What constitutes a letter? Ask Arizona Game and Fish

The conversation started out friendly enough. Jim Paxon, a special assistant to Director Larry Voyles, and the ombudsman for the Arizona Game & Fish Department, called me and asked how I was doing.

We talked about the fishing at Lake Mead for a while, but I knew that this was more than just a friendly social call.

After the pleasantries had ended, the conversation changed gears. Paxon told me that he was calling about the story I had written recently on the Boquillas Ranch.

He said that in the article I had said that I had sent letters to the Director Voyles and to the commission, but he could find just one letter to the director and none to the commissioners.

"How many letters did you send?" Paxon said. "We can only find one."

Here is the statement he was referring to in the May 10 article entitled "Boquillas Ranch access: The rest of the story."

"At that point I started making calls and sending letters to the department. Letters to Director Larry Voyles at Game & Fish and to the Game & Fish Commission went unanswered."

I explained that I had sent a letter to Director Voyles on March 2, and that when I did not hear anything back from him, I went to the department's web site where you can ask questions or make comments to each of the commissioners on their designated sites.

I sent all of them essentially the same message; I wanted to know what was going on with the Boquillas Ranch agreement and the access fees, and that I had sent a letter to Director Voyles but had heard nothing back from him.

This is the accepted form of communication with the Game & Fish Commissioners. I sent it to their electronic mailbox. And to me, since I was writing to them individually, it was a letter.

But Mr. Paxon said that I had sent just one letter, so therefore my story was inaccurate.

As I listened to him I wondered why he was splitting hairs over how I had communicated with the department and the commissioners over this issue.

Paxon agreed that the commissioners received the documents I sent to them electronically, but to him, they were not letters.

Paxson said that normally the Department answers requests for information within 10 days, but admitted that they had not responded back to me within that time frame. He also didn't dispute that I had never received any communication back from any of the commissioners.

I didn't receive any written correspondence from anyone in the Arizona Game & Fish Department until I got a letter from Assistant Director Jim DeVos that was dated March 24. Remember, I had written the letter to Director Voyles on March 2.

In the end, I told Paxon that I would be more than happy to put in the paper a clarification as to what had occurred, as far as the term "letters" were concerned, and here it is.

Boquillas Ranch project information clarified

I am, and have always been, a strong supporter of the Arizona Game & Fish Department and Commission.

I think that for the most part, they do a wonderful job for the citizens of Arizona when it comes to managing what is arguably the state's most valuable natural resource - our wildlife.

But as a government agency, and especially when it comes to distributing sportsmen dollars, they have an obligation to be transparent to us, their constituency.

I spoke with Assistant Director Jim DeVos on Thursday and got some clarification about the proposed HPC project on the Boquillas Ranch that I have written extensively about.

I wanted to know if the $55,000 project that was obviously rushed through the Habitat Partnership Committee was in any way tied to the Boquillas Ranch agreement and ultimately the lessening of access fees this year from $500 to $80.

"Yes, that project is tied to the access agreement with the Big Bo," DeVos said.

And he went on to explain that there are $1.5 million dollars in projects on tap for the Boquillas Ranch. Currently there are currently four projects that have been identified that will be part of the $55,000 allocated for this year.

DeVos also noted that this kind of agreement is not unusual and the department makes agreements like this for properties all over Arizona to get and keep access for sportsmen.

"We've done these kinds of agreements and projects on Babbitt's and on the Double O," he said.

"Matter of fact, I do them on almost a daily basis."

When asked to clarify why the two conservation organizations (Arizona Elk Society and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) were asked to approve a project that had no details attached to it, DeVos said, "We do a lot of these in good faith," he said. "Sometimes you have to move quickly in order to get an agreement in place."

So there you have it.

The department, working on your behalf, made this agreement to lessen the burden on you, the Arizona sportsman, when it came to paying a higher price for access on the Boquillas Ranch this year and maybe beyond.