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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials have proposed more than tripling the current number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest and greatly expanding the area they can roam.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it would finalize a decision in January for changes to a reintroduction program that has stumbled through legal battles, illegal shootings, politics and other programs. The agency said its favored proposal aims to increase the genetic diversity of the wolves, and lessen impacts to ranchers and potential prey on tribal lands.
The wolves currently roam about 7 million acres of federal, tribal and private land in far eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. The proposal increases the number of sites where wolves could be released and eventually will allow the animals to disperse throughout Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate 40 to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ranchers and community leaders in rural areas have opposed expansion efforts, saying that wolves that don't find deer and elk to feed on could turn to livestock and domestic animals instead, said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.
"It's cruel to the animals because there is no prey base," she said. "They are doomed to failure."
Under the Fish and Wildlife proposal, livestock owners could kill any wolf that is biting, wounding or killing livestock on federal land. Pet owners could do the same on on-federal land. Deer and elk on tribal lands also would be protected.
Sherry Barrett, Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the proposal creates a balance between growing the wolf population and the impacts that wolves might have on local communities.
The last count of wolves showed there are a minimum 83 in the wild. Wildlife officials said they would work toward managing a population of 300 to 325 wolves under the proposal that increases the habitat suitable for wolves by nearly four times what's available now. If the population exceeds that number, wolves could be relocated to Mexico, be placed in captivity or killed as a last resort, Barrett said.
"We have several options available," she said.
The target population likely will go up once the Fish and Wildlife Service develops a recovery plan, Barrett said. A coalition of environmental groups recently sued the agency for not crafting and implementing a valid recovery plan with measurable goals for recovery of the wolves in the Southwest.
The proposal to expand the territory for wolves was welcomed by environmentalists who said that wildlife managers need to do more to help the wolves repopulate. But it falls short of including the territory they wanted around the Grand Canyon and in the Southern Rocky Mountains, and short on the target population, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Putting them at 325 is still going to put them in grave danger," he said. "There's no science behind that."
A gray wolf seen north of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona Oct. 27. (AP Photo/Arizona Game and Fish Department)
DES MOINES, Iowa — There's a hole in the wall in Des Moines that's just that: a food joint called Hole in the Wall.
PHOENIX (AP) — An environmental group says it will appeal a judge's ruling that resulted in no special protection for bald eagles nesting in central Arizona.
U.S. District Judge David Campbell issued the ruling earlier this month.
The Center for Biological Diversity had sought federal protection for eagles found in the Sonoran Desert as a distinct population. The group says no other bald eagles live in such a hot and dry environment.
The lawsuit came as a result of a 2012 finding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that said the state's population doesn't contribute significantly to the overall population.
Bald eagles nationwide were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity says the latest Fish and Wildlife finding doesn't align with previous findings.
Chef Zach Gutweiler prepares panang curry fish cakes in his kitchen at the Hole in the Wall, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. A small room inside a bar a few blocks from downtown, Hole in the Wall is the kind of place you could easily miss if you walked by. But if you’re expecting lukewarm hot dogs or overcooked burgers, you’ve come to the wrong place. As Gutweiler explains it, Hole in the Wall offers high-end street food. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Panang curry fish cakes prepared by chef Zach Gutweiler sit ready to be served in the Hole in the Wall, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. A small room inside a bar a few blocks from downtown, Hole in the Wall is the kind of place you could easily miss if you walked by. But if you’re expecting lukewarm hot dogs or overcooked burgers, you’ve come to the wrong place. As Gutweiler explains it, Hole in the Wall offers high-end street food. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — State wildlife officials say another bighorn sheep has died in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.
That means 17 of the 31 bighorns originally relocated from the Yuma area last November now are dead.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is overseeing an effort to rebuild a bighorn herd that disappeared from the Catalinas in the 1990s.
Agency officials say the bighorn found dead Wednesday was a ewe. They say there wasn't any obvious sign of trauma and the cause of death is unknown.
Wildlife officers say most of the previous bighorn deaths were due to mountain lions.
They say 30 of the 31 sheep were outfitted with GPS collars. Twelve of the remaining 13 collared sheep are known to be alive and one of the collars may be malfunctioning.
