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Elk Harvest Management Strategy
 
Beginning in April 2002, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Elk Harvest Management Strategy Rulemaking Team conducted a series of public meetings to gather comments on several proposed rule changes.

In addition to public review of proposed rule amendments, the team asked the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council (GRRC) and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to review the preliminary drafts as well. Subsequent to comments received, the Game and Fish team has made several changes to the original proposed amendments to R12-4-115. The proposed changes to this rule create the “Hunter Pool” and “Population Management Hunt” procedures that have been recommended to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

The department is requesting public review and comment on the recent changes from the initial proposal. The department is mailing the new draft rule language to those individuals that attended early public meetings and provided comment on the initial draft of the Rule.

The Elk Harvest Management Strategy Rulemaking Team is conducting two additional public meetings to solicit comment on the recent proposed changes. The public will have an opportunity to discuss issues and comment on this recent proposed draft rule language. All comments concerning the proposed amendment to R12-4-115 will be accepted through Aug. 1.

Any questions about the rulemaking process or comments concerning the proposed draft rule language can be sent to Dana Yost, Director’s Office at (623) 236-7271, or by e-mail at rulemaking@gf.state.az.us. Final draft rule language will be presented to the commission at its Aug. 9 meeting in Flagstaff, AZ.

Date Location (Note: All meetings begin at 7 p.m.)

July 29, 2002
Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region II Office
3500 S. Lake Mary Road, Flagstaff, AZ – 7 p.m.

July 30, 2002
Arizona Game and Fish Department Region I Office
2878 E. White Mountain Blvd., Pinetop, AZ – 7 p.m.

The proposed revised elk rules are available in their entirety as a PDF document by following the link below.

Proposed Revised Elk Rules [PDF, 59 kb]

Comments about the Department's Elk Harvest Management Strategy and the draft rule language may be submitted by e-mail: rulemaking@gf.state.az.us
 
2002 Elk Harvest Management Strategy Rulemaking
Preliminary Economic Impact Summary
R12-4-101. Definitions
R12-4-102. Fees for Licenses, Tags, Stamps, and Permits
R12-4-107. Bonus Point System
R12-4-114. Issuance of Nonpermit-tags and Hunt Permit-tags
R12-4-609. Commission Orders; Emergency Seasons

Rule changes proposed for R12-4-101, 102, 107, 114, and 609 are largely administrative in nature, made necessary by additional rule changes in this package. The only costs of the proposed changes are those associated with the rulemaking process itself. The Department will benefit from consistent implementation of associated rule changes, while the public will benefit from having improved rules that are clear, concise, and more easily understandable. No political subdivisions of the state will be impacted either positively or negatively. Similarly, no impact to small businesses is anticipated as a result of the draft rule changes to R12-4-101, 102, 107, 114, and 609.

R12-4-104. Application Procedures for Issuance of Hunt Permit-tags by Drawing

Summary of the anticipated economic impact for the various proposed rule changes for R12-4-104:
- The proposed rule change to allow an applicant to apply for a hunt permit-tag electronically over the Internet is an administrative change only, designed to facilitate the sale of hunt permit-tags over the Internet. This proposed change will benefit customers by giving them another option for applying for hunt permit-tags. It will likewise benefit the Department and the applicant by automating the application process, reducing application errors, and thereby reducing the volume of mail and walk-in traffic to Department offices.

- The draft rule change recommendation to clarify the issuing of hunt permit-tags in the case of Department error is designed to provide clear notice to the public about the Department’s policy for the issuing of these tags. The proposed rule change will benefit the public and the Department by clarifying this issue, and no economic impact beyond the cost of the rulemaking is anticipated.

- The draft rule change recommendation to revise existing subsection (C)(9)(b) to clarify and simplify the regulations for genera that have multiple hunts within a single calendar year is designed to give the Commission and the Department maximum flexibility in the scheduling of hunting opportunities. If additional hunting opportunities are made available at some future date as a consequence of this rule change, the public will benefit from increased recreational choices, and the Department may see an increase in revenue from the increased sale of licenses and permits.

R12-4-115. Depredation Hunts
The proposed rule changes to R12-4-115 will establish a hunter pool for supplemental hunts for the purposes of achieving habitat or population management objectives. The proposed rule change will allow hunters to be used to quickly remove elk that are negatively impacting private property or habitat, resulting in landowners or land management agencies getting relief from the problems being caused by elk. The implementation of the proposed rulemaking will enhance the Department's ability to meet population and habitat management objectives. The Department will incur limited additional costs to issue restricted nonpermit-tags and to provide law enforcement personnel to oversee supplemental hunts. Equipment and employees to complete these tasks are already in place, so the increased costs to the Department will be minimal. The proposed rule changes will impose no new requirements on small businesses, but will instead enable small businesses to provide additional goods and services to hunters. The proposed rule changes will streamline the process the Department uses to place hunters in the field, and should ultimately result in reduced costs for the Department's elk management efforts.
 
Proposed Strategies To Decrease Elk Conflicts
Five percent of Arizona’s elk population are causing the majority of conflicts with other land uses. Arizona wildlife officials want to alleviate that trend.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission March 24 approved the department moving forward to continue refining proposed alternative elk management strategies - both short-term and long-term - aimed at accomplishing that goal.

