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  • May 24, 2023 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    Today is World Tortoise (and Turtle) Day, an annual advocacy day for these amazing animals who are so often threatened. 

    In Arizona alone, there are over 500 species of conservation concern and yes, that’s undoubtedly a concerning number considering that we have 800 different wildlife species. In fact, we are actually in the top 5 states with the highest level of wildlife diversity. 

    The monumental bill, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, was just recently reintroduced to the 118th Congress and is already being backed by over 10 U.S. senators — both Democratic and Republican, showing once again that this bill has bipartisan support. RAWA, as it’s referred to, would provide states 1.4 billion in funds to take proactive steps to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. Arizona specifically would receive an estimated $31 million to fund conservation and recovery efforts for our at-risk species. 

    One of the most loved species in Arizona is the Sonoran desert tortoise. Of the U.S. species, 90% of their breeding range is in Arizona. That means that their continued survival — or surthrival (not just surviving, but thriving), as coined by our Conservation Programs Director, Trica — is largely dependent on how they do in Arizona.

    The Sonoran desert tortoise is an incredible animal. Like other reptiles, they are ectothermic, meaning that they regulate their internal body temperature by using the environment around them and changing their behaviors. That’s why it’s so difficult to find this species!

    During the hotter months of the year, they spend the majority of their time hanging out underground where it’s nice and cool. They’ll still be down there in the winter, insulating themselves against the cold. That isn’t to say Sonoran desert tortoises never come out of their shell and emerge from their burrows. They have to eat and reproduce after all!

    Unfortunately, this species isn’t doing as well as they could here. They are threatened and protected under state law because of their population decline and the numerous threats they face. Human development and harassment, habitat loss, invasive vegetation taking over their native foods, and drought are the main threats they face here.

    Another side to this story is the number of Sonoran desert tortoises in captivity. The Arizona Game and Fish Department adopts out hundreds of captive tortoises each year that have been surrendered to the department. Unfortunately, those tortoises cannot simply be released back into the wild — either because they have become used to and rely on human care or because they risk disease transmission to the already declining wild population. 

    All this to say — the Sonoran desert tortoise is an amazing signature species in Arizona and it’s important to understand their threatened status. If you find a wild Sonoran desert tortoise, here’s your need to know:

    -Don’t pick them up or they’ll pee on you! This is completely true: these tortoises defend themselves by emptying their bladder when they’re caught off guard by being handled or touched. This can be life-threatening for them, as they need to find water quickly after exhibiting this behavior.

    -If you’re concerned they might have been someone’s pet, contact the Game and Fish Department or a wildlife rescue organization that houses reptiles.

    -Respect them and keep your distance: we want wildlife to stay wild, and the best way to do that is to watch from afar to avoid interfering with their natural behaviors.

  • May 23, 2023 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Keith Ashley, AWF Development Director

    2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gardening for Wildlife program and the 100th anniversary of the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s founding with guidance from Aldo Leopold, famed American conservationist. This reflection is in honor of our great fortune to be celebrating these milestones together.

    May 15, 2023: The sacred datura* in my backyard unfurled its first great funnel flower of the year last night – and I missed it!

    I had been checking the darned thing every evening for days, but it still seemed tightly closed enough yesterday that I assumed it needed one more night to perfect its nectar and pollen … and poison. Fortunately, I was up and out well before dawn today.

    As Aldo Leopold wrote in his brief essay Too Early:

    Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese, and freight trains. Some hunters acquire it from geese, and some coffee pots from hunters. It is strange that of all the multitude of creatures who must rise in the morning at some time, only these few should have discovered the most pleasant and least useful time for doing it.

    When I stepped out back to enjoy a few last moments of darkness, my eyes were drawn immediately to the bright white trumpet beacon of the datura blossom. “What the …?!” was my first thought. And then, as if by reflex, my search began … for the sphinx moths. Not too early in the morning, but perhaps too early in the season.

    When I first read Leopold’s Sand County Almanac as a much younger man, I was struck by the ways in which the conservation challenges of his era mirrored our own, even if there had been many shifts for the worse in the intervening 50 years (and a very few for the better). I was also struck by the fact that absolutely nothing had changed in the magical ways wildlife touches our lives.

