Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Arizonalast updated: May 2007

Arizona is defined by its diverse climate and geography. Annual precipitation ranges from less than 5 inches to 30 inches a year and elevations extend from 70 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet on its highest peak. This variation creates the biological diversity found in habitats that range from alpine tundra to Sonoran and other desert  types.

Stream systems connect these ecosystems, and lands along streams and springs were often the first settled and patented as private lands.

The Partners Program works to create alliances with willing landowners to improve these habitats. The Partners Program also strives to work with the seven National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona developing projects on private lands that also benefit Refuge objectives. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has been helping private landowners in Arizona since 1992 to improve habitats in this ecologically rich State.

Habitats of Special Concern
A major focus of the Partners Program is riparian and wetland habitats. In the arid West, these relatively moist, lush habitats are among the most valuable plant and animal areas with an estimated 90 percent of desert wildlife relying on riparian areas for at least some part of their life cycles.  Riparian corridors have been described as the “lifeblood” of the region, forming vital linkages between streams and their surrounding uplands. Federally threatened and endangered species are another major focus of the Partners Program. Arizona habitats support 59 federally listed species, placing the State as 10th in the nation for listed species. This high number of federally listed species provides many project opportunities.

Habitats in Arizona face many of the threats of those across the nation such as fragmentation and destruction, invasion of exotic species, overgrazing, recreational impacts, and others. However, Arizona with its dry climate, has a special need to protect riparian and wetland habitats which face threats from competition for scarce water resources. Many of the State’s federally threatened and endangered species are found in these areas including all of its native fish. A major threat to riparian and wetland areas in Arizona is over use by livestock.  Additionally, these habitats are threatened by heavy recreational use such as off-road vehicles. Non-native invasive plants and animals constitute a major and growing threat to the State’s wildlife.

Conservation Strategies
Stream, Riparian & Wetland Habitat
Fencing is an important and effective way to protect stream, riparian and wetland habitats, especially in an “open range” State like Arizona, where landowners must fence cattle off their lands.  With rest from heavy grazing or recreational use, habitats reestablish rapidly. Fencing costs $5,000-$10,000 per mile depending on terrain and accessibility.  Revegetation of riparian habitats is sometimes necessary if the habitat has been cleared or severely damaged. For example, abandoned agricultural fields were often former riparian areas which can be restored. Restoration of the native vegetation can be accomplished by planting bare poles (cuttings) for species such as cottonwoods or willows, using containerized plants, or seeding.

These restored areas provide high quality habitat for wildlife as well as improved water quality and infiltration to the aquifer, and reduce erosion. The Partners Program helped fence Cottonwood Spring, a 20-acre spring-fed riparian system in southern Arizona which is home to many species, including three threatened and endangered species.

Partners is also helping the Hualapai Tribe to establish their own native tree nursery on Tribal land to restore riparian habitats, including those found along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Revegetation can run from $100-$6,000 per acre depending on the site.

The Partners Program helped the Tohono O’odham Tribe in southern Arizona protect the endangered Nichol’s Turk’s head cactus. This species is found in only three places in the nation, two of these locations are on the Tribe’s lands.  The Tribe built fences around the two patches of these cacti to keep native desert bighorn sheep and javelina from eating them.

School Projects
The Douglas High School science class received funding from the Partners Program to build refugia on the campuses of four schools in their District for the Chiricahua leopard frog, a Federal proposed threatened species. 

The Partners Program also funded the construction of a fish barrier on Aravaipa Creek to keep non-native fish out of stream segments where federally threatened and endangered native fish are found.

Invasive Species
Invasive species are a serious problem which continues to expand. A major invasive plant in Arizona is saltcedar which invades riparian habitats, crowding out native cottonwood and willows.  The Partners Program worked with the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and a private landowner to remove saltcedar from 5 acres of land adjacent to the refuge and revegetate the area with native trees.

Another invasive species, the green sunfish, is native to the Mississippi River basin, but not the waters of Arizona.  The Partners Program is working with The Nature Conservancy to remove the invasive green sunfish from O’Donnell Creek, a stream in southern Arizona which is home to the Gila chub, a Federal candidate species.

The Arizona State Land Department and the Partners Program have joined forces near Flagstaff to control two recent invaders, the Scotch thistle and yellow starthistle.

The control of invasive species varies greatly depending on the invasive species and situation. Costs can range from $100 to $5,000 per acre or greater.


  • 112 miles of riparian habitat have been restored or enhanced.
  • 10,807 total acres of habitat have been restored or enhanced.
  • Worked with 8 of the 20 Native American Tribes in Arizona.
  • Implemented projects targeted directly to benefit 18 of the State’s 59 federally threatened and endangered species.
  • The Partners Program has worked with over 30 partners including Federal and State agencies, local governments, and private individuals.


Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Arizona

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Arizona

Kris Randall
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
2321 West Royal Palm Road
Suite 103
Phoenix, Arizona  85021
Phone: 602 242-0210
Fax: 602-242-2513


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