Laws 1881, Chapter 66 created the Commissioners of Fisheries; replaced in 1912 by the State Game Warden pursuant to Laws 1912, Chapter 82. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission was established by Laws1929, Chapter 84 and the Game and Fish Department was added by Laws 1958, Chapter 80. Current statutory authority for the Commission and Department is found at A.R.S. §17-101 et seq.
The Commission has a wide range of duties and oversight responsibilities set forth in statute. Those responsibilities include creating both broad policies and specific rules for managing, preserving and harvesting wildlife in Arizona. The Commission also regulates the sale, trade, importation, exportation, and possession of wildlife; creates and maintains facilities (game farms, fish hatcheries, etc.) related to preserving or propagating wildlife; and supervises public shooting ranges. The Commission consists of five members who are appointed to five-year terms.
The Department does not receive state general fund monies; however it administers a number of funds and has bonding authority. See A.R.S. §§17-261 – 17-295 and JLBC Baseline Book for a description of related funds.
The territorial Commissioners of Fisheries was established in 1881 and consisted of three officers appointed by the Governor. One officer was designated business agent for the board. In 1912, the position of State Game Warden was created, appointed by the Governor.
The Game and Fish Commission was created in 1929. Members were required to be well informed on wildlife and conservation of animals, birds, and fish. The Commission appointed a state game and fish warden who was secretary to the Commission. The State Warden was authorized to appoint deputy wardens, each in a different area of the state.
Laws 1958, Chapter 80 rewrote laws relating to management of game and fish; increased membership of the Commission to five; eliminated the State Game Warden and established the Game and Fish Department.
The following paragraphs provide information on numerous changes adopted since the agency was established. Although these paragraphs do not represent a comprehensive listing or discussion, they do provide a sampling of significant changes. The reader is encouraged to check current statutes and conduct additional research as needed.
Established in 1881, the Commissioners of Fisheries were responsible for keeping minutes of the proceedings of the Board and a detailed list of expenditures; collecting and presenting statistics; maintaining records; preparing annual reports for the Governor; and making recommendations for legislative actions to promote the cultivation and increase of food fish in Arizona. Other duties included securing the allotted quota of fish stock or fry (juvenile fish) from the U.S. Commissioners of Fisheries; to purchase or procure fry of species deemed desirable in Arizona; to plant fry in the best area for success; and to make investigations on fish culture. See Territorial Laws 1881, Chapter 66: http://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/digital/collection/lawsession/id/1553/rec/5.
Laws 1912, First Legislature Special Session, Chapter 82 established the State Game Warden, who was authorized to regulate and license the hunting of game birds and animals. The measure established age and residency requirements, hunting seasons and bag limits; provided enforcement authority; established penalties for unlawful taking of wildlife; established the Game Protection Fund; and prohibited hunting of antelope, female deer, fawn, road runners, elk, goat, mountain sheep, bob white, grouse and pheasant. The measure established the following game preserves where hunting was prohibited: Coconino-Yavapai; Blue Range; Huachuca; Pinal Mountains; Mount Graham; and Catalina Mountains.
Legislation enacted in 1929 repealed and rewrote provisions related to game and fish preservation. Laws 1929, Chapter 84 outlined duties of the Game and Fish Commission and responsibilities of the State Game and Fish Warden and deputy wardens. Those responsibilities included managing propagation and distribution of wild birds, animals, and fish; enforcing all laws for wildlife protection; establishing hunting and fishing seasons, game limits and refuges; and establishing licensing requirements and fees. The measure also included provisions related to penalties, violations and enforcement.
In 1958, statutory provisions adopted in 1929 relating to game and fish were repealed and re-enacted. Laws 1958, Chapter 80 established the Game and Fish Department to administer statutory responsibilities. Control of the Department was vested with the Game and Fish Commission who appointed the director of the Game and Fish Department to a five-year term. The measure outlined duties of the Commission; eliminated the position of State Game and Fish Warden; expanded duties with regard to sale of unclaimed property, acquisition and disposition of land and waters related to wildlife management; established several funds (Game and Fish Fund, Game and Fish Federal Reclamation Fund and the Game and Fish Restoration Revolving Fund); addressed taking and handling of wildlife; established fines and penalties; established licensing requirements and fees; allowed reciprocal licenses between Arizona and California; and authorized the Commission to cooperate with the federal government on conservation and restoration projects.
In 1990 the Game and Fish Heritage Fund was established consisting of monies from the state lottery fund. Proposition 200 was a ballot measure approved by the voters on November 6, 1990. Monies in the fund are used to protect sensitive or endangered areas containing habitat or wildlife.
In 2002, the Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund, consisting of monies from tribal gaming, was established pursuant to Proposition 202, a ballot measure approved by the voters on November 5, 2002. The fund is used to restore state wildlife resources and habitat.
Laws 2005, Chapter 78 authorized the Commission to enter into agreements related to participation in the Lower Colorado River Multispecies Conservation Program.
Laws 2009, Chapter 77 allowed the Director to establish an aquatic invasive species program. The measure outlined prohibitions and penalties for possessing, transporting, shipment or release of an aquatic invasive species into the state.
Laws 2010, Chapter 22 established the Game and Fish Commission Appointment Recommendation Board to provide additional guidance in selecting commissioners.
In 2011, the Game and Fish Commission was authorized to adopt rules related to operating public shooting ranges. See Laws 2011, Chapter 276.
Laws 2013, Chapter 197 required the Arizona Auditor General to conduct a complete financial audit of the Arizona Game and Fish Department by January 2015.
Laws 2015, Chapter 172 established the Livestock Loss Board to address the impact of wolves on livestock operations and to implement procedures to compensate for losses caused by wolves. The measure created the Livestock Compensation Fund, to be administered by the Board.
Laws 2017, Chapter 186 established the Game and Fish In-lieu Fee Program Restoration Endowment Trust Fund to fulfill obligations related to federal Clean Water Act requirements to protect or mitigate impacts to aquatic resources. The Department serves as an in-lieu fee sponsor. The measure outlines sources and uses of monies in the fund.
- Arizona Revised Statutes - Title 17, Sections 17-101 et seq.
- Arizona Administrative Code R12-4-101 et seq.
- Session Laws
- Territorial Laws 1881, Chapter 66
- Laws 1912, First Legislature Special Session, Chapter 82
- Laws 1929, Chapter 84
- Laws 1958, Chapter 80
- Laws 2005, Chapter 78
- Laws 2009, Chapter 77
- Laws 2010, Chapter 22
- Laws 2011, Chapter 276
- Laws 2013, Chapter 197
- Laws 2015, Chapter 172
- Laws 2017, Chapter 186
Arizona Auditor General Report: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Schedule of Cash Receipts, Disbursements, and Transfers, Year Ended June 30, 2014.
Performance audits, Arizona Game and Fish
Joint Legislative Budget Committee FY 2019 Baseline Book
Arizona Secretary of State- Historical Election Results and Information
1990 Proposition 200
2002 Proposition 202
related collections at arizona state archives
Record Group 47 – Arizona Game and Fish Commission, 1925-1997