    In the middle of last year’s monsoon season, I was out in the yard late one evening nervously holding a rattlesnake watch. Two of them (yes, two VERY BIG ones!) were threatening to take up residence under my tiny bedroom deck. I’m all about gardening for wildlife, but I’m a bit unsure about hosting a rattlesnake farm. And that’s when they appeared, all around me—whizzing, whirring, floating, diving, not two, not three, but a whole host of the largest sphinx moths I’d ever seen—like a sci-fi hybrid between hummingbirds and fruit bats (hummingbats!) – I could feel the excited breeze from their wings all around me.

    By that point in the monsoon, the datura in my garden was gigantic—four feet high, six feet wide—and covered with its perfumy sweet blossoms almost every evening. But this was the first time I had encountered such an enormous species of sphinx moths descending upon it. Mottled black and white with wingspans easily five inches across, they transported me to some unimagined tropical kingdom and created a backyard experience I will never forget.

    Leopold launches his collection of essays with the famous words: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.”

    The genius of gardening for wildlife is not just the power it gives each of us to support wildlife directly, but the way it makes your home patch—be it balcony or backyard—one of those magical places where the wild things are. Scale up that intentional living, from supporting wild things as an individual to supporting them as an organization, and you have the genius of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

    Celebrating 50 years of Gardening for Wildlife and 100 years of the Arizona Wildlife Federation (with Aldo Leopold in the mix as well) is a good place for all of us to be.

    *Sacred datura (Datura wrightii/meteloides) also known as jimson weed, toloache grande, belladonna – Large fragrant blossoms of this perennial herb open at night. All parts of this member of the nightshade family are poisonous. Sphinx moths (also known as hawkmoths) pollinate the flowers and use the leaves as a larval food source, which in turn makes the caterpillars (“hornworms”) toxic to predators. Adds interest to wildlife gardens May through October; entirely dormant in winter.

  • April 24, 2023 12:14 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    This blog was inspired by our Podcast Episode: Raising Outdoor Children. Listen to the episode here: 

    One of my first memories of being raised as an outdoor child was shoving handfuls of dirt in my mouth while camping. Now, my mother may not have liked that or understood why I was doing it at age three, but it was an important part of my initiation into the outdoors.

    I was lucky enough to have a mom who hiked with me and a dad who dragged me out outdoors every weekend growing up. Now, I say dragged, but the truth is that I was willing and happy to get out there — even if as a teenager I hated to admit it.

    I grew up camping at Big Lake every school break and went hunting and fishing every weekend that we could. There’s something special about waking up early to go to the hottest parts of the Sonoran desert and walking till you hear that characteristic cooing of mourning doves or the calls of gambel’s quails. 

    One morning at our camp — Billy Camp, as we called it after my dad’s first hunting dog — I woke up in the middle of the night beneath our canopy and heard scuffling outside. I turned over on my cot to see my dad quite literally holding our dog, a black Labrador Retriever, back. Coyotes were outside.

    In the morning we woke up and found hundreds of feathers. From what, we weren’t positive, but our hunt that day was unsuccessful.

    I was not an avid hunter growing up. However, I adored fishing — especially anywhere I could catch rainbow trout, a personal favorite of mine still to this day.

    Big Lake was our favorite place to go fishing. Whether we rented a boat there or stayed on the shore, I would spend my days there exploring, watching fry in the shallow waters, and getting sunburned. Oh — and of course, I would be fishing.

    The first time my dad had me fish out there, I didn’t catch a fish on my first reel-in: I caught a fishing pole.

    This is absolutely true — the dark green pole rose out of the water as I reeled it in. It was dirty and had clearly been at the bottom of the lake for some time, but I had actually caught my own first fishing pole.

    My dad immediately set me up on that pole which somehow worked just fine. I then caught my first 11-inch rainbow trout — not a bad size for my first fish!

