April 23, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
HEBER SPRINGS – Students of Heber Springs High School had the opportunity to sit in with commissioners of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today at a special town-hall style meeting in their school gymnasium.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve attempted to offer this direct involvement to students at an official meeting of the Commission,” Commission Chairman Andrew Parker said.
Students heard presentations focused on the many aspects of the aquatic wildlife and habitat in the Greers Ferry reservoir area. Bill Posey, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries, gave a presentation about the diversity of species and conservation work taking place in the tributaries upstream from Greers Ferry Reservoir. Then students heard an overview of the fishing and work the AGFC is doing on the reservoir itself in a presentation by Matt Schroeder, AGFC district fisheries supervisor. Christy Graham, AGFC trout program coordinator, concluded the presentation portion with a talk about the world-class trout fishery in the Greers Ferry Tailwater portion of the Little Red River.
The Commission also heard a presentation from AJ Riggs, AGFC wildlife health biologist, about current results from the 2020-21 chronic wasting disease monitoring effort. The AGFC received 7,808 samples from white-tailed deer and 57 samples from elk during the 2020-21 hunting seasons. Of those samples, 261 white-tailed deer and seven elk tested positive for the disease.
“This is an agency high of samples that have been collected by agency staff,” Riggs said. “All the credit goes to the AGFC’s wildlife management staff for their dedicated work throughout the year to meet our sampling goals.”
Riggs spoke about two important partnerships that have developed since the detection of the disease in Arkansas: the increased testing ability thanks to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and the latest research project being conducted by the University of Georgia on the impact CWD may be having on Arkansas’s deer population.
Thanks to increased testing brought on by the Arkansas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory under the ALPC, turnaround time at the lab has decreased from last year which should have hunters getting results more quickly this year.
The University of Georgia is currently tagging and outfitting live deer in Arkansas’s CWD Management Zone to evaluate the impact of CWD on deer in the state and research any behavior changes associated with contracting the disease. To date, 84 deer have been captured, tagged or radio-collared and released for surveillance.
“In addition to that 36 of the female deer were outfitted with transmitters that will activate and alert researchers when the doe gives birth,” Riggs said.
A feed of the meeting is available on the AGFC’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1FvUGWShgI.
In other business, the Commission:
- Heard from Bill Wussick, assistant director at the Arkansas Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who gave a presentation on a renewed partnership between the AGFC and DVA to share Arkansas’s outdoors opportunities among active duty service men and women as well as veterans of the U.S. military.
- Heard a presentation from Scot McClure, director of education for the Outdoor Tomorrow Foundation, about the growth of the Outdoor Adventures school-based outdoor curriculum program in Arkansas.
- Heard from National Guard Maj. General Kendall Penn, who spoke about guard programs and facilities in Arkansas.
- Heard from Spencer Griffith, AGFC assistant chief of communications, on the increased partnership between the AGFC and the tourism industry in Arkansas to promote hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in The Natural State.
- Approved the disposal of obsolete inventory with an original value of $59,872.38 and a current net book value of zero dollars.
- Approved the removal and disposal of a storage building on Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke that was built prior to 1980.
- Authorized the AGFC director to enter into lease agreements with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation to continue the partnership that enables the AGFC to continue education operations at the Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake and Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.
- Authorized the AGFC director to purchase a 1.9-acre piece of property adjacent to the C.B. “Charlie” Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton that shares access to the hatchery’s aquifer and hosts a valuable karst ecosystem.
- Approved a budget increase $705,150 of reimbursable funds from a previously awarded Recovery Land Acquisition Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund to transfer that money to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to aid in the purchase of 1,110 acres of property adjacent to Longview Saline Natural Area Wildlife Management Area to aid in the protection of four federally listed endangered species. The addition also will be added to the huntable area of the WMA accessible to hunters.
- Approved $26,100 to complete an assessment of the Benzal Lane Bridge over Menard Bayou leading to Trusten Holder WMA, which is in need of renovation or replacement to meet the load rating needed to complete current operations on the WMA.
- Authorized the use of $445,512 in Marine Fuel Tax funding to perform two access enhancement projects:
- $195,512 will be used in partnership with Faulkner County to repair and overlay approximately 2 miles of access road from Arkansas Highway 365 to Lawrence Landing Access on Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir.
- $250,000 will be used in partnership with Garland County to repair and overlay approximately 2 miles of access road from Arkansas Highway 298 to Lena Landing Access on Lake Ouachita.
- Entered an executive session to continue discussions on the filling of the agency’s director position that will be vacated when current director Pat Fitts retires at the end of June.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.