The same environmental conditions that help foster the diverse array of wildlife and habitats in Arizona have also made our state a very attractive area for humans as well. Warm winter climates in the lower elevations and cool summers in the high country, along with a prospering economy and a myriad of outdoor recreational opportunities, have encouraged an increasing number of people to visit our state and to call Arizona home.
Whether educating our children, serving our country, raising cattle, working the fields, caring for the ill and elderly, or designing innovative new technologies, Arizonans work hard to ensure our state remains safe, prosperous, and filled with outstanding opportunities for all walks of life. Just as important — and equally fulfilling as opportunities for growth and development — are opportunities to play, to relax, and to connect with the great outdoors. Arizona’s open spaces, natural beauty, and diverse flora and fauna contribute to the state’s attractiveness and the high quality of life for residents. These natural resources also provide significant contributions to the state’s economy through activities such as wildlife watching, hunting and fishing, hiking, OHV use, and much more.
As we continue to grow, build, and expand our recreation footprint, we put tremendous pressures on Arizona’s natural communities. Infrastructure expansion, recreational pressures, and increased water usage are resulting in significant habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss. At a landscape level, this disturbance impairs essential processes that not only sustain wildlife, but also provide services to humans, including food production, protection from natural hazards, purification of air and water, and climate regulation (SWASC 2020). In a recent study by the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA), 80% of 2,000 respondents between 18 and 40 years of age ranked planning and policies that balance natural resource sustainability with opportunities for economic growth as one of their largest concerns (Center for the Future of Arizona 2020). Balancing these needs will require innovative partnerships, forethought, and careful planning to facilitate development and economic prosperity while maximizing conservation of our precious natural resources.
More than 40% of Arizona’s landscape exists as public lands, much of which has some level of protection and/or is managed for multi-use. Through partnerships and collaboration, a great deal of effort is put forth to maintain and restore the value of these open spaces for Arizonans and for wildlife. Table 3 shows a general breakdown of land status in Arizona. The corresponding map (Figure 6) shows ownership and management spatially (ASDM 2020).
Table 3: Percentages of land ownership in Arizona (ASLD October 2010).
Percent of State Acreage
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
National Parks and Monuments
National Wildlife Refuges
Total Federal Lands
State Trust Lands
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Local or State Parks
Total All Lands
Private landowners are important conservation partners in Arizona. Nearly 18% of Arizona’s land is privately owned, a large portion of which can be classified as working landscapes such as farms and ranches. These areas bridge the gap between highly-developed urban centers and more rural natural areas. In addition, grazing allotments are common among the sprawling federally-managed public lands in Arizona. In a state experiencing so many changes, these working landscapes — and the people who manage them — play an increasingly important role in providing habitat for wildlife and corridors for wildlife movements.
Landowner Incentive Programs
A variety of opportunities exist for private landowners to contribute to conservation in Arizona. Many of these programs lead to substantial benefits to agricultural operations through increased productivity. The AZGFD Landowner Relations Program (LRP) is a statewide program that focuses on partnering with private landowners and agricultural producers to implement mutually beneficial habitat projects and secure public recreational access. The LRP provides support for projects that demonstrate benefit to multiple wildlife species. Within the LRP, several subprograms exist that target different interest groups and individuals, offer diverse benefits, and contribute to wildlife conservation at local and landscape scales.
Several other federal landowner incentive programs are also active in Arizona. Some of these include:
ADEQ Water Quality Improvement Grant Program (WQIG)
NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
NRCS Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)
USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
The USFWS also provides opportunities for landowners to contribute to the recovery of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as well as those species currently being considered for listing. Examples include Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs), Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs), Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs), and Conservation Banking. See the USFWS Endangered Species webpage for details.