The AZ Star ran these two stories and I’m not sure if the worst part is the dysfunction, mistrust and generally
shitty situation they detail or the quotes from Terry Johnson from the first article. “”If you can conserve a species adequately, without it becoming listed federally, then you can save yourself that regulatory burden of bureaucracy and all of the stuff that comes with it” followed by,””There’s an immediate negative reaction on the part of any freedom-loving American who does not want to be constrained by government and dictated to by government. Regulatory approaches tend to feed existing hostilities and keep them alive forever.” I understand the points he was making about the difficulty of working with varying groups, but really, is that the kind of thing you want to hear from someone described as the “Endangered Species Coordinator” for Arizona Game and Fish (i.e. a representative of state government)? Doesn’t his job entail dealing with those constraints, burdens and other issues to help protect endangered species? Those two quotes just clanged when I read them and I hope they don’t represent more than his opinion, because it seems to me that if your top endangered species employee seems to be worrying about “freedom-loving Americans” & “regulatory approaches” then el tigre is screwed in the US. Just my humble opinion.
Jaguar team ceases work amid disputes, big cat’s death
By Tim Steller
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.18.2009
The team formed to help the endangered jaguar survive in Arizona and New Mexico has ground to a standstill.
The Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team has struggled for years because of standoffs between environmentalists and ranching interests and perceptions of bias in the team’s leadership. But perhaps the knockout blow was the death this year of the last known wild jaguar in the United States.
The team, formed in 1997, has ceased activities altogether, canceling two meetings this year because of the ongoing criminal investigation over the March 2 death of the jaguar known as Macho B.
But long before Feb. 18, when the old jaguar stepped into a snare in the wilderness between Arivaca and Nogales, many participants had left the team, some questioning its commitment to helping an endangered species recover. The perception that it had become all talk and no action was captured by the nickname some use for the group — Jaguar Conversation Team.
“Initially, things seemed very positive,” said Tony Povilitis, a conservation biologist from Willcox who joined the team at the start and worked on maps of potential jaguar habitat. “As the years went on, there was more and more resistance to doing the habitat conservation work, to the point where essentially nothing got done.”
The frustration was mutual for some people worried that ranchers’ rights to use their own property could be curtailed by efforts to protect jaguars’ habitat or reintroduce them.
“It had very laudable objectives,” said Warren “Bud” Starnes, a policy specialist for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture in Las Cruces. “But the enviros started pressing and pressing and pressing, trying to get maps of habitat. Then they started threatening lawsuits.”
Terry Johnson of Arizona Game and Fish, who has chaired the team since its beginning, acknowledged the team’s shortcomings in an interview this month. But he said it has had key achievements despite rocky political terrain.
“It’s really tough to operate somewhat in the center — not necessarily straight down the middle, but to borrow the best from the left and the best from the right … and try to develop that magic concoction that ultimately works to benefit the jaguar and the people.”
Jaguars labeled endangered
The Jaguar Conservation Team was formed to stave off the possible listing of the jaguar as endangered in the United States after two jaguar sightings in 1996 — of Macho B in Southern Arizona’s Baboquivari Mountains and another jaguar in southwestern New Mexico’s Peloncillo Mountains.
The U.S. government had already listed the jaguar as endangered in Mexico, but it had not dealt with the jaguars seen in Arizona and New Mexico, on the far northern fringe of the largely tropical animal’s range.
Povilitis and his students in a University of California-Santa Cruz field program requested that the jaguar be listed as endangered in the United States in the early 1990s, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the listing in 1994. In 1996, Arizona Game and Fish officials conceived of the conservation team in part to convince the service that listing was unnecessary, Johnson said.
“If you can conserve a species adequately, without it becoming listed federally, then you can save yourself that regulatory burden of bureaucracy and all of the stuff that comes with it,” Johnson said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the jaguar as endangered anyway in July 1997, three months after the first conservation team meeting. The service acknowledged the team, but said its voluntary nature meant it could take a long time to reduce the danger of the jaguar becoming extinct. Yet, from that point on, the service deferred to the team as the lead group working toward jaguar protection and recovery.
Johnson and others went to work persuading “stakeholders” — ranchers, environmental groups, government agencies and others — to join the team and pursue “collaborative conservation” rather than regulatory dictates. “There’s an immediate negative reaction on the part of any freedom-loving American who does not want to be constrained by government and dictated to by government,” Johnson said. “Regulatory approaches tend to feed existing hostilities and keep them alive forever.”
The team’s first order of business was to establish a dialogue, something Johnson cites as a key accomplishment. Indeed, people from different sides of the issue who would not have known each other otherwise ended up working together, said Wendy Glenn, a Douglas-area rancher who also helps lead the conservationist Malpai Borderlands Group.
