The AWCS is the blueprint for conserving Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources that will guide on-the-ground conservation by fostering partnerships and promoting coordination of prioritized activities with readily available wildlife data. The AWCS is the result of a multi-year initiative that was developed with considerable input from resource professionals, federal and state agencies, Native American tribes, local governments, recreational groups, conservation organizations, and private citizens.
In following our vision for a comprehensive conservation framework, the AWCS identifies actions benefitting diverse conservation targets, such as individual Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), specific habitats, entire taxonomic groups, or all of Arizona’s wildlife. Expanding the scope to be inclusive of all of Arizona’s wildlife opens the door to engagement with diverse interest groups and presents additional opportunities for landscape-scale conservation.
The first key component of the AWCS is a habitat-based conservation plan that is driven by data. This 10-year plan — also known as the SWAP — is a roadmap for the AWCS and an integral part of a comprehensive conservation strategy as it identifies current and potential challenges, sets conservation priorities, provides recommended actions, describes actionable goals to conserve our wildlife and habitats, and so much more. For the first time, specific geographic areas are identified on the landscape — called Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) — that reflect multiple conservation priorities to create an integrated framework for action that can be scaled up or down as conditions change. The result is an actionable plan that focuses conservation where it’s needed most.
Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) are those species identified by AZGFD that are most in need of conservation actions. The AWCS focuses on more than 500 SGCN across Arizona.
The second key component of the AWCS is a sophisticated data management system and web-based tools and data viewers that support conservation planning and informs land use decisions. These user-friendly data management systems and tools provide an innovative web-based platform for enhanced collaboration, information sharing, and ultimately, a pathway forward in our collective conservation efforts.
With the multitude of global, regional, and local changes and challenges occurring in the environment and on the landscape, it is imperative that we embrace a strategy that brings awareness, science, and action together to drive how we manage the land, water, and wildlife in Arizona. The AWCS takes a proactive approach to conserve wildlife and natural areas before they become rare and more costly to protect. The AWCS identifies specific conservation efforts that preempts the need to list species under the ESA by “keeping common species common.” The AWCS also addresses a wide variety of concerns — both on-going and potential — for wildlife and habitat conservation.
Today, we often focus on the economic value of wildlife resources. Although wildlife bring important economic benefits to Arizona, there are other equally important wildlife-related services that contribute to the enhanced quality of life for Arizonans: Exploring the wide-open spaces around us, a chance encounter with wildlife in their natural environment, and sharing these experiences with others are just a few of the benefits to our health and well-being. Taking actions today to protect these open spaces and the wildlife will ensure that future generations can connect with the natural environment and experience the incredible beauty and diversity that exists in Arizona’s wild places.
The AWCS was created for everyone. From the general public to government agencies to conservation groups, the AWCS is an essential resource for all Arizonans. By exploring the easy-to-use AWCS website, Arizonans can explore AZGFD’s new 10-year strategy for conserving wildlife and their habitats. Users of the AWCS can identify species and areas throughout the state where conservation actions are needed, and discover ways that individuals, organizations, and agencies can support, collaborate, and contribute to the protection and recovery of our vulnerable natural resources. For example, government agencies can reference the recommended actions and goals for each habitat type as they make decisions on appropriate use of the lands they manage; environmental groups and conservation organizations can use information on the conservation status of species and identify opportunities for partnership; and outdoor recreational groups can use the AWCS to guide their efforts to secure access in open spaces while minimizing impacts to areas occupied by vulnerable species.
The use of the AWCS, including resources and tools described within, is completely voluntary and provides opportunities for all Arizonans to take action in the effort to preserve our natural heritage. By providing a comprehensive plan driven by data along with user-friendly tools, the AWCS is forging a new and exciting future for conservation in Arizona.