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Poachers pay Arkansas schools more than a half-million dollars in 2024

BY Randy Zellers

ON 02-26-2024

ANASP 427056

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Economic Development Commission Division of Rural Services awarded grants worth $537,209 this week to schools throughout the state thanks to wildlife fines collected by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The AGFC does not use any of the money derived from wildlife violation fines in capital expenditures or operating costs. Instead, all fine money is collected and distributed to schools and conservation districts in the form of grants focused specifically on conservation education in Arkansas.

“The best way to prevent future violations is to instill a love of the resource in our future hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts and teach them why it’s so important to follow the regulations,” AGFC Director Austin Booth said. “Every hunter is faced with the decision to follow the rules or cheat the system every time they put on a pair of waders or hunter orange vest. The things they learn today through increased conservation education programs could be the very thing that molds them into the ethical sportsmen and sportswomen our wildlife resources deserve.”

Schools in 67 counties were awarded grants, and 240 awards were made, according to Becca Caldwell, Director of Rural Services for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

“Outdoor recreation is a vital part of Arkansas’s quality of life, and it is an important draw for people looking at The Natural State as a place to live, work and raise a family,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “We are proud to help support wildlife education and conservation programs in schools across Arkansas, growing our outdoor recreation economy and building stronger communities throughout the state.”

JJ Gladden, AGFC assistant chief of education, said the fine money grant partnership has been a huge success for many schools, particularly those in rural areas with limited budgets.

All schools in the state are eligible to participate in the program, but only money collected in the county where the violation occurred may be used as grant funds for that county.

The funding has helped schools create and maintain archery, fishing, and competitive shooting sports programs. Schools also have used the money to help improve wildlife education by purchasing educational materials, materials for the creation of indoor and outdoor habitats, lab supplies, and field trips to AGFC nature and education centers. Conservation districts have used the funding to help promote wildlife conservation awareness in the communities by hosting environmental education days and fishing derbies for children of all ages.

“Budgets are so tight in some districts, they’re barely able to cover the cost of core classes,” Gladden said. “The fine money grant program enables us to help shoulder some of the load and bring all sorts of great education programs to the kids. Many of these children will be the future of conservation and we can’t let money get in the way of their future.”

For more information, including a complete list of 2024 Game and Fish Wildlife Grant Award recipients and program narratives, visit




Most schools participating in the Archery in the Schools Program purchase bows, arrows and other equipment through fine money grants administered by the AEDC.

Fine money grants administered by the AEDC are used in outdoor classroom projects and schoolyard habitat projects to keep students engaged.

Travel for mentored fishing trips and on-site experiences that tie back into lesson plans through the AGFC can be paid for through fine money grants collected by the AGFC and distributed by the AEDC.

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