    It was this experience and the thousand others I had growing up as an outdoor child that made me a steward of wildlife and wild places. Growing up as an outdoor child is the reason I care so much about vulnerable places and wildlife populations in Arizona and why I want to see our public lands — the same lands I frequented often as a child — around for the future.

  • March 08, 2023 2:34 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    Happy International Women's Day! Today, we'd like to celebrate Pauline (Polly) Patraw.

    With blistered feet, a pistol, a sleeping pad, and a plant press, she aimed to cover the whole Kaibab Plateau and create a full study of the plant life of the region.

    She was originally from Colorado and studied botany at the University of Chicago, but decided to go to the Grand Canyon for two years of study during her master's.

    “We went all the way down to the north end of the Grand Canyon, and we saw these meadows out on the Kaibab Plateau, and our professor, Dr. Cole, said this would be an interesting [thing] to study why the trees stop so abruptly towards the base of the meadow and then at the south end. It's such a beautiful place, and we were all carried away with the beauty of the country. I decided I'd found a study for my master's thesis. Then we went on, and I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time with this class. I walked out along the rim and it suddenly I felt as though I discovered it. It was so wonderful.”

    While there, she studied the Kaibab Forest and collected samples, mostly on horseback! As part of her research, it was reported that she would take overnight trips exploring the canyon with nothing but her sleeping pad and  pistol.  She also hiked the canyon rim to rim, wanting to know what work had been done before her time. The culmination of her studies was a thesis summarizing the plant life of the Kaibab Plateau.

    When she was unable to get a position with the Forest Service because she was a woman, she turned to her original geographical love — the Grand Canyon.

    In 1930, Polly was the first woman ranger and only the second in the whole national park service. In her role, she led naturalist-guided walks, and campfire talks, planted wildlife gardens, and collected plant specimens for the Grand Canyon Park herbarium. While she preferred botany, she did briefly teach geology. 

    "It was so wonderful to be able to lecture on the edge of the canyon and talk about the canyon, with the canyon in front of you. If I was feeling self-conscious all I had to do was look at the canyon.”

    After her marriage to Preston P. Patraw, the park’s assistant superintendent, she retired from her position but continued studying botany. She provided much guidance on botany to several national parks from Bryce Canyon to Zion as her husband's job moved around — all unpaid. One newspaper in 1932 mentioned that she was truly  “regarded by the National Park Service as the leading authority on the flora of the southern Utah national parks and the Grand Canyon.”

    While she believed that women make just as good of park rangers as men, she was a bit of a traditionalist, even in the 1970s, when she noted in an oral interview that "If they are able, women should be superintendents but personally I like to see a man as superintendent with women at the checking jobs."

    In 1952, she published the book "Flowers of the Southwest Mesas", which has sold over 65,000 copies. In the decades following before her death in 2001, she gave lectures to civic organizations on the subject matter in her book.

  • March 01, 2023 12:31 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    Happy first day of Women's History Month! This month, we will highlight various female conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts — from the past to the present. 

    Let's go back in time to just over a century ago. Several species of wildlife existed in the early 1900s that no longer exist today. To name a few: the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, great auk, and the Merriam's Elk, the last of which was killed in Arizona. Over-harvesting of game animals was a severe problem — not just in New Mexico, but Arizona, and many other U.S. states. The main issue was that game laws were too lenient and often swayed by politicians with selfish motives.

    Hunters and anglers wanted change — as the first conservationists, they knew that overharvesting could not continue. Species like the American Bison had dwindled from some 30 million prior to the western movement of European settlers to just 1,091 in 1889.

    Market demand for bison, deer, pronghorn, beavers, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and many game birds were driving those species to extinction.

    However, famous conservationist Aldo Leopold, who helped organize the Arizona Wildlife Federation in 1923, also helped New Mexico's Game Protective Association (today known as the New Mexico Wildlife Federation) in 1914. New Mexico was ahead of many states for this reason. They were also ahead in another way — they hired the first female game warden in the country.

    Grace Melaven was elected game warden of New Mexico in 1923 — the same year we were founded.

