Arizona’s Mexican Wolf Depredation Compensation Program Rife With Conflicts Of Interest

The Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB) disperses federal funds to ranchers for expenses resulting from the 1998 introduction of endangered Mexican wolves in the national forests of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

The 2015 state legislation which established the 9-member Board was sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, and it put the proverbial foxes in charge of the henhouse. Three Board members, for example, were required to represent the livestock industry, while one member had to be a livestock auction market owner, and another had to be a state university faculty member with “expertise” in agriculture. These five members could control the Board, because only five were required to constitute a legal quorum.

The Board’s four other members were required to include the directors of the Arizona Department of Agriculture and the Arizona Game & Fish Department. The remaining two members were required to represent “wildlife conservation or wildlife management who have experience with livestock production or management.” These two members, along with the three members that represented the livestock industry, were to be appointed by the governor. (Republican Doug Ducey has been Arizona’s sole governor since the Board’s creation.)

The legislation also charged the Game & Fish Department with being the Board’s parent agency and providing administrative support for the ALLB. Kevin Kinsall is the Department employee that serves as the Board’s point of contact. Among other things, he’s a former a mining executive and was a lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

Current Board Members

The embedded potential conflicts of interest created by the legally mandated composition of the Board have been exacerbated by the individuals that are its current members.

One of the livestock industry representatives on the Board, for instance, is Sarahmarge “Wink” Crigler, a public land rancher on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest who owns the X Diamond Ranch. She has been awarded $195,500 in Mexican wolf depredation prevention grants by the ALLB since 2019. The Board’s minutes show that she abstained from the votes to approve those grants, but her vote wasn’t required to achieve a quorum.

Crigler has also received at least $9,058.75 in compensation from the ALLB since 2019 for cattle she claimed were killed by Mexican wolves. She abstained from voting on those payments too. (Livestock loss claims must be confirmed by the USDA’S Wildlife Services as having likely been caused by a wolf before the Board can approve compensation payments. Wildlife Services is the agency that kills hundreds of thousands of wild animals every year for the benefit ranchers and farmers.) 

Gov. Ducey’s reappointment of Crigler to the Board in 2021 created controversy. The Arizona Capitol Times reported that state Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, complained it “doesn’t look good” for someone on the Board to also receive money from it. Gov. Ducey dismissed the complaint, pointing out that Crigler had recused herself from the votes that benefited her. But Sandy Bahr, the director of the state’s chapter of the Sierra Club, pointed out that the situation wasn’t that simple.

Crigler’s sister, rancher Maryhelen “Sug” Peters, has also been awarded money by the ALLB. In 2019 the Board approved a payment of $1,508.85 for her claim that a wolf killed one of her calves, and in 2021 it paid her $1,418.21 for a similar claim. According to the Board’s minutes, Crigler did not abstain from voting to approve either of her sister’s claims, and seconded both motions to approve them.

Jim O’Haco is another one of the Board’s livestock industry representatives, and is also a public land rancher on the Apache-Sitgreaves. He owns the Chevelon Butte Ranch, which has benefited from substantial amounts of government assistance.

The Board’s current chairman, and its third livestock industry representative, is Ken Van De Graaff of Rabo AgriFinance, a company that provides loans to ranchers.

The Board’s university faculty member with agricultural expertise is George Ruyle, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He has been a vocal apologist for public land ranching for many years. According to the business records for Crigler’s X Diamond Ranch LLC and Southfork Properties LLP, Ruyle is the statutory agent for both entities. The Board’s minutes show that Ruyle was present and did not abstain from the votes to approve the cattle loss claims and depredation prevention grants awarded to Crigler.

Other Board members include Mark Killian, who has been the director of the Department of Agriculture since he was appointed by Ducey in 2015. He is one of the owners of Killian Beef LLC, which also makes him a public land rancher because the company owns the Hackberry/111 Ranch in Graham County, which has Bureau of Land Management grazing permits. The ranch was previously owned by Sunny Mesa Inc., of which Killian is also co-owner, and that company received $78,181 in government assistance from 2018 to 2020 from the USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP).

The Board’s other agency head, Ty Gray, is the director of the Arizona Game & Fish Department. He was appointed in 2017 by the Arizona Game & Fish Commission, and its members are appointed by the governor. One of the Department’s primary goals is to maximize big game populations for hunters, and elk are the primary prey of Mexican wolves. 

The remaining two Board members are the wildlife conservationists with livestock management experience. They are Stephen Clark and Charles Kelly. Clark is the Executive Director of the Arizona Elk Society, a hunter group that promotes habitat projects to increase the state’s elk population. Kelly is the treasurer of the Arizona Big Game Super Raffle, Inc. This organization uses some of the big game hunt permit tags the Game & Fish Department donates to hunter groups every year to help raise money to fund the agency’s Habitat Partnership Committee (HPC) grants.

