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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

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AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all behind us, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to grab some gifts for your holiday shopping. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

Sounds like a deal

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

What’s even better than a year’s worth of award-winning stories and photography delivered to your door? How about three years’ of entertainment with an added special gift to boot? From now until Jan. 1, every three-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine will come with a free Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker sporting the magazine’s title on one side and the AGFC logo on the other. The speaker hooks up wirelessly to any phone or tablet with Bluetooth capability to provide excellent sound-quality to your favorite music and includes a microphone to be able to talk back through it when taking a phone call. One surface of the speaker has a special coating that allows it to cling to glass and other smooth surfaces while playing to keep it out of harm’s way. Just purchase a three-year subscription or three-year gift subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine and we’ll ship the speaker to the subscriber’s address.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC's Conservation License Plate.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate.

Plate up some conservation

It doesn’t matter if your secret Santa is a birdwatcher, bowhunter or both, a gift certificate for an AGFC conservation license plate is the perfect gift to show their love of the outdoors. License plates featuring northern cardinals, black crappie, deer, squirrels and a host of other wildlife species are available at Department of Finance and Administration offices all over the state. Just visit http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutConservationLicensePlates.aspx to purchase as many gift certificates as you need to outfit your friends and family with plates of their choosing. The certificate costs $35, $25 of which is placed into the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund to help Arkansas students become the next generation of biologists and conservationists.

Two books for $10

Buy the AGFC's 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

Buy the AGFC’s 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

While supplies last, the AGFC will be offering it’s 180-page hardcover photo history book, “A Century of Conservation,” and it’s Centennial Cookbook, “A Celebration of Conservation,” together for $10 at AGFC nature centers and the Little Rock Headquarters. You can also cash in on a great deal if you order online at http://www.agfc.com, to get both great books delivered to your door for $13. Act quickly and we’ll throw a 100-year Anniversary Baseball Hat in your order for free.

“A Century of Conservation” is the story of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first 100 years. Read along and discover how the state went from scarcely more than a few hundred deer to a booming population approaching the million-deer mark, not to mention the comeback of Arkansas black bears, turkeys and elk. Stunning photographs and a few stories you probably haven’t heard make this journal a must-have for anyone interested in the outdoors, hunting, fishing or Arkansas history.

“A Celebration of Conservation” includes some of the AGFC employees’ favorite concoctions of everything from wild game to fancy desserts. Mouth-watering recipes will have your taste buds working overtime and make this cookbook a weekly go-to for your kitchen reading. Visit http://www.agfc.com/store/Pages/Merchandise.aspx to order both books.

Bring the outdoors inside

In addition to the gifts above, the AGFC’s four nature centers throughout the state each have a gift shop full of outdoors-oriented items for the nature lover and die-hard outdoorsperson on your list. Shirts, hats, coffee mugs and a variety of smaller gifts are available at reasonable prices in each center, as well as books and other educational material on the outdoors. While you’re there, take in some of the sights and sounds of the center and ask the staff about some of their excellent programs available to the public throughout the year for free. Everything from photography to nighttime “owl prowls” are possible. Click http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationNatureCenters.aspx to get started finding a nature center near you.

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Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, was confirmed in a sample from Arkansas Feb. 23. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is ramping up awareness for the disease and its response to the finding through public meetings, press releases and many other avenues of communication. Visit to learn more about the disease in Arkansas.

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Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC's Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC’s Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

When the Arkansas River crested at 46.24 feet at the Pine Bluff gauge on Saturday, Jan. 2, it reached the second highest level since Emmett Sanders Lock and Dam was completed in 1968. The river crested at 47.70 feet May 9, 1990. The rising water flooded most of Jefferson County Regional Park, including the area surrounding Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center.

Eric Maynard, facility director for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first nature center, says water has completely cut the center off from dry land for the last few days.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

“The only way to access the center for the last few days has been by boat,” Maynard said. “We’ve been putting in off the main road and boating about three-quarters of a mile to the center to take care of the animals and exhibits.”

The main building of the center was built on stilts and remained dry during the deluge, but many of the outer buildings were inundated.

