Commission approves discounted licenses for disabled veterans, proposes relaxed seasons on predator species

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously to create a new Disabled Veteran Lifetime Combination License that would be available at a reduced rate for resident military veterans meeting certain criteria during its regularly scheduled meeting June 20.

The new license will cost $52.50 and will give full hunting and fishing privileges to any disabled veteran who has a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher or a service-connected disability rating of 50 percent or higher and is a recipient of the Purple Heart medal.

This license is in accordance with Act 729, which was passed during the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly. This license does not replace previous disabled veterans licenses offered by the AGFC that required a veteran to be 100 percent disabled to qualify. Those licenses still are available at their previous cost. This new license simply enables more disabled veterans to qualify for reduced rates. ††

According to AGFC Director Pat Fitts, the new license will extend these reduced rates for hunting and fishing privileges to more than 14,000 disabled veterans in Arkansas.

The Commission also created a single 5-day Nonresident Waterfowl Hunting Permit that would be valid on all AGFC WMAs in response to public comments received last waterfowl season. Previously, a nonresident waterfowl hunter on many of the AGFCís WMAs was required to purchase a separate permit for each WMA they hunted. The new universal permit enables hunters to move to different WMAs within the 5-day window when the permit is valid. †

Public comment also fueled the Commissionís proposal to extend more opportunity to hunt furbearers throughout the year. Commissioners heard the first reading of new regulation changes for private land that, if passed, will relax the limitations on landowners to eliminate coyotes, raccoons and other species known to be predators of turkeys, quail and other ground-nesting birds and their nests.

According to the proposals, coyote, raccoon, opossum and striped skunk hunting will be open year-round on private land. There will be no daily or possession limits to any of these species, and wanton waste regulations will no longer apply to raccoon and opossum for landowners wishing to eliminate these nest predators from their property. The proposals also include the creation of a free Predator Control Permit which would enable landowners or leaseholders to shoot any furbearer species day or night without a hunting license.

Commissioner Ken Reeves of Harrison said he hopes that if these proposals are passed they will enable landowners to better control the predators of turkeys, quail and other ground-nesting birds on their property if they wished to do so.

The Commission is expected to vote on these proposed regulations changes on a special conference call July 25. The proposed regulations changes will be available for comment at the following link for the next 30 days: https://apps.agfc.com/regulations.

In other business, the Commission:

Approved updates to captive wildlife regulations, including:

The addition of 104 species to the unrestricted wildlife species list that would be exempt from Wildlife Breeder/Dealer and Wildlife Importation permit requirements and could be imported, bred and sold without these permits.

The addition of 486 species to the permitted captive wildlife species list that require permits for importation, breeding and sale.

The extension of current Wildlife Breeder/Dealer and Wildlife Importation permits for up to 90 days from the permit expiration date of June 30, 2019, for permittees authorized to import, breed or sell certain mammal species. The additional time will allow for the completion of species evaluations. †

Elected Ken Reeves chair of the Commission and Andrew Parker vice chair of the Commission until July 2020.

Completed an evaluation on Director Fitts to increase his compensation by $12,000 per year, which Fitts declined in light of the recent cuts to merit increase adjustments to all staff.

Approved the total agency operating budget for fiscal year 2020 at $91,927,164.

Approved the gas lease funds budget for fiscal year 2020 at $228,000.

Approved the Dave Donaldson Black River WMA Restoration Fund budget for fiscal year 2020 at $1,106,000.

Approved the feral hog eradication program budget for fiscal year 2020 at $250,000.

Approved a revision to the AGFC Employee Policy for Classification and Compensation to increase career service awards payments in accordance with increases passed during the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly.

Recognized Joe Larscheid of the American Fisheries Society, who presented the 2018 Sportfish Restoration Outstanding Project Award to the AGFC for its Family and Community Fishing Program.

Recognized Jessica Graham, program director of the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership, who delivered a presentation about the AGFCís involvement in this nationally recognized fish habitat partnership.

Approved Director Fitts to exchange 2.4 acres on the Devilís Eyebrow Natural Area for 11 nearby acres to improve public access.

Awarded outgoing Commissioner Ford Overton his service sidearm.

Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $464,629.81 and a present net book value of $45,239.64.

A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.

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