Lack Of Transparency

The Board’s potential conflicts of interest are especially troubling because of their lack of transparency. The only way to find the Board’s website, for example, is to find the single link to it on the Game & Fish Department’s website. In fact, the coding used on the Board’s website is set to prevent it from being indexed in Internet search engines.

Arizona Livestock Loss Board website code
Arizona Livestock Loss Board website code set to prevent it from being listed in Internet search engine results.

The Board’s meeting minutes are posted on the Board’s website, but they don’t show the recipients of the approved livestock loss claims or depredation prevention grants – just the agency ID numbers and dollar amounts. Subsequently, public record requests must be submitted to the Game & Fish Department to learn the names of the recipients. Then, the ID numbers assigned to the claims and grants in the minutes can be matched with the ID numbers on the lists showing the recipients. The Board’s May 31, 2017, meeting minutes show that this obfuscation was intentional, as there was a unanimous vote to keep each claimant’s information “private to the maximum extent allowable by law.” The motion was seconded by the Department’s director at the time, Larry Voyles.

The Board’s annual reports also provide few details, just the total amounts of livestock loss claims and depredation prevention grants approved each year. They can be confusing too. Their 2019 Annual Report, for example, said they approved $96,203.52 in livestock loss claims that year, but a review of their 2019 meeting minutes indicates they actually paid a total of $99,781.65 – about $3,500 more.

Also, it appears that the Board doesn’t fully comply with Arizona’s open meeting laws. The Board’s meeting agendas and minutes are posted to its website, but the minutes aren’t posted within three working days after each meeting, as required by ARS § 38-431.01.D. Instead, at each of  the Board’s meetings they vote to approve the previous meeting’s minutes, so a meeting’s minutes don’t get posted until weeks or months afterward.

Moreover, during the Board’s second meeting on December 17, 2015, it voted to establish five subcommittees from its members. And during its August 3, 2016, meeting the Board created another subcommittee. But none of the Board’s subsequent meeting minutes mention these subcommittees again. If any of them ever met, and it’s almost certain that they did, they would have been subject to the same open meeting law requirements as the Board, as per ARS § 38-431.1.

Board Has Never Conducted Any Rulemaking

Furthermore, the seven-year-old Livestock Loss Board has not published any rules for approving livestock loss claims, calculating depredation payment amounts, or awarding wolf depredation prevention grants. According to state law, all agencies, “must shall make rules of practice setting forth the nature and requirements of all formal procedures available to the public.” And the bill that created the Board, SB 1466, specifically stated that the Board was required to adopt rules.

But one of the first things Gov. Ducey did when he took office in January 2015 was to issue an executive order to impose a moratorium on all state agency rulemaking, and he has renewed that order every year since then. Under the moratorium, no state agency can proceed with any rulemaking without Ducey’s approval. Subsequently, during the Board’s November 3, 2016, meeting they voted to ask Ducey if they could take advantage of his moratorium to avoid rulemaking, and he said yes. One has to suspect the biggest reason the Board doesn’t want to conduct rulemaking is that they would be required to provide a 30-day public comment period on any proposed rules, as per ARS § 41-1023.B.

So, instead of publishing rules in the Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.), the Board has voted to approve policies. At their May 2017 meeting they adopted an interim policy for processing wolf depredation claims. According to the minutes, it was supposed to be used for 6 months to “see how it works out.” However, an interim policy is still posted to their website, and says it will be used until the Board “adopts rules.” The file name of the interim policy currently posted to their site implies it was issued in 2019, so it might differ from the original one. But there was certainly a more recent revision, because the minutes from the Board’s December 8, 2021, meeting show the interim policy was revised to include compensation for sheep killed by wolves.

According to their minutes, the Board didn’t approve a depredation prevention grant policy until their November 15, 2018, meeting. Subsequent meeting minutes, however, indicate this policy was revised. The policy currently posted to their website indicates it was updated in February 2021. This recent change was likely the result of the passage of SB 1083 in 2020, which removed the legal requirement that depredation avoidance grants had to include a research component. The revised wolf depredation prevention policy states that it also “establishes interim measures.”

There are important questions that could be answered if the Board’s brief policy statements were replaced with detailed regulations. For example, how does the Board estimate the market value of the livestock claimed killed by wolves? The Board’s “interim” depredation claims policy states that the maxim livestock loss payment a claimant can receive is $2,500. But the Board’s list of approved livestock loss claims and their 2019 minutes show that compensation payments have exceeded that amount at least 11 times, including the examples listed below:

  • Claim #19.066, $4,617 for a bull
  • Claim #20.099, $4,450 for a calf
  • Claim #21.139, $4,867 for a calf
  • Claim #21.140, $4,867 for a calf
  • Claim #21.143, $3,500 for a bull
  • Claim #21.177, $4,50o for a cow

Keep in mind these amounts represented only half of the Board’s estimated market values for those animals. That’s because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) program that provides the money to pay the claims requires a 50% cost share match from a non-federal source.