A Gilbert spa owner wants the U.S. Supreme Court to rule she has a constitutional right to have fish nibble on her customers' toes and charge them for that.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials opened the floodgates at Glen Canyon Dam on Monday, sending water rushing through the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The five-day flood is meant to mimic conditions of the river before the dam was built, because the dam now blocks a majority of the sediment from traveling downstream.
PHOENIX (AP) — The reward has been increased for information leading to determining who shot and killed a desert tortoise near Fountain Hills.
Hannah McAffee, 3, plays a game for a gold fish with her mother, Lisa, at the Arizona State Fair on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014.
Hannah McAffee, 3, plays a game for a gold fish at the Arizona State Fair on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014.
Hannah McAffee, 3, receives a gold fish she won at the Arizona State Fair on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014.
PHOENIX (AP) — The Pajarito Mountains in southern Arizona have some new residents.
Hundreds of Tarahumara frogs were released in a remote canyon Monday after a 40-year absence of the greenish-brown amphibians.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up on the release.
Biologists will monitor the frogs regularly over the next several years.
The frogs can grow up to 4 ½ inches and have small, dark spots on their bodies.
The Game and Fish Department says the frogs had existed in three mountain ranges in Arizona but disappeared from the state in the 1980s. Biologists say severe cold, drought, competition for food, predation, disease and heavy metal poisoning could have factored in to the frogs' disappearance.
With only two weeks of regular-season play to go, your chances to catch a high school game along with some good eats is winding down, so make your plans now to cheer on your local team.
KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) — A $1.1 million effort planned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to improve habitat for mule deer and scaled quail is focused in several parts of the state.
The Kingman Daily Miner reports efforts to improve mule deer habitat are focused on a hunt unit encompassing southern Mohave County in northwestern Arizona and in two hunt areas north and northeast of Phoenix.
The targeted scaled quail habitat is in two hunt units east of Tucson in southeastern Arizona.
The department says both efforts are aimed at restoring wildlife populations that are now dwindling and to meet the demands of both hunters and wildlife watchers.
Department spokesman Bill Andres says the work includes prescribed burns to "reopen and reinvigorate" desert shrub lands that are thick with overgrown vegetation.
PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reopen the comment period for their proposal to designate critical habitat for the western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo.
A 60-day comment period expired Tuesday.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to designate more than 546,000 acres of critical habitat in 80 separate units in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
The yellow-billed cuckoo now is listed as a threatened species.
The bird resides in 12 western states and in Mexico and Canada, but Arizona has the largest population.
A large portion of the yellow-billed cuckoo population lives in southern Arizona around the San Pedro River and at Cienega Creek.
There are about 350 to 495 pairs in the U.S. The bird winters in South America.
Arizona is well known for its Western heritage but it can be easy to get lost in suburbia and urban life as we go about our day-to-day routines. Sometimes it can be rewarding to put on your boots, let your hair down, and kick back. But don’t take my word for it. Check out these five family-friendly places where you and your kin can experience the Old West and get in touch with Arizona’s wild West side.
Gov. Jan Brewer is headed off to Norway and then Ireland this week in hopes of boosting trade with the two countries. Press aide Andrew Wilder said that, no, that doesn't mean more sardines for Arizona.
PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer is headed to Norway, then Ireland this week in hopes of boosting trade with the two countries.
And press aide Andrew Wilder said that, no, that doesn't mean more sardines for Arizona.
"The governor and the Arizona Commerce Authority believe there significant potential for growth to improve trade between Arizona, Norway and Ireland,'' he said. Wilder said Brewer wants to "promote the state as a great place to do business,'' something he said could create new jobs here.
While in Europe, Brewer also will address the Oxford Union Society which bills itself as "the world's most prestigious debating society with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford.''
Wilder said Brewer was invited to give a speech on her efforts to improve Arizona's economy during the global recession along with topics like immigration. And he said she'll also stand for questions.
But he said the main focus is that trade mission.
Her trip, though, also means she will miss the formal opening of a trade office Arizona is opening this coming week in Mexico City. Lawmakers approved funding for that this past session.
Wilder said while Brewer would have liked to attend, the Europe trip, having been postponed from the spring, was already in the works.
Brewer has nothing to lose, as the trade numbers probably have nowhere to go but up.
The U.S. Census Bureau puts Ireland at just No. 24 on the list of places where Arizona exports its product. That's below Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iceland.
And Norway doesn't even make the Top 25.
