New data will help land management agencies prioritize the conservation needs of Arizona’s most valued hunting and fishing areas
When it comes to telling others about their “secret” spots, hunters and anglers are famous for holding their cards close to their game vests and wading jackets. Yet, more than 1,200 Arizona sportsmen have willingly tipped their hands to identify their favorite destinations on a map. It’s all part of a national initiative to conserve fish and wildlife habitat while protecting and improving public access for hunting and angling.
This statewide effort was recently completed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), in cooperation with Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Maps from the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project are now available to the public and to state and federal agencies.
“Some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona are at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions, limited access and increased development pressures,” says John Hamill, TRCP’s field representative in Arizona. “With the help of sportsmen, we’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas.”
Maps for 15 species or species groups—including elk, mule deer, whitetails, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, turkeys, quail, doves, waterfowl, predators, and fish—are now available on the department’s website. On each map, the most highly valued areas are in red and orange, moderately high-valued areas are in yellow, and less highly valued areas are in green. The maps allow the user to view, pan, and zoom in or out to explore the most highly valued hunting and angling locations in Arizona. The species are also ranked for popularity based on the survey responses.
While the maps will be useful to sportsmen, they were largely developed to guide conservation efforts. The maps have been assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where they can be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, land ownership, and other data.
The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:
- To balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers.
- To identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved.
- To identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities.
- To identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen.
- To justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing areas.
Last fall, a random sampling of 7,500 Arizona hunting and fishing license holders were mailed a postcard inviting them to participate in the survey. Those who received a postcard were directed to a specially designed website where they could highlight on a map their most valued hunting and fishing destinations. The survey also included questions about why sportsmen identified a particular area as being important. The most highly valued areas are typically those that offer the greatest chance of harvesting game, contain trophy-size game or fish, are closest to home, or have traditionally been the area that sportsman or family has hunted or fished. The results demonstrate the importance of maintaining quality fish and wildlife habitat and providing readily available public access for hunting and angling.
The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by the TRCP. The project has been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of more than two dozen Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Learn more about the Arizona project here.
Value Mapping has also been completed in Montana and Wyoming. The project is ongoing in Idaho.