    When the governor at the time was asked why he chose Melaven for the position, he simply stated, "Well, there were 27 men and one woman after the job. But when a woman wants a job which 27 men are after, and the women of the state are backing her 'to a man', about the only thing to do is give it to the woman."

    Melaven was passionate about enforcing game laws and not allowing any wardens to give 'parties' the allowance to hunt beyond the bag limit. Conservation was her ultimate goal. She aimed "To conserve the fish and game resources of the state through a proper administration of the laws and to increase the supply to a point where New Mexico will offer sporting opportunities second to none."

    Happy Women's History Month and thank you to Grace Melaven for her efforts in enforcing effective wildlife management!

  • February 15, 2023 12:41 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    Some of my favorite mornings are those when I’m the only one awake in the house getting ready to get outdoors. It’s before dawn and I creep silently around, getting my pack together, filling up my water bottle and backup water bottle, grabbing pliers, a jacket, and whatever else I think I’ll need for the day.

    This quiet ritual is one that every hunter, angler, hiker, birder, wildlife-seeker, or outdoor enthusiast has. Sometimes it feels like a tiresome task — we’ve woken up too early, it’s too cold outside, and we desperately need coffee. 

    Everyone brings a different set of things when they get outdoors. Some bring entire backup jugs of water in their trucks or cars, some bring fire-making materials and tools, and others bring a pop-up tent in case they decide to camp overnight.

    Much of what you pack depends on what you’re doing outdoors. Are you hunting? You best have your camo and orange vest. Fishing? It’d be a shame to leave home without your bait of choice. As for me, I love to bird — so I absolutely can’t leave home without my binoculars. When I asked the rest of the AWF staff what they absolutely can’t leave home without when they’re getting outdoors, they were all very enthusiastic about water! Other needed items included their cell phone, clothes layers, headlamps, and outdoor knives.

    This morning as I got ready to go out and bird, I found myself rushing to get ready. The sun had already begun to rise and I knew I was going to miss peak hours for birding if I didn’t get out soon. Suddenly, I looked down at my coffee mug as I poured creamer in and saw something unexpected.

    As the creamer was poured, it swirled into the dark coffee and created this amber glow. I realized a beam of sunlight was shining through my window right into my coffee, making it look almost alive.

    It’s so easy sometimes to forget to notice the little things around us — especially when we’re going through our morning motions, rearing to get outside. I have had a similar realization when getting ready to go birding and stopping to look at the birds in my very own backyard. We forget that the outdoors is actually all around us. No, we might not see a rare mammal or spectacular lizard, but animals and plants are still everywhere. 

    Even if we live in a city, there is life to be seen. Sometimes to see more of it, we have to plant native, grow nectar-providing plants, provide seeds and put out water. 

    If you’re lucky enough to live in a place you can see wildlife more frequently — especially those rarer ones — make sure to appreciate it all, even as you grow used to seeing those animals and plants. 

    It’s terrific that Arizona has so many public lands with diverse wildlife that we can experience — whether they be national monuments, parks, wildlife areas, recreational lands, or forests. These are lands where you can hunt, fish, hike, look for wildlife, take nature photos, camp, and do whatever you do outdoors.

    But sometimes, it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate the wilds that exist and persist all around us. It’s also good to take a moment — no matter how small — to appreciate your ritual to get outdoors. 

  • January 23, 2023 2:03 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Trica Oshant-Hawkins, AWF Conservation Programs Director

    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!

  • January 17, 2023 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager, Trica Oshant-Hawkins, AWF Conservation Programs Director, and Glen Dickens, AWF Board President

    Our Centennial Spotlight for January is the pronghorn antelope, a species that went from under 1,000 individuals in 1922 to around 10,000 today — just about 100 years later. You can read about the amazing journey this species went through in our blog below, and in the associated article at this link.

    Pronghorns — they’re a favorite animal for visitors to the southwest to see, but they also have a special place in the hearts of Arizona conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts. While they are often called antelopes, they are actually in a family of their own. They are also an incredibly important part of Arizona’s ecosystems. 

