Oak Creek Canyon has been closed 11 miles north of Sedona due to the storm system moving through the area Wednesday, Dec.29. The winter storm is expected to linger in Northern Arizona until Saturday, Jan. 1.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, State Route 89a closed at 2 p.m. Wednesday and will likely remain closed until at least Thursday afternoon, Dec. 30.

The section of roadway will be closed so ADOT snowplows can be used on Interstate 17, the alternate route to Flagstaff.

ADOT officials also closed Interstate 17 northbound shortly after 4 p.m. The road is closed at the State Route 179 exit, at milemarker 298. Numerous accidents were reported all day long on northbound and southbound I-17 between the Sedona exit and the southern reaches of the Flagstaff area before the closure.

The American Red Cross and a church set up a shelter in Munds Park that was accomodating 65 people early Thursday.

I-40 into Flagstaff is also closed.

Southbound I-17 opened around noon, Thursday, Dec. 30.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 6, to hire an expert on redistricting to prepare to redraw the county’s political boundaries, which Yavapai County Administrator Julie Ayers said was “almost guaranteed” before the 2012 election.

The county hired Federal Compliance Consulting of Maryland, headed by former U.S. Department of Justice Senior Attorney Bruce Addelson, who had national enforcement responsibility for federal voting laws.

Yavapai County Administrator Julie AyersThe supervisors authorized the county to spend up to $85,000 for Addelson’s services during the next year.

The county expects the 2010 census to show its population surpassed 175,000 residents, a threshold that will require redistricting under state law, Ayers said.

“When the county passes the 175,000 threshold, we will be required to expand the Board of Supervisors to five members and to establish supervisorial districts accordingly,” she wrote in the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.

Lines that currently draw three supervisors’ districts will be redrawn as five to accomplish several constitutionally required goals, Ayer said.

A redistricting plan must create districts that are relatively equal in population. The plan must not dilute the strength of minority voters. It must not result in a “racial gerrymander,” which attempts to draw lines according to the racial component of various neighborhoods.

Finally, a redistricting plan must take into account traditional redistricting criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivision lines and communities of interest, she said.

Since the redistricting process must comply with federal statutory guidelines and will be subject to review by the U.S. Department of Justice, it will require careful planning and execution, Ayers wrote.

The time remaining for completion of the process is relatively short. The target for completion of the process and preclearance of the new redistricting plan by the DOJ is December 2011. This will allow the county to make election packets available to candidates by Jan. 12, 2012, she wrote.

It is our intention to utilize in-house resources for this project to the greatest possible extent. There are, however, certain areas where specialized expertise may be particularly useful. These would include the complex statistical and demographic analysis of the county’s voting history and submission of the redistricting plan to the Department of Justice, Ayers wrote.

President Barack Obama is the first president who has actually worked as an attorney to enforce federal voting lights laws, Addelson said. The president appointed more than 100 additional attorneys to the DOJ’s voting rights division in anticipation of redistricting required by the 2010 census, he said.

“The DOJ’s current enforcement posture appears to differ from its approach during the 2000 redistricting cycle, with more vigorous policing apparently in place,” Addelson said.

Because Arizona is one state under court order to submit all redistricting plans to a federal judge for a review known as preclearance, it is important the county do what it can up front to prepare plan that will pass scrutiny and avoid the cost and delay of potential lawsuits, he said.

Addelson said he expects to complete preliminary studies, reviews and analysis of demographic information by the end of this year.

Outreach meetings will be conducted with community leaders in January and February to prepare for the official release of the 2010 census data from February through April. Review of the census data should be completed by April, Addelson said.

Addelson and Ayers will meet with public officials about the data in May and public meetings will also be conducted.

Alternate plans for redistricting of the county will be prepared and presented by July.

August will be spent preparing the final plan for publication in September. The county would adopt the final plan in October, leaving two months in advance of the final deadline to work with the DOJ to obtain preclearance approval, Addelson said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled an injunction of several major portions of Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, from going into effect at midnight Wednesday, July 29.

The federal government sued the state of Arizona on July 6 to block parts of the bill.

In the 36-page ruling, Bolton blocked:

• Portion of Section 2, requiring police officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of a person detained or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that they are illegally in the United States, and requiring verification of the immigration status of any person arrested.

•Section 3, creating a crime for failure to apply for or carry alien registration papers.

•Portion of Section 5, creating a crime for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for or perform work.

•Section 6, authorizing the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime that makes the person removable from the United States.

Minor sections of the law were not challenged by the U.S. Justice Department and will still go into effect, such as making it a crime to pick up day laborers if it impedes traffic, reenforcing the ban on intentional or knowing employment of illegal immigrants, and allowing residents to sue officials who don’t enforce immigration laws.

“We believe the court ruled correctly when it prevented key provisions of SB 1070 from taking effect,” Hannah August, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs stated in a press release. “While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive.”