The USFWS program also requires a 50%, or dollar for dollar, match for the wolf depredation prevention grants awarded by the Board. Since all of the program’s match amounts can be met by third party contributions, it raises the question of whether or not the Game & Fish Department is contributing some of its Heritage Fund money, or other funds from its multi-million dollar Landowner Relations Program, to pay the matching amounts for the Board’s approved loss claims and prevention grants. The Department is required to provide verification to the USFWS of the non-federal source of the matching funds for each compensation payment or prevention grant, so the Board requires each recipient to submit a signed match affidavit, but these public records aren’t disclosed. 

Arizona law, as per ARS § 41-1033.A.2, provides an opportunity for state residents to petition any agency to initiate rulemaking for a practice or substantive policy statement they believe constitutes a rule. But submitting a petition to the Board would likely be a futile request as long as Ducey is governor. (Ducey’s final term expires in January 2023.)

Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council Fractured

Before the creation of the Arizona Livestock Loss Board, the Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council was responsible for making recommendations for the dispensation of USFWS funds to Arizona ranchers for wolf related expenses. The formation of the Council was a result of the agency’s Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project created in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. This legislation appropriated up to $1 million a year for the purpose of assisting ranchers nationwide in adopting proactive, non-lethal methods for reducing wolf predation on livestock, and compensating them for livestock lost to wolves. The USFWS set up a trust fund with the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to hold the portion of the project’s money that was allocated to the Mexican wolf recovery effort, along with associated contributions from non-federal sources to be used for the cost share matches. Congress has continued to appropriate $1 million a year to this nationwide USFWS program, and it’s the source of the money the Board now dispenses. 

Only states or tribes are allowed to receive and distribute this USFWS money. But the Mexican wolf reintroduction area is bisected by the Arizona/New Mexico state line, so it made sense to have a single organization to coordinate the local payments. Subsequently, the USFWS established the 11-member volunteer Coexistence Council to provide recommendations to the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish for dispersing the money. The Council included people from both states, representing ranchers, conservationists, tribes, and local counties in order to try and promote partnerships. In 2014 they released their strategic plan.

The Council’s membership included a person from the Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group that for many years has provided funds to local ranchers for Mexican wolf loss claims and depredation prevention grants. It has also distributed “pay for presence” payments to ranchers affected by the wolves.

The Council’s chair was Sisto Hernandez, a range management specialist for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The tribe’s 1.7 million-acre reservation is adjacent to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. It wasn’t included in the original Mexican wolf recovery area, but in 2000 the tribe agreed to allow the wolves on their reservation.

Arizona Livestock Loss Board member Sarahmarge “Wink” Crigler was also a member of the Coexistence Council, but she was very critical of it. In a blog post in the fall of 2015 on the website of the Public Lands Council, a group that promotes public land ranching, she made it clear she didn’t support the Mexican wolf reintroduction program and was quoted as saying, “I don’t call it the Coexistence Council.” She also complained that the livestock loss compensation payments approved by the Council were inadequate, and that its claims process was too cumbersome.

This was after the legislature had created the Arizona Livestock Loss Board that spring to transfer the administration of Arizona’s portion of the USFWS Mexican wolf funds from the Council to the Board. The name the legislature gave the Board made it clear that its focus was intended to be different from the Council’s.

The Board began meeting in November 2015, but they didn’t approve any livestock loss claim payments to ranchers until their May 31, 2017, meeting. (The Board didn’t approve its first depredation prevention grants until 2019.) At their April 18, 2016 meeting, before any loss claim payments had been authorized, Carey Dobson, an owner of Timberline Ranch, complained about the frustrations he had encountered with the loss claim process used by the Coexistence Council. The first 11 loss claim payments authorized by the Board in 2017 went to Dobson, and he’s received at least $93,096 in loss compensation payments so far, which is about 30% of all loss claim payments approved by the Board. The total amount of claim payments the Board has approved since 2017 is shown in the table below.

Arizona Livestock Loss Board Wolf Depredation Payments
YearClaims PaidTotal AmountAverage Amount
201720$29,879.80$1,494
201812$17,849.53$1,487
201958$99,781.65$1,720
202032$68,306.00$2,135
202147
(includes 9 sheep)
$96,597.91$2,055
TOTALS169$312,414.89$1,849
Note: Total dollar amounts obtained from ALLB meeting minutes. However, page 14 of the USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Program 2021 Progress Report shows different total annual amounts paid.

The legislated takeover of Arizona’s portion of the USFWS Mexican wolf funds by the Arizona Livestock Loss Board fractured the Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council, and discounted the broad-based partnerships it tried to create. In FY 2017 the USFWS agreed to start diverting some of Arizona’s portion of the wolf money directly to the White Mountain Apache Tribe for dispersal because the tribe didn’t want to have to deal with the Board. The Coexistence Council still exists, but it’s a shadow of its former self, and now mostly provides recommendations to the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish.