    Weighing up to 100 pounds and measuring three to five feet in length, this species is named for their pronged-horns — a shocking revelation, indeed! All jokes aside, they are one of the few mammals that have true horns. True horns are made of bone covered by specialized hair follicles that make a substance similar to keratin, which is what human hair and nails are made of. The only species that are known to have true horns besides pronghorn are cows, sheep, goats, true antelopes, and other related species.

    The pronghorn antelope is the last surviving member of its family, the Antilocapridae. Its closest relatives aren’t even in North America — they’re the giraffes and okapis of Africa! Long before European colonization, pronghorns numbered in the millions and ranged west across open plains from the central U.S. to eastern California, north into southern Canada and south into northern Mexico.

    Unfortunately, pronghorns very nearly died out from unregulated hunting and habitat loss during the latter part of the nineteenth century. This was, of course, long before we had the Arizona Game and Fish Department that now helps manage our wildlife species.

    For those familiar with pronghorn, it may seem hard to imagine that we could have hunted these amazing animals to near-extinction. Afterall, they are well-known for their enormous eyes giving them a 320-degree field of vision. How can you hunt something that’s able to see in an almost complete circle? They’re also incredibly fast. A pronghorn can run more than 60 miles per hour in short bursts. That’s about the speed that you’re supposed to go on most of Arizona backcountry highways. Pronghorn are often cited as the world's second-fastest land animal right behind…can you guess? 

    The cheetah!

    Nonetheless, the Arizona pronghorn population dwindled to less than 1,000 individuals by 1922, one year before the creation of the AWF. It was at this point that the new field of wildlife management began to take hold in Arizona and across the country. Through scientific management of the species, including attention to habitat, hunting seasons, and “bag limits,” pronghorn populations began to increase. With additional help from predator control programs, closed seasons, citizen involvement, and especially from translocations (relocating animals to areas where population numbers need a boost), pronghorn populations today are around 10,000 individuals.

    There has now been over 100 years of conservation attention to this species, and in many places, their populations are thriving! While hunting regulations and scientific management have clearly helped pronghorn, one of the biggest concerns of today is the impact of increasing human development.

    More roads, homes, apartment complexes, and other structures being built means less habitat for wildlife. Additionally, pronghorn are not particularly good at jumping, which is a big issue in rural areas that have large expanses of fenced land. Fences impede wildlife movement and entangle animals. They can also separate entire populations from one another, or separate young from their mothers. Roads are also a major wildlife barrier, with deadly consequences to both animals and drivers. 

    Fortunately, in Arizona (and other states in the west) various organizations and agencies are working together on projects to provide safe corridors for wildlife travel by removing unnecessary fencing and building road crossings. This not only helps to reconnect separated populations, but it prevents species from injuring themselves on fences or being killed on roads. 

    The Arizona Antelope Foundation, an affiliate of AWF, has worked extensively for many years successfully addressing these issues and restoring pronghorn antelope populations in Arizona. You can read more about their amazing work and the history of pronghorn in Arizona here. AWF has also worked to remove barbed wire in areas across the state. Recently, AWF, along with a coalition of other organizations and agencies, formed “Desert Fence Busters,” with the primary mission of removing old, abandoned barbed wire fencing from public lands in southern Arizona. 

    As you can see, wildlife conservation is a group effort. Thanks to the work of conservationists (including you!), this critical species has made leaps and bounds — despite their inability to jump well! While there is always more work to do, the pronghorn antelope’s future is bright in Arizona. So next time you are out on the range, keep an eye out for this majestic animal.

  • December 20, 2022 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Trica Oshant-Hawkins, AWF Conservation Programs Director

    Centennial Spotlights

    This winter, AWF is kicking off a full year of celebrating our 100 year anniversary: Our Centennial! Along with a series of special events and activities, we will be sharing our amazing history with you in the form of “Centennial Spotlights” – articles on the people and events that made the Arizona Wildlife Federation what it is today. We stand on the shoulders of giants and we want to share their stories and contributions with you. These are stories worth telling and people worth remembering for what they have done not only for AWF but for Arizona wildlife. As we look ahead to our next 100 years, we honor those who laid the foundation for AWF and science-based wildlife stewardship in Arizona. 