The short-term strategies developed by Game and Fish Department biologists entail increasing hunt-permit tags in “limited elk population areas” this year to address private land issues, potential conflicts with other wildlife species, or to direct harvest at resident elk residing yearlong on winter range. Those increases are being incorporated into the hunt package that comes before the commission for approval at its April 21 public meeting in Phoenix.

Assistant Director Mike Senn, Field Operations Division, advised that the public will have opportunity to comment on the proposed elk hunt increases during the April Commission meeting.

“These proposed management strategies are not locked in concrete, with either the short-term or the long-term ones. The long-term strategies are just that - long term. Between now and when they are fully implemented down the road, we will ensure plenty of opportunity for public input. On some of the proposals that would require regulatory changes, it could take up to two years to implement,” Senn advised.

Senn told the commission that the top elk managers in the state were assembled into an “Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team” to examine all the department systems, regulations and processes.

“The team was asked to look outside the way things are done now, and put their ideas on paper detailing how to provide maximum flexibility to elk managers for reducing or relieving conflicts, while still retaining a quality elk population,” Senn said.

The team leader, Richard Remington, who is the Pinetop regional supervisor, explained that the Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team developed short-term strategies within existing regulatory and hunt frameworks, and long-term strategies including those that would require some sort of regulatory changes or significant process modifications in the future.

Many ideas the committee explored and incorporated into the plans came from the public during past public meetings. “This is obviously a long-standing issue. We have received a wealth of public comment and ideas in the past, and these management proposals will no doubt generate even more input. The management strategies will continue to evolve. The team did a great job of giving us a full range of alternatives to work with,” Senn said.

Various commissioners congratulated the team on coming up with such a detailed, comprehensive and flexible package of proposed elk management alternatives. They suggested the department let the public know the vast amount of elk management experience represented on the Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team.

“I don’t know how many years of experience all the team members have combined, but just four of us add up to more than a century’s worth,” Remington responded.

This year’s alternative hunt management package is aimed at significantly reducing elk numbers on or adjacent to private land, or to meet public land resource issues such as aspen regeneration protection.

The “Limited Elk Population Hunts,” if adopted by the commission in April, will be identified as such in this year’s hunt proclamation and regulations to aid hunters in identifying these hunts while filling out their elk permit-tag applications.

The elk strategies team defined “Limited Range Populations” as those in areas where the presence of elk is not essential to the long-term maintenance of elk populations, or where management of other species is a higher priority.

Game Branch Chief Tice Supplee, who also served on the team, explained to the Commission that this year’s alternative elk management strategy increases elk permits by approximately 1,500 in new “limited elk population hunt” areas over what was originally proposed in this year’s hunt package. Overall increases to elk permits will total more than 4,000 from last year.

Senn advised that Limited Elk Population Hunts can be challenging and lower hunter success is expected. “These will not be our typical quality hunts. That is why we recommend excepting these hunts from consideration as juniors-only hunting possibilities, and from the formula for allocating hunt-permit tags by weapon type.”

The commission also approved the department to continue refining - through an open public process - a proposed statewide elk management strategy whereby all areas occupied by elk would be analyzed under standard criteria and classified into one of three separate management zones. These elk management zones include:

1. Standard Population Management. These areas comprised the majority of elk habitat in the state. These are areas where the presence of elk is desired for the long-term maintenance of elk populations. The management objective is to maintain elk populations at levels that provide diverse recreational opportunities while avoiding adverse impacts to the species, its habitat, or the habitat of other wildlife, and with “minimal substantiated depredation complaints.”

2. Winter Range Population Management. These are winter range areas within standard population management where the presence of spring, summer, and fall elk populations results in unacceptable levels of conflict with other public or private resources. These zones will be managed for winter elk use only. The management objective is to “substantially reduce or eliminate” spring through fall elk populations to enhance habitat quality for wintering elk and reduce other conflicts.

3. Limited Range Population Management. These are areas (5 percent of the total Arizona elk habitat) where the presence of elk is not essential to the long-term maintenance of elk populations, or where management of other species is a higher priority. Elk populations within limited population management zones will be managed for “minimum levels of conflict” with other public or private sources. This can result in maintaining low population densities, or eliminating populations as deemed appropriate.

Each proposed management zone has specific management objectives and harvest alternatives that can be “selected” to achieve specific elk population management objectives.

“The three zones also have specific goals regarding private land and conflict resolution, along with proposed action alternatives that may be selected to address conflicts,” Remington advised.

However, he added, to completely implement the new guidelines will take some regulatory changes or modifications. The public hearing process for changing or modifying regulations can take a year or more to accomplish.

The commission also approved a plan for informing the public about what is being proposed, and why. The outreach plan also has short-term and long-term components.

“In the short term, we need to inform the public about what is coming before the commission at the April meeting, and why. For the long term, we also have a challenge,” said Assistant Director Jim Burton, Information and Education Division.

Burton explained that the alternative elk management package is complex. “We will do whatever is necessary so that our customers can understand what is being proposed, how it will work, and why it is deemed necessary.”

The “Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team Report” is available in its entirety as a PDF document by following the link below.

Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team Final Report [PDF, 260 kb]
 
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