Broad Public Support For Mexican Wolf Reintroduction

The Mexican wolf reintroduction effort is a product of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was proposed by Republican President Richard Nixon, and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973 by a vote of 390-12. By that time, Mexican wolves had been extirpated from the Southwest.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that the American public strongly supports the recovery of wolf populations across the U.S. In the Southwest, a 2013 poll found the vast majority of residents in Arizona and New Mexico supported the USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. In fact, many are calling for expanding the designated Mexican wolf recovery area to include more of its historical habitat. 

The members of the Arizona Livestock Loss Board, however, have made it clear by the way they operate that they have hostile attitudes towards wolves, and don’t care much about the opinions of the general public. For example, during their November 3, 2016, meeting the Board voted to send a letter to Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asking for a formal legal opinion about whether or not Mexican wolf reintroduction was a “taking” of private property under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The letter was signed by the director of Arizona Game & Fish Department at the time, Larry Voyles, who was also the Board’s chairman. Brnovich never formally responded to them, so at their August 2017 meeting, the Board voted to withdraw the letter, probably because they realized it was a dumb idea.

Many Americans don’t think the ranchers in the Mexican wolf recovery area should receive any compensation for livestock lost to wolves. That’s because it’s public land, part of the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila national forests, so they pay a below-market federal grazing fee of just $1.35 per head per month to use it. And like many public land ranchers in the West, some of them have also benefited from large amounts of government assistance. The tables below show some of the ranches which use the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and have received wolf loss claim payments from the Board and also benefited from other government assistance.

Government Assistance For Ranchers Program Key
ALLBAWPFECPEQIPEWPHPCHeritage FundLCCGPLFPLOFFAPLRPPFWPWQIG
AALB - Arizona Livestock Loss Board, Arizona Livestock Loss Board (federal/state)
AWPF - Arizona Water Protection Fund, AWPF Commission (state)
ECP - Emergency Conservation Program, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (federal)
EQIP - Environmental Quality Incentives Program, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (federal)
The EQIP program absorbed the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) after 2014.
EWP - Emergency Watershed Protection, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (federal)
The Arizona EWP Drought Program was discontinued in 2001 after a critical audit.
HPC - Habitat Partnership Committee, Arizona Game & Fish Commission (state)
Arizona Heritage Fund, Arizona Game & Fish Commission (state)
LCCGP - Livestock & Crop Conservation Program, Arizona Department of Agriculture (state)
Note: Open Space Reserve Grants became LCCGP Grants after 2002.
LFP - Livestock Forage Disaster Program, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (federal)
LOFFAP - Livestock Operator Fire & Flood Assistance Program, Arizona Department of Agriculture (state)
LRP - Landowner Relations Program, Arizona Game & Fish Department (state)
PFWP - Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (federal)
WQIG - Water Quality Improvement Grant, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (federal/state)
Note: These grants were previously called Section 319 nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution prevention grants.
4 Drag RanchBrown RanchFlying Box RanchHopi RanchesLance Knight RanchesRogers/Lee RanchSpur RanchStrayhorse RanchTimberline RanchWY Bar RanchX Diamond Ranch
4 Drag/7 Cross A Ranches (Darcy & Gary Ely) - East Eagle & Mud Springs Allotments
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2000AWPF #00-102*$66,330Livestock Water & Fences - Including San Carlos Reservation Boundary Fence
2002WQIG #04-022$45,750Livestock Water
2005LCCGP #05-33$125,000Fencing, Grassland Restoration, Livestock Water
2006WQIG #8-007**$360,930Upper Eagle Creek Watershed Restoration Phase 2
2007-2016EQIP$24,793
2007LCCGP #07-25$125,000Erosion Control, Livestock Water, and Fencing
2009LCCGP #09-36$100,000Watershed Improvement for SE Arizona Ranch Sustainability
2011LCCGP #11-15$125,000Watershed Project for SE Arizona Ranch Sustainability
2011AWPF #11-177$136,714San Carlos Reservation Boundary Fence
2011-2021LFP$257,702
2019ECP$25,285
2020ECP$3,384
2022LFP$26,992
2023EQIP$20,722
$1,443,602TOTAL 2002 - 2023
* AWPF #00-102 was received by the ranch's previous owner.
** WQIG #8-007 was shared with three neighboring ranches.