“The front deck of the center was like standing on a boat dock,” Maynard said. “The greenhouse has about 4 feet of water in it, and the eagle pens are partially flooded. We’ve moved all our educational exhibit birds from their outdoor pens to another building.”

Maynard says the biggest issue for the center now is a lack of power during the cold winter temperatures.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

“Entergy came and turned the power off throughout the park before the major flooding to avoid major problems with the lines,” Maynard said. “That’s been over a week now. Education and enforcement staff have been making trips every day or two to fill generators and feed the animals, but the snakes, alligator and other cold-blooded animals are beginning to cool down because of the dropping temperatures.”

The center staff was prepared for this flood, only because of familiarity. The third-highest mark the river has reached since the dam was completed occurred only seven months ago, when the river crested at 45.96, shutting down access to the center for about two weeks.

“It looks like the water may be down low enough for us to drive in on the road by Thursday of this week,” Maynard said. “But even if we can get to the center, we won’t know how long it will be before the power is back on.”

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

The nature center in Pine Bluff was not the only one impacted by heavy rain. Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek in Yellville saw more than its fair share of precipitation as well. The water gauge at Kelly’s Slab on Crooked Creek peaked at 33.63 on Dec. 28, 2015, more than 20 feet higher than the slab. Although short-lived, the high water completely blocked access to the education center for a day and forced staff to close the facility for two more days while they worked to clean up debris and assess damage.

Marilyn Doran, facility manager at the education center said this is only the third time since the center has opened that she has seen the water so high. The buildings are fine but massive amounts of sand washed onto the property and the handicapped-accessible portion of Woodlands Edge Trail was damaged.

“The education center is open, but the trail will remain closed until we can repair that surfaced portion,” Doran said. “On the positive side, it’s a great time to build a sand castle with all the sand that washed up on the property from the flood.”

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

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The ringed crayfish is moving into areas along the south branch of the White River, and is pushing out the rare coldwater crayfish.

The ringed crayfish is moving into areas along the south branch of the White River, and is pushing out the rare coldwater crayfish.

Rare crayfish being displaced by ringed crayfish

The coldwater crayfish is a rare species found only in parts of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks. It inhabits big, spring-fed streams – namely the Eleven Point, Strawberry, Spring and South Fork Spring rivers. Several years ago, ringed crayfish from the North Fork White River basin, turned up in the South Fork.

University of Arkansas professor Dan Magoulick and his students have been studying this invasion where the coldwater crayfish has been displaced from much of the South Fork. The current theory is that ringed crayfish are more tolerant of low, summer water conditions, allowing them to out-compete the coldwater crayfish.

The coldwater crayish has a few color variations, depending on the stream system it inhabits.

The coldwater crayish has a few color variations, depending on the stream system it inhabits.

This ringed crayfish invasion is an example of a short-range introduction. A study published by the Missouri Department of Conservation found that short-range introductions of crayfish are more common than previously thought. Since several of Arkansas’s nearly 60 crayfish species are found in only a small portion of the state, this highlights the need to avoid moving crayfish around from one place to another.

Nongame aquatics biologist and former University of Arkansas student Matthew Nolen dislodge rocks in a stream along the Norht Fork River to find the rare coldwater crayfish.

Nongame aquatics biologist and former University of Arkansas student Matthew Nolen dislodge rocks in a stream along the North Fork River to find the rare coldwater crayfish.

The story of the coldwater crayfish is not all bad. Recent surveys by the University of Arkansas, Missouri Department of Conservation and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have sought to better understand where coldwater crayfish are found. While they are mostly gone from the South Fork, coldwater crayfish populations are in fairly good shape in the Eleven Point and Spring rivers. A few also were found in sections of the Strawberry River.

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Eleven Arkansas high school students traveled the state to learn how they can contribute to tomorrow's conservation leadership.

Eleven Arkansas high school students traveled the state to learn how they can contribute to tomorrow’s conservation leadership.

 

High school seniors take week-long conservation journey

What do 35 counties, three state parks, one national park, three conservation education centers, two nature centers, four wildlife management areas, one commission meeting and 11 high school seniors have in common? All were elements of the first annual Youth Conservation Institute held July 11-18 all across the State of Arkansas.

