Arkansas, with its abundant natural resources, offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy nature. Hunting – a favorite tradition of Arkansans – also attracts people from around the globe to our state. Earlier this month, sportsmen and women kicked off the annual dove hunting season, and following on its heels will be duck hunting season. These pastimes are important to our state’s economy and play a crucial role in conservation efforts. This is why I’m proud to serve as a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission and fight to protect and preserve habitats that are integral in fostering a healthy ecosystem that benefits both wildlife and sportsmen.
The commission doesn’t receive a lot of media attention, but the work it does is vital to the conservation of wetlands for waterfowl in Arkansas. Nationally, it strengthens the environment that sportsmen and women rely on for some of their favorite recreational activities while simultaneously improving local economies. At the commission’s biannual meeting earlier this month, we approved funding to restore nearly 135,000 acres of wetlands and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Established in 1929, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission was created to acquire wetlands and other areas for purchase or easement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as well as establish new waterfowl refuges. Since the commission’s establishment, more than 5.6 million acres have been acquired by FWS and added to the National Wildlife Refuge System. In recent years the commission authorized the addition of more than 1,800 acres to Arkansas’s Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, which is popular among duck hunters.
Serving on the commission allows me to be a voice for Arkansas wetlands. As a duck hunting destination, it’s critically important that we protect waterfowl habitats in Arkansas so we can continue attracting sportsmen and women to our state. In 2016, the commission approved $1 million in grant funding to protect, restore and enhance nearly 2,000 acres of critical wetlands and floodplain habitat in the basin of the Lower White and Cache Rivers to benefit waterfowl including redhead and wood ducks.
As good stewards of the environment, duck hunters have proven their commitment to the preservation of waterfowl habitat. One way the commission obtains funding to expand conservative efforts is through the sale of the Duck Stamp. Duck hunters in Arkansas are familiar with this successful initiative since it’s a requirement of their annual license, but any outdoor enthusiasts can also voluntarily purchase a Duck Stamp. For every dollar spent on Duck Stamps, FWS estimates that 98 cents go toward protecting the National Wildlife Refuge System.
I’m pleased to partner with our hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts to protect the resources that enhance and enrich our state. Arkansas is nicknamed “The Natural State,” and by working together we can ensure that our wildlife and environmental resources continue helping us live up to that standard.