“States can and do play a role in cooperating with the federal government in its enforcement of the immigration laws, but they must do so within our constitutional framework. This administration takes its responsibility to secure our borders seriously and has dedicated unprecedented resources to that effort,” August stated. “We will continue to work toward smarter and more effective enforcement of our laws while pressing for a comprehensive approach that provides true security and strengthens accountability and responsibility in our immigration system at the national level.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law in April. On Wednesday, July 28, hours before the bill was due to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled an injunction of several major portions of the controversial new immigration law.“I am disappointed by Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling,” Gov. Jan Brewer stated in a press release. “This fight is far from over. In fact, it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens.”

“I have consulted with my legal counsel about our next steps. We will take a close look at every single element Judge Bolton removed from the law, and we will soon file an expedited appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit,” Brewer stated. “I will battle all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, for the right to protect the citizens of Arizona.”

As Senate Bill 1070 is scheduled to go into effect Thursday, July 29, law enforcement agencies across the state are preparing and briefing officers on the new law, as well as the correct ways to enforce it.

SB 1070 requires police officers, after making lawful contact, to determine the status of people if there is reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants and to arrest anyone unable to provide documentation proving they are in the country legally.

It also makes it a crime to transport an illegal immigrant and to hire day laborers off the street.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office to prepare its policy on the new law and find out what parameters its office needs for a criminal filing. The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office to prepare its policy on the new law and find out what parameters its office needs for a criminal filing.

Since YCSO uses the 287(g) program, not much is changing for the department at this time.

The 287(g) program is one component under the Immigration and Custom Enforcement umbrella of services and programs offered for assistance to local law enforcement officers.

ICE developed the program in response to the widespread interest from law enforcement agencies who requested ICE assistance through the 287(g) program, which trains officers to enforce immigration law as authorized through the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“All people arrested in the county are processed through the 287(g) program to check for immigration already,” YCSO Media and Crime Prevention Coordinator Dwight D’Evelyn stated, and this has been the case for more than two years.

Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training, which is giving police departments some insight on the law and how to enforce it, mandates in its policy there be no intention for law enforcement to questions victims, witnesses or others not initially involved in criminal activity.

D’Evelyn said this is contrary to what has been reported and added there must be a separate reasonable suspicion to allow deputies to investigate immigration status in these instances.

Training of YCSO deputies is expected to begin in early August once policy is in place, D’Evelyn wrote in a statement.

Sedona Police Department Police Chief Ray Cota said the department is preparing to have its officers fully trained for instances resulting in the enforcement of Senate Bill 1070.Sedona Police Department Police Chief Ray Cota said the department is preparing to have its officers fully trained for instances resulting in the enforcement of SB 1070. The police department will review and adopt one of the model policies later this week that was created by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police.

SPD will immediately start training its officers on the policy it chooses to use, Cota said, and it should not take more than a few days to bring all of them up to speed.

Standards and requirements from Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training will be included in whatever policy the police department decides to adopt, he said.

On July 10, the U.S. Forest Service issued a report about the 10 most likely candidates for wilderness designation within Coconino National Forest. Included on the list are six lower Verde Valley areas, Black Mountain, Cedar Bench, Cimarron-Boulder, Davey’s, Hackberry and Walker Mountain.More than 30,000 acres of Coconino National Forest situated in the lower Verde Valley could be designated wilderness, where mountain bikes and all-terrain vehicles are banned, but only if Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart recommends it and Congress approves.

The process from recommendation to approval could take one year or 20, said Sara Dechter, U.S. Forest Service social science analyst working on revisions to the Coconino National Forest Management Plan.

Before recommendations are signed, however, the public will have its say about potential wilderness, Dechter said.
USFS will meet the public to hear comments at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27, at Red Rock Ranger District headquarters, 8375 SR 179, near the Village of Oak Creek.

Wilderness area designation is a small part of the Coconino National Forest Management Plan overhaul now being conducted by USFS. The last comprehensive revisions to the plan took place in 1987, Dechter said.

In the Walker Mountain potential wilderness area, the Gila chub, black hawk, lowland leopard frog and narrow-headed garter snake would benefit from the designation. In the Black Mountain potential wilderness area, the golden eagle would.On July 10, USFS issued a report about the 10 most likely candidates for wilderness designation within Coconino National Forest. Included on the list are six lower Verde Valley areas, many named for the local landmarks they encompass: Cedar Bench, Black Mountain, Cimarron-Boulder, Davey’s, Walker Mountain and Hackberry.

Most of the potential wilderness areas are grouped together south of Beaver Creek and east of Camp Verde between Forest Roads 618 and 708, Forest Planner Yewah Lau said.

Of the six, three were considered highly needed: Black Mountain, Walker Mountain and Hackberry, USFS records state. A high-need designation means “the area contributes considerably to recreational and ecological needs.”

Need is determined by several factors, including the location, size and type of other wilderness areas in the vicinity and the distance to get there.

Other factors include how much pressure there is from visitors who want to experience wilderness and whether the area is home to species of animals needing refuge only wilderness area designation can provide.

There are already 1.1 million acres of designated wilderness within 100 miles of Cottonwood and the Verde Valley, according to the USFS report.

