Wildlife Conservation: Working to preserve and support the natural beauty of our state
The Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund is administered by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and has been funded by the Arizona Benefits Fund since its first quarterly payments in 2013 and is responsible for over $80.5 million for conservation programs.
2015: Gila River Indian Community provided a grant to fund the Gila River Restoration Project. The project has goals of water conservation by replacing Salt Cedar (which use 300 gallons of water every day) with other plants.
2014: Cocopah Indian Tribe has partnered with NWF to restore shorelines on the Colorado River. The program consisted of replacing stands of salt cedar, an invasive plant, with mesquite and other native species that provide feeding and resting habitat for migrating birds.
2014: Fort Apache Indian Efforts Help Restore Wolves, Owls, Trout and Ecosystems. The projects have restored habitats, trout streams, as well as owl and wolf populations
Gaming revenues have funded studies to monitor bison movements to determine use on the Grand Canyon, purchased catchable catfish and, in 2006, stocked fish in Francis Short Pond, Santa Fe Lake and Kaibab Lake.
A Black Bear Study estimated black bear population and tracked changes in trends in bobcats, coyote and fox. Funds have helped to reintroduce the wild turkey to the state, restore grasslands, develop a consensus based definition of Invasive Species for Arizona and prepare recommendations for a coordinated policy to manage these Invasive Species.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe has worked with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to develop new strategies to balance economic development with conservation of natural resources. This cooperation has led to the restoration of habitat, including 21 streams that are home to the federally-listed Apache trout, and protection of species such as the Mexican wolf and Mexican spotted owl. The program has been so successful Apache trout have been downlisted from endangered to threatened, giving hope that it could become the first fish species to be delisted under the Endangered Species Act.
Two bighorn sheep populations, the Black Mountain and Kofa Mountain, that collectively number around 2,500 animals suffered debilitating declines around 2000. Restoration efforts supported in part by the Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund included water developments, nutritional studies, radio-marking and monitoring of bighorn sheep populations, supplemental population surveys, and predation management. Since the undertaking of these actions, the Black Mountain population has begun to recover and the Kofa population has stabilized.
To reduce lead poisoning within the reintroduced California Condor population in northern Arizona, the Department implemented a voluntary program to provide big game hunters within Arizona’s core condor range with free non-lead rifle ammunition, purchased by the Wildlife Conservation Fund. During this reporting period approximately, 90% of eligible Kaibab deer hunters participated in this voluntaryprogram. Almost 80% of them used the non-lead ammunition on their hunt and the remainder removed their gut piles from the field, so condors wouldn’t eat the lead bullet fragments contained in them, a major source of poisoning. Future efforts will focus on continuing and expanding lead reduction efforts in Arizona as well as working with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources to establish a similar lead reduction program within the condor range of southern Utah.
The Department used Wildlife Conservation Fund money to manage Arizona’s two native trout species, the Apache and Gila trout. The Department uses WCF part of the Arizona Benefits Fund, to directly implement Apache trout recovery projects and also uses it to provide match for a long-term funding grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), leveraging the funds to maximize conservation. Management includes efforts to improve and expand Apache trout habitat on National Forest and Tribal lands. Specifically, the Apache trout recovery projects include habitat restoration, habitat expansion, fish barrier construction and maintenance, and habitat and fish population monitoring. In 2011 and 2012, several interns were hired specifically to monitor the fish and habitat recovery progress in Apache trout streams that were impacted by the Wallow Fire.