Arizona Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Arizona’s Wildlife Action Plan provides a common strategic framework and information resource designed to help conserve Arizona’s terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and the lands and waters on which they depend for survival. The action plan is built on the premise that the most effective way to benefit and conserve rare, declining and common wildlife species is to restore and conserve healthy areas to live. Consequently, the action plan focuses on habitat types, such as desert scrub, grasslands, forests and woodlands, and aquatic/riparian systems.

Recommended conservation actions are provided for these habitat types on a regional basis. The action plan begins the task of identifying conservation requirements for all wildlife by developing conservation priorities for the 183 species that are of most immediate concern.

By combining habitat- and wildlife-specific approaches, Arizona’s action plan will help to guide the conservation of the state’s diverse wildlife.


Lands managed by tribal governments make up 28% of the state, while private lands account for 18%. The majority of the remaining lands are administered by various federal agencies. The state is bordered by Mexico to the south, New Mexico to the east, and shares the Colorado River as a border with California, Nevada and Utah.

Wildlife Highlights

Arizona ranks third in the nation for the number of native birds species, second for reptiles, fifth for mammals, and eighth overall for vertebrate animal diversity.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Arizona

Arizona’s action plan identifies 70 priority stressors that operate in one or more of the habitat types in each region of the state. Many of these stressors are related to four statewide phenomena: a rapidly increasing human population, changes to water storage and delivery systems in the Southwest, alteration of communities by invasive nonnative species, and the ongoing drought and warming trend.

Development Pressures

Recent population expansion in Arizona is tied directly to urban growth and rural development. Population centers directly convert wildlife habitat – often along waterways – and require an infrastructure of roads, power lines and telephone lines that fragment the landscape. Human population growth has decreased the quality and quantity of water available to Arizona wildlife, increased demand for recreational opportunities in open areas, and increased the amount and transportation of pollution, invasive species, and diseases, pathogens and parasites.

Altered Processes

Dams, reservoirs and impoundments result in loss of water from downstream channels, loss of natural flow variability, suppression of native tree germination, and establishment of high densities of non-native plants and animals in and around reservoirs. Other effects include reduction in sediment transport, water quality, water table integrity, and fish migration. Water diversions and groundwater depletion also reduce the amount of aquatic habitat for wildlife, especially in smaller drainages.

Invasive Species

Once established, invasive species have the ability to displace native plant and animal species (including threatened and endangered species), disrupt nutrient and fire cycles, and alter the character of the community by enhancing additional invasions. Impacts of introduced crayfish have completely altered waters where they occur, removing aquatic vegetation and extirpating native fish, frog and salamander species. Exotic annual grasses have established themselves throughout the state, and have become part of the cycle of unnatural fire regimes.

Drought/Climate Change

Drought/climate change is expected to have long-term region-wide impacts. In the arid Southwest, the distribution of plant communities may be controlled primarily by soil moisture. Recent research has shown that considerable vegetation changes have occurred in the past and can be expected in Arizona’s future. Often, these changes were a result of widespread tree and shrub death due to secondary effects such as insect infestations and unnatural fire regimes; Arizona has already experienced large-scale die-offs of Ponderosa pine forest.

Working Together for Arizona’s Wildlife

To develop the action plan, the Arizona Game and Fish Department used various administrative and technical teams, stakeholder meetings, responsive management surveys, and a public input process. Ecoregion Workgroups consisted of Department species- and habitat- professionals and cooperating federal, state and tribal resource managers. The Department used extensive outreach to inform and encourage participation from the public and partners, including 20 staff presentations; 28 presentations to external agencies, stakeholder councils and non-government organizations; four media news releases; and email subscriber announcements to over 16,000 individuals and organizations. Four Wildlife Summit Workshops were held around the state, with 54 participants providing input into developing the major components of the plan and an additional 418 constituents providing input via an online Wildlife Summit survey. Forty-two constituents participated in a series of eight public meetings held statewide.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

Contribute to LandScope

Want to join, work with us or simply find out more? Learn how you can get involved.


Copyright © 2019 NatureServe. All Rights Reserved.