YCI is a competitive, merit-based, week-long journey into Arkansas’s conservation story and serves as a springboard for conservation-minded teens who want to make an impact on the community in which they live. Participants were selected from a state-wide pool based on criteria including grade point average, letters of recommendation and proven interest in conservation and wildlife management.

Students participated in field activities that showcased the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s management of the state’s fisheries and wildlife. It also gave the participants a snapshot of possible career choices in the field of conservation. They studied Arkansas’s different ecosystems by visiting the Ozark Mountains, the Gulf Coastal Plains, Delta and Crowley’s Ridge.

The students went catfishing in the south and smallmouth fishing in the north. They hiked the flatlands of the plains and mountains in the Ozarks. With each experience, they learned the importance that each region plays in making Arkansas home to such a diverse population of wildlife and what must be done to maintain that population.

Personnel from the AGFC, Arkansas State Parks, Buffalo River National Park and other organizations were on hand to demonstrate on-going conservation efforts throughout the state.

Even after camping during the hot July heat, YCI students declared the experience to be the “best week of my life” and “one of the best learning experiences I have had.”

Their challenge after returning home is to develop and implement a project in their own communities which will have a lasting impact on local conservation efforts.

Youth Conservation Institute attendees:

  • Hunter Almond – Maumelle
  • Seth Bickford – Conway
  • Austen Evers – Harrison
  • Travis Gray – Oden
  • Bailey Hankins – Ward
  • Jared Hett – Pottsville
  • Jacob Jones – Humnoke
  • Joe McAlee – McRae
  • Brody Smith – Guy
  • Caty Jo Spivey – Horseshoe Bend
  • Kaleb Wornick – Mena

For more information about Youth Conservation Institute, visit http://www.agfc.com.

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Volunteers cleaning up the shoreline of Crooked Creek and planting native trees and shrubs to stabilize the banks.

Volunteers cleaning up the shoreline of Crooked Creek and planting native trees and shrubs to stabilize the banks.

More than a dozen college students joined other volunteers and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel on a chilly Saturday to plant about 400 trees and shrubs on flood-ravaged areas of two creeks in north Arkansas.

Most of the plantings were on Crooked Creek, the internationally renowned smallmouth bass fishery. The work was just north of the Harmon community in eastern Boone County. Other plantings were on Ponca Creek near the AGFC’s Ponca Elk Education Center.

The Crooked Creek work was part of a renovation project to counter damage done by flooding. Two years ago, another project helped with problems downstream on the creek near Yellville.

David Evans of the AGFC’s Stream Team was in charge of the work near Harmon. He said, “We planted a variety of trees and shrubs. Every species we put in produces nuts or berries. Which are very wildlife friendly.”

The plantings were done on the creek’s bank several feet above the water’s surface. Previous work had involved using heavy equipment to move large boulders and down trees into positions to help the creek’s flow and to restore habitat favorable to fish spawning.

Four students drove from Jonesboro to do the plantings. They were members of the Wildlife Club at Arkansas State University. A van full of University of Ozarks students came up from Clarksville for the planting activities. Hal Johnson came from Rogers, Eli Evans came from Harrison and Gwen Allison came from Guy to wield shovels.
Students were Nena Evans, Chris Thigpen, Jonathan Wagner, Joe Sellers, Alexander Wern, Richard Rumpf, Trent Ueunten, Janett Cisneros, Lauren Ray, Heather Hill, Natalie Roda and Elliot Sharp.

The trees and shrubs were scattered along the creek with the various species spaced apart. Some of the species that went into the ground were black walnut, white oak, redbud, dogwood, serviceberry, beauty berry and catalpa.
Crooked Creek rises in northern Newton County, flows north through the middle of Harrison then turns east and meanders to the White River between Cotter and Buffalo City.

It is picturesque, and it is fish-rich. The smallmouth action has drawn anglers from near and far for generations, and this built the creek’s deserved reputation. Several other species are numerous and attractive to fishermen – largemouth bass and several members of the bream family plus channel catfish and flathead catfish.

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