It also began with ambitions such as mapping potential jaguar habitat, pursuing agreements with landholders to protect such lands, monitoring jaguar occurrences and educating the public.
The early years brought some successes. In 2001, team member Jack Childs formed the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project and placed motion-sensing cameras along possible jaguar trails. He captured the first photo of a U.S. jaguar in the wild in December 2001, then got dozens of photos of at least two different jaguars in Southern Arizona.
In 2003, the team’s education committee finished a jaguar curriculum for students in grades 4 through 8 and distributed hundreds of copies. That, along with Childs’ photos, spread awareness of the jaguar, the top predator in its range and the only roaring cat in the Americas.
Some of the team’s activities became mired in talk. The habitat committee produced several maps of potential jaguar habitat in Arizona and New Mexico, using criteria such as vegetation types, human population and the abundance of prey. Povilitis threw himself into this work, he said, but the broader team did not formally accept them.
Ranching interests questioned the validity and use of the maps. One map, said rancher Judy Keeler of Hidalgo County, in New Mexico, laid out corridors for the jaguar to use.
“My house is in one of the corridors. I’ve never seen a jaguar here,” she said.
The discussion of habitat recommendations was set for April 2006 in Lordsburg, N.M. More than 20 representatives of separate Soil and Water Conservation districts in New Mexico showed up, recruited by ag specialist Starnes, and asked for voting privileges. Under the team’s structure, only government agencies are allowed to vote, and chairman Johnson said he had to accept them as voting members.
The new voting members helped reject and put off long-discussed recommendations made by the habitat committee.
“These are guys who had not participated before and had votes. We who had been participating all along had no say-so whatsoever,” said Shiloh Walkosak, a Tucsonan who had been volunteering with the jaguar detection project.
In the end, the team agreed on a more limited “emphasis area” for jaguar conservation that includes parts of 11 counties in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. But even that bothers Starnes, who said he thinks there should be a much more limited area recognized, where jaguars have actually been seen in recent years.
The word “habitat” has largely been set aside, said Michael Robinson of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, which has sued several times over jaguar protection.
“At every juncture, there was an effort to limit the scope, the scale and impact of any kind of action to preserve jaguar habitat,” he said.
Participants also clashed over the issue of whether to try to put a radio collar on a jaguar.
At the same 2006 meeting, the team recommended efforts be made to collar a jaguar to learn where it roams, what it eats, how it interacts with humans and other information.
Walkosak, then an employee of the Reid Park Zoo who worked with its jaguars, argued the risks were too great. The benefits of a radio collar are clear, she said, but with so few jaguars in the United States, she argued the risks of capturing one were too great. “Once the discussion started toward collaring, it (the team) immediately split into two factions,” she said.
The split prompted two original members of the scientific advisory committee, Brian Miller and Howard Quigley, to write a letter saying the team was bogged down in political debates and losing focus on the jaguar.
“The ‘best available science’ must override parochial issues, or recovery will be delayed. As an example, a recovery team could resolve the nine-year-long debate over the jaguar habitat model,” they wrote.
Yet three years later, the argument persists. And Johnson and others say in a draft “conservation assessment” for the jaguar, now under review, that the problem may be the opposite. The team, they said, “tends to focus too much on jaguars and not enough on the human dimension on which success of borderlands jaguar conservation depends.”
Conservation vs. recovery
The goal of the team listed in its existing “Jaguar Conservation Framework” is simple: “Conserve jaguars in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.” But “conservation” has become a fudge word, Povilitis argues.
“There was never clear talk about jaguar recovery,” he said. “What they were talking about was something else. It was called jaguar conservation, not recovery. … Conservation can be narrowly interpreted, and in this case it was.”
Johnson and others say that the best place for jaguar-recovery efforts is in Mexico, where a breeding population lives about 140 miles south of Douglas. If jaguars survive in Mexico, he said, some will likely make their way north of the border.
Sergio Avila, a Mexican-born biologist who lives in Tucson, said the emphasis on recovery in Mexico goes to the heart of the team’s problem. The team has never fully accepted the jaguar is an endangered species in the United States, and actions must be taken under federal law to help it recover here, said Avila, of the Sky Island Alliance.
“There should be a recovery plan for the jaguar, and this should be led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Avila said.
Indeed, pressure is building for the service to intervene. The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the service, demanding that it establish critical habitat and put a recovery plan in effect. The service is under a court order to make a new decision on these issues by January.
Ranchers would likely oppose the federal government’s involvement, rancher Keeler said, citing recent conflict along the Arizona-New Mexico border over the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf.
“As the regulations increase, you make more demands on the property owners. In some instances, they could lose the use of their property,” she said.
