From a Bird Hunter’s perspective Arizona is a fantastic place to enjoy the great outdoors, not only for climate but the amount of Public Lands for people to enjoy is immense.Not to mention 3 species of Huntable Quail and a long Season to go with.Like all things it has problems namely a take it for granted by the Political Powers.For those in the Hunting Community the blame of this attitude is pointed directly at the employees of Arizona Game and Fish.Lets face it, their hands are tied, as a lot of things that we as Conservationists and Hunters wish for are driven by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission which for the most part is made up of Political Appointees Hand Picked by the Governor.
The problem with The Commission is that they are happy with the status quo and lack the vision and leadership to instill on the AZ Game and Fish Department and it’s talented employees to think outside the box.At the same time the self funded Game and Fish Department struggles due to declining license sales which is a longterm concern.However the answers to the Funding are staring the Commission and The Arizona Game and Fish Department in the face.The Commission and most notably the Governor himself needs to look at the Math and make a few “Conservative” business decisions focused around Public Lands and what the Outdoor Recreation Industry (Tourism ) brings into the State for Revenue.
Here is my point(s) and it’s pretty straight forward.The priority usage of Arizona’s public lands has been for Cattle Grazing.The leases are cheap and well below market value,(What it would cost a leasee to rent Privately) this holds true on both State Trust and Federal Lands.So lets call this a subsidized industry that generates roughly 1.1 billion dollars in Revenue for The State,The Outdoor Recreation Industry (not subsidized ) generates well over 200 Billion Dollars annually for the State …thats a BIG difference !
What needs to be done is quit simple.The Arizona Game and Fish Commission needs to make this point to the Governor of The State of Arizona and Public Lands need to be managed for Revenue vs Historical usage. The Ranching Community needs to be rewarded for proper stewardship of The Public Lands they lease which would increase tourism dollars in Arizona.I look to the private sector or Private Ranches in other States namely Texas and Oklahoma to back this point up.Proper range management is implemented because the Landowner or Rancher makes a lot more money via Hunting that they do from Cattle.Most will tell you that they are in The Grass Business.Of course on public lands the Rancher using the land to graze has no skin in that game, his or his concern is Cattle only, some have a tendency to over graze which as we all know is not a good thing for the overall ecosystem.It’s safe to say proper range Management is the correct thing to do.
With the increase in Wildlife,an increase in Outdoor activity would follow.Arizona would become more of a “go to” destination for hunting, birding,hiking and wildlife viewing.Now the Game and fish Department is in a position to increase it’s revenue by selling the experience not just licenses.For example A Mearns Quail Stamp or a Quail Stamp could be easily implemented the funds generated used to offset research and habitat costs.A State Birding License like Oklahoma has would be another source of revenue, once again the funds going to Wildlife Habitat.
Along with the increase in hunting and wildlife viewing license sales comes an increase in guided activities.With all due respect to the Arizona Guiding Industry The current Arizona Hunting Guide License structure is a joke.Game and Fish can easily sort that out and increase revenue at the same time.How? By validating the industry via an Outfitter License and a Guide License,currently there is only a Guide License the cost a measly $300.Lets up that game.Create an Outfitter License which actually costs something,along with proof of insurance, first aid and other compliances.A guide then works for an Outfitter and if he or she wants to become an Outfitter then they take a big step up.Most States work this way.Have a look at how Nevada handles Resident and Non Resident Oufitters .Considering an Outfitter is generating revenue form a public resource I would assume that an Outfitter would not have a problem paying a proper amount to utilize this resource.
Another source of Revenue for AZ Game and Fish could and should be a Wildlife Viewing Guide and Outfitter License which would also validate that industry.Giving the Consumer some confidence in who they hire for activities.Currently this does not exist.
In closing, these are some points that continually pop up during conversations on this topic.To implement would require some vision and leadership from the top down.Starting with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission right up to The Governor.Will it happen ? I wish but I doubt it unless the public gets involved and starts raising their concerns to The Game and Fish Commission directly instead of harping on Game and Fish Employees.