NOTE: In 2021 $65,000 in federal Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) funds were approved to help rebuild livestock fences & waters damaged in the 2021 Bear Fire. The money was shared among four grazing allotments, including the East Eagle & Mud Springs allotments, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
This ranch was one of the beneficiaries of Arizona Post-Wildfire Infrastructure Assistance Program (APWIAP) grant #21-803 for $462,100 in response to the 2021 Bear Fire.
The ranch’s owners also received at least $11,733 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2019 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves.
Brown Ranches (J. Albert Brown Ranches, Inc.) - Greens Peak & Cerro Trigo (FS) and Wildcat Creek (BLM) Allotments, State Leases #05-000160 & #05-042016
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2009-2021EQIP$511,511
2011-2021LFP$718,094
2017AWPF #17-188$303,975Juniper Tree Removal
2023LFP$85,477
$1,619,057TOTAL 2009 - 2023
Brown Ranch has received at least $28,094 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2017 for cattle reportedly killed by Mexican wolves.
Maddock Ranch (SPO Land & Cattle Co. LLC) - Udall & Rudd Creek Allotments, State Lease #05-001357
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2011-2021LFP$309,646
2012WQIG #12-002*$494,087 Improve Coyote Creek Watershed Degraded by Livestock Grazing
2013-2021EQIP$569,279
2015WQIG #15-005**$322,822Improve Upper Little Colorado River Watershed Degraded by Livestock Grazing
2022EQIP$41,330
2022LFP$42,382
$1,779,546TOTAL 2011 - 2022
* This grant was shared with five neighboring ranches.
The ranch’s owner has received at least $25,560 in compensation from the Livestock Loss Board since 2019 for livestock reportedly killed by Mexican wolves.
Hopi Ranches (Hopi Three Canyon Ranch LLC) - Pickett Lake/Padre Canyon (Coconino NF), 26 Bar (Apache-Sitgreaves NF) & Relic Point (BLM) Allotments, State Leases #05-000474 & #05-002114 (respectively)
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2005-2010EQIP$196,397Coconino County
2006-2009EQIP$24,590Apache County
2007LCCGP #07-18$125,000Grassland Resoration, Water Development
2008-2013EQIP$156,393Navajo County
2011LFP$19,321Navajo County
2011-2022LFP$1,137,948Coconino County
2013HPC #12-107$13,250Dipping Vat Cattle Exclosure Fence (26 Bar)
2013HPC #12-108$17,500 Pool Corral Lake Cattle Exclosure Fence (26 Bar)
2023ALLB$500Cattle Carcass Removals (26 bar)
2023LFP$186,144Coconino County
$1,877,043TOTAL 2005 - 2023
The Hopi Tribe owns these ranches. They are managed by Pat Browning. The previous manager was Duane Coleman. They tribe also own ranches in Coconino County that have state grazing leases, including leases #05-000012, #05-002222 & #05-000362.
The 26 Bar Ranch also received at least $17,979 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2018 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves.
Lance Knight Ranches (Lance & Kristen Knight) - Williams Valley (FS) and Hardscrabble Wash, Puerco Ridge & Zion (BLM) Allotments, State Leases #05-001663, #05-001699, #05-043833 & #05-001764
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2011-2021LFP$503,909
2014-2020EQIP$310,615
2022LFP$97,306
$911,830TOTAL 2011 - 2021
The Knights own several public land ranches in Apache County, including:
Five Knights Ranch: Williams Valley (FS) Allotment, State Leases 05-001663 & #05-001699
Broken L Badlands Ranch - Puerco Ridge (BLM) Allotment, State Lease #05-043833
T 7 Ranch - Hardscrabble Wash (BLM) Allotment, State Lease #05-001764
Lance Knight has also received at least $39,723 from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2019 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves on his Five Knights Ranch.
Rodgers/Lee Ranch (Spear T Ranch, LLC) - N. Escudilla Allotment, State Lease #05-000787
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2011-2019EQIP$375,072
2011-2018LFP$31,733
2012WQIG #12-002*$494,087 Improve Coyote Creek Watershed Degraded by Livestock Grazing
2015WQIG #15-005**$322,822Improve Upper Little Colorado River Watershed Degraded by Livestock Grazing
2018WQIG #20-007$59,869Repair Coyote Creek Streambank
2020LFP$11,646
2020HPC #19-106$90,000Pinyon Pine & Juniper Tree Removal (Year 1 of 5 years of $90,00 per year.)
2021HPC #20-106$90,000Pinyon Pine & Juniper Tree Removal (Year 2 of 5 years of $90,00 per year.)
2021EQIP$119,557
2022HPC #21-106$90,000Pinyon Pine & Juniper Tree Removal (Year 3 of 5 years of $90,00 per year.)
2022EQIP$97,143
2023HPC #22-106$90,000Pinyon Pine & Juniper Tree Removal (Year 4 of 5 years of $90,00 per year.)
$1,871,899TOTAL 2011 - 2023
The Rogers/Lee Ranch has received at least $3,555 in compensation from the Livestock Loss Board since 2022 for cattle reportedly killed by Mexican wolves.
Spur Ranch (Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC, Spur Ranch LLC) - Alma Mesa Allotment
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2015HPC #14-116$8,330Water Development
2018-2023LFP$25,153Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC
2018-2023LFP$55,123Spur Ranch LLC
2023EQIP$77,163Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC
$165,769TOTAL 2015 - 2023
NOTE: In 2020 $28,032 in federal Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) funds were approved to help rebuild livestock fences & waters damaged in the 2020 Cow Canyon Fire. The money was shared among five grazing allotments, including this one, on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
This ranch was one of the beneficiaries of Arizona Post-Wildfire Infrastructure Assistance Program (APWIAP) grant #21-805 for $230,250 in response to the 2021 Horton Complex Fire.
Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC also holds the permit for the Luna grazing allotment in New Mexico's nearby Gila National Forest, and received at least another $29,911 of EQIP assistance for that operation from 2021-2024. Also, Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC and Spur Ranch LLC received $24,117 of LFP assistance in 2020 in New Mexico. The Spur Ranch has also received at least $9,083 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2021 for cattle reportedly killed in Arizona by endangered Mexican wolves. (There may have been more payments for cattle reportedly killed by wolves in New Mexico.)
Strayhorse Ranch (Stray Horse Ranch, LLC) - Strayhorse Allotment
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2011-2018LFP$62,786
2013LCCGP #13-01$40,000Watershed Improvements
2014Heritage Fund$5,000Livestock Water & Fencing
$107,786TOTAL 2011 - 2018
NOTE: In 2021 $65,000 in federal Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) funds were approved to help rebuild livestock fences & waters damaged in the 2021 Bear Fire. The money was shared among four grazing allotments, including this one, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
The ranch's owners have received at least $13,139 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2020 for cattle reportedly killed by Mexican wolves.
Timberline Ranch (Timberline Cattle Co., LLC) - Hall & Harris Lake Allotments, State Leases #05-088172 & #05-110230
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2009LCCGP #09-33$100,000Adaptive Livestock Management
2010-2014EQIP$119,058
2011WHIP$46,963
2011LCCGP #11-14$112,350Implementing Conservation
2011-2019LFP$765,842
2014HPC #13-103$45,000Remove Juniper Trees
2015HPC #14-10978,200Remove Juniper Trees
2015Heritage Fund$3,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2016Heritage Fund$3,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2017Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2019Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2023ALLB$500Cattle Carcass Removals
2023AWPF #2301$261,000Remove Juniper Trees
2023LFP$38,852 (Carey D. Dobson)
$1,584,015TOTAL 2009 - 2023
The Timberline Ranch also received at least $174,358 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2017 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves.
WY Bar & LWJ Ranch (LWJ Ranch, LLC) - Cow Flat, Foote Creek, PS, Stone Creek, Alpine, Bobcat-Johnson, Fishhook-Steeple Mesa, and Beaver Creek Allotments
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2002OSR #23*$38,839
2005LCCGP #05-65$87,339Livestock Water & Grassland Restoration
2007LCCGP #07-62$100,000Livestock Water & Grassland Restoration
2009LCCGP #09-72$100,000Riparian, Livestock Water & Management
2011LCCGP #11-45$125,000Livestock Water & Riparian Protection
2011LFP$13,210$5,046 LWJ Ranch LLC
$8,164 Barbara Marks
2014Heritage Fund$6,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2016HPC #15-104$15,000Dirt Tank Repairs
2016Heritage Fund$6,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2017Heritage Fund$6,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2018Heritage Fund$6,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2019-2021EQIP$24,059
2019ALLB$32,000Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grant #19.007
2021HPC #20-108$20,000Dirt Tank Cleanouts
2021LFP$38,526$19,812 LWJ Ranch LLC
$18,714 Barbara Marks
2022HPC #21-105$39,000Dirt Tank Cleaning
2022EQIP$164
2022LFP$36,821$16,578 LWJ Ranch LLC
$20,243 Barbara Marks
2023EQIP$26,606
2023ALLB$35,260Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grant #23.024
2024HPC #23-105$10,000Dirt Tank Cleanout
$765,824TOTAL 2002 - 2024
* Open Space Reserve (OSR) grants became LCCGP grants in 2005.
NOTE: In 2020 $28,032 in federal Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) funds were approved to help rebuild livestock fences & waters damaged in the 2020 Cow Canyon Fire. The money was shared among five grazing allotments, including four of these, on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
This ranch was one of the beneficiaries of Arizona Post-Wildfire Infrastructure Assistance Program (APWIAP) grant #21-804 for $483,545 in response to the 2020 Cow Canyon Fire.
This ranch was one of the beneficiaries of Arizona Post-Wildfire Infrastructure Assistance Program (APWIAP) grant #21-805 for $230,250 in response to the 2021 Horton Complex Fire.
The WY Bar Ranch also received at least $43,727 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2017 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves.
X Diamond Ranch (Southfork Properties LLP) - Greer & Voigt Allotments, State Leases #05-053061 & #05-082958, Sublease #05-000187-102
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2006AWPF #05-126$352,119X Diamond Ranch Little Colorado River Riparian Enhancement Project
2014Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2015Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2017Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2018Heritage Fund$5,000Mexican Wolf/Livestock Conflict Reduction
2019ALLB$66,000Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grants #19.001 & #19.005
2020ALLB$66,000Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grants #20.010 & #20.012
2021ALLB$63,500Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grants #21.015 & #21.017
2023ALLB$19,440Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grant #23.025
$587,059TOTAL 2006 - 2023
The X Diamond Ranch is owned by Arizona Livestock Loss Board member Sarahmarge Crigler. She has received at least $21,635 in compensation from the Board since 2019 for cattle reportedly killed by Mexican wolves.

