Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Hunters: did a cow get your turkey or elk?
BLUE AZ -- While hunting wild turkey this week in the Centerfire Creek area, on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Alpine Ranger District (AZ Game & Fish Unit 27), I encountered a situation where a rancher may have put cattle on a public lands area nearly two weeks too early, in possible violation of the permit.
This harmed wildlife habitat and my hunt. It may also be another example of some ranchers, and perhaps the US Forest Service, not playing by the rules in wolf country, which causes avoidable conflicts.
I have a phone message in to the Forest Service's Alpine District Ranger about it, and also discussed the problem with the AZGFD Regional Supervisor in Pinetop.
If you or I were caught hunting out-of-season, we'd be punished to the max and lose our hunting and fishing privileges. Ranchers that ignore or violate the terms of their public lands leases should also face max penalties, and lose their grazing permits.
UPDATE, 10/9: I got a call back and talked with the District Ranger today, and it seems the problem is with an overly permissive USFS. In a weak response, he told me he has 'flexibility' with the grazing permit. It seemed he generally was most supportive of ranching over conservation or other National Forest uses. He didn't seem to care as much about how the early livestock turn-out he allowed harmed hunting. I requested, and can only hope, he will more carefully consider habitat concerns next year and keep the cows out at least until the end of fall turkey season. Due to his lame response, I may have to talk about it with his boss, the new A-SNF Forest Supervisor.