The Arizona Elk Society is regarded as a leader in habitat preservation and projects which greatly benefit wildlife in Arizona. They are effective fundraisers and masters at organizing work projects. Now they need some help.
From fixing fences to repairing water tanks to removal of invasive species, the Arizona Elk Society have made a huge difference in helping Arizona’s wildlife. Their laundry list of projects has gotten so lengthy that now they could use some help. AES Projects are some of the best-kept secrets in Arizona. What better opportunity to get out of the Phoenix heat, do some great work in the fresh air, and make an immediate, measurable impact in helping Arizona wildlife. You don’t even need to be a member of the Elk Society to participate. Old or young, city or country, hunter, hiker or bird-watcher; everyone is welcome to participate!
There are three big projects coming up and the AES would love to get some new volunteers to step up and assist with these projects. These are the Big Three Annual Arizona Elk Society Wildlife Habitat Work Projects. During the year they have other smaller projects for the volunteers but these are the three that typically utilize 75-180 volunteers apiece. All three of these are coordinated with the Arizona Game and Fish and the U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies and organizations, as well as area ranchers.
IDA Grassland Restoration, May 18-19, 2013
Annual Burro Creek/26 Bar Work Project June 8-9, 2013
Annual Buck Springs Work Project July 13-14
We asked AES President Steve Clark how success is measured in projects like these.
“IDA Grassland is a project where success is quantified by the number of acres that we are able to restore. The original plan is to work in an area that has clearance for up to 50,000 acres of mechanical treatment. By providing volunteer labor we can hand cut trees on about 250-350 acres on a weekend and save up to $45,000 of the cost of using machinery to do the work. By using volunteers we are able to find and cut many very small trees that the machines miss or can’t get to.
Burro Creek/26 Bar is a different type of project. Here we have been removing old fence and repairing riparian fences, to quantify this we usually remove up to 10 miles of old, unneeded fence in a weekend and repair up to 10 miles of fence, all with volunteers. By using 135 volunteers we do in one weekend what would have taken a two man crew or range riders many weeks to do. We also install and maintain drinkers at springs and wildlife waters, and maintain fence including the installation of elk jumps, at the same time as part of our 26 Bar Adopt-a-Ranch part of the project.
Buck Springs is similar to Burro Creek as far as quantifying results. Here we do a variety of work. The volunteers remove old fence, which is easy to quantify, in miles of fence. In the past we have removed up to 9 miles on one weekend. We are also hand cutting small trees from riparian draws and meadows to restore the water needed for the riparian areas to function, this we quantify by acres, the number of trees cut, or the fact that that particular riparian area is restored. Now we just need rain. The other part of Buck Springs is the restoration of the creek channels that feed water to the sponge meadows. Many of the channels have eroded with headcuts and other problems. With volunteers we rebuild the channels and restore the functionality of them to slow and control the water to let it have time to dissipate into the ground. Here to quantify we could say that we fixed the channels and now need rain and snowpack to see the results of our labor."
These projects aren’t just spur-of-the-moment, thrown together affairs. They are highly organized, cleared through the appropriate agency and carefully planned, studied and prioritized. "The Burro Creek and Buck Springs projects were chosen and designed as part of the Arizona Elk Society commitments in a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the U.S. Forest Service. Both of these areas were part of a large project whereby the Arizona Elk Society facilitated and funded the retirement of these grazing allotments. There were many reasons for taking this action and all of the areas were valuable elk habitat as well and habitat for a multitude of wildlife including threatened and endangered species. Since we were able to remove cattle and now use these areas for wildlife the AES started these work weekends to restore and improve the habitat that in the long run would allow more elk on the ground. While we are working on our issues in these areas we are also partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to do work in the area including thinning and controlled burns that the AES is funding. More water, better habitat, better feed translates into healthy herds and more elk.
IDA Grassland Restoration which we also call Slates Lakes Grassland Restoration started with a partnership with the Babbitt Ranches in Northern Arizona. The Babbitts have a master plan to restore hundreds of thousands of acres of grasslands that includes helping Elk, Antelope and cattle grazing. The Arizona Elk Society met with the Babbitts and the U.S. Forest Service to provide volunteer labor to help in their venture. We also help fund much of the work that is being done in these areas. The first couple of years we worked on the Coconino National Forest, then the Kaibab National Forest approached the AES and showed us a plan for major grassland restoration on their forest. Since then we have been working on both Forests doing grassland restoration work. The overall plan for these areas encompasses hundreds of thousands of acres."
As mentioned, you don’t have to be a member of the Arizona Elk Society to volunteer or join in the work projects. As a matter of fact, the Elk Society loves having new volunteers come out – Clark says “Many of the volunteers come and help because they feel we are doing important work for the benefit of the land and the wildlife. We welcome everybody including groups of kids from schools, scouts and clubs. Many of the volunteers are from local groups in the areas that enjoy doing community projects. Of course we always hope that the volunteers will become members and support or efforts by joining.”
We asked Steve what one might expect if they have never volunteered on such a project before. “Some of the things to expect at an Arizona Elk Society work project besides the hard work you will need to perform include camaraderie with like-minded volunteers that enjoy hunting, nature, wildlife, the outdoors and giving back. Many friendships have been made at our camps. We make sure that all the volunteers are well fed with all meals being supplied by the AES. Our kitchen staff has received many positive comments for many years about the food. We try to stop early enough so that people can have time to socialize and learn about the AES and meet others. We take a little time talking about why we are there and the short and long term goals of our projects. Hopefully if we didn’t work you hard enough you will have some time to sit around a fire and make friends.”
As projects get more plentiful and more complex, needs begin to change. Clark points out “This year 14 volunteers took a 5 day training course with the U.S. Forest Service to get certified as volunteer Sawyers. The dedication of our volunteers never ends and by these individual getting certifies the Arizona Elk Society will become much more effective on some of the large landscape projects were sawyers have been needed in the past and future. In the past we needed to hire sawyer crews and it was very expensive. With our own trained sawyers we will save money and be much more effective.” He adds “Thank you to all the new AES Sawyers, your dedication is very much appreciated”.
The above projects are the three large landscape volunteer projects that are all lined up and the Arizona Elk Society is working hard to get a fresh influx of volunteers for these projects. They also have many smaller projects throughout the year that include repairing water catchments, installing new water drinkers for wildlife, repairing pipelines that provide water, fixing fences that are a threat to wildlife, installing elk jumps, restoring small meadows in the forest and many other projects. They are very busy in the spring and summer with projects and always have a need for not only volunteers but also funding. The biggest things needed to keep these projects flowing and effective are manpower and money.
So? Interested? Here is how you get involved:
You can learn more about the Arizona Elk Society visit our website, http://www.arizonaelksociety.org. Read all about the direction of the organization, projects and events. Look for the Email Newsletter tab on the right and sign up for our email newsletter, or go to our Facebook page and LIKE us! Pick a date, and attend an event. If you have fun, pick another one! Of course, you can always become a member and enjoy all of our member benefits while still supporting our conservation efforts.