The morning sun was slowly beginning to heat up the forest and I was busy trying to finish skinning out my elk before it became too warm. I paused in my work and set down my Havalon knife to once again admire the beautiful animal that lay before me. I am always amazed at the huge size of a mature bull and this one was no different. The forest seemed to have a magical quality as I went about performing the ritual that had played out for so many generations before me. As I was thinking about my part in this life cycle a voice from directly behind me shattered the stillness. “Damn boy, that’s 3 for 3 out of this here unit for you!” I darn near had a heart attack from the scare as I whirled to see my old friend “BB” staring at us from the top of the hill. “Damn “BB”, don’t sneak up on me like that. You scared the crap out of me!” “BB” started chuckling and moved down the hill toward me. He carefully looked at the animal at my feet and pronounced, “He was a darn fine bull. A couple more years and he would have been a real contender for being top bull on the reservation side of the fence.” Now my curiosity was hiked up by that statement. “What the heck are you talking about “BB” I asked? Continue reading
Just prior to the end of June “BB” sent a message by text that he wanted to meet in an unusual place. He asked that we meet just outside the Black Mesa Ranger District offices. To say that my curiosity was piqued would be an understatement. The meeting time was scheduled for a full moon, so I knew that a midnight meet was possible. Considering that it was on a Monday night and that the folks in Heber roll up their sidewalks after dark, I knew that “BB” felt safe. I wondered long and hard on the ride up what he was up to. Meeting in what constitutes downtown Heber meant I did not need the Tundra, so with fuel savings in mind I headed up the Beeline in my Prius.
The Arizona Elk Society is well-known in Arizona both for their fundraising prowess, and their ability to get large numbers of hard-working volunteers rallied for a variety of important habitat projects throughout the year. What you may not know though is that the AES is increasing their effectiveness and their efficiency in planning projects by building close working relationships with the various agencies responsible for habitat and wildlife.
We caught up with Tom Runyon of the US Forest Service. Tom is the Hydrologist for the Flagstaff and Mogollon Rim Ranger Districts, in the Coconino National Forest.
How long have you been working with AES? I started my career with the Forest Service roughly 1 year and 8 months ago. Not long after joining the Forest Service, I began interacting with AES so I would say I’ve been working with them for 1 1/2 years.
What are some of the major success stories regarding your partnership with the AES? In the short time I have been working with AES, we have accomplished much including refurbishment of three exclosures which limit impacts to wetlands from ungulates, reconstruction of a ¼ mile fence to prevent vehicle access to a meadow, removal of miles of downed livestock fencing, and thinning of conifers which are encroaching on meadows. Our future efforts will focus on stabilizing stream channels and restoring riparian stream conditions in the Buck Springs area of East Clear Creek.
Is this type of relationship with a conservation group like AES pretty unique? AES is unique in terms of the resources they are able to bring to bear on conservation projects. Last summer, some 150 volunteers spent two days removing fence and thinning conifers in meadow systems during an annual AES-sponsored work event. I have worked with numerous conservation groups but have never seen such a huge response to a volunteer event. What truly amazed me was the level of organization that went into this effort. AES provided all the food and tools for the weekend event so that the ability to accomplish work was maximized.
What are the advantages of working so closely with the AES? With shrinking Federal budgets, the ability to accomplish on-the-ground restoration projects with in-house resources is extremely limited. AES greatly extends the Forest Service’s ability to get work done. Not only are they able to draw upon a huge membership base but they form partnerships with other conservation groups to further extend their conservation efforts. AES recently partnered with Arizona Audubon Society to apply for a grant to conduct stream channel restoration efforts at Buck Springs on the Coconino National Forest. They routinely work with groups such as the Boy Scouts to coordinate service projects that benefit habitat conservation and improvement. The aforementioned ¼ mile fence reconstruction effort to protect a meadow was accomplished through AES’s interaction with a Boy Scout troop.
The Arizona Elk Society continues to do necessary, effective work in the wild lands of Arizona by raising badly needed funds, recruiting and organizing volunteers to do the work and forging relationships with the agencies that are custodians of our resources.