Outdoor sportsmen have a chance to enter the digital age this year, as the Arizona Game and Fish Department releases the results of what may be the first survey of its kind.

Game and Fish, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, are using modern technology to improve public lands, and to advertise some choice hunting and fishing spots throughout the state.

The Game and Fish Department sent postcards to a random sampling of 7,500 sportsmen who purchased hunting and fishing licenses last fall. Recipients were given online instructions and asked to participate in a survey. Through a Game and Fish departmental website, participants had the ability to highlight favorite spots throughout the state for hunting and fishing.

While the majority of “treasured” public lands were located in the areas of Maricopa and Pima Counties, the Lake Havasu Area was marked as an important site for anglers and hunters of mule deer, cold and warm water fish, quail, doves and bighorn sheep.

The process is called “Hunt and Fish Value Mapping,” and TRCP has been doing it since 2007. They started in other states, creating paper maps to convey information about favored hunting and fishing grounds, which would later be transferred to a digital medium. When TRCP approached Game and Fish with its proposal to map these areas in Arizona, the department suggested giving the survey and data a digital, online format.

Richard Lawrence is the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Program Director for Game and Fish, and has been working with TRCP since late 2014. After responses were received from the 2015 survey, the department examined data throughout late 2015 and compiled a study that, according to Lawrence, may be the first of its kind.

“I think we may be the only game and fish department to have a survey like this,” Lawrence said. “Other states have done value-mapping, but I believe we’re the only ones who have one to this extent.”

The data collected will ensure that Arizonans’ valued hunting and fishing locations in Arizona will be protected and maintained, and will show land managers and lawmakers the locations of hunting and fishing lands so that opportunities for outdoor sportsmen can be better protected.

“I think this information is invaluable,” Lawrence said. “As I talk with park managers, they tell me that they always suspected the value of some places for hunting and fishing, or suspected that they were popular, but it was all supposition. Now there is a scientifically-built data set. This is essential for giving hunters and fishermen their voice about lands that have the most value to them. We’ve asked, ‘what do our customers think is valuable?’ Up until now we never had a map for these specific locations.”

The survey included questions about why sportsmen identified an area as being important, and determined trends based on family tradition, distance from the participant’s home or abundance of game. The Game and Fish Department says that these answers demonstrate the importance of maintaining fish and wildlife habitats in Arizona, and to provide readily-available public access for hunting and angling.

“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 TRCP field representative John Hammill. “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 enhancement of public access in these areas.”

The Hunting and Fishing Value map can be found through Arizona Game and Fish Department, at www.azgfd.com/recreation/valuemapping.

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