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Rescue rangers ramp up for summer in national parks

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National park rangers in Arizona are preparing for the annual summer surge of slips, trips, falls and rescues. Each year, more than 10 million people visit the 22 national parks, monuments and historic sites in Arizona. And each year, hundreds of those people are rescued. “Prevention is huge,” said Christian Malcolm, who leads the Preventive Search and Rescue program at Grand Canyon National Park. “You want to do everything you can to educate your population.” The most common rescues in Arizona’s national parks involve heat-related illnesses and visitors who are unprepared or unfit, said Kenneth Phillips, the National Park Service-wide coordinator for emergency services, based in Flagstaff. In 2014, national parks around the country responded to 2,658 search-and-rescue incidents, including injuries, illnesses, fatalities, lost visitors, and most of all, people who were unprepared or unfit for the activities they were doing, according to the agency’s annual search and rescue report. Most victims are 20 to 29 years old. Search and rescues cost the National Park Service and its partners about $4 million to $5 million per year, but visitors rescued on federal lands do not have to pay except for occasional cases of negligence, Malcolm said. “It’s a perk of being a U.S. citizen,” he said. “It’s a public service that we do, paid...

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Saguaro national park to scan plant nurseries for tagged cactus

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             In a new move to protect the state’s iconic plant, Saguaro National Park plans to monitor cactus nurseries to prevent the buying and selling of stolen saguaros from the park.             “It’s a pretty big thing for somebody to steal our namesake from the national park,” said law enforcement ranger Steve Bolyard.             In 2009, park staff began inserting Passive Integrated Transponder, or PIT, tags into saguaro cactuses to deter cactus thieves. Park employees tagged saguaros in the park for two years, though the staff would not disclose how many saguaros were tagged.             “If you think about how a dog gets a microchip, it’s the same kind of technology,” said park ranger Andy Fisher. “We are doing the same kind of thing with cactus in a consistent location.”             A special scanner can be used to pick up the signal from the body of each tagged cactus, she said.             Law enforcement rangers have not caught any cactus thieves since before the program began, Bolyard said.             “We want it to be a deterrent,” Fisher said. “We know we’re never going to be able to tag every single cactus out there.”             The park hopes to expand the tagging program by partnering with local nurseries and having volunteers...

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Arizona geocachers banned from land

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The Arizona State Trust Land Department officially banned geocaching on their grounds last year, saying the outdoor recreation violates state policy against litter, according to Eric Schudiske, spokesman for Groundspeak, operators of the Geocaching website that provides a centralized repository of caches nationally. Hundreds of thousands of geocaches in the state are in jeopardy of never being found again due to the ban, Schudiske said. “There’s been a big rift between (the state) and the geocaching community,” Schudiske said....

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More bartending jobs on tap for Arizona

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Job seekers might want to brush up on their cocktail recipes as Arizona is expected to have the second highest expected growth rate for bartending in the nation for the next decade. That is good news for Patrick Night, 50, who is training to become a bartender. Night, who was a truck driver for the past 30 years, said he wants to get out of his cab and meet people. “Being a people’s person, I can introduce myself,” Night...

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Video game development on the rise in Arizona

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The video game industry is leveling up in Arizona. The number of video gaming industry employees in the state increased by 11 percent in Arizona from 2009-2012, according to the latest report by the Entertainment Software Association. Developers say the state is ideal because of the low cost of living and it is less expensive for companies to hire employees compared to California or Texas. The video game industry’s value to the state economy increased 8 percent in 2012,...

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Arizona encourages kids to bike safely to school

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Arizona bicyclists might notice a younger demographic pedaling down their lanes. Schools throughout the state are helping children learn to ride to school through the federal National Safe Routes to School program, started in 2005. Through 2012, the federal funding provided for 28 safe route projects in 19 Arizona cities. Since 2013, about $1.4 million has been awarded for more programs, and Phoenix has $342,000 to spend this year on school programs. “A broad goal for the Safe Routes...

