PINETOP, Ariz. – The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (ECO) has made a contribution of $35,000 to support the Range Rider Program managed by the Interagency Field Team (IFT) of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project.
Created in 1993, the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (ECO) includes Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo counties. The ECO counties have developed a leading role in natural resources and public lands management issues in eastern Arizona, including forest and watershed restoration, travel management and public land access, threatened and endangered species management, rural economic development, and recreation issues.
“The Arizona Game and Fish Department and its conservation partners are grateful to the ECO for their support of the Range Rider Program,” said Jim deVos, AZGFD assistant director for wildlife management. “One of the key activities the department is engaged in is reducing depredations on livestock in the wolf recovery area. This monetary contribution will go a long way toward increasing staff availability to livestock producers and the IFT to haze wolves from areas with active depredation activities.”
A range rider is a person who spends time in areas where wolves and cattle are in proximity and chases wolves from the area. It is a way of proactively deterring conflict between wolves and livestock. The range rider will work in much of eastern Arizona and will be directed to areas where high levels of depredations are occurring.
“ECO is pleased to provide this funding to AZGFD and the IFT,” said Jason Whiting, ECO chair. “Over the past two years, the number of depredations has increased as the wolf population increased, and this is impacting the region’s ranchers. Wolf depredations usually peak in early summer and continue into the fall, so this funding for the Range Rider Program will be put on the ground now.”
Richard Lunt, ECO vice chair, has been actively involved in wolf depredation prevention management. “Finding tools to reduce wolf impacts is important, and I am hopeful that the Range Rider Program proves to be a mechanism that works for a wolf recovery strategy that is compatible with livestock stability,” he said.
AZGFD’s deVos notes that Mexican wolf recovery has seen growth over the last decade, with the 2019 wolf count being 163, nearly a 24% increase from the prior year.
“As the wolf population continues to grow, reducing conflict over depredations is essential and something that the IFT works on daily,” he said. “This financial assistance from ECO will be put directly on the ground.”
More about ECO
ECO county Supervisors provide leadership to the Natural Resources Working Group in the White Mountains, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), the Mexican Wolf Recovery & Management Team, the Mexican Spotted Owl Leadership Forum, among others, and work closely with local stakeholders and State and Federal partners in all natural resources and public lands management issues in Eastern Arizona.