    Centennial Spotlight: Aldo Leopold and the Formation of the Arizona Game Protective Association

    Aldo Leopold is a name very familiar to most people who know and love wildlife. He is considered to be the “father of wildlife conservation.” But few know of the impact that Aldo had on Arizona wildlife, and the role he played in the establishment of the Arizona Wildlife Federation. While he is perhaps best known for establishing the country’s first wildlife ecology program at the University of Wisconsin and restoring his family’s severely degraded parcel of land in the Wisconsin countryside (all documented in his seminal book, A Sand County Almanac), Aldo actually spent his formative professional years in the Southwest.

    In 1909, following his graduation from Yale University, Leopold took a job as Forester on the newly minted Apache National Forest in the Arizona territory. Given his work ethic and

    practical intelligence, Aldo quickly moved up the ranks to the position of Forest Supervisor for Carson National Forest in New Mexico. During his time in the Southwest, Leopold spent many hours in the field documenting wildlife and vegetation, and noting changes in the landscape. He was also witnessing firsthand, an obvious decline in habitat quality and wildlife populations. It was during these early years in the Southwest that Leopold avidly participated in eradication efforts of many predators. At that time, it was believed that (as Aldo put it), 

    “because fewer wolves meant more deer, no wolves would mean hunter’s paradise.”1

    But it was also here that Aldo began learning his greatest lessons. He came to understand that all animals play a role in the balance of nature, and wolves and other predators are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. He began to see nature in the balance of nature, and wolves and other predators are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. He began to see nature as a community of interacting living organisms. He began to develop a land ethic.

    As Aldo was internalizing these lessons, it was becoming clearer to him that wildlife needed to be managed scientifically. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Aldo was stationed at the time, he organized a statewide organization to address this issue by rallying and assembling a group of sportsmen. Together, they formed the New Mexico Game Protective Association (NMGPA), an affiliate of the American Game and Propagation Association, which had been recently formed in New York in response to the “rampant slaughter of game in the absence of state and federal laws.”2 The year was 1916 and wildlife populations were at all time low across the country. Many species were in danger of extinction or already extinct.

    Like New Mexico and the rest of the country, Arizona was experiencing the same issues of declining wildlife, and had minimal wildlife regulations. It was also clear that wildlife were primarily being managed through the whims and desires of politicians.

    That same year (1916), a group of 35 sportsmen convened in Flagstaff, Arizona and formed the Flagstaff Game Protective Association.3 Aldo Leopold was at this meeting, having helped rally these Arizonans to the cause. It wasn’t until October, 1923, however, that the statewide Arizona Game Protective Association (AGPA) was formed, following in the footsteps of New Mexico. Again, Aldo Leopold was there to guide and assist.

    The primary objectives of AGPA were to:

    • Secure proper and scientific management of our fish, wildlife, and other resources in perpetuity for the full enjoyment of Arizonans;

    • 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;

    • Give that commission broad regulatory powers to enable them to accomplish their purpose; and

    • Educate the public with the principles of sportsmanship and the need for proper resource management.

    That first meeting of AGPA marked the beginning of true game management in Arizona. The tide did not turn over night however and many worked tirelessly over the years to ultimately ensure that wildlife are managed scientifically, competently, and without political influence.

    As the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission matured, the need for the formative and oversight focus of AGPA shifted. In 1951, AGPA affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation and became the Arizona Wildlife Federation. Today, AWF’s mission remains very close to when it was the AGPA, stating that “AWF is dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations to value, conserve, enhance, manage, and protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.”

    Coupled with its mission, advocacy has been a hallmark of AWF throughout its history. For nearly 100 years, following in Aldo’s footsteps, AWF has successfully rallied supporters and forged common ground among 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.