Some ranches with grazing permits for Bureau of Land Management ((BLM) allotments located north of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest have also received significant amounts of ALLB payments.

Ghost Lake RanchesPlatt RanchScraper Knoll Ranch
Ghost Lake Ranches (Ghost Lake Corp.) - Jarvis Wash, Little Reservoir & St. Johns Allotments, State Leases #05-095260, #05-106926, #05-000325 & #05-088158
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
1999EWP*$40,680Paid to Take Cattle Off the Land During Drought
2008-2012EQIP*$118,737
2012-2015LFP*$67,122
2016-2019LFP$86,724
$313,263TOTAL 1999 - 2019
* This assistance benefited Orlando A. "Tony" Garcia, previous permittee of the Jarvis Wash allotment.
Ghost Lake Corp. also holds the grazing permit for the Y Canyon allotment administered by the adjacent Gila National Forest in New Mexico, and also the permit for BLM's NM-AZ Stateline allotment in that neighboring state. It also received at least $322,765 of LFP assistance in New Mexico from 2016-2023. Furthermore, it owns the Spurlock Ranch, a state land ranch in Apache County that received HPC grant #23-106 for $100,000 in 2024.
Nelson D. Shirley, is an owner of Badger Creek Corp. and Ghost Lake Corp., plus the holder of the grazing permit for the T Bar allotment in New Mexico's Gila National Forest. He received $291,379 of LFP assistance for his operations in New Mexico's nearby Catron County from 2019-2023, and another $46,854 of LFP from 2018-2021 for a state land ranch her formerly owned in Arizona's Mohave County. Shirley has also received at least $31,706 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB) since 2019 for cattle reportedly killed in Arizona by Mexican wolves. (There may have been more payments for cattle reportedly killed by wolves in New Mexico.) And the ALLB has also awarded him at least $48,000 in Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grants since 2022, along with $500 in 2023 for cattle carcass removals.
Platt Ranch (Platt Cattle Co. LLC) - Big Hollow Wash & Mud Springs Allotments & State Sublease #05-027970
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
2018-2021LFP$271,385
2021EQIP$91,263
2022EQIP$105,453
2023EQIP$134,903
$603,004TOTAL 2018 -2023
The ranch also received at least $7,110 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board since 2022 for cattle reportedly killed by endangered Mexican wolves.
Scraper Knoll Ranch (Badger Creek Corp.) - Scraper Knoll Allotment, State Lease #05-104398
YEARSPROGRAMAMOUNTPROJECT NAME
1999EWP$32,195Paid to Take Cattle Off the Land During Drought
2011PFWP$24,900
2015WQIG #15-005**$322,822Improve Upper Little Colorado River Watershed Degraded by Livestock Grazing
2017-2019EQIP$107,263
$487,180TOTAL 1999 - 2019
** Per this project's final report, this grant was shared with five neighboring ranches.
The government assistance listed above benefited the ranch's previous owner, Johnson Cattle Co. LLC, which sold the ranch in late 2020.
Badger Creek Corp. also holds the grazing permit for the Spur Lake allotment administered by the adjacent Gila National Forest in New Mexico, although the western portion of the allotment is in Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, where HPC grant #20-106 for $20,050 was used. The company also holds the permits for the BLM's Cimarron Mesa, Stokes Flat & Summers Community allotments in New Mexico. It received at least $405,894 of LFP assistance in New Mexico from 2016-2022.
Nelson D. Shirley, is an owner of Badger Creek Corp. and Ghost Lake Corp., plus the holder of the grazing permit for the T Bar allotment in New Mexico's Gila National Forest. He received $291,379 of LFP assistance for his operations in New Mexico's nearby Catron County from 2019-2023, and another $46,854 of LFP from 2018-2021 for a state land ranch her formerly owned in Arizona's Mohave County. Shirley has also received at least $31,706 in compensation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB) since 2019 for cattle reportedly killed in Arizona by Mexican wolves. (There may have been more payments for cattle reportedly killed by wolves in New Mexico.) And the ALLB has also awarded him at least $48,000 in Mexican Wolf Depredation Prevention Grants since 2022, along with $500 in 2023 for cattle carcass removals.

Note: There may have been more, these are the amounts of assistance that have been verified.

Consequently, many folks think the ranchers should have to put up with the wolves as a cost of doing business on public land. There’s also some criticism of the program’s wolf depredation prevention grants. They are typically used to pay for a “range rider” to help keep wolves away from cattle. But people wonder why they don’t already have cowboys watching their herds, especially since ranchers so often like to claim that they are the ultimate conservationists.

Of course, there are also lots of Americans that have sympathy for these ranchers, and are willing to support a government program that compensates them for wolf-related losses – or at least for depredation prevention costs. But it’s unlikely that the Arizona Livestock Loss Board is the kind of agency that most taxpayers would want in charge.

