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Commission approves construction; recognizes excellence in AGFC employees

BY Randy Zellers

ON 02-17-2022


Feb. 17, 2022

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved just over $2 million in capital construction projects spread throughout Arkansas at today’s regularly scheduled meeting in Little Rock. These projects will be funded from within the existing budget for Fiscal Year 2022 and range in size from fishing pier construction to hydrology studies for infrastructure renovation of George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.

Projects approved in today’s meeting include:

  • Hydrology Study at Bayou Meto WMA in preparation of infrastructure changes;
  • LiDar mapping at Bayou Meto WMA;
  • Replacement of seven water control structures at Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA;
  • Construction of two new parking areas and camping areas at Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA;
  • Replacement of a footbridge at Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA;
  • Replacement of siding and foundation repairs at Lick Mountain Cabin on Gene Rush WMA;
  • Equipment shed construction and repairs at Bayou Meto, Gene Rush, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake, Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, Frog Bayou, Hope Upland WMAs and Blue Mountain Special Use Area;
  • Construction and/or renovation of fishing piers and parking spaces at Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake, Bald Knob Lake, Highway 89 Access, Lake June, Sugar Loaf Lake, Harris Brake Lake, Lake Saracen and Lake Enterprise;
  • Parking lot resurfacing at Pangburn Bridge;
  • Construction of a concrete drive at the Parker Bend stocking chute, and
  • Replacement of HVAC and window screens at Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center

Commissioners also approved the use of $400,000 in Marine Fuel Tax funds to completely replace the bridge on Wrape Road in Arkansas County that spans Little Bayou Meto and offers access to boat ramps on Bayou Meto WMA. This project is a partnership between the AGFC and Arkansas Department of Transportation with a total cost of $2 million.Mike Breedlove of Shikar Safari (left) and his wife Kay(right) present Wildlife Officer Rick Fields (center) with the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award.

The Commission took time during the meeting to recognize the work and accomplishments of many of its employees as well. Mike and Kay Breedlove of Shikar Safari presented Pulaski County Wildlife Officer Rick Fields the Shikar Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year Award for excellence in wildlife law enforcement and community-building.

Former Commissioner George Dunklin was on hand to present Rocky Thornburg, from Tommy’s Flying Service, with the George Dunklin Award for excellence in wetland and waterfowl conservation. Thornburg is a contractor who works with the AGFC, conducting aerial surveys throughout the state during fall and winter to help collect data on waterfowl numbers as well as provide essential services such aerial seeding and pesticide and fertilizer application associated with the agency’s moist soil management program .

The Fisheries Division also announced three of its annual awards. AGFC Fisheries Technician Justin Hopper received the 2021 recipient of the Fisheries Division Technician of the Year Award for his work at the Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton. AGFC Fisheries Regional Supervisor Justin Homan received the 2021 Mike Freeze Excellence in Fisheries Award for his work in east Arkansas. Spring River Hatchery Manager Melissa Jones was awarded the Fisheries Division Legacy Award for her career-long service, managing this hatchery for the benefit of trout anglers throughout Arkansas and recruiting new anglers through fishing programs held on hatchery grounds.AGFC Social Scientist Jessica Feltz (left) was recognized by AGFC Fisheries Chief Ben Batten for earning the Award for Excellence in Public Outreach from the International American Fisheries Society for her work in 2021.

AGFC Social Scientist Jessica Feltz was recognized for her recent award from the International American Fisheries Society for excellence in public outreach. Feltz was honored with this award for her work bridging the gap between biologists and the communities of anglers they serve in myriad capacities since she came on board with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

AGFC Biologist Sean Lusk, AGFC Research Biologist Chris Middaugh and many of the AGFC staff were also recognized for their work on two papers submitted to the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies concerning research completed on stocking impacts and distribution of Florida largemouth bass genetics at lakes DeGray and Ouachita. Lusk’s paper, “Florida Largemouth Bass Introgression: Evaluating the Genetic Response of Introducing Florida Largemouth Bass into Two Large Arkansas Reservoirs” won SEAFWA’s Jack Dequine Award for Outstanding Technical Paper. Middaugh, who was second author of Lusk’s paper, also had the runner-up paper in the award category, “Stocking Spatial Patterns: Spatial patterns of Florida Largemouth Bass Genetic introgression into Northern Largemouth Bass Population after Stocking.” Both papers will be published in an upcoming issue of SEAFWA’s scientific journal.

During his address to the Commission, AGFC Director Austin Booth added to the accolades, referencing many employees who work behind the scenes to keep the Commission on track.

“We are not a law enforcement organization; we are not a biology organization; we are not a research organization; we are the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. We do all of those things, and we do them incredibly well,” Booth said. “But for those three things to happen, there is a cadre of people who work in this building and regional offices throughout the state who enable every single one of those things. … We set an example for professionalism, for competence and for tenacity, not just in wildlife, enforcement and fisheries, but we have leaders everywhere.”

The Commission also announced the creation of the Joe Morgan Award, which will be given to the team that raises the most non-perishable food to the canned food drive conducted at the annual Archery in the Schools State Championship.

Commissioner Anne Marie Doramus of Little Rock said the annual archery tournament was part of one of Morgan’s favorite programs.Joe Morgan was an avid outdoorsman and supporter of the AGFC’s education efforts to recruit new hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts.

“Every single year since Joe was on the Commission, he attended the state championship for the Archery in the Schools Program,” Doramus said. “Joe was so proud to go to that and talk to the parents and grandparents at the event.”

Morgan personally gathered funds directly from other Commissioners to reward the team that brought the most food for Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry at the event. That award will continue in honor of his efforts and love for the youth of Arkansas.

“We’re proud to do that for our friend, the late Joe Morgan, who is forever in our hearts,” Doramus said.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Heard from Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation President Deke Whitbeck, who presented the Scott Landers Memorial Lifetime License Award to the family of Phillip Livingston. The award is offered to members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff on behalf of the Landers family in remembrance of their son, an avid outdoor enthusiast and supporter of the AGFC;
  • Heard from AGFC Large Carnivore Program Coordinator Myron Means about the 2021 Arkansas black bear harvest report (LINK TO PRESENTATION);
  • Heard from AGFC Private Lands Program Supervisor Ted Zawislak about the accomplishments of the AGFC’s Private Lands Program (LINK TO PRESENTATION);
  • Awarded retiring AGFC Wildlife Officer Cpl. Randy Rhodes his service sidearm after 12 years of dedicated service to the AGFC and another 13 years with the State of Arkansas;
  • Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $807,526 and a present net book value of $82,851;
  • Authorized a grant of field computers valued at $3,400 to the Arkansas Forestry Division that have been replaced but still have a useful lifespan.
  • Authorized AGFC Director Austin Booth to enter into an agreement with the AGFF to coordinate sponsorships for agency programs and projects and enable private entities to further support the AGFC’s mission.

A video of the meeting is available at

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