The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has agreed to provide $3.5 million to the state Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), a separate state agency whose duty is to enforce pollution control laws.
The director of AGFC said he also was looking at plans to share revenue with two other agencies, the Departments of Parks and Tourism and Heritage.
It is rare for a state agency to share its revenue with other state agencies, but there are some rare circumstances in this situation.
For example, the money did not come from one of the Game and Fish Commission's traditional sources of revenue.
The revenue is from gas leases signed earlier this year by Game and Fish.
At the time, questions were raised when the Commission leased drilling rights in two of its wildlife management areas for about $30 million. Environmental groups questioned whether Game and Fish should drill for gas on land it had set aside for wildlife.
Some legislators called for Game and Fish to share the revenue from its gas leases with other state agencies.
They see the sharing of $3.5 million with ADEQ as only the start of a process that will unfold during the legislative session that begins Jan. 12.
The Department of Environmental Quality will use the new revenue to add inspectors.
One area in which inspectors are needed is monitoring disposal of waste water from natural gas drilling.
New technology has made it feasible to drill for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale play, which crosses the state from the western border through central Arkansas.
Exploration and production of the Fayetteville Shale will have an economic impact of an estimated $22 billion through 2012, and already has been a tremendous boost to local economies.
The new technology requires the use of large amounts of water, which is held in reservoirs after use because it mixes with drilling mud and chemicals.
In recent weeks ADEQ has shut down two waste water disposal sites for violations of environmental safety regulations.
At one site, untreated water leaked from a reservoir into a stream and killed small mouth bass and crappie.
The polluted stream feeds into a Game and Fish wildlife management area. So when Game and Fish helps fund more ADEQ inspectors, Game and Fish stands to benefit from increased enforcement of environmental protections.
In a related development, Game and Fish used revenue from its gas lease to buy 1,800 acres in southeast Arkansas near the Choctaw Island wildlife management area in Chicot County.
The Commission chairman said the purchase sent the message that Game and Fish would use revenue from its gas leases to expand outdoor opportunities.
Also, Game and Fish recently opened its fourth nature center, a 16,000 square-foot facility on the Arkansas River in Little Rock.
Other nature centers are in Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Fort Smith.
They were built with revenue from a 1/8 cent sales tax approved by voters in 1996 for conservation purposes.
In another development, attorneys for Game and Fish are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for damages to a wildlife management area on the Black River. They say the Corps of Engineers timed the release of water from Clearwater Lake, in Missouri, in such a way that it killed bottomland hardwood trees in the wildlife management area.