Designation would ease pressure on several species in the Hackberry potential wilderness area, including the Mexican freetail bat, red bat, Townsend’s bat, spotted bat, greater western mastiff bat, lowland leopard frog, garter snake and yellow-billed cuckoo.In the Walker Mountain potential wilderness area, the Gila chub, black hawk, lowland leopard frog and narrow-headed garter snake would benefit from the designation. In the Black Mountain potential wilderness area, the golden eagle would, the report states.

Designation would ease pressure on several species in the Hackberry potential wilderness area, including the Mexican freetail bat, red bat, Townsend’s bat, spotted bat, greater western mastiff bat, lowland leopard frog, garter snake and yellow-billed cuckoo, according to the report.

“I want people to know this is very early in the process,” Lau said. “There’s really no proposal on the table yet. We really want to listen to the public before recommendations are made.”

“We want to hear about the trade-offs,” Dechter said. “In an area recommended as wilderness, what would be lost and what would be gained?”

Reports about the potential wilderness areas can be viewed online at www.fs.fed.us.

The 1½-year-old male black bear that raided trash cans in the Morgan Road area of east Sedona was euthanized in Flagstaff after its capture June 26.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s policy is to euthanize bears that become habituated to humans.

“Euthanizing an animal is the last thing we want to do. The decision to euthanize is not done haphazardly,” said Shelly Shepherd, the Information and Education Program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Region II, headquartered in Flagstaff.

The 1½-year-old  male black bear that raided trash cans in  the Morgan Road area of east  Sedona was euthanized in Flagstaff after  its capture June 26.“We have a policy in place in human-wildlife conflicts,” Shepherd said. The game and fish department’s bear policy was developed with public input, she said.

This particular black bear was first caught after it began raiding trash cans near the Crook Campground at Woods Canyon Lake, near Heber-Overgaard along the Mogollon Rim, on June 10.
“It was causing some issues over there,” Shepherd said.

The bear was tagged and relocated some distance away. It began to move west, and was sighted in the Blue Ridge area the week of June 14. Shepherd said that game and fish department officials couldn’t confirm the bear’s identity.

If an animal encroaches on human settlements, it is removed in hope that it will resume “going on doing what normal bears do,” Shepherd said.

It appeared in the Sedona area June 21, traveling about 80 miles from the Woods Canyon Lake area. It raided trash cans in the Morgan Road and Chapel areas for six days.

Shepherd said she was uncertain why the bear moved so far so fast, but the bear could have been looking for food or been chased away by other bears, who have already established territories.

A younger male, the bear may have been wandering to establish its own territory.

For the most part, bears avoid human development and have few problems finding food. Omnivorous, bears eat acorns from oak trees, grubs and insects, and berries from manzanita and other plants, Shepherd said. They also eat fish and small mammals, and may scavenge deer and elk carcasses. Rarely, they may make a kill themselves.

Related to canines, bears have long snouts and are able to smell food from miles away.

“Right now there are good conditions for bears to find food,” Shepherd said.

Bears look for the easiest food sources they can find, and once they become habituated to humans begin to rely solely on humans for food. Habituated bears seek unsecured trash cans, food and water left out for pets, and food left out intentionally or unintentionally by humans, Shepherd said.

After the black bear was euthanized, its body was disposed of in a portion of a landfill for animal carcasses.

Recovered animals that die of natural causes or are struck by vehicles are often deposited in remote areas where they can decompose naturally.

However, animals shot by tranquilizers or firearms can not be left in the wild due to the possible contamination by tranquilizer chemicals or lead bullets, Shepherd said. Scavenging birds and mammals could be poisoned.
Rarely, an animal skull or hide might be salvaged by game and fish officials for educational purposes.

Giving an animal to a research institution is a rare and lengthy process, and only done on a case-by-case basis.
The black bear population is still very healthy in Arizona, Shepherd said.

To prevent other animals from becoming habituated to humans, Shepherd said homeowners along the forest interface should use trash cans with secure lids, only put out trash cans shortly before their collection, avoid leaving food and water for pets outside, and never feed wild animals.

On Thursday, March 11, at 6 p.m., Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis will host the Village of Oak Creek Community meeting at the Village of Oakcreek Association, 690 Bell Rock Blvd, in the Village of Oak Creek.

chipdavismugDavis has set up presentations residents will not want to miss.

Environmental Health Specialist Suzanne Ehrlich will do a presentation on septic tanks, Master Gardener Bob Burke will give a presentation “Year-round Gardening,” and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jay Parkison will give an update on YCSO.

As always, Davis and Area Roads Superintendent Verl Cook will give general updates.

Join for an evening of information sharing. For more information, call DeShannan Young at 639-8110.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested James Arthur Ray on three counts of manslaughter at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3.

The Yavapai County Grand Jury returned a indictment on three counts of manslaughter against Ray early Wednesday afternoon and the Yavapai County Superior Court issued a warrant for Ray. He appeared in court Thursday, Feb. 4.


For the complete story, pick up the Friday, Feb. 5, edition of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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