    Although Aldo Leopold left the Southwest in 1928 to live and teach in Wisconsin, his legacy remains very real and present here. We are proud of the role that Aldo, the father of wildlife conservation, played in the formation of Arizona’s first and oldest conservation organization, the Arizona Wildlife Federation. Indeed, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

    1. Aldo Leopold. 1949. Thinking Like a Mountain in A Sand County Almanac. Random House.

    2. John Crenshaw. 2003. A Century of Wildlife Management, Part 3. New Mexico Wildlife (Vol. 48 No. 2).

    3. David Brown. 2012. Bringing Back the Game: Arizona Wildlife Management 1912-1962. Arizona Game & Fish Department.

  • December 19, 2022 3:15 PM | Anonymous

    Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

    I recently took a roughly two-hour drive to Sahuarita, Arizona — home of the Madera Canyon area, a favorite birding destination and great area to camp and hike in. The area has an elevation of around 4900” and is located in the Santa Rita Mountains and resides in the National Coronado Forest.

    The area is gorgeous and full of life. Madera Canyon is best described as a riparian woodland, so you can find many different types of trees, shrubs, and locate intermittent streams and waterfalls throughout the area.

    Despite the vitality of my destination, the drive to get there was a bit disheartening.

    Just in that two-hour drive, I saw 13 total dead animals on the road — coyotes, bobcats, javelina, rabbits, birds, and small unidentifiable mammals. 

    On the drive back, I saw 25. 

    These animals died because they tried to cross the road at the worst possible time — and they didn’t have another option.

    The Arizona Wildlife Federation Board and Staff recently heard about priority highways and more from Jeff Gagnon, who works on the AZGFD Wildlife Connectivity Project, in our recent board meeting in Sahuarita.

    For people who live in the outer parts of Arizona, they are quite familiar with this problem on  highways from metropolitan cities to their home area. There are either little or no deterrents — like fences — to keep animals from crossing the road or no safe alternative routes for them to take. 

    This issue is even worse on certain highways in Arizona like the I-17 by Woods Canyon, Flagstaff or the I-40 by Oak Hill, as we learned in our AWF meeting. These highways have been deemed by AZGFD as priority areas for wildlife connectivity.

    When elk have been collared and tracked via GPS, they overwhelmingly choose not to cross the I-17 and I-40. For those who do cross, we know that there are currently over 100 elk and deer collisions per year, so the prospect of their survival is not always positive. Besides population loss due to collisions, species suffer from loss of genetic diversity and habitat size. Biologists who have worked on supporting pronghorn populations fret over the genetic separation of the species that has resulted from the uncrossable U.S. 89. Just in one study done on pronghorn in that area, only 1/37 observed animals crossed — that separation has led to three genetically separable populations.

    This type of bottleneck situation is bad news for pronghorn, who are already vulnerable from habitat loss and resource depletion.

    It seems as though everyone has a story about animal collisions in Arizona. In our meeting, people located in Flagstaff recalled an accident involving multiple deer a few years ago on the I-40. Several years ago in Big Lake, Arizona, a huge male Elk was hit by a car going over the speed limit on a road without fences.

    At AWF, we are working to improve wildlife connectivity in a different way. Our work with the Desert Fence Busters is focused on taking down harmful barbed wire fencing where vehicle collisions are not even a concern. These fences are old and not maintained, so they only separate animals, fragment their habitats, and injure them.

    Looking for roadkill and paying attention to harmful fencing is a worthy job — even if you aren’t directly involved with a wildlife connectivity project. It’s important to notice the negative consequences of our ever-increasing development. Otherwise, we remain unaware of a problem that threatens our wildlife and continued outdoor recreation.

    Seeing an animal dead on the road — big-game or not — feels like such a waste. That animal was a part of a food-chain that we are a part of, whether you’re a hunter or not. We have a responsibility to these animals.

    Organizations like AZGFD and ADOT are doing great work to combat this problem. Already they have seen positive results on the I-17 on the Munds Canyon and Woods Canyon Bridges where they installed fencing. That project resulted in a 97% reduction in animal collisions. They have also worked to construct wildlife underpasses and overpasses, which give animals safe passage.

    Read more about AZGFD and ADOT’s collaborative project on I-17: 

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Arizona Wildlife Federation

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