Conservation actions are specific actions that can be taken to address threats to species and their habitats. These conservation actions are identified in Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions and later detailed in Appendix G: Aquatic COA Profiles and Appendix H: Terrestrial COA Profiles. Conservation actions are intended to be implemented through fostering partnerships and coordination of prioritized activities. In order to identify these conservation actions and make meaningful impacts, AZGFD received extensive input from federal, state, and local government, Tribal nations, NGOs, industry, and private citizens.
The conservation actions identified throughout the AWCS may be implemented at three basic scales:
Landscape-level actions are developed through collaboration with multiple entities and typically implemented over the course of several years. Projects may extend across different habitat types, or in some cases, statewide. An example of landscape-level actions are the projects implemented as part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) which spans multiple National Forests across northern Arizona with goals of restoring ecosystem processes and improving forest resiliency. Broad suites of species will benefit from such efforts.
Site-specific actions focus on a specific habitat and typically benefit multiple species. Examples of site-specific actions that may be implemented include the riparian area restoration projects occurring at the Sipe Wildlife Area, an AZGFD property. This habitat restoration project was designed to improve stream bank stability, reduce erosion, remove invasive plant species, and replant native plant species. These efforts will improve habitat for a suite of taxa that depend on healthy riparian habitats, including Little Colorado spinedace, tiger salamander, terrestrial garter snake, waterbirds, and many more.
Species-specific actions are more targeted efforts that address the needs of a specific species or group of species. An example of a species-specific action is AZGFD’s efforts to re-establish black-footed ferrets near Aubrey Valley. Black-footed ferrets are an endangered species that depend upon sufficient densities of prairie dogs for both food and shelter.
Conservation actions used in the AWCS were developed from the classification standards established through a partnership between the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation Measures Partnership (Salafsky et al. 2008). Much like the threats identified in the habitat profiles of the AWCS (Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles), these conservation action classifications rely on a standardized lexicon in an effort to better facilitate regional collaboration between states and other entities utilizing state wildlife action plans. Conservation actions for each habitat type are detailed in Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions. Using this standardized lexicon, conservation actions used in the AWCS are broken into seven broad categories:
1. Land and Water Protection
Actions that identify, establish, or expand parks, wildlife areas, and other protected areas to benefit wildlife and their habitats. Some examples of conservation actions include: acquire land and water rights and pursue conservation agreements and easements in and around COAs and other priority areas; identify wildlife corridors essential to the movement of species between high quality habitat blocks.
2. Land and Water Management
Implement projects focused on improving the quality of altered systems to create suitable habitat and/or habitat features for wildlife. Examples of conservation actions include: increase connectivity by removing barriers and impediments to species movement; control the spread of invasive and problematic species; restoring degraded habitats to improve ecosystem function.
3. Species Management
Actions that establish and/or augment populations of fish and wildlife species in high-quality habitats, with an emphasis on SGCN. Examples of conservation actions include: captive breeding programs, protecting refugia to ensure at-risk species have viable populations; research that to determine status and conditions of populations and habitats so that resources can be appropriately allocated where they are most needed; and evaluating the effectiveness of management actions and adapting the approach as necessary.
4. Education and Awareness
Actions that raise awareness of issues facing wildlife and their habitats and increasing support through outreach efforts, educational programs, and engagement with policymakers. Examples of these conservation actions include: Increase awareness of effects of specific threats (i.e. climate change, invasive and problematic species, illegal take of reptiles and amphibians) on wildlife species and habitats with an emphasis on how the threats can be reduced; engage with non-traditional constituents to cultivate an interest in and appreciation for wildlife and natural areas; provide opportunities for students to learn about careers in natural resource management and to contribute to wildlife conservation; educate new outdoor enthusiasts on safe, ethical practices and proper behavior in natural settings and in proximity to wildlife; expand wildlife viewing programs and other non-consumptive wildlife-related recreational activities.
5. Law and Policy
Actions that develop, change, and inform legislation and regulations to benefit wildlife and their habitats. Examples of conservation actions include: Educate legislators on the role of AZGFD as the primary steward of Arizona’s public trust wildlife resource; engage in legislative activities to support or oppose the modification of state and federal statutes to safeguard and enhance the ability of AZGFD to conserve wildlife through science-driven management; develop relationships with elected officials, conservation partners, stakeholders, and members of the public that enhance the ability of AZGFD to anticipate future needs, adapt to change, and perform conservation activities in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
6. Livelihood, Economic, and Other Incentives
Actions that rely on economic and other incentives to create opportunities to partner with Arizona agricultural producers, private landowners, and other working landscapes. Examples of these conservation actions include: Share information on the benefits of participating in species recovery programs such as Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs) and Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) with interested landowners; support the development of incentive programs to encourage substitution of non-toxic alternatives to lead-based ammunition in order to prevent wildlife and human exposure and health risks; raise awareness of the health benefits associated with outdoor recreational activities and the ecosystem services provided by highly-functioning natural communities.
7. External Capacity Building
Actions that build on current infrastructure to develop new or expand upon current conservation efforts. Examples of these conservation actions include: Form and provide support for partnerships and alliances to promote information sharing, learning, and collaboration; provide technical assistance to landowners interested in enhancing wildlife habitat on their property; continue fostering partnerships with academic institutions including the AZGFD University Liaison Program.
In addition to the conservation action categories identified above, the Climate Change discussion in Chapter 3: Conservation Challenges describes Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (CCAS) to address habitat and species vulnerabilities. These strategies were adapted from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA 2009) and are incorporated into the individual habitat profiles in Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles in the section, “Conservation in the Context of Climate Change.” This section outlines broad options for incorporating applicable climate change strategies into the conservation actions developed for each habitat type. Examples of CCAS used in the AWCS include:
Conserve a variety of habitats that support healthy populations of fish and wildlife as climate changes.
Identify and improve the connectivity of natural landscapes to better link wildlife populations and allow for range shifts.
Restore and/or improve diverse habitats to support a broad range of species assemblages that account for range shifts.
Conduct research targeting species and habitat types likely to be vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Implement long-term monitoring protocols for vulnerable species and habitats to inform adaptive management.