The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was created in 1915, but it was not until the passage of Amendment 35 in Arkansas's 1944 General Election that the Commission gained the power to enact lasting wildlife regulations. Before Amendment 35, AGFC wardens had the right to inspect hunters and anglers for illegally taken game, but did not have the authority to arrest poachers or issue citations for those violations. Laws were subject to change depending upon the ebb and flow of state representatives and their constituents.
Amendment 35 gave the Commission autonomy from the state legislature and enabled wildlife regulations to be enforceable on a statewide basis. It also gave wildlife officers full police authority to issue citations and make arrests. While the state legislature still has control of some aspects of Commission business, Amendment 35 was the true mark of the beginning of wildlife conservation in Arkansas.
Amendment 75 - Conservation Sales Tax
In November 1996, Arkansas voters passed a conservation sales tax, which went into effect July 1, 1997. It designates 1/8th of 1 percent of the state's general sales tax for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (45 percent), Arkansas State Parks (45 percent, Arkansas Heritage Commission (9 percent) and Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission (1 percent).
In a statewide survey before the 1996 election, Arkansans said their priorities for the Game and Fish Commission's new projects funded with the tax revenues were (1) more wildlife law enforcement, (2) more wildlife habitat for public use, (3) more education about wildlife and (4) more work with endangered species.
The Game and Fish Commission immediately drafted plans for four nature centers (Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Little Rock) in addition to other expanded educational projects to fulfill this part of its conservation sales tax commitment.
Click here to read Conservation Sales Tax: A Little Help from Nature's Friends, a 10-year report detailing projects and improvements made possible by Amendment 75.