Arizona Horizon Banner

September 26, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Condor Release

  |   Video
  • There are only 431 California Condors left in the world. Some will be released to the wild in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona this Saturday. The public is welcome to observe the release. Jeff Humphrey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mike Rabe of the Arizona Game and Fish Department will discuss the release and the state of California Condors.
  • Jeff Humphrey - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Mike Rabe - Arizona Game and Fish Department
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: california, condor, environment, wildlife,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The California condor has long been an endangered species, but the big birds are making a comeback and this weekend a number of condors will be released into the wild in northern Arizona's Vermillion cliffs national monument. Here to tell us more is Jeff Humphrey of the U.S. fish and wildlife service, and Mike Robby of the Arizona game and fish department. Both to see you both here. Thank you for joining us. What is a California condor?

Jeff Humphrey: A huge bird, a little over nine foot wing span, about a 26 pound bird when it has belly full of food. It is called a California condor because of its original coining in the U.S., or North America. But when you look at it, you really look at it and you say the colors on that head during breeding season, this is a southwest bird. It has the pinks and the Vermilions and yellows that say this is a southwest bird.

Mike Rabe: I think they're pretty spectacular. They have a visage that only a mother could love. Like most condors, the colors are distinct because they don't have feathers on their head. Their habit is scavenging and it enables them to keep their head a lot cleaner by not having feathers on it.

Ted Simons: You mention scavenging; these are vultures by any other name.

Mike Rabe: You bet. That is how they make their living. They don't have the capability to kill large prey. They have to depend on prey that other things have killed or died in the environment and that's their food source.

Ted Simons: You have a couple of examples of how big a California Condor is these are from the wings?

Jeff Humphrey: These are primaries, wing feathers from the California condor so that you can get an idea. Even look at the size of a chickens feather compared to -- but, yes, this will give you an idea.

Ted Simons: How many of the birds are now in the wild today?

Jeff Humphrey: In Arizona, there are 79- well, there are 69 in the wild today. There are 79 in Arizona. Three of those will be among those that we hope to be releasing on Saturday.

Ted Simons: And Arizona, what, Utah, California, those areas, Mexico, that is kind of the breeding ground, area for condors?

Mike Rabe: Yep, there are 3 populations- original population where they were reduced to 22 birds in California. They have come back from that. Quite a few more birds in California. Small population, there are somewhere around 22, 23, something like that in Baja, California, Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Utah.

Ted Simons: We have video of some of the birds being released. Talk about the process. Where are these birds before they're released?

Jeff Humphrey: This cadre of birds from Boise, Idaho. Peregrine, center for birds of prey is where they were hatched and in captivity, and brought down to Arizona. Many of our birds are from that facility in Boise. Some of the original birds are from the Los Angeles zoo. We even have had some San Diego birds.

Ted Simons: How are they prepared for release here? If they have only known captivity, how do they know what to do?

Mike Rabe: They rely on being around other birds. They do the best preparation they can do in the zoo beforehand, but there is no substitute of being in the wild themselves.

Ted Simons: And as far as being in the wild now, are we seeing eggs being laid in the wild and all of that going on?

Jeff Humphrey: Four this year hatched in the wild this year. Which is a record for us. Previous years we have had three hatch. 22 hatched in Arizona so far in the program. I think 2003 was the first time we had reproduction. Condors were brought here in 1996. So, that really is pretty good turn-around for a bird that is only capable of reproducing every couple of years.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about why the birds- I read that there were like- I think you even mentioned 22, something like this, in the 1980s total. What happened to the things?

Mike Rabe: The population was falling. It began falling almost immediately as soon as the continent was colonized, American expansion. When it got down to 22 birds, people thought it was time to take drastic steps. All of those wild birds were captured and brought into a captive breeding program and from those 22 birds, that's where we have the three populations that are going today. We have raised birds in zoos, we have released birds, and now in Arizona, those birds are starting to reproduce and doing a pretty good job.

Ted Simons: Again, curious to me how birds that are raised around and in environments that just very different than the wild, how do they adapt? Have there been nonsuccesses?

Jeff Humphrey: There have been. Some of the birds, for example, when they are first released, aren't weary of coyotes. They will attempt to roost on the ground. The field crew will actually go out there and try to haze them, to move them back up into a tree, a ledge, some place where they would be safe from the ground predators. Initially in California, condors were getting into trouble running into power lines and being electrocuted. So, the zoo facility started to erect dummy power poles where they would get a shock if they lighted on a power pole when they were in the captive facility. So, they've learned. As a matter of fact, facility or Vermillion cliffs where birds were held has a dummy power pole used to re-enforce the behavior.

