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Arizona Wildlife Federation Blog

The Arizona Wildlife Federation Blog is published at least once monthly. If you'd like to write in a guest blog submission, please email

Blog posts reflect the opinions and perspectives of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

  • 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: 

  • November 29, 2022 7:47 AM | Anonymous

    Bridges to Bow has been such an amazing and inspirational force in my life! I am originally from Louisiana, and had never been camping before I moved to Arizona. In fact, camping and outdoor activities were seen as something out of reach for people like me. Attending Bridges to B.O.W was the jump start I needed to really have confidence and begin enjoying the outdoors. During my first B2B experience, I took classes on backpacking, gun safety, and wild skills. Watching the instructors and asking questions in a safe non-judgmental environment was exactly what I needed.  The added comfort of being with a group of young women with a similar background as me also helped. I was able to attend classes and then discuss what I learned with other women of color. Since attending my first B.O.W., I have taken several camping and off roading trips with my wife. We've grown comfortable with starting and putting out campfires, setting up a tent, and packing the right materials for a few days out in the wilderness. We have now visited Chiricahua National Monument, Petrified National Forest, Kartchner Caverns, Vermillion Cliffs, and many other beautiful Arizona landscapes and heritage sites! We've also continued to volunteer with Bridges to B.O.W. by recruiting and helping with Bridges to B.O.W. campouts. Recently, Bridges to B.O.W. went to Oakflat campground where we learned about conservation of water in the area and protecting Indignous land from mining and other corporate interests that will negatively impact ecosystems there. Long story short: I feel like an outdoors woman! And I can't wait to continue exploring and learning about Arizona landscapes and wildlife! Big thank you to B2B, B.O.W, and Arizona Wildlife Federation for making it possible. 

    With lots of love! 

    Candace Banks

  • November 28, 2022 12:18 PM | Anonymous

    Dave Barker, Friends of Ironwood Forest, Board Secretary /Treasurer

    A little over a year ago, The Friends of Ironwood Forest (FIF) joined with a collection of like-minded groups to initiate a simple task – the removal of legacy barbed wire from locations where it was either unneeded or redundant. Seemingly a simple idea, it was a task with many facets and the need for coordinated planning, which the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) has provided.

    The FIF advocate for the Ironwood Forest National Monument and have been performing stewardship-related tasks for years. But this opportunity to collaborate with other organizations across a spectrum of interests presented a new challenge. By joining with not only the AWF, but the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Saguaro National Park, and Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, we were able to turn that simple task – with complex challenges – into reality.

    As a collection of groups, we have removed close to 20 miles of unnecessary fencing that not only inhibits wildlife movement, but can actually trap and kill individual animals. The gruesome details of such an end for a deer, bighorn sheep, or any other animal is an emotional assault that none of us wish to contemplate. The satisfaction of eliminating these dangerous and unsightly barriers is extremely rewarding and it greatly benefits habitat.

    By joining our respective groups together for this joint mission, we increase the bandwidth of our reach – connecting with volunteers, supporters, and media sources. Our diverse organizations bring different skills to the table, and we are simply stronger by working together.

    I applaud the Arizona Wildlife Federation for their involvement in “Desert Fence Busting.” Trica Oshant Hawkins and her AWF volunteers have contributed their expertise to our mission success.

    They deserve your support, because removing old barbed wire is truly “a tune we can all dance to.”

  • November 22, 2022 10:36 AM | Anonymous

    Carmen Faucon, Project Lead

    Several years ago, I had registered my yard with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  In September of 2021, (probably in part because of the NWF sign) my yard was one of those selected to be on the Bisbee Bloomer’s Garden tour.

    This garden tour is a big deal in Bisbee and brings in revenue to help with beautification efforts of local parks and common areas in Bisbee.  So, being a retired educator, I thought; how can I get the public to walk away from my yard armed with vital information, knowing more about wildlife habitats and their significance to our urban environments? 

    Fortunately I knew someone with the Arizona Wildlife Federation who would be able to add that “personal touch” to make this project memorable.  I contacted the AWF for assistance with magazines and informative articles to be available for the public.  The real “brainstorm” was asking Valerie Morrill, Director At Large, for the AWF to come down for the garden tour dressed the part as a field biologist with name tag, vest, boots, butterfly net and binoculars and prepared to tackle the public head on.  Tackle the public “head on” she did!  Lines formed where she was stationed as the public thirsted to know more about wildlife habitats, plants, pollinators…and what they could do to make their yards more wildlife friendly.  In June, 2022 Valerie again came down to Bisbee to present a class on “Gardening for Wildlife” hosted by the Bisbee Science and Research Lab.  