From the time of listing, the service has largely deferred to the conservation team in working to help the jaguar. But leaders of the team said this month their powers to act in defense of jaguars — by, for instance, changing the way certain lands are used — are limited.
The team, Johnson said, “is not an advocacy organization. It’s not intended to hound the individual agencies to move forward with those sorts of things. You make people aware, then the agencies are expected to do the right thing.”
Jaguar-tracking data hard to come by from Game and Fish
By Tony Davis
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.18.2009
The Arizona Game and Fish Department paid a nonprofit group about $65,000 to gather information about jaguars in the past five years, but hasn’t gotten raw data to show for it.
The Arizona Daily Star has made separate requests under the Arizona Public Records Act for two kinds of information about the behavior of jaguar Macho B in the wild. One is for data indicating the specific locations where the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project took pictures of the since-deceased Macho B and other jaguars in the wild in Southern Arizona.
The other is for satellite-transmitted data showing when and where Macho B traveled during the 12 days he wore a radio collar in late February and early March following his Feb. 18 capture.
This information is important to help authorities and the public understand where jaguars live and what areas should be protected in their name, according to a critic of the state agency.
In reply, the agency has said two things: originally, that it didn’t have such data, and later, that it had already given it to the Star.
In both cases, the Star was seeking precise locations of the jaguar, stated as geographic coordinates, to help with map-making and other purposes. For the radio-tracking data, the paper also sought an electronic chart of the data showing the dates, times and coordinates of where the jaguar had traveled.
The state agency had originally given the Star 18 of the 85 photos that the jaguar detection group had taken of jaguars through 2008. It also sent the paper a map made by the jaguar detection group indicating where the satellite data showed the animal had traveled while collared.
But in explaining why Game and Fish couldn’t give the paper the actual radio collar data, the agency’s Marty Fabritz wrote the Star last March that, “The keepers of all the data is the BJDP. Borderland Jaguar Detection Program (Project). They are a private entity. . . .”
The data sought by the Star should be public records, if the detection project is supported in whole or in part by Game and Fish, said Dan Barr, a Phoenix attorney for the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit group that represents media organizations in Arizona.
“They surely have control over it and can get a copy,” Barr said of Game and Fish. “I find it incredible that the state has spent $65,000 for this information, and they’re claiming they can’t get control of it.
“If the governor said, ‘I want a copy of this report right away,’ would these people say no?” said Barr, referring to the jaguar detection project.
The jaguar detection project has been photographing jaguars — mainly but not exclusively Macho B — since 2001. It has used remote sensor cameras that record jaguars, other wild animals and, occasionally, people, as they pass by.
The cameras were placed along game trails and near water sources likely to be used by large cats, project founders Jack and Anna Childs wrote in their book, “Ambushed on the Jaguar Trail.” By last year, the project had 45 to 50 camera stations in Southern Arizona, said the group’s 2008 annual progress report.
Emil McCain, the department’s biologist, monitored the radio collar data for Macho B during the period Macho B was in the wild up to the time of the jaguar’s recapture on March 2 in the oak woodlands of Southern Arizona near the Mexican border. The jaguar was flown to Phoenix and euthanized about five hours after his recapture after veterinarians concluded that he had kidney failure.
The state agency is one of many agencies and groups that have been listed in the project’s annual reports as having helped with the research, the group’s 2008 annual report said.
But in that same report, the project said that location names and exact coordinates showing the jaguar’s travels are withheld, as requested by Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the safety of the animals and their habitats. The report also said that any information contained in it is exclusive property of McCain and Jack Childs.
To a leading critic of the agency, the specific location data sought by the Star is important to help understand where the jaguar’s most important movement corridors are, and which areas are worth protecting, said Sergio Avila, a biologist for the environmental group Sky Island Alliance.
Avila said department officials “have very good intentions and very wishful thinking, but no science informing their decisions.”
In an e-mail to the Star last week, Game and Fish spokesman Bob Miles wrote it’s his understanding that the department has already provided the Star location information from the radio collar attached to Macho B and from remote camera traps.
He added: “The information the department does have in its possession that was collected by BJDP has always met the department’s need. At any time, the department could obtain the remaining information from BJDP if there developed a need for it.”
But on Sept. 23, Fabritz, an ombudsman and executive staff assistant at Game and Fish, wrote the Star that he had prepared a disk containing 18 photos of jaguars, but that: “There was no location data provided with these photos. Apparently there are other photos, but that’s all we have received from the BDJP.”
In March, both in e-mails to the Star and in internal e-mails, Fabritz said the state agency wasn’t required by law to provide the raw tracking data because it didn’t have it.
“I think they (the Star) want us to be making docs for them . . . we obviously are not required,” Fabritz wrote on March 24.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746 or firstname.lastname@example.org