Originally published Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 06:00a.m.

Everyone knows that Arizona is in a drought situation. And the drought not only affects the human element, it also affects the state’s arguably most valuable natural resource, our wildlife.

And once again, it is the state’s only true conservationists, the sportsmen, who are stepping to help our wildlife make it through these trying times.

A lot of people think that Arizona is an arid desert, but we know that we also have areas of our state that consist of forests. Forests that are primarily managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Forests that serve as home to elk, deer, antelope, turkeys, bears, mountain lions and other predators, birds, and a plethora of small animals from squirrels to rabbits.

In addition to the forests, Arizona is home to the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the United States, there are grasslands, and of course deserts, that are home to wildlife.

With no end in sight to the drought, conservationists and the state’s various conservation groups, along with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, are doing what they can to save our wildlife.

I hope after you read this story, you will sit down and write a check to help these groups out or volunteer to help deliver water to our wildlife.

Over the years, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society has spent a lot of money and thousands of hours building and re-developing waters in the desert. Sure the main focus of these water developments are for sheep, but other desert dwellers, mule deer, javelina and countless small mammals and birds, survive due to these waters.

The Arizona Deer Association has been involved in water development. So has the Mule Deer Foundation.

The Arizona Antelope Foundation, working with other conservation groups, has helped out not only the state’s antelope population, but wildlife in general with various projects.

Right now the Arizona Elk Society is in the news for their tireless efforts to haul thousands of gallons of much needed water to wildlife in northern Arizona.

Steve Clark of the AES recently was featured on a television station in regards to the efforts of the AES and a cadre of volunteers who every day are filling storage tanks and drinkers all over northern Arizona with treated effluent that they are getting from Flagstaff.

Clark told a television station that there are approximately 500 drinkers that are owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and 1,500 that are owned by the US Forest Service that are being filled by volunteers who day in and day out, keep bringing water to thirsty wildlife in northern Arizona.

Volunteers know that the wildlife in our state are in desperate need of water as often times they see the wildlife standing at or near the drinkers as they arrive with life sustaining liquid.

Clark noted that elk drink an average of 6-8 gallons of water a day, and without the continued hauling of water around northern Arizona, the elk and other wildlife would be severely stressed.

It is not only conservation organizations that are involved in water hauling.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has already hauled more than 600,000 gallons of water this year and they are anticipating that they will haul 1.5 million gallons by the end of the year.

The department has 3,000 wildlife drinkers statewide, and they have serviced over a thousand of them along with about a thousand BLM drinkers and the same number that belong to the US Forest Service. While most of the water has been delivered by truck, the department in some cases has flown in water by helicopter.

Hauling water is expensive, no matter how you do it. The department has a site to which sportsmen and others can donate to help defray the costs associated with this effort.

Go to www.azwildlifehero.com to make a donation to the department’s Water for Wildlife campaign.

Besides governmental and conservation groups, other Arizona sportsmen are also helping deliver water to wildlife.

Russ Jacoby is probably the most well-known bison or buffalo outfitter in Arizona. He operates a buffalo guide service on the North Kaibab and he, his guides and helpers are often hauling water for wildlife. Jacoby coordinates with the AZGFD and the US Forest Service in water hauling efforts on the north Kaibab. It’s not just buffalo that are drinking the thousands of gallons of water they are hauling.

The north Kaibab has the largest mule deer population in Arizona. Besides mule deer there are also turkeys, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and foxes along with squirrels and many varieties of birds and small mammals that depend on the water haulers. The drought has caused natural springs and seeps to go dry and stock ponds are shrinking or have completely dried up.

Now here is my rant and rave for this week.

In Arizona, as in the nation, sportsmen make up a minority of the population.

However it is the AZGFD, conservation groups and individuals that are keeping the state’s wildlife populations from crashing due to the lack of water.

Have you seen any of the so-called animal rights groups out there putting water out for wildlife?

No, and you won’t see or hear about them in these times of crisis for wildlife. All they want to do is sue, sue, sue.

I hope that the non-consumptive population remembers this the next time these groups try and stop hunting in our state.

In the meantime, you can volunteer to help the AES put water out there for wildlife or you can send them a check to help defray the costs associated with this water hauling effort.

Go to support@arizonaelksociety.org to find out how you can help out in this time of need.