    As a result of these efforts, interest has ballooned exponentially with Bisbee residents wanting to brand our town as a Community Wildlife Habitat with the NWF.  In fact for 2023, tentative plans have been made for a Bisbee Bloomer’s Wildlife Habitat Tour to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the AWF.

    Certifying the City of Bisbee as a Community Wildlife Habitat has been no small undertaking.  A committee (PROJECT WILDLIFE: Bisbee), local commitment, grants and sponsors have had to be sought.  The project is an easy “sell”, but our greatest roadblock as a small grass roots organization was accessing monies from grants to implement this project.  Well, once again, the AWF has come to our rescue by simplifying the process as a fiscal manager for awarded grants.  And of course, along with their support comes their name recognition and a testimonial to our efforts protecting flora and fauna.  

    Thank you AWF, for partnering with us in the effort conserving Arizona's wildlife, wild places, and public lands.


  • November 15, 2022 2:14 PM | Anonymous

    This past week, I had the opportunity to join the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Native Trout and Chub program’s restocking of Gila Trout into the upper and lower Marijilda Creek on Mount Graham. We were joined by volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited Arizona. Both trips carrying 600 fish were physically demanding. The hike was uphill and it was about 40 degrees out. 

    Today, more volunteers will be carrying 250 Gila Trout to Raspberry Creek, which will be another arduous hike of about 4 miles carrying buckets of fish.

    Mount Graham and the surrounding National Coronado Forest area is beautiful. As I drove into the Shannon Campground that we met up at, clouds hung low over the hills and the sun shone a few rays through, illuminating the valley below. 

    The road up was winding and it was hard to not look at the fantastic views below. At one point, I drove around a curve only to come face to face with a mule deer doe and her fawn. 

    Everyone at the stocking was friendly and enthusiastic about the work despite the cold temperatures and long hike ahead. At the upper Marijilda Creek, we carried about 120 or so Gila Trout ranging in size from as little as three to five inches. Stocking the fish was a bit complicated as we had to carefully locate large and deep enough pools in the Marijilda Creek. We also had to ensure fish were spread out along the portions of the creek so they don’t overeat any particular area.

    While this work is difficult, it’s becoming increasingly important in Arizona. The Gila Trout, as well as the Apache Trout, are the most threatened trout species here. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been instrumental in maintaining an active Gila Trout recovery program. Currently there are seven recovery streams spread across the Agua Fria River, Blue River, lower Gila River, and Verde River drainages. Additionally, they are stocked into the East Verde River, Frye Mesa Reservoir, Watson Lake, Lynx Lake, and Goldwater Lake for non-recovery purposes to maintain sport fisheries. 

    Some of the threats this species faces are quite obvious — drought, poor water quality, and wildfires are some of the prevalent issues facing species in the wild as well as sports fisheries who often supply trout for restocking. However, a major issue facing Gila Trout is their ability to breed with other trout species. Gila Trout are capable of hybridizing with Rainbow Trout which has greatly reduced the range of pure populations of Gila Trout.

    If you're interested in volunteering for future opportunities, make sure you follow us, AZGFD, and Trout Unlimited on social media! 

  • October 25, 2022 10:18 AM | Anonymous

    Have you ever been at a football game or a concert and suddenly looked up at the starry night sky, illuminated by bright floodlights, only to gasp in terror and shriek out, “Bats!”

    If we’re being honest — we hope you haven’t done this, but it’s understandable if you have.

    A lot of folks find themselves scared of or even terrified of bats. They have small, sharp teeth, wrinkly faces, and can be carriers of rabies. When you grow up only hearing these negative statements about bats, it’s natural to be wary of them.

    Even more frightening is their connection to Halloween and vampires. This is somewhat due to Dracula, but more so due to the vampire bat who does — yes — actually drink blood. However, these bats don’t want to go after humans and they aren’t even commonly found near humans. Like most animals, they want to live in their own space and not be bothered! A dark, quiet cave is far preferable to a city filled with people scared of you.