Updates

On May 24, 2022, The Intercept posted the results of an investigation that found the USDA’s Wildlife Services had regularly approved unverified Mexican wolf depredation claims, resulting in the unjustified deaths of wolves.

On May 27, 2022, Western Watersheds Project sent a letter, cosigned by more than a dozen conservation groups, asking for a federal investigation into corruption in the USDA’s processing of claims of livestock killed by Mexican wolves. (The USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) subsequently initiated an investigation.)

On June 3, 2022, I filed an official complaint with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich regarding the Arizona Livestock Loss Board’s failure to comply with the state’s open meeting law.

In August, 2022, the director of the USDA’s Wildlife Services Western Region, Keith Wehner, announced that all Mexican wolf depredation investigations would be sent to his office for review, and that he would be forming a working group to establish a new standard operating procedure (SOP) that’s consistent and understandable for verifying wolf depredations in Arizona and New Mexico.

According to the minutes of their August 16, 2022, meeting, in response to a request by the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, the ALLB was sending a letter to the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Budgeting (OSPB) asking for an emergency grant of state funds because they were worried that the federal funds annually provided by the USFWS for wolf depredation compensation payments would be insufficient for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.

On August 25, 2022, the Arizona Attorney General transferred my open meeting law violation complaint against the Arizona Livestock Loss Board to the Maricopa County Attorney, to avoid a potential conflict of interest between two state agencies.

On September 26, 2022, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a letter in response to my complaint that the Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB) wasn’t complying with the state’s open meeting law (OML). The letter asserted that the ALLB was in compliance with the OML. It explained that the ALLB recently decided to quit producing written minutes for its meetings because the meetings are now being recorded. Subsequently, written minutes will no longer be posted to their website, and the public is able to request copies of the meeting recordings from the ALLB in a timely manner. In regards to the complaint that the ALLB failed to provide minutes from the meetings of its subcommittees, ALLB members claimed the subcommittees never met, so they voted to terminate them at their September 20, 2022, meeting.

According to the minutes of their November 15, 2022, meeting, the ALLB was notified that it was illegal to use the money provided by the USFWS to pay for wolf depredation claims if USDA Wildlife Services determined that it was only “probable” that a wolf had killed the animal. Therefore, the ALLB denied claim #2209191212, and voted to stop payment on claims #2207261255 & #2207081111, which they had approved at their previous meeting. These claims could be paid at a future date if another source of funding becomes available. A discussion followed wherein it was pointed out that the ALLB’s depredation compensation guidelines allowed payments for probable claims, and that they had approved some in the past. 

In November 2022 the ALLB posted revised interim policies for wolf depredation compensation awards and wolf depredation prevention grants to their website.

At their December 20, 2022, meeting, the ALLB appointed a new chairman, Charles E. Kelly.

On January 2, 2023, Democrat Katie Hobbs took the oath of office and became the governor of Arizona, replacing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

On January 12, 2023, the ALLB announced that they were implementing a $250 per head livestock carcass removal incentive program for ranchers for the purpose of reducing Mexican wolf depredations. This program was first discussed during their September 20, 2022, meeting, according their posted agendas.

In response to a public record request the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s Mexican Wolf Coordinator, Jim de Vos, issued a letter on January 24, 2023, wherein he identified the source of the 50% matching funds that ranchers are legally required to provide in order to receive depredation compensation awards or depredation avoidance grants from the ALLB. The letter explained that ranchers haven’t been required to provide any grant match affidavit forms because third party contributions and Game & Fish Department funds have been used to meet the match requirements “in an effort to maximize Mexican wolf recovery.” The Department funds used for this purpose very likely include AGFD Heritage Fund money.

On February 15, 2023, Arizona State Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, proposed a change to the ALLB as an amendment to SB 1002, which had been introduced by Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, to provide a $250,000 state appropriation to the ALLB wolf depredation compensation fund. The change would have prohibited ALLB members from receiving depredation compensation or depredation avoidance money. The amendment failed and SB 1002 was subsequently passed by the Senate and sent to the Arizona House, where it failed to pass.

Also in early 2023, HB 2644 was introduced in the Arizona Legislature to create a Mexican wolf depredation claim verification employee position at the Arizona Department of Agriculture. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate, likely because it would have been illegal for the state to take over the verification process.

In 2023 the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) award of more than $6.6 million to go to the Grazing Management and Non-Lethal Predator Risk Mitigation project in New Mexico and Arizona to reduce the predation of livestock by Mexican wolves by helping to fund range riders, cattle carcass removals, and other related activities. The project’s lead partner is the Western Landowners Alliance.

In January 2024 Arizona State Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, introduced SB 1147 to appropriate $250,000 to the Arizona livestock compensation fund, administered by the ALLB.

In February 2024 the ALLB released their 2023 Mexican Wolf Depredation & Conflict Avoidance Award Recipients.

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