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100 Years of Conservation

January 23, 2023 2:03 PM | Elise Lange (Administrator)

100 years ago — this upcoming October 2023 to be exact — the AWF — then called the Arizona Game Protective Association — was established with their first meeting in Flagstaff held by local sportsmen as well as Aldo Leopold — the father of wildlife conservation.


Aldo had not only been witnessing the decline in wildlife, but had also been documenting the degradation of landscapes and loss of habitat in the southwest.  He had already rallied sportsmen across New Mexico and helped them form their own game protective association before turning his attention towards Arizona.


At the time, Arizona did have a “game code”, but most sportsmen considered it to be too lenient and ineffective. The code had little to no basis in science. It was primarily influenced by politics since wildlife management was at that time under the authority of the Arizona State Legislature.

It was the goal of the newly founded Arizona Game Protective Association (AGPA) to change that.

Fortunately, the vision of how wildlife should be managed was there. Aldo Leopold had a lot to do with that since he’d already written the Game and Fish Handbook for the United States Forest Service. 

After a decades long battle — which you can read about in more detail here — the AGPA finally succeeded in passing a new game code, transferring the responsibility of wildlife management to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and creating the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to oversee the Department. 

By the 1940s, the AZGFD and Commission were well established. 

Furthering the sustainability of wildlife management was the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Acts (aka Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts), both of which place an excise tax on hunting and fishing gear. This tax helped and still helps fund conservation efforts for wildlife and fisheries.

By the 1950s, the AGPA was well established and very active in wildlife conservation in Arizona. It had successfully achieved its primary mission of:

  1. Securing proper and scientific management of wildlife by…

  2. Securing a Commission-led Game and Fish Department that could manage wildlife without political influence (e.g., Take the politics out of wildlife management)

  3. Educating the public about the importance of ethical and scientific resource management

In 1951, AGPA became the state’s affiliate representing the National Wildlife Federation and in 1968 the name of the organization was officially changed to the Arizona Wildlife Federation to better reflect our affiliation.

Since our inception, AWF has continued to honor the AGPA’s original mission. Our board and staff continue to be present at all AZGFD Commission meetings and we work tirelessly to ensure continued management of wildlife through sound science. We very consciously take a balanced approach and work at “the radical center” — that is with both environmental and sportsmen’s groups of all political persuasions.

Today, we achieve our mission through a three pronged approach that has evolved over our 100 years of service: Education, Involvement, and Advocacy.

Some of AWF’s other programs include our bi-monthly Podcast, hosted by Michael Cravens, Our Conservation Advocacy Director, and our Records of Arizona Big Game, which has now been published for over 50 years.

We also send out monthly E-newsletters, and now have a blog (which you are currently reading!). People also connect with us through social media, in-person events like our recent tabling at the OdySea Aquarium Conservation Expo and our annual Camo at the Capitol event. Today, we continue to value our partnerships with our numerous affiliates and of course the National Wildlife Federation and our various partners through them. 

Just like 100 years ago, when it took hundreds of folks to come together to rally for wildlife and turn the tide, we do not — and cannot — do any of this alone. It takes all of us: in partnership, in supporting, and in collaborating.

Wildlife conservation was, is, and will always be a group effort.


Join us in celebrating 100 years of wildlife conservation!



Protecting wildlife and their habitats through education, inspiration, advocacy, and action since 1923

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Arizona Wildlife Federation

PO Box 1182,  Mesa, AZ 85211
(480) 702-1365
awf@azwildlife.org


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