same lifeboat, when it comes to the building a campus here. Star Valley came to the rescue of the college plan after Gov. Jan Brewer inexplicably vetoed a bill that would have allowed ASU to partner with Payson. Star Valley responded quickly when Payson asked its neighbor to help set up the legal structure that will make the college possible. In return, Star Valley will appoint three of the six members of the board that will actually run the Separate Legal Entity that will act as the landlord for ASU and all the ancillary businesses.

In that case, Star Valley acted with vision and intelligence. Contrast that with Gila County’s weird, ultimately self-defeating reaction to the same offer. The supervisors dithered and so lost a chance to participate.

Star Valley’s efforts to end the overblown water wars with its neighbor offers additional evidence that times have changed. Recall that Star Valley’s incorporation was spurred largely by concerns Payson would use the Tower Well to pump Star Valley’s water table dry.

The shift resulted in Payson’s recent offer to sign an agreement limiting future use of the Tower Well and to turn over three other, so-far-unused wells for the bargain basement price of $100,000.

Council members have raised some legitimate questions. For starters, Star Valley would have to get easements across private land to actually use the three wells. Moreover, the town could have trouble actually selling the water, given Brooke Utilities’ exclusive right to sell water in most areas within the town boundaries.

But those questions miss the point: The agreement will forever set to rest the fear that Payson’s Tower Well will drain the water table. Moreover, once Star Valley solves the access problem, the new wells could provide a backup water supply.

The council majority ultimately voted to continue negotiations with Payson and we hope this will result in an agreement that serves the interests of both towns.

Either way, the growing links between the towns and the increasingly sensible attitudes of the two councils bodes well for Rim Country’s future — where few of the important problems pay much attention to boundaries.


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