    While people are often worried about disease transfer, bats are no more likely to transfer disease than any other mammal. It’s just that bats are small and if they are sick, they’re on the ground within a person’s reach. That being said, please do not touch a bat! It’s dangerous for you and for them.

    Therefore, why be scared of the 1,300 other bat species that exist when only three of those species are blood-drinkers?

    At the end of the day, some fear them, others love them, but no matter how you spin it, bats are incredibly important creatures! Not only are they pollinators, but they are the predominant pollinators of saguaro cactus blooms.

    Bats help out ranchers and farmers by eating pests that would otherwise destroy their crop yields. They also love eating mosquitoes, which I think we can all appreciate. 

    Yes — they have sharp teeth and wrinkly little faces, but they can also eat more than 1,000 insects in just one hour of flight. They also save us billions of dollars annually by helping to control insect-spread human diseases.

    Despite the critical role they play in the world, bats are the most rapidly declining land mammals in North America. Unfortunately, much of that is because of our fear of them.

    That’s yet another reason why Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA) is so important to pass. RAWA would commit over 1.3 billion dollars for the conservation and restoration of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need, including endangered or threatened species, and establish related requirements. All bats — especially the 30% of them at risk in the U.S. — would benefit from RAWA. 

    Remember — without bats, ecosystems suffer.

    So what are some of the ways you can start to appreciate bats more?

    1. Go on nightly walks and see if you can identify the bat species you see; Arizona has 28 different types of bats!

    2. Check out some of the batty events near you: 

    3. Know the resources you have in Arizona if you find a bat in need: 

    Have an educational and exciting Bat Week! 

  • October 14, 2022 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    At our last Becoming an Outdoors-Woman weekend in September, I had the chance to spend some time with the Bridges to BOW group during a class led by Trica Oshant-Hawkins, AWF’s Conservation Programs Director. In this class, we walked out deeper into the woods, stopping at several spots to engage in activities like filtering water from a stream, building a shelter, and learning about the multitude of ways you can build a fire. 

    Something that stuck with me, and stuck with many of the people there based solely on my discussions with them after, was how easy it is to ignore aspects of nature and wilderness — even when you find yourself surrounded by it.

    It is easy to imagine not noticing every small weed or sparrow that appears in your own neighborhood. Easier still, is the state of obliviousness to nature that occurs when living in a city lacking “interesting” wildlife or plants — think of the living things you see daily: pigeons, bushes, aloe vera and agave, starlings. These are the living things that we Arizonans find ourselves constantly surrounded by.

    All this being said, why then, does it still happen when in the woods? I find myself hiking for miles only to be done and realize I cannot remember the names of any plants I walked by. Someone could ask me, ‘What did you see?’ and I honestly would have no response other than vague recollections of ‘Oh, some birds, some trees, some flowers.’ 

    Trica brought this up to the Bridges to BOW group, and practically everyone agreed! 

    There are so many explanations for why this phenomenon happens even to the most avid outdoor enthusiasts. Perhaps it’s just a symptom of humanity moving away from nature and towards developed areas. Maybe we spend too much time looking at our screens instead of our surroundings. Worst of all, I think, is that we simply don’t care about nature anymore.

    Luckily, I heartily disagree with that last point, though I’m sure some people out there believe it. Truthfully, I think that Trica said it best when she pointed out our tendency to call animals and plants by “it”. Instead, Trica suggested the group try calling animals and plants with more personal terminology. 

    Look at that bird! It’s beautiful.


    Look at that bird! She’s beautiful.

    It’s a simple solution, but once you start changing how you address wildlife and plants, it becomes so much easier to notice and appreciate them. Truly, I think that small change is the beginning of recognizing plants and animals by their names. Their presence feels so much more impactful when you know them with that familiarity.

    One plant that everyone from that class should know now is the flannel mullein. This plant was everywhere in Prescott! However, in demonstrating my previous point, nobody in the group noticed them until Trica pointed them out.

    Do you recognize this plant? 

    Perhaps this one?

    If you do, then you’ll know that these are the same type of plant! You have likely seen them at mid to higher elevations in disturbed areas. They’re called flannel mullein because their leaves are soft and flannel-like. Originally from the old world, they have naturalized to the U.S. 

    They are a biennial, meaning they only live for two years. The first year they grow as a rosette low to the ground. In the second year, the plant puts up a long stalk covered with small yellow flowers. Finally, they dry out and die at the end of their second year.

