Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anglers Advised to use Caution During Summer Heat

Fun in the sun often brings to mind pictures of relaxing on a boat, enjoying all the Arkansas outdoors has to offer. Whether you’re catching bass, crappie or bream, or just catching a few rays, it’s important to keep in mind that too much of a good thing can be damaging to your health.

Overexposure to the sun and indulging in too many alcoholic beverages top the list of dangers that can turn an otherwise relaxing trip to the lake into a nightmare. Each year, wildlife officers and other first responders are called to boat ramps and banks throughout the state in response to someone who’s had a little too much of either.

Tod Johnson, Assistant Boating Law Administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says with the varieties of sunscreen and products available to fight against overexposure, there’s really no reason not to take a little extra precaution on the water.

AGFC Director Testifies to U.S. Senate to Support HELP for Wildlife Act

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Jeff Crow testified before U.S. Senator John Boozman and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Boozman and his colleagues promotes conservation, reauthorizes existing wildlife legislation and provides regulatory clarity for sportsmen.

Boozman welcomed Crow before the committee and asked him about the importance of this bill to Arkansas.

“With all of his experience, I cannot think of anyone better to discuss why the HELP for Wildlife Act is great for the state of Arkansas and the nation,” Boozman said during his introduction of Crow.

Crow highlighted the benefits to Arkansas offered by the bill that would provide certainty for agriculture producers and sportsmen including a provision to distinguish between normal agriculture practices and baiting.

“This bill would codify clearer definitions around the issue of baiting, afford the opportunity for waterfowl hunting over ratoon rice and other crops that have not been manipulated and allow conservation partners to educate producers and hunters about the value of agriculture to wintering waterfowl without compromising the legal standing of those producers and hunters,” Crow said.

Arkansas would also benefit from reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which is important to conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife resources.

There are 17 completed or underway NAWCA projects in Arkansas that has led to the conservation of more than 77,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

“We are blessed to have some of the last and best bottomland hardwood forests in the country. When these forests are flooded by the White and Cache Rivers, they provide habitat for over a million mallards. NAWCA has ensured that these forested wetlands remain in good condition. NAWCA has also restored new forests for the next generation of sportsmen and waterfowl enthusiasts. Projects like these can only occur through strengthening funding for this important program,” Crow said.

The HELP for Wildlife Act also includes a provision that will protect Arkansas farmers who follow prescribed best practices when safeguarding their crops from certain migratory bird species.

Wildlife Researchers Share CWD Knowledge at Little Rock Workshop

State wildlife agency representatives from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas met with researchers and collaborators from the University of Wisconsin, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Tech University, the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, National Park Service, US Forest Service, and the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study on July 12 and 13 to discuss recent findings about chronic wasting disease and to identify research priorities for the state and region.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease similar to mad cow disease that affects members of the deer family (elk, moose and deer species). It alters the brain and nervous system of the animals, causing weight loss, excessive salivation, and behavioral changes, including abnormal posture, lack of awareness, and seclusion from the rest of the herd.

AGFC Fishing Report From Felsenthal

Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) said bass are still biting well. There is a better morning bite. A few bream are still being caught. Not much report on crappie and catfish.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge Proceeds with Drawdown, Urging Users to be Vigilant

Efforts are underway to manipulate water levels within the Felsenthal pool to 64 MSL, dropping it one foot lower than the normal level of 65 MSL. Management practices by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, such as the use of drawdowns in wetland habitats, promote the germination of native plants and provides great benefits to migrating and resident shorebirds and waterfowl. The drawdown, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is expected to expose up to 4,000 acres of
mudflats and scrub/shrub habitat within the Felsenthal NWR boundary creating variably shallow conditions in some frequented areas. Users should use caution when traversing the waterways and stay vigilant as water levels may fluctuate.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reserved all rights on flood control and navigation for Felsenthal Pool as part of the Ouachita River water is always moving through the system.
“The Refuge has only seen one recorded drawdown in its history, back in 1995.” says Michael Stroeh, South Arkansas Refuge Complex Manager “While it was successful in plant growth and waterfowl numbers the following November, it’s been 22 years since we’ve seen water this low and everyone should be mindful of that.”

