By Gary Boyer AAF Board Member
The weekend of August 10th and 11th marked the fourth AAF work project of 2019 and the beginning of a new project site for the Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF). The area known as the Garland Prairie, south of I-40 and between Williams and Flagstaff is the site for several future fence removal and modification work projects. Garland Prairie is roughly 14,000 acres, the pronghorn spend summer and fall there and other high elevation meadows before migrating up to 60 miles south along I-40 and down SR 89 to Prescott or Jerome. Some animals stay around Wagon Tire or Drake.
AAF is coordinating with AZGF (Arizona Game and Fish), Kaibab and Coconino NF (National Forest) personnel to develop projects to remove or modify existing fences to facilitate the Pronghorn migration routes from winter to summer ranges. Using data collected from radio collared Pronghorn, existing routes are identified then plotted. This data is used to identify obstructions in the animal’s routes. Other species in the area, elk and mule deer, also benefit from this activity. Pronghorn prefer going under fences and only in extreme cases do they attempt to jump fences. AAF modifies fencing by removing the bottom strand of barbwire and replacing it with smooth wire 18” above the ground, or in the case of this first project, complete removal.
Ramrodding this project were: Jeff Gagnon, AZGF Statewide Biologist; Scott Sprague, AZGF Biologist; Roger Joos, Coconino NF Biologist; Travis Largent, Kaibab NF Biologist. Also assisting were Troy Christensen, AZGF; Colin Beach, AZGF; Sarah Bearman, AZGF; and Mike Ebright, AZGF.
Early arrivals on Friday at the basecamp, located on the west side of Garland Prairie, were treated to a dinner of pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw, many thanks to our camp cooks, Bill and Mary Keebler. After dinner and evening around the campfire, folks turned in.
Saturday morning after 14 large pots of coffee and a continental breakfast, at eight a.m. 80 volunteers gathered for an orientation talk by Jeff Gagnon. Jeff gave a brief history of why, how and what we were going to accomplish that day. Volunteers broke up into four groups. Each crew had a wire roller mounted on ATVs, post pullers and hand tools. Then the crews headed out to their work areas, several close to camp and another 2 mile stretch of fence about 12 miles distant. Thanks to our team leaders, Travis, Roger, Scott and Jeff’s guidance, by early afternoon crews had removed over 3 ½ miles of fence, some of it more than 100 years old. Also removed was about 120 yards of old sheep fence. Fence posts, both wooden and steel T-posts, had been gathered and stockpiled along with countless spools of old wire destined for the recycler. The ranchers take the T-posts for reuse.
Being the efficient, energetic group of people involved, the rest of the afternoon was spent “lopping” or cutting down young Ponderosa pines, cedars and other brush that were encroaching on a corridor that had been cleared 5 years earlier. Keeping this area open, and as grassland is important as a migration route for the Pronghorn. Pronghorn need open grassland as their eyesight and speed are their only defenses against predation. Congratulations are in order for that crew as they cleared an astounding 130 acres that afternoon. Well done, especially after all the fence work and on a very warm day.
Back at camp, our cook crew, Mary and Bill, assisted by, Connie Leadabrand were preparing their famous Quesadillas, salsas, etc. to snack on while dinner was being prepared. Bill’s Tri-Tip, Mary’s Scalloped Potatoes and a huge Green salad were served. Always a great meal followed by sitting around the campfire telling stories, some true, worn out folks, myself included, headed for bed. Sunday morning Mary’s delicious breakfast burritos were enjoyed while everyone broke camp. By 9 a.m. the forest returned to normal as almost everyone headed for home.
Many thanks to all the participants, too many to list, however, know that each and every one of you contributed to this, another successful work project. As our regular photographer, Betty Dickens, was attending to our VP, Glen Dickens, who is recovering from heart surgery, Kenny Cook took over photography duties. Also assisting with photos was long time contributing member Richard Ockenfels.
Representing the AAF Board: Ken Meadors, Joe Bill Pickrell, Terry Schupp, Gary Boyer, Kara Jensen, and Robert Velasco.