When it comes to telling others about their “secret” spots, hunters and anglers are famous for holding their cards close to their game or fishing vests.
Yet, more than 1,200 Arizona sportsmen have willingly tipped their hands, circling their favorite destinations on a map, as part of a national initiative to conserve fish and wildlife habitat while protecting and improving public access for hunting and angling.
The statewide effort recently was 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 available to the public, as well as 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,” said 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 are available on the department’s website at www.azgfd.com/recreation/valuemapping (click on “Open the Map”). The site features maps for 15 species, or species groups, in the following order: elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, turkey, cold-water fish, quail, dove, warm-water fish, predators, pronghorn, squirrel, waterfowl, other small game, and bighorn sheep.
The species tabs at the top of the webpage are ranked by the number of survey responses – for example, areas valued for elk hunting opportunities received the most responses, making it the first tab. The map for each species is color-coded: The most highly valued areas are red and orange; moderately high-valued areas are yellow, and less highly valued areas are 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.
While the maps will be useful to sportsmen, they largely were 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:
• Balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers.
• Identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved.
• Identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities.
• Identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen.
• Justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing areas.
A random sampling of 7,500 Arizona residents who had purchased state hunting and fishing licenses were mailed a postcard last fall, 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 included questions about why sportsmen identified a particular area as being important. The highest valued areas usually were those that offered the greatest chance of harvesting game. Other primary factors included whether a particular area was close to home, or was someone’s “traditional” spot, or that it provided the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish or game species. 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 TRCP. The project has been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of more than two dozen Arizona sportsmen’s groups. For more information about TRCP, visit http://www.trcp.org/. For updates, follow TRCP on Facebook or Twitter.