The Commission approves the construction; recognizes the excellence of AGFC employees and announces the creation of the Joe Morgan Award
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved just over $2 million in capital construction projects across Arkansas at its regular meeting in Little Rock on Wednesday, Feb. 16. These projects will be funded from the existing budget for fiscal year 2022 and range in size from construction of the fishing pier to hydrological studies to infrastructure renovations at the George H. Dunklin Jr. Wildlife Management Area. Bayou Meto.
Projects approved at today’s meeting include:
- Hydrological study at Bayou Meto WMA in preparation for infrastructure changes;
- LiDar mapping in Bayou Meto WMA;
- Replacement of seven water control structures at Ed Gordon Point Delete WMA;
- Construction of two new parking and camping areas at Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA;
- Replacement of a walkway at Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA;
- Replacement of siding and foundation repairs at Lick Mountain Cabin on Gene Rush WMA;
- Construction and repair of an equipment shed in Bayou Meto, Gene Rush, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake, Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, Frog Bayou, Hope Upland WMA, and Blue Mountain Special Use Area;
- Construction and/or renovation of fishing docks and parking areas at Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake, Bald Knob Lake, Highway 89 Access, June Lake, Sugar Loaf Lake, Harris Lake Brake, Saracen Lake and Enterprise Lake;
- Resurfacing of car park at Pangburn Bridge;
- Construction of a concrete driveway at the Parker Bend storage chute, and
- Replacement of HVAC screens and windows at the 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 provides boat ramp access. water on Bayou Meto WMA. This project is a partnership between the AGFC and the Arkansas Department of Transportation at a total cost of $2 million.
During the meeting, the Commission also took the time to recognize the work and accomplishments of several of its employees. Mike and Kay Breedlove of Shikar Safari presented Pulaski County Wildlife Officer Rick Fields with the Shikar Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year Award for Excellence in Wildlife Enforcement and community building.
Former Commissioner George Dunklin was on hand to present Rocky Thornburg of 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 across the state during the fall and winter to help collect data on waterfowl numbers and provide essential services such as aerial seeding and the application of pesticides and fertilizers associated with the agency’s wet 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 Regional Fisheries Supervisor Justin Homan received the 2021 Mike Freeze Excellence in Fishing Award for his work in eastern Arkansas. Spring River Hatchery Manager Melissa Jones received the Fisheries Division Legacy Award for her service throughout her career managing this hatchery for the benefit of trout anglers throughout Arkansas and recruiting new fishers through organized fishing programs at the hatchery grounds.
AGFC social scientist Jessica Feltz was recognized for her recent International American Fisheries Society Award for Excellence in Public Education. Feltz received the award for her work in bridging the gap between biologists and the fishing communities they serve in multiple capacities since joining the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
AGFC Biologist Sean Lusk, AGFC Research Biologist Chris Middaugh and many AGFC staff were also recognized for their work on two papers submitted to the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies regarding research done on the impacts of stocking and the genetic distribution of Florida largemouth bass in the 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 the second author of Lusk’s paper, also had the second paper in the award category, “Stocking Spatial Patterns: Spatial patterns of Florida Largemouth Bass Genetic introgression into Northern Largemouth Bass Population after Stocking.” Both articles will be published in an upcoming issue of the scientific journal SEAFWA.
During his address to the Commission, AGFC Director Austin Booth added to the accolades, referring to 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 these things, and we do them incredibly well,” Booth said. “But for those three things to happen, there’s a cadre of people working in that building and regional offices across the state that enable each of those things. … We exemplify professionalism, skill and tenacity, not just in wildlife, law enforcement and fisheries, but we have leaders everywhere.
The Commission also announced the creation of the Joe Morgan Prize, which will be awarded to the team that collects the most non-perishable food items for the canned food drive held at the annual School Archery Championship.
Commissioner Anne Marie Doramus of Little Rock said the annual archery tournament is one of Morgan’s favorite programs.
“Every year since Joe was a commissioner, he has attended the State Championship for the Schools Archery Program,” Doramus said. “Joe was so proud to go and talk to parents and grandparents at the event.”
Morgan personally raised funds directly from other commissioners to reward the team that brought the most food to Arkansas hunters feeding the hungry at the event. This award will continue in honor of his efforts and love for the youth of Arkansas.
“We are proud to do this for our friend, the late Joe Morgan, who is forever in our hearts,” Doramus said.
In other cases, the Commission:
- Heard by 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 presented to staff members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on behalf of the Landers family in remembrance of their son, an outdoor enthusiast and supporter of the AGFC;
- Heard from Myron Means, AGFC Large Carnivore Program Coordinator, about the 2021 Arkansas Black Bear Harvest Report (LINK TO PRESENTATION);
- Ted Zawislak, AGFC Private Lands Program Supervisor, spoke about the accomplishments of the AGFC Private Lands Program (LINK TO PRESENTATION);
- Awarded to retired AGFC Wildlife Officer Cpl. Randy Rhodes his service arm after 12 years of dedicated service with the AGFC and another 13 with Arkansas State;
- Approved the removal of expired and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $807,526 and a current net book value of $82,851;
- Authorized a grant of field computers worth $3,400 to the Arkansas Forestry Division that have been replaced but still have a useful life.
- Authorized AGFC Director Austin Booth to enter into an agreement with the AGFF to coordinate sponsorships of agency programs and projects and enable private entities to further support the mission of the AGFC.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.