As we celebrate 40 years of the Arizona Lottery and transition into the 32nd year of our partnership to protect and preserve Arizona’s unique, even iconic, landscapes and wildlife, the Arizona Lottery is honored to fund the important work of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Fund. Each year, the Arizona Lottery transfers up to $10 million to help pay for this vital environmental conservation program. Working together, we are protecting native and sensitive species, urban wildlife, evaluating and protecting critical habitats, ensuring and improving public access to wildlands and educating Arizonans of all ages about the importance of the environment to our quality of life.
The Heritage Fund, with transfers from the Arizona Lottery, is protecting several species, including black-footed ferrets, California condors and black-tailed prairie dogs. These all had disappeared from the state, but have since been reintroduced. The Heritage Fund’s Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program is a nationally recognized program, also funded with Arizona Lottery dollars, that has been critical to helping the state’s bald eagle population recover and grow nearly six-fold since the species was listed as endangered. The Heritage Fund’s voluntary non-lead ammunition and hunter outreach program has helped bring the California condor back from the brink of extinction, and native Apache trout have recovered to the point where they are no longer endangered and some limited fishing is allowed.
The Arizona Lottery’s funding has also played a significant role in the Heritage Fund’s acquisition and conservation of nearly 18,000 acres of wildlands across Arizona, establishing wildlife areas in Apache County, Cochise County, Yavapai County and Yuma County for habitat conservation and species recovery programs. These monies have also allowed for the construction of barrier-free fishing piers at Woodland, Mittry, Patagonia, Kaibab, Riggs and Rose Canyon lakes.
As Heritage Fund monies from the Arizona Lottery are used to improve public access to wildlands, sponsored research has identified critical road construction corridors to help wildlife safely forage for food each season, and has also helped develop ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions on Arizona’s roads, safeguarding the lives of countless High Country motorists.
Finally, Heritage grants, supported by transfers from Arizona Lottery sales, fuel projects that focus on wildlife education and schoolyard habitat conservation. These grants also help schools take students on field trips across Arizona to learn about wildlife and outdoor recreation.
In fact, if you were to add up all of the money that has been transferred to the Heritage Fund from the Arizona Lottery over the past 31 years, you would come up with a staggering $434 million, which has allowed the Arizona Game and Fish Department to focus on species not traditionally hunted or fished, as well as those that are threatened or endangered, allowing Arizona to capitalize on conservation in ways that few other states can.
It’s the generosity of Arizona Lottery players, and the hard work of Arizona Lottery retailers and employees, that make these transfers to the Heritage Fund possible. The Arizona Lottery has seen record sales, over $1.4 billion in FY2021, and a portion of every one of those dollars helps the Heritage Fund and the Arizona Game and Fish Department protect all of our state’s beautiful wildlife and habitats.
But the Heritage Fund is only one of more than a dozen beneficiaries supported by the Arizona Lottery in this, our 40th anniversary year. In fact, since 1981, the Arizona Lottery and its retail partners have generated more than $4.6 billion in net funding to support programs that are helping to improve the quality of life for the people of Arizona. Proceeds from Arizona Lottery ticket sales fund programs in higher education, economic development, environmental conservation and health and human services.
Together, the Arizona Lottery and the Heritage Fund are working hard, through the revenues generated by ticket sales, to make our state a shining example of conservation that both protects our landscapes and wildlife while making the outdoors more accessible to everyone. These transfers are an investment in our environmental legacy that is paying off today, and will continue to pay dividends to generations of Arizonans to come.
Gregg Edgar is executive director of the Arizona Lottery.