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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission formally adopted regulations Thursday that will add 4,706 acres of public hunting opportunity in The Natural State beginning with the 2023-24 hunting seasons. The announcement was one of many high points in a special series of meetings and events in north Arkansas during the last three days.
Thanks to the continued partnership between the AGFC and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, two new WMAs on natural areas were formed: Goat’s Beard Bluff Natural Area and Sugarloaf Mountains-Midland Peak Natural Area.
Goat’s Beard Bluff Natural Area encompasses 540 acres in Saline County along the Alum Fork of the Saline River. It is at the transition zone between the Ouachita Mountains and the Gulf Coastal Plain and is inhabited by both upland Ouachita Highland species and lowland Gulf Coastal Plain species.
Sugarloaf Mountains-Midland Peak Natural Area totals 1,191 acres in Sebastian County. The Sugarloaf Mountains are an isolated pair of high, conjoined ridges straddling the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma south of Fort Smith. They represent an isolated portion of the Scattered High Ridges and Mountains ecoregion of the Arkansas River Valley, and the area historically supported large areas of prairie, savanna and open woodland habitat.
Another partnership, this time with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry, added another hunting opportunity to the AGFC’s WMA system. The Hot Springs State Forest comprises 2,975 acres on the outskirts of Hot Springs National Park, and the new agreement with the AGFC will make that land accessible to hunters pursuing deer and other upland game in central Arkansas.
Thanks to a proclamation by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, anyone may fish in Arkansas without a fishing license or trout stamp from noon Friday, June 9, through midnight Sunday night, June 11.
AGFC Director Austin Booth read the proclamation at today’s meeting of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, thanking Gov. Sanders for her continued support of hunters and anglers and their contribution to conservation as well as Arkansas’s economy.
The proclamation was only the first highlight for anglers from Booth. In his address to the Commission, he spoke about the successful renovation of the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Hatchery, which was celebrated at a special event Wednesday. The renovation will allow this nearly 50-year-old hatchery to again produce upward of 1 million catchable-size trout for Arkansas anglers annually.
“It would be tempting to look at the Spring River Hatchery just as a project we completed. It was an opportunity for us, not just as an agency, but as a community to face a decision about a legacy project head-on and make things better,” Booth said. “We can learn a ton from this community and this project as we take on many other challenges facing this Commission. I am confident that we can and will rise to the occasion.” [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
The Commission also heard the testimony of students who took part in the Outdoor Adventures Program at Pinkston Middle School in Mountain Home under the guidance of teacher Freddy Penka. Outdoor Adventures is a partnership between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation to deliver a semester-long course of curriculum that satisfies all state requirements for a co-ed physical education course, a local elective or an agricultural science course. The school also received a $500 grant to help with supplies to continue helping the program. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
In other business, the Commission:
- Recognized three employees with a combined 60 years of experience for their service and dedication to the natural resources of Arkansas;
- Heard from Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation President Deke Whitbeck with his presentation on the successful “Into the Wild Banquet” in Springdale to raise money for the AGFC’s Youth Shooting Sports Program and the recent “Get It For Game Wardens” Banquet in Mountain Home. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
- Heard from Fisheries Biologist Eli Powers with an update on the Trout Habitat Program. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
- Adopted regulations to create a Nonresident Deer Dog Hunter Permit, which will be required for anyone from out of state to use dogs to pursue deer where legal in Arkansas.
- Restructured and raised nonresident hunting license fees as follows:
- Nonresident Annual Fishing License – $60
- Nonresident 3-Day Trip Fishing License – $30
- Nonresident Guide License/Fishing – $500
- Nonresident Trout Permit — $20 (no change)
- Nonresident Annual Hunting License – $410
- Nonresident 5-Day Hunting License – $225
- Nonresident 3-Day Deer Hunting License – $175
- Nonresident 1-Day Deer Hunting License – $100
- Nonresident Annual Small Game Hunting License – $110 (no change)
- Nonresident 5-Day Small Game Hunting License – $80
- Nonresident Trappers Permit – $125 (no change)
- Nonresident Bear Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Nonresident Turkey Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $100
- Nonresident Elk Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Nonresident Alligator Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Arkansas Nonresident Waterfowl Stamp (must accompany valid small game or big game license) – $50
- Nonresident 5-Day WMA Waterfowl Hunting Permit (Must accompany valid small game or big game license and Arkansas Nonresident Waterfowl Stamp) – $40
- Formally adopted the agency’s updated civil rights procedures and limited English proficiency plan to be added to the AGFC’s Policy and Procedures Manual.
- Amended language in the AGFC Code of Regulations to replace the wording “wildlife officer” with “game warden” in accordance with language passed during Arkansas’s 94th General Assembly.
- Awarded retiring AGFC Game Warden Sr. Cpl. Gary D. Stell his service sidearm after 25 years of dedicated service to the people and natural resources of Arkansas;
- Awarded retiring AGFC Game Warden Sgt. Michael Neal his service sidearm after 15 years of dedicated service to the people and natural resources of Arkansas;
- Approved a grant agreement with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to initiate a study by Ph.D. candidate Annette Fields titled “Assessing Impacts of Fishing Education Instructor Demographics.”
- Authorized the Information Technology Division of the AGFC to incorporate updated IT policies to identify legal requirements, compliance standards and industry best practices.
- Authorized Director Booth to work with the AGFF to provide observation visits of wildlife management experiences such as bear den monitoring and Canada Goose banding to help raise money for conservation activities.
A complete video of the meeting is available on the AGFC’s YouTube Channel.