Refuge users can expect varied water levels and are encouraged to check river gauge readings for timely updates on-line at http://rivergages.mvr.usace.army.mil/WaterControl/new/layout.cfm.
Backstory: In October of 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft proposal emphasizing Felsenthal NWR management practices for the next 15 years including the artificial flooding of the green tree reservoir located within the Refuge.

Deliberation of the finalized plan lasted nearly 8 months and included an extended 67 day public comment period. Based on the feedback received during the review period and an analysis of the draft, the Service selected a combination of Alternative B and C, which is the preferred alternative in the final HMP. The plan states that every three years, the pool will be lowered until 64’MSL level
is reached.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Outdoor Hall of Fame honoring new inductees

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation will welcome three new names to the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame at this year’s annual banquet, August 11 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. David Pryor, Ross Whipple and Mark Karnes all will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the late Winthrop Paul Rockefeller will be honored with the Hall of Fame Legacy Award.

Pryor, former Governor of Arkansas, member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate has made headlong strides at both the state and federal level to advance conservation and protect the land for fish, wildlife and the people who enjoy them.

Ross Whipple, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ross Foundation, has worked to oversee millions of dollars in donations to support forestry research and conservation management through the Arkadelphia-based foundation.

Mark Karnes, Ross Foundation director, has worked to create lasting partnerships with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and other agencies to promote hunting and wildlife-associated recreation on the foundation’s 60,000-acre timber holdings.

In addition to his years as Lieutenant Governor, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller served as chief executive of Winrock Farms, Inc., and served as chair of President George H. W. Bush’s Council on Rural America. He served as president of the Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the largest area council in Arkansas, and served on the national board for the Boy Scouts of America. He was highly influential in the creation of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas and the Billfish Conservation Foundation. He also spearheaded the National Rifle Association’s Project ChildSafe in Arkansas, providing hundreds of free trigger locks to gun owners throughout the state.

The inductee ceremony is only part of the night’s festivities. A catered dinner and open refreshments are provided, and many raffles and auctions keep the activities lively. Deke Whitbeck, AGFF president, says Foundation staff have worked hard to make the banquet appealing to anyone who attends.

“Between silent auctions, raffles and live auctions, we have items ranging from African safaris and duck-hunting boats to gift cards for local restaurants,” Whitbeck said. “We’d love for all Arkansans who care about the outdoors to be a part of the celebration.”

Doors open to the banquet at 6 p.m., and dinner is served at 7 p.m. Tickets are $125 each, with proceeds going to the AGFF. Visit www.agff.org or call 501-223-6396 to purchase tickets or learn more about the event.

Editor's Note:  Governor Pryor was featured in the Rob Reep documentary about the Saline River.  His conservation efforts for the Saline were highlighted quite extensively in the film.  It can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Saline-Rob-Reep/dp/B00E0T62J0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1499437370&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Saline+Rob+Reep

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Application period for Corps of Engineers mobility-impaired hunting permits open

LITTLE ROCK – The Army Corps of Engineers will accept applications through

Sept. 1 for the 2017 special deer hunts that provide accessibility for disabled military and mobility-impaired hunters.

Applicants can apply for up to three different hunting locations throughout Arkansas.  Eligible applicants with paralysis, amputation of a limb, or have at least a 50 percent disability rating are eligible to apply and are not required to be retired military. Active duty military in a Wounded Warrior Program are also eligible to apply for these hunts.

Applicants must submit a completed application form and a doctor’s letter verifying their disability to be eligible. A drawing will be held in September to select hunters.

Please request applications and refer specific questions to each lake’s point of contact listed below or to the district’s program coordinator Bruce Caldwell at 324 W. 7th Street, Mountain Home, AR 72653, by e-mail at Bruce.w.caldwell@usace.army.mil, or by calling 501-340-1425.