PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department unveiled its wildlife conservation plan for the next decade that addressed vulnerable species and habitat protection.
The Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy received input from state and federal agencies, sportsmen’s groups, conservation organizations, Native American tribes, recreation groups, local governments and private citizens to develop the road map. Arizona’s last Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) was approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012.
SWAPs require states to describe actions to “keep common species common” and identify those that need the most conservation efforts, more than 500 of which are listed. The AZGFD Roadmap addresses the eight elements:
- Distribution and abundance of species
- Habitat situations and conditions
- Threats to species and habitat
- Species and habitat conservation actions
- Monitoring plan for the effectiveness of the actions
- Procedures for updating the plan
- Involvement of partners
- Public participation
Arizona’s biodiversity, the life that exists in an ecosystem, is among the most diverse in the country. The Grand Canyon State is home to the third-most native bird species of any state, the second-most reptiles, the fifth-most mammals, and nearly 4,000 native plants in 17 major habitat types.
The paper identified 11 challenges to wildlife conservation in the state, a section highlighted by agriculture, development and human encroachment, affecting habitat loss as well as climate change and species invaders
According to the Department of Water Resources, population growth has increased in Arizona, putting pressure on natural resources, while agriculture uses 72% of the state’s available water.
The new approach will involve more emphasis on habitat-based conservation to protect the homes of numerous species, including the corridors needed for connectivity. AZGFD also plans to cooperate with agricultural producers to find solutions, acquire land and water rights, and continue to raise awareness about threats to biodiversity.
The plan has no regulatory authority or imposes rules on Arizonans.
The work will be funded in part through the federal State and Tribal Wildlife Grants (SWG) program, which was passed by Congress in 2002. To qualify for the grants, states need an approved SWAP with revisions every 10 years
“Each year SWG funds contribute approximately $1.3 million to AZGFD, all of which is designated for non-game species,” said Clay Crowder, AZGFD deputy director of wildlife management, in a statement from press “These dollars help fund many conservation efforts, including some of the department’s lesser-known conservation work with the ranid frog program, Gila topminnow reintroduction and grassland bird monitoring.”
For more details, Arizona SWAP has an interactive web-based version with data, models, as well as habitat and species profiles for citizens to explore ways to contribute.
“AWCS is designed for everyone, from the general public to conservation groups to federal agencies and beyond,” said Crowder. “With greater access to information and data, powerful conservation tools, and greater collaboration with our many partners, the AWCS will help meet the challenges that Arizona’s wildlife will face in the coming years. 10 years”.