Mike Rabe: They learn behaviors from those around them. That has helped a lot. Early in the introductions, we had some problem birds. They were doing things like hanging around humans and caging food from them rather than looking for it themselves. But with hazing them, we have pretty much eliminated that kind of problem.

Ted Simons: This is a weird question. Are they friendly? Could they be too friendly at times? They look like big mean old birds out there, but, hey, it's an animal. You never know.

Mike Rabe: They have been too friendly in the past. But that is not a useful behavior for a bird that's going to be around predators and coyotes and things like that. For the most part, hazing has worked pretty well. They're actually very playful birds. Very intelligent birds. They learn from behaviors and so the hazing has worked pretty well.

Ted Simons: We have 400 some odd in the wilds now here throughout the southwest and Mexico. Now, three will be released on Saturday?

Mike Rabe: That's correct.

Ted Simons: Let's say I want to watch this. Can I go watch this?

Jeff Humphrey: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. It is spectacular, a great way to spend the day. Typically there will be 50 to 100 people that will arrive. Real condor field biologists will be there. They will have spotting scopes set up so that you will be able to view the pen from which they will be released. It is not a close view, but with the optics, bringing your binoculars and spotting scopes you can get a good view of a California condor. They will be about a half mile off and about 1,000 feet up. But it is a tremendous way to start a morning. The sun warming up the desert floor so that these birds can actually get loft and catch a thermal and you can sit out there and just wait, wait for that to happen. It is- there is a lot of camaraderie there, you get to ask questions one on one with biologists.

Mike Rabe: And even at that distance, they're pretty distinctive. There’s no other bird with a 9-foot wingspan.

Ted Simons: I would imagine so. Vermillion cliffs national monument. Where exactly?

Mike Rabe: Up near the Grand Canyon. If you have been up towards that, near marble canyon, Lees Ferry, up there. It’s those large cliffs that are right up there to the North.

Ted Simons: National public lands day. Talk to us about that.

Jeff Humphrey: A number of the places that we take for granted here particularly in the west are public lands. They're state lands, federal lands, and it is an opportunity to raise people's awareness of the federal lands to allow Americans to feel an identity to them and also to eventually become volunteers. To go out there and help with trail maintenance, clean up. Taking young- the next generation out into our public lands.

Ted Simons: Yeah. It sounds like it is going to be quite an experience Saturday. Congratulations on this and all successes dealing with these condors. Fantastic birds. Good to have you both here.

Mike Rabe: You bet.

Jeff Humphrey: Good to be here.

Glimpses of Phoenix Book

  |   Video
  • Arizona State University Regents Professor David William Foster’s book “Glimpses of Phoenix: The Desert Metropolis in Written and Visual Media” examines the complex, dark cultural history of the city reflected in works by famous names who have called Phoenix home. Foster’s book highlights the role gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity have played in shaping the way Phoenicians perceive spaces and events around them. Foster will discuss his book.
  • David William Foster - Author, “Glimpses of Phoenix - The Desert Metropolis in Written and Visual Media”
Category: Community   |   Keywords: history, phoenix, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Arizona state university Regents professor David William foster has written a new book. It's title, "glimpses of Phoenix The desert metropolis in written and visual media." the book examines the city's complex cultural history as reflected in the works of local journalists, writers, and performers. Joining us now is David William Foster. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

David William Foster: My pleasure.

Ted Simons: This is an interesting book. Because it's- I'm not sure if it is like a sociocultural treatise. Is it a history book? What is it?

David William Foster: It's a little bit of all of those. The sort of book that we do in the humanities in which the only thing is we take text, okay, humanities dealings with text, written text or visual text. And we put them in their context and discuss why they're important, how they're important, how they work.

Ted Simons: Yes.

David William Foster: How people read them. How people might read them. What people might have overlooked in reading them. And my idea was to assemble a group of texts that in one way or another said something interesting about Phoenix.

Ted Simons: And something interesting in the sense of, I notice an anchor here is the self-image of Phoenix.

David William Foster: Yes.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks think of the self image of Phoenix, what the reality of Phoenix is. Talk to us about that.

David William Foster: Self-image of Phoenix, historically a boisterous. Everyone in Phoenix was supposed to wake up in the morning and be grateful to his or her maker for another day in paradise. Phoenix is a very problematical city. Water issues, pollution issues, the heat of course, there is a lot going on in Phoenix, a lot that is good and a lot that is bad.

Ted Simons: Profiles here, we will start with Erma Bombeck. I think a lot of Arizona has known about her for quite a while. Didn't necessarily write about Phoenix though.

