The Animal Defense League of Arizona began to focus on wildlife protection late in the 1990’s. Its focus has been on the Arizona Game & Fish Commission and Department, as they have primary responsibility for all wildlife management decisions in Arizona, except those involving federally protected species and decisions made by land management agencies that affect wildlife.
The primary goals of the wildlife program have been to be recognized as a stakeholder by Arizona Game & Fish in order to represent the interests of wildlife, the animal protection community and the majority of Arizonans who do not hunt and fish; to advocate for the protection of “focal” species- those species upon which other species depend and that are critical to functioning ecosystems; and to advocate for the protection of important habitat.
As long as wildlife policies are based on sound science, ADLA believes that hunting is not the biggest threat to wildlife in Arizona. Rather, loss of habitat, fragmentation and climate change are much bigger and more imminent threats. Ideally, ADLA would prefer to find common ground with hunters, based on its belief that too few people have an interest in nature and the outdoors.
ADLA regularly participates in Arizona Game & Fish Commission and Department meetings to advocate for habitat protection, focusing on important focal species. Those are species that protect habitat for many other species when present, and help assure that Arizona’s ecosystems are functioning and resilient. ADLA’s work is primarily on mountain lions and prairie dogs.
ADLA also provides oversight of Game and Fish in order to defeat bad policies that will harm wildlife or decrease the voice of animal protection. In November of 2010, ADLA was one of the groups that led the charge to defeat Proposition 109- a poorly conceived proposed amendment to Arizona’s Constitution that was soundly defeated by voters.
ADLA also reminds Game and Fish that many of their constituents do not hunt and fish. Their interests and the interests of wildlife must be balanced in Game and Fish decision-making.
On December 3rd, ADLA representatives traveled to Pinetop for the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) public hearing on its Mexican gray wolf proposals, along with many other wolf supporters. The meeting was held in the wolf recovery area, and it was expected that wolf opponents would pack the conference center. However, many wolf advocates turned out in large numbers, and held a strong presence throughout the hearing.
The Arizona Game & Fish Commission and Department are not in a good place right now. The Commission is the worst that ADLA has seen in over twenty years of wildlife advocacy. Both have reversed a number of incremental positive changes that they had made- such as mountain lion policies.
Wildlife Services employee Russell Files has been indicted by a grand jury for felony animal cruelty