If you voted in Arizona in 1990, chances are you voted in favor of the initiative that created the Heritage Fund. Arizonans showed their overwhelming support for wildlife by passing the measure by a 2-to-1 ratio. ? ?For the past 20 years, the Heritage Fund has made a difference not just to wildlife conservation efforts, but also to the state’s economy, public access, environmental education and outdoor recreation.
Notable accomplishments of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage dollars over the past two decades include:
• Contributing to local economies through the awarding of more than 640 grants, totaling nearly $13 million dollars across all of Arizona’s counties.
• Supporting the award-winning and nationally recognized Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program, which has been key in helping the state’s bald eagle population grow more than 600 percent over the past 30 years.
• Reintroducing black-footed ferrets, California condors and black-tailed prairie dogs, which had disappeared from the state.
• Recovering Apache trout to the point where the species could be down listed from “endangered” to “threatened,” allowing fishing opportunities for this native species.
• Managing the conservation of more than 600 species, including threatened and endangered species like the Sonoran pronghorn, desert tortoise, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Mount Graham red squirrels.
• Development of the award-winning Urban Fish Stocking program to provide urban recreational opportunities to the public.
• Creation of schoolyard habitats for student learning that have been awarded the “Governor’s Pride” and Westmarc’s “Best of the West” awards.
“Sometimes voters approve a measure, and they don’t know what happens after that,” says Larry Voyles, director for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We want to make sure Arizonans know this money went to the cause they chose and help them see the far-reaching effects it has had not only on Arizona’s precious wildlife, but also on the economy, especially in rural communities.”
The Heritage Fund gives money from lottery ticket sales to conservation efforts like protecting endangered species, acquiring habitat for the benefit of sensitive species, providing access to outdoor recreational opportunities, and educating children and adults about wildlife.
The Heritage Fund constitutes 12 percent of Game and Fish’s overall budget and is a critical funding source for leveraging federal grants for even greater conservation benefit. The department does not receive any of the state’s general tax revenues. It’s funding for wildlife conservation and management comes primarily from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise taxes on certain hunting and fishing gear, and a couple of other key sources such as the Heritage Fund.