Commission approves budget, dove orders, special big game tags at June meeting

Last week’s Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting proved to be more than just a routine gathering in an air conditioned auditorium during blazing 110-degree June temperatures.

In addition to a full two-day agenda, this marked the last meeting for Commissioner Michael J. Golightly, of Flagstaff, after serving three 5-year terms, the longest-tenured commissioner in Arizona’s history. Golightly is being replaced by incoming Commissioner Norman Freeman from Chino Valley.

Another big change is the departure of Deputy Director Steve Ferrell. Ferrell began his career with the department nearly 30 years ago and will be taking the director position for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Both received accolades and standing applause from the commission and department for their dedicated service and contribution to the resources of Arizona.

Highlighting Friday’s meeting was the approval of the budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, which included increasing and extending the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) funding.

Saturday’s meeting focused on a number of topics.

The special big game hunt license tags, sometimes called commissioners’ tags, were awarded to requesting nonprofit entities for the purpose of raising funds for wildlife conservation. Three tags for each of the following species were allocated: pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, buffalo, elk, javelina, mountain lion, mule deer, white-tailed deer and turkey. The hunting season for those tags, regulated under Commission Order 29, was set for Aug. 15, 2009 – Aug. 14, 2010.

In the small game arena, the commission approved orders 19, 20 and 24 – the 2008-09 hunting season and guidelines for dove, band-tailed pigeons and sandhill cranes. New this year is a juniors-only season for sandhill cranes. Regulations for all three should be available online by the second week of July.

The department briefed the commission on the status of the vendor selection for the online draw and licensing system. The commission scheduled another public meeting for July 3 to further this matter.

The commission awarded $87,550 to six grant applicants from the Shooting Range Grants Program for fiscal year 2009. The grant monies are for the construction, improvement, enhancement, or expansion of public shooting ranges located throughout the state.

The department gave a presentation to the commission about Senate Bill 1552, a new dust abatement law which addresses fugitive dust or “PM-10” emissions within Maricopa County. A new and complicated matter, the law is resulting in ordinances by Maricopa County and the cities within the county to “prohibit vehicle operation on unpaved surfaces that are not a public or private road, street or lawful easement.” The department expressed its concern about how far-reaching this situation is and how it potentially affects Arizonans who enjoy the desert outdoors – with a direct impact on access and use by hunters and other outdoor recreationists. The commission agreed this was a top priority and requested that the department work closely with the county and municipalities to accommodate constituents and keep them informed of the situation.

The commission also set its meeting schedule for 2009-10. Dates are very similar to this year’s meeting dates and will be available online soon.

The next public meeting is August 8-9 in Flagstaff. For the location and detailed agenda, visit www.azgfd.com/commission.