Wilder said, though, there are signs of improvement.
He said total trade -- both exports and imports -- between Arizona and Norway was $31 million in 2008. By 2013 the figure had risen to $93 million.
"Sardines are not on the Top 10 list,'' he quipped.
There already is a Norwegian presence in Arizona, Wilder said. One is a company called Norsk Hydro, an aluminum supplier. And Aker Solutions, which provides products and services to the oil and gas industry, has employees in Tucson.
Exports to Norway navigational equipment, control instruments and communications gear, along with fabricated metals. Coming here from there, Wilder said, are "a lot of aerospace products and parts.''
But Wilder pointed out that total trade between the United States and Norway totals $350 billion.
"We'd like to get a bigger piece of that pie,'' he said.
The same situation exists with Ireland, said Wilder, with just a miniscule percentage of the national $376 billion annual trade attributable to Arizona.
Wilder acknowledged the kind of investments Brewer might be able to land are a far cry from the big fish that are normally sought, like a deal Brewer made to bring a plant to Mesa to manufacture the sapphire glass for some Apple products. But he said they are no less important.
"These add up,'' he said.
"Not every company is going to be a 5,000-job investment,'' Wilder continued. "But what is going to drive things, too, is getting a lot of these smaller companies to come here.''
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia
APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (AP) — A man whose car went over an Apache Junction cliff near Tortilla Flat is alive after hiking to safety.
Authorities say the man was driving Wednesday night on State Road 88 when he left the roadway near Fish Creek and his vehicle plunged about 300 feet.
The man stayed in his car on Thursday thinking he would be found.
On Friday morning, he exited his vehicle and hiked toward the road.
The man walked what he estimated to be over two miles before a vehicle found him and then drove him to an area where businesses were located in the unincorporated Tortilla Flat community.
He was taken to a Mesa hospital, where he's described as being in stable condition.
The man's name and age haven't been released.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The yellow-billed cuckoo has been disappearing from its home in the Western U.S., a decline that prompted the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to announce Thursday that the bird has been listed as a threatened species.
The yellow-billed cuckoo will now be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The bird resides in 12 western states and in Mexico and Canada, but Arizona has the largest population. There are about 350 to 495 pairs in the U.S., according to the American Bird Conservancy, which says none has been spotted in Oregon, Washington, or Montana recently.
A large portion of the yellow-billed cuckoo population lives in southern Arizona around the San Pedro River and at Cienega Creek, which conservationists also hope will be protected.
"We're gonna have to look at the federal actions that affect the cuckoo, such as grazing," Steve Spangle, who manages the Fish and Wildlife's ecological services field office in Arizona, said. "We're looking forward to working with all the agencies on how we can help the species. It's doing pretty well in Arizona."
But the agency says the once abundant bird has declined in population in large part because of the severe loss of its riparian habitat, dam construction, a growth in agriculture and river flow management and protection efforts. Over-grazing has also contributed.
"While the major threat to yellow-billed cuckoos has been loss of riverside habitat, we do not anticipate any significant new water-related requirements as a result of this listing decision," said Ren Lohoefener, U.S. Fish and Wildlife director for the Pacific Southwest Region.
The agency this year also proposed to make more than 5,000 acres in the upper Cienega Creek, where the birds thrive, a critical habitat, giving it a layer of protection. Conservationists say that area is threatened by a proposed mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.
A final decision will not be made until next year.
The bird winters in South America.
Drawing inspiration from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the talented animators at Laika have done a wonderful job at bringing the strange and grotesque back to animated features in an age of more welcoming digitally animated fair. Their last two films, “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” were some of the most charmingly creepy of this recent resonance of diverse animation. “The Boxtrolls” keeps in the tradition of those movies, being a weird, visually splendid escapade of stop-motion animation. It’s all good fun, although the familiar story often holds it back from ever being a masterpiece.
A new event is coming Sept. 19 to downtown Mesa in the form of Flash Park Friday, with the businesses lining Main Street offering “parks” on the sidewalk next to their storefront that are related to a monthly theme — the first being splash parks. Attendees of all ages will enjoy cooling off on a large water slide and playing in a pop-up splash park free of charge. Other activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to fishing for concert tickets and free giveaways add to the festivities. The event is also pet-friendly, so don’t hesitate to bring Fido along for the fun.