Contact: Chris Horton, Senior Director, Midwestern States and Fisheries Policy
On April 23, in a virtual meeting with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and senior AGFC staff that was streamed live on the agency’s YouTube channel, the Commission completed the first of two meetings to review a long list of regulatory changes to the 2020-2022 hunting seasons.
To open the video conference, Director Pat Fitts updated the Commission on the agency’s activities since their last meeting in February, including their COVID-19 response. Director Fitts also announced that the AGFC was the recipient of a $2.1 million Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) grant. The 2018 Farm Bill renewed the VPA-HIP program at $50 million over the next four years. The AGFC will use the funding for their Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement program (WRICE), which pays farmers to leave rice stubble in the fall and to allow limited public access to enrolled lands through an AGFC hunting permit draw system. Last year was the first year of the WRICE pilot program, and a $150,000 investment from the AGFC resulted in 941 acres of private land enrolled. With the grant, the AGFC hopes to expand enrollment in the program to 3,750 acres for the 2020-2021 waterfowl season.
The remainder of the meeting focused on the first reading and discussion of a vast number of proposed regulatory changes, 85 of which impact the upcoming 2020-2022 hunting and trapping seasons, as well as captive wildlife permitting requirements. While an unusually large number of regulatory changes are being proposed, the majority focus on clarifying or simplifying existing regulations and expanding youth hunting opportunities. However, several will have a direct impact on hunting seasons, bag limits and hunter access. These changes include:
A recording of the meeting and presentations on each of the regulatory proposals can be found here. The Commission will vote on the package of regulations at its next meeting on May 21. Public comment related to the proposed regulations should be submitted to the Commission one week prior to the meeting (May 14).
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?