Special Habitat Designation Bad For Roosevelt And Those Who Enjoy Its Use

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Almost everyone in the Rim Country recognizes Dennis Pirch as a highly renowned and well-liked former Payson High School teacher and wrestling coach who has been enshrined in the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame and was once the National High School Wrestling Coach of the Year.

It is also common knowledge that he is a deeply spiritual man who often dedicates his time and energy to helping those in need.

In retirement, he has worked as an outdoor columnist for the Payson Roundup and teaches part time at the Gila County alternative school in Payson.

What some might not know about the venerable former teacher and coach is that he is an accomplished hunter and angler with a deep interest in conservation and the preservation of the outdoor way of life in Arizona.

Simply put, coach Pirch has his finger on the pulse of Arizona when it comes to stewardship, sustainability, wildlife management and the longtime management of our state’s resources.

Knowing that, Extra Points is today publishing a position statement that coach Pirch recently penned concerning a possible action by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider closing a portion of the eastern shoreline of Roosevelt Lake.

He writes:

The eastern shoreline of Roosevelt Lake has long been a place to get away from the crowds for many outdoor enthusiasts. The numerous coves with often-sandy shorelines are perfect for the weekend campers who enjoy water sports and a little privacy. The eastern side is also perfect for those families who want to beach their boats and have the always-popular shoreline picnic and play in the water. Well, this could all change with a pending decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency making the water’s edge critical habitat for the Willow Flycatcher.

If this area is determined to be critical habitat, then it will be off limits for a multitude of interests that will have a negative impact on outdoor activities and overall usage by the thousands of visitors who frequent Roosevelt Lake throughout the year because of the mild Southwestern climate. There is an obvious correlation between number of visitors to the lake and the recreational dollars that are generated in Tonto Basin, Payson and Globe.

Roosevelt Lake has been a magnet for all of the water sports because of the opportunity to find some privacy on the eastern side of the lake away from much of the highway crowds along State Route 188.

The generous fall and winter quail season has just begun in Arizona and the eastern side of Roosevelt Lake is considered one of the best areas in the entire state! Much of the best hunting is along the waters edge in many of the secluded coves that can be reached by trails off of the A-Cross Road. If this is designated as critical habitat for the Willow Flycatcher, then quality bird hunting and all those weekendquail camps on the eastern side of the lake will be denied access.

Those hunters who were fortunate enough to draw a Unit 23 mule deer tag could also be negatively impacted in future years. Some of the biggest bucks live near the water in the shallow, brushy canyons because of ample water and food sources. Mule deer hunters can be denied access to some of the best hunting in the unit and central Arizona.

The water level in Roosevelt Lake fluctuates drastically with snowpack and overall usage in the Phoenix area. Consequently, the water line is constantly changing, which does not allow cottonwood trees to grow on most of the shoreline on Roosevelt Lake. Cottonwoods are considered important to the Willow Flycatcher. The possible action by U.S. Fish and Wildlife is an unnecessary move, which will negatively impact anglers, campers, hunters, water sports enthusiasts, and other outdoor recreations on Roosevelt Lake. Also keep in mind, these thousands of yearly visitors spend money in many of the local businesses in the surrounding area.

It is not too late for citizens to express concerns about the plan. Send a statement to the following address: e-mail www.fws.gov and click on public questions or call 1-800-344-WILD (9453) then press 3, then press 0. Hard copy letters will also be accepted at: Public Comments Processing Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2011-053; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive; MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. This decision will have a far-reaching negative impact on the future of Roosevelt Lake.

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