During last week’s monthly Commission meeting, the agency approved a grant of more than $679,000 to the Arkansas Department of Education as a result of fines collected during the 2014 fiscal year. The money is used to fund educational programs focused on fish, wildlife and conservation in the counties where the offenses occurred.
The highest amount of fine money went to Drew County with just over $28,000. The next highest amount went to Arkansas County with more than $25,900 in fines. Each county’s quorum court allocates all fine money to their school districts and conservation districts. The AGFC and the Arkansas Department of Education do not have a role in determining which programs are funded. School district officials must contact their local quorum court with requests for fine revenue and suggestions concerning the best method of distributing funding.
Fine money may be used only for AGFC programs. The Arkansas Department of Education and the AGFC have established school programs for fish and wildlife conservation and for other purposes consistent with the AGFC’s mission.
In other business, the Commission:
Approved an emergency ban on the importation of firewood on all AGFC-owned wildlife management areas. This includes people camping on the state’s WMAs. The ban is to prevent the spread of an exotic insect known as the emerald ash borer. The insects feed on and are likely to kill all of Arkansas’s ash species.
The insect has been discovered in five southwest Arkansas counties. The five counties are Clark, Columbia, Dallas, Hot Spring and Nevada. It was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has since killed tens of millions of trees.
Firewood easily transports harmful pests and other problems to trees, according to AGFC forester Martin Blaney.
“Wood that looks clean may actually be concealing insects like the emerald ash borer,” Blaney says.
The adult emerald ash borer is a metallic green insect about one-half inch long and one-eighth inch wide making it hard to detect in the wild. The female beetles lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. The eggs hatch and the larvae bore into the bark to the fluid-conducting vessels underneath. The larvae feed and develop, cutting off the flow of nutrients and, eventually killing the tree. EAB attacks and kills North American species of true ash, and tree death occurs three to five years following initial infestation.
Signs of EAB include:
- Canopy dieback beginning at the top of the tree and progressing through the year until the tree is bare;
- Sprouts growing from the roots and trunk;
- Split bark with an S-shape gallery; D-shaped exit holes;
- More woodpecker activity, creating large holes as they extract the larvae.
State and USDA APHIS PPQ personnel will now survey trees in the areas surrounding the initial finds to determine the extent of the EAB infestation. To report signs of the beetle to the Arkansas State Plant Board, call 501-225-1598. For more information about Emerald Ash Borer, click here and here.
The firewood ban goes into effect immediately:
- Approved a budget increase of $48,750 to improve the response to white-nose syndrome, a disease fatal to some bat species in Arkansas. The money comes from a grant awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- White-nose syndrome is believed to cause bats to use up their fat reserves rapidly during hibernation. Affected bats fly out of caves during winter in an attempt to find food. Since the insects bats eat are seasonally dormant, the bats die of starvation. The fatal fungus was confirmed in Arkansas bats earlier this year.
- Received an update on the state’s water plan.
- Approved the agency’s encroachment policy. The policy is designed to resolve current issues and prevent future encroachments on AGFC-owned real estate.
- Approved two trout importation permits in Boone County. One went to Bear Creek Springs Trout Farm and another went to John and Yvonne Bieth.
- Approved a budget increase of $40,000 from unobligated Marine Fuel Tax funds to add gravel to the Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA Webb Lake Access road in Prairie County.
- Approved a budget increase of $30,000 for ongoing habitat enhancement activities on White Rock and Wedington WMAs in northwest Arkansas. The money comes from federal funds received through the U.S. Forest Service Challenge Cost-Share Grant.
About The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission plays an important role in keeping The Natural State true to its name. During the last 100 years, the agency has overseen the protection, conservation and preservation of various species of fish and wildlife in Arkansas. This is done through habitat management, fish stocking, hunting and fishing regulations, and a host of other programs.