Cooperatove Conservation Project

White Mountain Apache Tribe

Restoring Wolves, Owls, Trout and Ecosystems

Location: South-Central/South-West Region: Arizona

Project Summary: The White Mountain Apache Tribe has created innovative strategies for balancing economic development and resource conservation.
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The Apache trout is native to the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s 1.6 million acre homeland.
Resource Challenge

The Fort Apache Indian Reservation in East-Central Arizona is the homeland of the White Mountain Apache people. The more than 1.6 million-acre Reservation ranges from high-elevation forests to desert scrub and is blessed with sparkling lakes, more than 500 miles of cool water streams, and abundant wildlife. The great diversity of vegetation, wildlife, water resources, and pristine areas makes the Reservation one of the premiere recreation locations in the Southwest.

Tribal lands are also home to five federally-listed species: Apache trout, Mexican spotted owl, Mexican wolf, bald eagle, and loach minnow. A challenge to the Tribe is to promote a thriving resource-based economy while establishing an ambitious conservation program in an era of budget cuts. Through innovative funding and management initiatives, logging, ranching, world-class trophy elk hunting, and a thriving outdoor recreation program coexist with and complement conservation programs. Cooperative efforts are a key component of the Tribe’s strategy, and the Tribe has forged relationships with many state and federal agencies and conservation organizations. 

Examples of Key Partners

White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Results and Accomplishments

The Tribe, FWS, State of Arizona, and USFS cooperate on various aspects of Apache trout recovery. Projects have restored habitat, established a rearing program in reservation fish hatcheries, and transplanted trout into streams and lakes on the Reservation and adjacent National Forest. To date, 21 Apache trout streams have been restored, non-native trout were removed from 14 streams, and eight new populations of Apache trout were established. The Apache trout was downlisted from endangered to threatened, which led to the establishment of an Apache trout sport fishery. The Apache trout may become the first fish species to be delisted under the Endangered Species Act.

The Tribe is proactive in Mexican wolf recovery, and the Reservation is home to two distinct wolf packs. The Tribe protects the Mexican spotted owl, managing Tribal forests on an ecosystem basis and implementing silvicultural practices designed to improve overall forest health. The Tribe’s hydrology and watershed programs carry out riparian and wetland restoration projects, often in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The range management program works with livestock associations and NRCS. 


The Tribe used a court settlement to establish a permanent fund for restoring Reservation ecosystems and for scholarships for Tribal members pursuing natural resources studies.

Project Contact
John Caid
Director, Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division
White Mountain Apache Tribe



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