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can qualify as a resident if they were an Arkansas resident at the time of enrollment and that nonresidents who are enrolled as fulltime students at a college or university in Arkansas who reside in the state during the school year may also qualify as a “resident” in regard to AGFC regulations.
All of today’s proposed changes will be open for public comment for the next 30 days. The Commission is expected to vote at its April 20 meeting. Comments may be submitted via email at AskAGFC@agfc.ar.gov.
During his address to the Commission, AGFC Director Austin Booth announced two initiatives: the creation of a new AGFC Advisory Council and the introduction of a conservation income tax credit to be submitted to the Arkansas General Assembly next week.
“Beginning next month we will convene the Game and Fish Advisory Council,” Booth said. “The advisory council will serve three primary purposes: To provide the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and commissioners with input on how we as an agency can better serve hunters and anglers throughout the state; to aid the agency in communication and awareness surrounding important issues concerning conservation and regulation in Arkansas; and leading volunteer and partnership projects around the state.”
Booth explained that the advisory council and its subordinate panels will not replace current processes the AGFC uses to conduct science-based research and conservation, but would enhance the agency’s ability to spread its conservation mission and provide an opportunity for the public to “roll their sleeves up with me, the agency staff and the commissioners to work more closely together and build a broader tent of conservation in Arkansas.”
Arkansas technology entrepreneur, author and conservationist Brent Birch was chosen as the first member of the new council to share his passion for waterfowl conservation. He briefly spoke about how he felt this initiative could play an important role not only in helping bring messages from the public to the director and Commission, but also to help spread awareness and educate the public about the motivations behind some of the AGFC’s actions.
Booth also announced the initiative to create the Private Lands Conservation Tax Credit, which will be submitted next week to the Arkansas General Assembly for consideration. Through this credit, landowners who engage in approved conservation activities could offset the costs of those actions through up to $10,000 in income tax credits.
Under the proposal, tax credits would be given for wetland management, such as flooding rice fields in winter, managing for moist-soil habitat, bottomland hardwood forest management and improving water-control structures for waterfowl habitat manipulation. Restoration of upland habitats through prescribed fire, prescribed or rotational grazing and conversion of pastures to native plant communities also would see tax incentives. Opening public access to private waters and measures to reduce erosion and sediment in Arkansas streams and lakes would be eligible for tax credits as well. Finally, expenses for control of invasive plants and removal of feral hogs through approved trapping techniques could be used as a tax credit if the initiative is approved by the Arkansas General Assembly.
“We know the number one obstacle to putting habitat on private land is not landowner desire, but landowner resources,” Booth said.
Booth said both of the new initiatives are a continued effort of the AGFC to give more Arkansans the tools they need to become a more powerful component in Arkansas’s conservation legacy.
“Conservation is only as good as its people,” Booth said. “As we continue to fight for habitat directly related to our communities, our identity as The Natural State, and our wildlife and outdoor recreation economy, the most important tool we have is Arkansans. And now is the time to do it. We remain totally deferential to the legislative priorities and sequence, but when the legislature is ready, so are we.”
The Commission also authorized Booth to complete real estate transactions to purchase two tracts of land bordering existing wildlife management areas.
Nearly 34 acres of land adjacent to Dave Donaldson Black River WMA in Clay County will be added to that hunting area. A larger, 156-acre tract adjacent to Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA in Van Buren County will also be purchased to increase the amount of public access for outdoor recreation in Arkansas.