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Enviros pack Capitol to back wolves, parks

Arizonans want state lawmakers to take action on environmental issues such as protecting the endangered Mexican gray wolf, supporting state parks and promoting renewable energy, the leader of a conservation group said Tuesday.

“Unfortunately the Arizona Legislature has not been supportive, or nearly as supportive of those programs, as it should be,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

Scores of environmentalists from around Arizona joined Bahr for Environmental Day at the Capitol.

Bahr said numerous bills this session would undermine what the group supports, including a measure that would authorize state employees and ranchers to shoot Mexican gray wolves that prey on livestock.

SB 1211, authored by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, won committee approval and was awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

“That’s irresponsible and certainly is contrary to federal law,” Bahr said.

Kevin Dahl, senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, traveled from Tucson to share his concerns about bills such as SB 1212, also authored by Griffin, that would appropriate $250,000 for litigation over the Mexican gray wolf recovery program. That bill also was awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

“Unfortunately it seems like a portion of the Republican Party has taken over, and their anti-government message destroys anything that the government is doing positive to protect our environment,” Dahl said.

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Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that many issues at the Legislature relate directly or indirectly to the environment.

“I obviously support the environment, be it the water we drink, the air we breath, concerns about forest safety and health,” he said.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, said the Legislature erred by decreasing funding for state parks and eliminating the voter-approved Heritage Fund, which dispersed lottery proceeds for conservation, historic preservation and other projects.

“They are vital programs that provide an economic boost to rural areas in particular and we have kind of dropped the ball on them,” he said.

Carol Tepper, a Tucson resident attending her first Environmental Day, said it was her obligation as citizen who cares about the environment to make her voice heard.

“I feel like there is a constituency for the environment from all over the state,” she said.

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Tara Molina/Cronkite News Service

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, addresses those gathered for Environmental Day at the Capitol.

Gray wolf bills

Participants in Environmental Day at the Capitol said they were particularly concerned about three bills authored by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, that address Mexican gray wolves. Each is awaiting a vote by the full Senate:

  • SB 1211: Would authorize state employees and ranchers to kill wolves if wolves are killing livestock.
  • SB 1212: Would appropriate $250,000 for litigation to stop the federal government’s wolf recovery program in eastern Arizona.
  • SCR 1006: A resolution that would state the Legislature’s support for diverting future wolf reintroductions from Arizona.