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Expert Wants Federal Investments to Help Ecological Health in AZ

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Arizona ranks among the top five states in the nation for the total number of native bird, reptile and mammal species, according to the Arizona Wildlife Federation. (Adobe Stock)
Arizona ranks among the top five states in the nation for the total number of native bird, reptile and mammal species, according to the Arizona Wildlife Federation. (Adobe Stock)

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 Alex Gonzalez, Producer

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Thursday, August 10, 2023   

Experts across the West have met to discuss the potential impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act as the one-year anniversary of the piece of legislation approaches.

Michael Cravens, advocacy and conservation director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation, said the bill makes the largest investment in the nation’s history to combat climate change, by incentivizing responsible clean-energy projects.

In Arizona, he pointed out climate change has made lack of water the biggest concern, despite good rainfall this past winter and now during monsoon season. He added when it comes to Arizona wildlife, there is very little discussion about the effects the shortage of water will have on ecological health and habitat.

“Repercussions to the region’s wildlife remain overlooked as part of this crisis,” Cravens contended. “Hopefully we start seeing some signs there and some more eyes on the problem.”

He added many species are struggling to survive because of rising temperatures, changes in landscapes and humans pulling water from the Colorado River. Cravens noted as Colorado River levels continue to drop, it only equates to the shrinkage of not only habitat in Arizona but also the diversity of species that can be supported.

Cravens emphasized simply put, Arizona forests are not what they once were. He said because of the warmer and drier conditions, fires have become increasingly more intense and devastating. He is hopeful Inflation Reduction Act funding will be able to help address these concerns and allow forests to bounce back.

“Regarding future investments, I would love to see the restoration of these forests,” Cravens stressed. “This is ongoing work, but closer to what we used to have through mechanical thinning and then putting fire back on that landscape in a controlled and safe way.”

Cravens acknowledged he is not a climatologist but added those who are have said long-term drought can last for several decades based on what he calls “natural conditions.” He said adding human-caused climate change into the mix throws “a big wrench into the system.”