David William Foster: No, in fact, she went out of the way not to write about Phoenix. You can kind of tease out the Arizona Soccer Mom. She said once- But she wants to write and identify with someone looking out the window and seeing the swollen hose and think it is because of the cold in Ohio, which is where she was from. Another reader might say oh it’s because of the heat in Phoenix. She wanted to write for a middle class, moms all across the United States, middle class families, but she struck a very important note here in Phoenix. She did all of her writing here in Phoenix. She was virtually a nonentity when they moved to Phoenix. And she did all of her writing here. But the interesting thing is all of her papers and stuff, at the University of Dayton, which is where she went to school. You go to the archives online, and there is not a mention of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Isn’t that interesting.

David William Foster: It really is.

Ted Simons: On the program last week, Lauren, years ago was referred to as the Erma Bombeck of her generation. How do you include her writings in a book about the self-images of Phoenix?

David William Foster: She creates this idiot girls’ club is what she calls it. Being a woman in Phoenix and having to confront on a daily basis all of these self-myths that Phoenix has that really don't work. She says I come from paradise valley, the wrong side of the tracks. Paradise valley, that vague nebulous north of camel back area, rundown ranch homes from the 50's and 60's. Not THE town of Paradise Valley. That kind of juxtaposition is important in her writing.

Ted Simons: So, I want to get moving to other topics, Lauren and Erma and their images of life and or Phoenix, what does it say about Phoenix? What might we have missed?

David William Foster: I think what we missed, Phoenix, when all is said and done, very little writing about it. I'm from Seattle. Which was founded more or less at the same time that Phoenix was. Maybe a decade or so before. Seattle has this huge amount of writing about Seattle. About the good things about Seattle, about the bad things about Seattle. About the, you know, the positive self-image about the very critical self-image. We don't have that in Phoenix. It is kind of like it is a crime to say anything bad about Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Why is that?

David William Foster: I don't know why it is. I don't know why it is. Sociologist maybe needs to answer that question or an anthropologist. I know these writings deal with that. Real hard-edge stuff.

Ted Simons: You also have Wallace and Ladmo and what’s interesting in reading your book, I literally laughed out loud. Because in the context of the serious analytical discussion, we get a story of how children are disappointed to see the original state fair which is a complete crock. And yet you know, we talk about the dark side of Phoenix and how there are aspects that people don't want to- and yet so many folks raised in Phoenix will say I am so glad that I was raised here because Wallace and Ladmo helped me to see things differently that kids in Dayton, Cincinnati, Seattle my not have experienced.

David William Foster: When you consider that Wallace and Ladmo when I first came here, which was in 1966, was being produced and with all of this irreverent humor. At a time when American opinion library was the most intellectual thing in Phoenix, John Burton society, super right wing stigma about the United States, and of course Phoenix because the John Burton society had one of his birth places here, Old Man Brophy was on the board with the John Burton society. So here Wallace and Ladmo are doing all of this irreverent and really there is a nasty edge to Wallace and Ladmo. You know, this isn’t Sesame Street and that is a real treasure that Arizona has. And something that needs to be preserved.

Ted Simons: That is a real treasure. You have four artists here. The Steve Benson's cartoons are mentioned as well. I think a lot of people consider these cultural assets. What do we take from your book though? I mean, are they assets because people obviously revere certain aspects of these folks, are they ignoring what they're really trying to say?

David William Foster: No, I don't think they're ignoring what they're really trying to say. One of the functions of the literary scholar is to, or the cultural scholar is to point out what things are all about. What is Benson all about and what he is trying to do? He is writing against this booster thing, writing against this- if you don't like it here, get out. The sort of thing that when he was a business editor at The Arizona Republic. And so, you need to point these things out. But you need to point out what the context are and you need to point out how it works along with other works which have more positive things to say. Benson has a real interesting view of Phoenix. And, of course, Benson doesn’t really do cartoons about Phoenix. you know, you could pull out Benson's cartoons and do a collection of them just about Phoenix. You know, he has this collection of cartoons just about the Evan Meakem era. I would like to see him do a collection of cartoons just about Phoenix. What I want people take away from this, Phoenix 5th largest Metropolitan area, is an area that doesn't produce much in the way of creative writing. Probably the only state in the union that doesn't have a major writer associated with it.

Ted Simons: Real quickly though, you got your Alice Cooper, you’ve got your meat puppets, you have some pretty bizarre out there acts that put Phoenix on the musical map. Something is happening here, we’re just not sure what it is.

David William Foster: Right and I didn't touch music. You can't do everything in the book.

Ted Simons: Sure.

