Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Chapter 1: Arizona's Biodiversity

Thanks to a variety of habitats across the state, Arizona is one of the most biologically diverse states in the nation, ranking third in the number of native bird species, second for reptiles, fifth for mammals, and eighth for overall vertebrate diversity (Stein 2002). In total, Arizona is home to more than 800 native fish and wildlife species, the highest biodiversity of any inland state. As the agency charged with managing all of Arizona’s wildlife, AZGFD also manages several species of non-native sportfish and game birds, providing exceptional recreational opportunities for hunters and anglers. These non-native species are managed in balance with native wildlife.

Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)

To qualify for funding under the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (STWG), each state is directed to develop and implement a 10-year plan (the AWCS) that outlines effective conservation actions with the purpose of "keeping common species common." In addition, the plan is also intended to identify those species in need of conservation efforts in order to preclude them from the listing under the ESA (TWW 2003). These species, identified by AZGFD, are called Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

To better guide conservation efforts, a vulnerability assessment was first completed for all species over which AZGFD has statutory authority as defined in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 17. The complete list of these species can be found in Appendix C: Master Species List. The list of species determined to be “vulnerable,” and therefore considered SGCN, is available in Appendix D: Species of Greatest Conservation Need with Vulnerability Scores. This species list also reflects the taxonomic level at which AZGFD manages fish and wildlife. For sensitive plant species, vulnerability was only assessed under Species Vulnerability Criterion 2: Federal or State Legal Status.

Sensitive plant species were defined as having at least one of the following ranks: Listed Endangered (LE) or Listed Threatened (LT) under the ESA; Highly Safeguarded (HS) or Salvage Restricted (SR) under the Arizona Native Plant Law (NPL); or G1 (Critically Imperiled) as assigned by NatureServe (NatureServe 2022). See Appendix E: Sensitive Plant Species of the AWCS for the full list of sensitive plant species and their legal status. These efforts satisfy Element 1 of the Eight Required Elements by identifying SGCN, ranking them according to vulnerability, and providing updated information on species distribution and abundance.

Conservation of Common Species

Arizona’s more common fish and wildlife species are equally important as SGCN, although they may not require the same level of targeted conservation efforts. Common species play significant roles in the ecosystem and they must be managed in a manner that maintains healthy population levels and proper balance in the larger system. These species, which include many of our game and sport fish as well as nongame species like the greater roadrunner, chuckwalla, and desert horned lizard, among many others, are recognized for their ecological value, social significance, and economic importance.

To meet our overall conservation goals, AZGFD has a variety of management plans for game species and sport fish, and biologists also monitor the overall status and health of many common nongame species. Many of the management practices that benefit game species and sport fish, such as habitat enhancement, are beneficial to native species as well.

It’s also important to  recognize that certain management techniques and practices for game species and sport fish can negatively impact some native species. For example, stocked sportfish can displace, compete,  hybridize with, and prey on native fishes. In response, AZGFD thoroughly evaluates potential impacts to native fish and wildlife populations prior to implementation of such actions and attempts to minimize negative impacts where and when possible. For instance, the portion of the Verde River between Clarkdale and Camp Verde has a sport fish recreation emphasis and a native fish conservation emphasis. To minimize impacts to native fishes, triploid rainbow trout (which are unable to reproduce) are stocked to prevent trout from establishing a population. Furthermore, trout tend to not survive the warm summers, and most are captured by anglers.