Aug. 18, 2022
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
TEXARKANA — Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioners at today’s meeting celebrated the many partnerships and agencies who make conservation of the state’s fish, wildlife and their habitats possible. The meeting was the culmination of three days spent touring and working in southwest Arkansas to see the fantastic outdoors opportunities available here.
A prime example of partnerships providing more access for hunting and angling is the recent revision of the agreement between the AGFC and Arkansas Department of Transportation. Thanks to the allocation of a small portion of taxes from fuel purchases in Arkansas toward boating access, the Commission was able to approve three projects at today’s meeting to increase access for boaters.
The projects approved at today’s meeting will allocate $513,513 of Marine Fuel Tax money, which is collected on boat fuel taxes and reserved for public boating access improvements.
River Ridge Access on the White River in Independence County will see a new ramp and parking area at a cost of $250,000.
The current project to improve the boat ramp and parking area at Lawrence Landing Access on Lake Conway in Faulkner County will receive an additional $195,513.
Chesmond Ferry Access on the White river in Izard County will receive $68,000 worth of materials and labor to chip seal the road and parking area.
Jeremy Jennings with the Army Corps of Engineers gave a presentation on the AGFC and Corps’ continued partnership at the Millwood-Tri Lakes Project to provide thousands of additional acres of public opportunities for hunting and fishing.
Dylan Hann, AGFC fisheries supervisor, expanded on that partnership in his presentation about the many fisheries conservation projects along the Red River and area USACE lakes.
“We have everything from trout to giant alligator gar swimming in our waters here in southwest Arkansas,” Hann said. “We do a lot of conservation and aquatic habitat projects in this district with the help of the Corps, Arkansas State Parks and other partners here.”
Eley Talley, AGFC assistant regional wildlife supervisor in Perrytown, continued the spirit of partnership with his presentation on the vast amount of land the AGFC leases from private landowners to offer public hunting opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible to most Arkansans.
“The AGFC leases 308,000 acres each year from 36 timber companies and other private entities to make this otherwise inaccessible land available to outdoors enthusiasts in Arkansas,” Talley said. “Leased land accounts for about 9 percent of the (Wildlife Management Area) system in Arkansas.
“Many of these acres are within AGFC-owned WMAs where we’re filling in gaps to offer additional hunting areas. Other areas, called leased lands WMAs, offer hunters access in portions of the state where public hunting opportunities are otherwise unavailable.”
Not only do the partnerships provide access for hunters and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts, many agreements with the AGFC also stress partnerships to increase and improve wildlife habitat on the leased private land.
“We have hunters coming from 16 different states to hunt these WMAs,” Talley said. “They’re not just something Arkansas hunters are using, but some are becoming well known with many hunters from other states.”
The meeting concluded with a tribute to Ex-Officio Commissioner Dr. Steven Beaupre, who has held an advisory role with the AGFC during the last seven years as part of his duties at the University of Arkansas.
Chairman Bobby Martin of Rogers took a moment to speak about Beaupre’s contributions during his time with the agency, praising his ability to weave the science of wildlife management and research into the decision-making process of the Commission and the day-to-day activities of the staff.
“Beaupre has, at least in our view, unquestionably raised the bar,” Martin said. “His voice will be greatly missed. Those shoes are going to be very, very difficult for someone to fill.”
Other commissioners joined in sharing their appreciation for Beaupre’s professionalism and camaraderie as well, each sharing a brief story of their interactions with him during his time on the Commission. Beaupre then took a moment to express his gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of some of the major milestones the AGFC has accomplished during his tenure.
“Conservation is a conversation that includes talk, and theory and science, but it also includes action…,” Beaupre said in his farewell address. “People are going to look back 10, 20, 50 years from now and recognize you all for the heroes you are.”
In other business, the Commission:
Heard from Deke Whitbeck, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation president, who spoke about the foundation’s Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held in Little Rock on Aug. 27.
Authorized AGFC Director Austin Booth to execute a real estate exchange to receive a small portion of property adjacent to Harold E. Alexander Spring River Wildlife Management Area in Sharp County and execute a right-of-way easement with the current landowners to allow access on the road through that portion of the WMA.
Authorized AGFC Legal Division to represent an AGFC Wildlife Officer in a lawsuit in which he was named as a defendant in an issue in which he was acting in his official capacity for the Commission.
Authorized a budget increase of $400,000 to the Wildlife Management Division for the purchase of a 300-horsepower tractor to be used extensively in the agency’s moist-soil waterfowl areas and other key wetland habitat improvements.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/<wbr></wbr>ArkansasGameandFish.