September 23, 2019

Arizona: Forest Service Approves House Rock Wildlife Area Bison Management Improvements Project

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator

On September 5, after thorough public scoping, tribal consultation, and analysis of resource conditions, the US Forest Service released a Decision Memo, granting the request of the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) for improved management of the House Rock Wildlife Area (HRWA) bison herd, located within the Kaibab National Forest.

During the 30-day public scoping period, the Forest Service received nine comment letters, one of which was from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and another from Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, in support of the of the proposed improved bison herd management project.

The HRWA Bison Management Improvements Project aims to keep the bison herd contained within a 4,000-acre pasture and not inadvertently released, protecting natural resources outside of the HRWA from potential negative impacts. This decision grants the AZGFD the ability to confine the bison herd to the pasture for three years to establish site fidelity and “construct a new water catchment, rebuild wooden corrals, install 250 yards of fencing, install a tire drinker, install double cattle-guards, allows AZGFD short-term (1 year or less) administrative access to a segment of Forest Service Road (FSR) 630B, allows AZGFD short-term (1 year or less) administrative use of off-road motorized vehicles (ATV, UTV) to repair fence lines, and temporarily (1 year or less) closes to public use specific segments of FSR 3510A, FSR 632 and FSR 630B.”

This decision is consistent with the 2014 Kaibab National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan and conforms with the “Desired Conditions and Guidelines,” which call for concentrating the bison herd within the HRWA, keeping the bison herd population in balance with the ecological conditions of HRWA, maintaining hunting opportunities, and reducing bison impact on sensitive resources, particularity outside of the HRWA.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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