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AWF History

To Be of Public Service: Why AWF Was Created

It was October, 1923, and a group of representatives from four small sportsmen and conservation clubs met in Flagstaff, Arizona to discuss creating the Arizona Game Protective Association (AGPA). They didn't do this alone, however. Aldo Leopold, that famous conservationist, was there to guide and give direction — thus, the AGPA was born. The original objectives laid out by the AGPA were:

  1. To secure proper and scientific management of our fish, wildlife and other resources for the full enjoyment of ourselves and our posterity.
  2. To accomplish that, to secure a game and fish commission and department, the same to be sufficiently staffed with competent personnel free to work without political obligation or interference. To give that commission broad regulatory powers to enable them to accomplish their purpose.
  3. To educate the public with the principles of sportsmanship and the need for proper resource management.

That first meeting marked the beginning of a movement in Arizona. Game and fish management was political and incompetent — it did not protect or support wildlife, wild places, and sports enthusiasts.

In 1924, they proposed that a Commission form of management with regulatory powers and scientifically trained staff be created. They were turned down.

In 1926, they had grown considerably and conservationists put everything they had into making their proposal again. The voters failed to approve it.

In 1928, they tried again and Referendum No. 314 was voted upon by the electorate of Arizona at the general election on November 6, 1928. It passed with just 2,374 votes. This group of early conservationists had done the impossible, and wildlife management in Arizona would not be the same today without their valiant success. Not only has hunting and fishing grown over the years (from a mere 20,000 licenses sold in 1920 to over 500,000 in 2021), but access for hunters, anglers, and other recreationists has grown and protections for public lands, wildlife, and wild places improves every year. 

In 1951 the A.G.P.A. became affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation as the representative for Arizona. While our name eventually became the Arizona Wildlife Federation to solidify that affiliation, our mission still remains very close to the AGPA's.

The purpose of the AGPA, and thus the Arizona Wildlife Federation, can best be summed up by this quote from Max Layton in his AGPA Historical Sketch:

"And above all it is the A.G.P.A. duty to keep at all times, [management of natural resources] qualified, efficient, free of graft and dedicated to that purpose for which they were created and at all times worthy of absolute public trust. They are the managers. We are the protectors."

If you'd like to read more about AWF's history, check out “A Short History of the Arizona Wildlife Federation” by Steve Gallizioli, which can be read and downloaded here.

Building Upon Our Legacy

Advocacy has been a hallmark of AWF throughout its history. For over 100 years, we have found success by rallying supporters and finding common ground with opponents.

As a result, AWF has been instrumental in issues regarding public lands protections, the right to hunt and fish, improvement of outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat, the enforcement of state and federal conservation laws related to fish and wildlife management, and other legislation that impacts Arizonans' opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

Today, AWF continues to tackle Arizona's most urgent conservation issues through public policy and strategic programs that serve our wildlife and community.

We engage this generation of conservationists and the next through Garden for Wildlife, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, Bridges to BOW, our All Afield Hikes, our partnership with the Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience, Get Outdoors AZ, and Camo at the Capitol. We keep the public informed through our Podcast, Blog, Arizona Wildlife News Magazine, and our bi-monthly E-News and other email updates. Through our Volunteer for Wildlife program, AWF is restoring and conserving thousands of acres of desert, wetlands, grasslands, forest land, and streams.

Arizona Wildlife Federation

PO Box 1182,  Mesa, AZ 85211
(480) 702-1365

The Arizona Wildlife Federation is a Registered 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.

EIN# 86-0076994

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