David William Foster: Publishers don't want to publish something that is much bigger than this, you know, it is a cross thing. I had to pick and choose. When people say to me, well, how come you didn't touch this and how come you didn't do that? You do it, someone else pick the ball up and run with it.

Ted Simons: It is an interesting read. Silver analysis of Wallace and Ladmo is fantastic.

David William Foster: Glad you liked that.

Ted Simons: Congratulations and thank you for joining us.

David William Foster: Thank you so much for your interest. My pleasure.

SNAP Challenge

  |   Video
  • As part of Hunger Awareness Month, the Arizona Community Action Association challenged community members to spend a week living on a food stamp budget of $4.14 a day or $29 a week for an individual. We’ll show you how one person met that challenge.
Category: Community   |   Keywords: hunger awareness, arizona, challenge, giving back,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Arizona's economy may be improving, but groups that work with struggling families say that too many Arizonans are going hungry. The situation is prompting some people to volunteer to walk in the shoes of food stamp recipients, at least for a few days. Producer Christina Estes, and photojournalist Steven Snow tell us more.

Juan Mendez: I represent district 26, which encompasses north Tempe, northwest mesa and a large part of the salt river, Maricopa Indian community.

Christina Estes: This state representative Juan Mendez is taking the snap challenge. Issued by the Arizona Community Acts Association.

Angela Schultz: Snap stands for supplemental nutrition assistance program. A new federal name for the food stamp program.

Christina Estes: More than one million people in our state rely on snap to feed their families.

Angela Schultz: One in five Arizonans struggle with hunger. It is more drastic when we look at kids in Arizona, one in four kids in Arizona go to bed hungry.

Juan Mendez: You grow up with a lot of trauma, trauma of not knowing where your next meal is going to be.
Christina Estes: Mendez knows what it’s like to go hungry.

Juan Mendez: I grew up in poverty.

Christina Estes: His family used food stamps and that prepared Mendez for the snap challenge. Living on the average weekly budget of 29 bucks.

Juan Mendez: I had developed a lot of food habits. I buy in bulk. I make my own meals, my own rice and beans. So I can stretch my meals already. But there are simple things that I got used to that I could not imagine that I would not be able to afford $29, like cheese. Giving up on things like cheese, things like milk. I'm used to organic vegetables, used to fruit.

Angela Schultz: Definitely more expensive to buy fresh produce.

Christina Estes: Angela Shultz misses her organic fruits and veggies, and good bread.

Angela Schultz: The bread was 99 cents, it was wheat bread but it was stale tasting and I'm used to buying more oat bread. It’s just less quality in the food I’m getting.

Christina Estes: A lot of worrying that she and her husband won't make it five more days.

Angela Schultz: We bought a thing of oatmeal. There was less in there than we realized. He woke up frantic, we don't have enough food. Look at this oatmeal. And we only have enough sandwiches, we only have enough sandwiches for two more days.

Christina Estes: All snap recipients will see fewer benefits starting November 1st. That is when a boost from the federal stimulus will expire. According to the center on budget and policy priorities, benefits for a family of three, cut by $29 a month. Lawmakers say that's not enough. During the recession, the number of people on food stamps soared. Right now, one in seven Americans relies on snap. The program costs taxpayers $78 billion last year. Recently the Republican led house of representatives voted to cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years. It has little chance of advancing in the Senate.

Juan Mendez: More people that we have falling into poverty, the more people that have to use services, means your tax money will have to be spent on that. If we can alleviate people from falling into poverty on supplemental programs it will get them back to work quicker.

Christina Estes: Working with a food stamp budget can leave challenges on the job. Mendez says sometimes he leaves the office early because he lacks energy. Shultz says being hungry hurts her performance.

Angela Schultz: In conversations, I'm just forgetting like where or like a sentence that I just said. I will forget that and need somebody to remind me of that. That is interesting. I wasn't expecting that. I can just imagine how difficult it must be to be in a constant state of hunger and have to try to go to work and be a good employee.

Juan Mendez: How are you doing today?

Christina Estes: He stretched his budget by skipping his daily favorites, coffee, avocados. Shultz used her last $3 to buy junk food because it costs less than healthy meals. Both ended the seven-day challenge with gratitude that the eighth day would be much better.

Ted Simons: St. Mary's food bank says November's snap reduction will have a huge impact. Most people who receive food stamp benefits get emergency help from food banks. During the recession, St. Mary's nearly doubled the amount of food it distributed and has seen little drop in demand.

Ted Simons: Friday, the "Journalists' Roundtable," state supreme court decision boosts education funding in Arizona by millions of dollars. That story and more Friday on "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.