    Mullein is a great plant to recognize, as it has many uses, both medicinal and as a tool. The stalk can be used as a spindle for friction fires or can be dipped in sap or wax to be used as a torch. 

    We hope that on your next outing, you’ll see some mullein and learn more names of the wonderful wildlife around you.

  • September 24, 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Each year at AWF, we celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD) as well as our state's own recognized Public Lands Day (look out for April!). However, a lot of people don't know the history of the day or why it's so important.

    The day was originally established in 1994, making this year its 28th Year of being celebrated. NPLD celebrates that wonderful connection that people make with nature and is led by the National Environmental Education Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service and other federal agencies.

    In 1994, there were roughly 700 volunteers and just by 2010, that number grew to 170,000 at over 2,000 different sites in the U.S. What can we say? People love nature! 

    A highlight in the history of NPLD was 2008, when participants hoped to plant 1 million trees for the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They ended up planting over 1.6 million trees, far exceeding their goal.

    Every year on NPLD, amazing people from around the U.S. help support public lands through restoration efforts of national forests, clean-ups of urban green spaces, and simply enjoying the abundant public lands we have.

    In Arizona, we are lucky to have just over 30 million acres of federal public lands — that's a lot of land to hike through!

    So what should you do on NPLD?

    Get can visit national parks for free! Consider spending some time enjoying the national parks and forests in Arizona. You may even catch a glimpse of mule or White-tailed Deer, migratory bird species like the Rufous Hummingbird or Cedar Waxwing, or lovely butterflies feeding on milkweed.

    Many people also take part in a volunteer work project to help support conservation efforts in their area. You can visit the National Park Services website to find events in your state:

    Finally, if you're still unsure of what you want to do, choose your own adventure for NPLD!

  • September 21, 2022 4:47 PM | Anonymous

    I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life, so naturally I’ve gained an appreciation for the wildlife, wild places, and yes, even the weather we have here. I’m not ashamed to admit I actually like the heat! When I was growing up, my dad took every opportunity to drag me up to Big Lake and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Roosevelt Lake, Saguaro Lake, and our own designated “Billy” Camp, named after my dad’s first hunting dog. 

    I was hiking in the desert or wandering around a rocky lakeshore almost every weekend from ages 6-13, and I both loved and hated it. Like so many children today, I loved being outside, but also longed to sleep in, stay home, and watch my tv shows or play on the computer — though back then, my computer was a huge, hulking machine that I shared with my family. Naturally, as I grew older, when my dad would ask me to go camping, hunting, fishing, or hiking with him, I chose to stay home. What could I have possibly been missing?

    I drew away from the wilds of Arizona and it’s one of my biggest regrets in life.

    Despite that loss, I somehow managed to pursue Biology in college. All around me were students who were hiking, rock climbing, and knew a million facts about Arizona wildlife and the state of water conservation. I felt like I knew nothing.

    Four years later, I signed up for a bird identification class without the slightest idea of how it would change the trajectory of my life.

    The first birding trip I went on was in Tempe, Arizona. One would assume that trip would be pretty dull. What could I have possibly seen other than a pigeon, dove, or European Starling? This is the first list of birds I found and identified on that trip in Tempe:

    It’s so easy to forget how diverse wildlife in Arizona is, and it’s especially easy to forget that when living in a paved, developed, vehicle-filled landscape. Seeing all of those birds, learning their names, and hearing their different calls spoke to me. The city is not dead — it’s alive and filled with so many different species that we share Arizona with.

    Green Heron seen in Kiwanis Park, Tempe.

    When I started birding in less urban landscapes that were less than an hour away, like the Glendale Recharge Ponds, my list of birds grew:

    It’s my greatest belief now that you can, and should, appreciate nature wherever you are coming from. Even if you live in the city, there’s always an animal or plant you can identify. When you explore wilder areas, your knowledge will only grow, and in my opinion, make you appreciate what lives in the city even more. The fact that those city wildlife manage to survive and even thrive makes them all the more wonderful. 

    The more aware you are of the wonderful wildlife around you, the greater your appreciation for nature, life, and Arizona’s beauty will be.

    This Saturday is National Public Lands Day, a day dedicated to the enjoyment and celebration of our public lands, where so much wildlife lives. How will you appreciate nature on the 24th?

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


Arizona Wildlife Federation

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


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