ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona Game and Fish Department announces 10-year wildlife conservation strategic plan

Jan 18, 2023, 4:05 AM
(Twitter Photo/@azgfd)...
(Twitter Photo/@azgfd)
(Twitter Photo/@azgfd)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department unveiled its wildlife conservation blueprint for the next decade that addressed vulnerable species and habitat protection.

The Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy received input from federal and state agencies, sportsmen groups, conservation organizations, Native American tribes, recreational groups, local governments and private citizens to put together the roadmap. Arizona’s last State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012.

SWAPs require states to outline actions to “keep common species common” and identify those in need of greater conservation efforts, more than 500 of which are listed. AZGFD’s roadmap addresses eighth elements:

  • Species distribution and abundance
  • Habitat locations and conditions
  • Threats to species and habitat
  • Actions to conserve species and habitat
  • Plan for monitoring effectiveness of actions
  • Procedures for updating the plan
  • Partner involvement
  • Public participation

Arizona’s biodiversity — life that exists in an ecosystem — is among the most diverse in the country. The Grand Canyon State hosts the third-most native bird species of any state, second-most reptiles, fifth-most mammals and nearly 4,000 native plants in 17 major habitat types.

The document singled out 11 challenges to wildlife conservation in the state, a section highlighted by agriculture, development and human intrusion — which all impact habitat loss — as well as climate change and invasive species.

Population growth has boomed in Arizona which puts strain on natural resources, while agriculture uses 72% of of the available water in the state, according to the Department of Water Resources.

The new approach will involve greater emphases on habitat-based conservation to protect the homes of numerous species, including corridors necessary for connectivity. AZGFD also plans to cooperate with agricultural producers to find solutions, acquire land and water rights and continue to raise awareness for the noted threats to biodiversity.

The plan does not have regulatory authority or impose rules on Arizonans.

The work will be partly funded through the federal State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (SWG), which passed in Congress in 2002. In order to qualify for the grants, states need an approved SWAP with revisions every 10 years.

“Each year SWG funds bring in about $1.3 million to AZGFD, all of it designated for nongame species,” Clay Crowder, AZGFD’s assistant director for wildlife management, said in a press release. “These dollars help fund many conservation efforts, including some of the department’s lesser-known nongame conservation work with the ranid frog program, Gila topminnow reintroduction and grassland bird monitoring.”

For more details, Arizona’s SWAP has interactive web-based version with data, models as well as habitat and species profiles for citizens to explore ways to contribute.

“The AWCS is designed for everyone — from the general public to conservation groups to federal agencies and beyond,” Crowder said. “With increased access to information and data, powerful conservation tools and increased collaboration with our many partners, the AWCS will help meet the challenges that Arizona’s wildlife will face over the next 10 years.”

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Arizona Game and Fish Department announces 10-year wildlife conservation strategic plan