As the state’s wildlife agency, AZGFD is responsible for conserving and managing Arizona’s fish and wildlife. Meanwhile, we strive to provide wildlife enthusiasts with a rich outdoor recreational experience while navigating the conservation challenges that come with rapid growth and a thriving economy. It’s a complex balancing act to meet the needs of so many constituents while ensuring the future of the state’s wildlife and their habitats. To do this effectively, we rely on sound science, a driven and passionate team of experts, partnerships with outside groups and agencies, and input from equally driven and enthusiastic Arizonans. Together, we are all stewards of Arizona’s lands and natural resources and we all play a role in the care and protection of the valuable resources our state has to offer. Working together, we ensure that future generations will be afforded the same outstanding opportunities to enjoy Arizona’s natural beauty and rich biodiversity.
For this latest revision of our 10-year comprehensive conservation plan, the AWCS takes a holistic, habitat-based approach to wildlife conservation in Arizona. Utilizing systematic priority setting, Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles identifies primary threats to the seventeen major habitats throughout Arizona. Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions then describes a suite of specific conservation actions that can be implemented to address each threat by habitat type.
In each habitat profile found in Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles, we’ve identified Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs). The COAs reflect collective conservation priorities identified during a series of focus group discussions with partners across Arizona, as well as in-house analyses by species and habitat experts, to identify areas on the landscape where conservation actions can be implemented. Results of these efforts identified more than 300 aquatic COAs and 130 terrestrial COAs. These COAs represent focal areas on the landscape with high conservation value and potential for successful project outcomes. Detailed profiles of COAs can be found in Appendix G: Aquatic COA Profiles and Appendix H: Terrestrial COA Profiles.
This new habitat-based approach has several advantages, one of which is a shift to integrated species management, instead of single-species management. Through careful consideration of the potential effects of a proposed action on multiple species in a given habitat, we can prioritize actions that will lead to greater benefit for more species, while more effectively leveraging limited conservation dollars and other resources.
Adopting an approach that addresses the needs of multiple species and prioritizes actions that capitalize on these opportunities will be of ever-increasing importance as we face large-scale threats like climate change and development, which have the potential to alter habitat conditions faster and to a greater extent than ever before. When faced with the complexity and magnitude of current and emerging threats, conserving large intact habitat blocks and preserving connectivity may be our best strategies for maintaining biodiversity into the future.
Proper collection, analysis, and interpretation of data are all important components of conservation efforts. So too is data management. Currently, AZGFD is gathering all relevant wildlife data collected by staff, by our partners, and by the general public to be housed in a centralized data storage system, known as the Wildlife Data Warehouse (WDW). Applications are being built to improve data sharing and access to comprehensive data sets from multiple sources. The WDW will allow AZGFD and partners to utilize the full power of data to inform decisions and plan for conservation.
Web-based applications that are part of the AWCS include AZGFD’s powerful Arizona’s Online Environmental Review Tool (ERT) for data visualization, and the forthcoming Conservation Analysis Tool (CAT), which is designed to facilitate development while minimizing effects on wildlife. The ERT is a project analysis tool utilized by the general public, industry, other government agencies and AZGFD alike. The CAT, under the guidance provided by the AWCS, seeks to bridge the gap between industry and conservation by facilitating strategic development that minimizes effects to wildlife and important habitat through data-driven analysis and careful siting. Both the ERT and CAT utilize COAs and other data from the WDW to address remaining effects by identifying specific locations on the landscape where opportunities exist to directly benefit individual species that are being affected. In many cases, CAT outputs can identify conservation options that will also benefit additional species that utilize the habitat. Tools like the ERT and CAT make the AWCS a powerful comprehensive conservation strategy for all Arizonans.
In order to make sound management decisions, land and resource managers, planners, and developers must have access to biological data. Likewise, they must also understand and appreciate how ecological systems, and the species they support, are affected by our actions. Because humans now influence all landscapes in Arizona, it is essential that we plan responsibly to lessen the adverse impacts caused by continued development and economic growth. By providing wildlife data and decision-support tools today, the AWCS creates an innovative platform to facilitate responsible conservation actions for tomorrow and beyond.