September 28, 2019 was National Public Lands Day and was celebrated by members of the Arizona chapter of BHA by assisting the University of Arizona’s Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER) with the installation of signs intended to promote responsible OHV use. The 80 square mile research facility is managed by the University of Arizona and is comprised of both Arizona State Trust Land and National Forest. The SRER was founded in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt and serves as America’s oldest experimental rangeland. Located south of Tucson and just east of Green Valley (GMU 34A) the SRER serves as an open-air laboratory for a wide variety of research on semi-arid ecosystems. Research conducted on the SRER has implications for our understanding and ability to better manage the southwestern ecosystems we and our wildlife depend on.
Recent increases in illegal cross-country OHV use, trigger trash and multiple wildfires resulting from irresponsible target shooting (think gender reveal and Tannerite targets: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-forest-service-releases-video-arizona-gender-reveal-sparked-n940506), however, have spurred discussion about how best to manage the SRER into the future. Illegal OHV use to date includes cutting pasture fences for cross country travel as well as heavy traffic in lowland desert washes. Such practices have negative implications for both cattle ranching and wildlife that rely heavily on the shaded refuge of these washes during the long Arizona dry season. Continued disturbance/displacement by OHV traffic may lead to increased stress responses and changes in population dynamics of species such as mule deer, quail and a diverse array of non-game species.
The cooperation between BHA and the University of Arizona highlights the potential for broad based initiatives between diverse stakeholders in the ongoing management of our public and state lands. The SRER attracts a wide variety of visitors from around the world for both research and recreational purposes and thus serves as an ideal platform to highlight the integral role the hunting community plays in conservation and land stewardship to a broader public audience. These signs will serve to better inform visitors to the SRER about responsible use practices and help to ensure continued access in accordance with US Forest Service and Arizona State Land policies.
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