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Bike-share programs spreading in Arizona

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Bright green bikes are spreading through the state. Last fall, Phoenix collaborated with CycleHop and Social Bicycles to launch Arizona’s first bike share program, Grid Bike Share. Members reserve one of 500 bikes from among 50 stations planted in downtown Phoenix. Tucson, Tempe and Mesa are not far behind. “The more people we get riding a bicycle with the understanding that the bicycle is part of a multimodal system of getting around the city and a potential part of...

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Part 1: Federal program fuels militarization of police

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Millions of dollars in military- grade armaments flow into Arizona communities with minimal standards for training or oversight on how the equipment is being used. An Arizona Sonora News investigation shows towns stocked with mine resistant vehicles, grenade launchers, assault rifles and tear gas — all the discards of war. Proponents of the federal program that offers up the armaments say it saves money for cities. Opponents paint a darker picture: heavily armed law enforcement with what opponents call...

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Part 2: A statewide audit shows arms to spare

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Thirty-three percent of the law enforcement agencies in the state don’t follow the law, an Arizona Sonora News investigation has found. When sent a Freedom of Information request for an inventory of their weapons, canines and animals, aircraft, vehicles and body armor, only 49 percent of the agencies completely complied with the request. Eighteen percent offered incomplete inventories. Rural communities, cities fewer than 10,000 people, are the most heavily armed. They have a median of 1.55 handguns per sworn...

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Part 3: Armed and ready absent oversight, training

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Bisbee is the most heavily armed police department in the state of Arizona, with 4.15 handguns per sworn officer and 3.77 rifles and shotguns per sworn officer. The department has 13 sworn officers who serve a population of 5,360. While most departments in the state hover around 1.42 handguns per sworn officer, towns like Bisbee are able to get as many guns as they want with minimal oversight. There are no national or state standards or recommendations on what...

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Is the lure of the Wild West fading?

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  Is western culture too tough to die? Tourism in Tombstone Arizona has seen a significant decrease within the last decade. According to Robert Carreira, director for the Center of Economic Research at Cochise College, there were 45,790 visits to the Tombstone Courthouse. Last year that number dropped to 42,549 (7.08 percent decrease). In the past decade, the peak year was 2005, which saw 59,330 visitors. Carreira said there were many reasons for this decline in visitation, one being...

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Historical crops may be the future of sustainable agriculture

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Two Southern Arizonan nonprofit organizations, Native Seeds/SEARCH and Tohono O’odham Community Action, are working to promote wild food sources and desert tolerant crops in the region. Before Arizona became known for its cotton and citrus, before farmers moved west to tame the land, before Spanish explorers first set their eyes on the Grand Canyon, the Tohono O’odham were cultivating the land and using the Southwest’s natural food sources to survive. For hundreds of years, their diet consisted of wild foods straight...

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Top 15 suggestions for graduates to become financially savvy

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Papers turned in. Last exam taken. Degree in hand, one enters the world of post-graduation and career life. Often, this is a time to start the foundations for the future but with the lack of financial literacy or the knowledge of how to run one’s own finances, this can not only seem daunting but a whirlwind of decisions. “If people are more financial literate, individually, their personal lives would be in more harmony,” said Elena Zee, president and CEO...

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Tombstone banks on history to attract visitors

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The clop of horses’ hooves and jingle of spurs on the wooden sidewalk peppers the dusty morning air of Tombstone. “First shootout at noon,” calls a man with a snowy white beard and sheriff’s costume as he wanders toward Allen Street, Tombstone’s historic district. In Tombstone, history is a part of the fabric of everyday life, one that draws visitors from all over the world. Reenactments, museums, and tours are big business here. The “Town Too Tough To Die”...

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Miss Rita: Bringing heart and soul to Arizona football

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It’s impossible to miss her big smile and bright blonde hair bouncing through the football facility. If you know anything about Arizona football, then you know who Coach Rich Rodriguez is. But if you know the ins and outs of the team, you know “Miss Rita” Rodriguez. Rita grew up playing sports and has loved football for as long as she can remember. She attended Fairmont State College for three years and then met Rich. She transferred to West...

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