20 Mar 2008, 2:11am
Homo sapiens
by admin

Wilderness, a sportsman’s view

By Byron Delk and Ralph Ramos, for the Las Cruces Sun-News [here]

Man has become part of the landscape as much as the absence of man was in historical times. The mere presence of wilderness will not change the dynamics of wildlife populations. There are other factors, which include the state’s authority and management of wildlife and predators, the presence or absence of yearly precipitation, and the enhancement or absence of habitat management, that will alter such dynamics. Wilderness will affect access. Access is only one issue that will alter populations, but, if wilderness and access are indistinguishable, there are now historical details worthy of investigation.

Arizona’s Department of Game and Fish has compiled a document entitled “Comprehensive Historical Perspective of the Department’s Activities that have been Restricted Resulting from Special Land Designations and Anticipated Future Restrictions.” Every sportsman should seek a copy and read it. A summary of the contents is described in a quote that appears in the historical section that says, “The Arizona Game and Fish Department has experienced restrictions resulting from Special Land Designations (wilderness) including project delays, increased costs, (and) increased man hours. This ultimately leads to decreased efficiency in protecting and managing Arizona’s wildlife resources.” The document describes 16 pages of project derailments dealing with federal land agencies in wilderness areas.

Conflicts include the Paria Canyon Wilderness desert sheep herd that was exposed to predator threat when forced to travel long distances to water because the BLM reneged on an agreement to place water in that area. In the Aravaipa Wilderness, AGFD was denied helicopter access when they needed to determine what was causing a die-off of desert bighorns. Water projects in the Harcuvar, Maricopa Complex, Juniper Mesa, Paiute, and other areas have been denied after initial agreements prior to wilderness designation. Winter grid surveys of deer in the Kanab Creek area of the Kaibab have been discontinued because AGFD was disallowed placement of visual references in that wilderness, and bat populations in a major cave in the Superstition Wilderness are continuing to decline because the department is not allowed to place a simple gate to control human access. Perhaps what is more appalling is the legal action taken by Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and other groups (all related to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance) to deny the maintenance of 16 water sources in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

It would be no different in our county if wilderness is created. As sportsmen, we can only wish for another time, but 2008 has arrived and we must deal with realities. Water development, habitat enhancement, managed access, and sportsmen and land owner relationships are going to figure prominently in our aims to improve quality sporting opportunities. Wilderness will only affect one of those aspects.

Our group was formed because we have differing opinions of what constitutes good management. We are not caught up in the romance of wilderness and we believe that better results can be achieved when all management options are available. We want stakeholder unity and historical uses perpetuated. We believe in science and we want to be able to implement that science on our grasslands. Wilderness will disallow that. Water and cattle are united. Without the cattle in our system, the water will go away. We want water distribution expanded. Wilderness will disallow that. If the public believes in global warming they had better be aware that carbon dioxide is a factor in brush expansion. We want to control creosote, mesquite, and tar bush expansion. Wilderness will disallow that. Protected structure and waters, enhanced management, and limited seasonal access are needed for the health of wildlife. We want to be able to partner with stakeholders and spread the cost of projects to accomplish that. Wilderness will disallow that.

The fact is, wilderness has been altered from the original expectations of Leopold. He was a hunter, fisherman, and horseman who warned against the commercialization of the pure pursuit of such activities. It would be interesting to see his reaction to the modern day commercial pursuit of wilderness itself. It, the commercialization of wilderness creation, has become big business. We see that for what it is and it has nothing to do with the health and future of our wildlife. We must work to disallow that.

Byron Delk and Ralph Ramos are co-chairmen of the Mesilla Valley Sportsman’s Alliance.

See also, People for Preserving Our Western Heritage [here]



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