LITTLE ROCK - Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today approved an 18-day spring turkey season. The season framework was approved after a review of recent harvests, brood surveys and gobbling chronology data along with input from turkey hunters.
Commissioners also removed two zones on Arkansas lands east of the Mississippi River. Zone 17A, which included adjacent Tennessee lands and Zone 17B which included adjacent Mississippi lands, will now be in Zone 17.
The spring 2011 turkey season youth hunt will be April 9-10 for the entire state.
The statewide spring turkey season will be April 16-May 3 in zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17 and April 16-26 in zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A. Zone 1A will be closed.
The bag limit for the spring season will be no more than one legal turkey taken per day and no more than two legal turkeys taken during the season. Youth may only take one jake during the season, either during the youth hunt or statewide hunt, but adult hunters will be limited to mature gobblers only.
In other business, the Commission:
- Approved a grant to the Arkansas Department of Education of just over $671,290. The money comes from criminal fines collected from AGFC enforcement efforts throughout the state. It will be distributed to the counties where the offenses occurred to be used for conservation education programs. Since 2004, more than $4.2 million have been collected from fines and distributed for the educational programs throughout 75 counties. This was a cooperative action sanctioned by the 84th General Assembly and Governor Mike Huckabee which passed enabling legislation as ACT 799 in 2003.
- Approved a document addressing ethical responsibilities, including topics such as conflicts of interest, prohibited gifts and income reporting. The document is written to clarify responsibilities of Commissioners and agency employees.
- Approved two agreements authorizing funding for pilot grant programs for wildlife observation trails and wildlife recreation facilities. The trails program will involve the AGFC and Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism while the facilities program will involve the AGFC and Arkansas Department of Rural Services. The two agencies will solicit, review and prioritize applications for the grants and forward recommendations to the AGFC for approval. The wildlife observation trail program authorizes $1 million in grants and $500,000 for the wildlife recreation facilities program. The grants are a result of mineral bonus revenue from oil and gas leases on AGFC property and the AGFC working closely with the 87th General Assembly and Governor Mike Beebe which passed enabling legislation as ACT 686 and ACT 687 authorizing these beneficial grant programs.
- Approved a budget increase of $262,318 from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant to deal with oversight, surveillance, communication and research of White Nose Syndrome in the state's bat population. The disease has been destroying bat populations in other parts of the country, but no bats in Arkansas have been found to have the disease.
- Approved a budget increase of $70,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor Avian Influenza. The money will be used to purchase equipment and supplies related to waterfowl trapping, safety supplies and to reimburse the agency for personnel hours spent collecting samples from waterfowl.
- Approved a name change involving 2,800 acres of land purchased by the AGFC in northwest Searcy County. The Commission had originally approved renaming the area the Sonny Varnell Richland Valley Elk Conservation Area. The name will be changed to Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Elk Conservation Area to recognize the historical, cultural and genealogical values unique to the area.
- Approved a change in the Resident Roe Buyer/Exporter Agent Permit to allow designated agents of the Roe Buyer/Exporter Permit to purchase roe.
- Approved a budget increase of $28,000 of Marine Fuel Tax funds for the installation of a public boat ramp and access area at Rocky Hole Lake in Desha County.
- Approved a budget increase of $10,000 to develop a comprehensive communications plan for the agency.