Magazine September 2019

Hospitality In The Outdoors

outdoors

Arkansas Game and Fish commission charged with conserving state’s natural resources for all outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy

Hospitality doesn’t confine itself to the indoors; it’s an avid outdoorsman as well. The Natural State has long been a haven for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, it is big business in Arkansas. In 2017, according to the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation economy report, outdoor recreation represented $9.7 billion in consumer spending in Arkansas and brought in $698 million in state and local tax revenue. Outdoor recreation will continue to play a vital role in our states economic growth and the quality of life or our residents. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is committed to conserving wildlife and natural spaces and wants Arkansas to be a friendly and welcoming for a wide range of outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.

Arkansas’ woods and fields offer the chance to hunt white-tailed deer, turkey, bear, elk, waterfowl, alligator and more. In fact, it has some of the most diverse big game hunting opportunities in the country. Its rivers and lakes provide ample opportunity to hook sport fish such as trophy-sized trout, black and striped bass, catfish, walleye and other panfish. Arkansas’ diverse wildlife and landscapes attract paddlers, cyclist, birders, hikers and campers from near and far.  

Whether it’s hunting, fishing or hiking, Arkansas’ hospitality is as big as the Delta sky. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is determined to make sure Arkansas’ outdoors remain available for our use and enjoyment. It recently named its first female commissioner, Anne Marie Doramus of Little Rock. She joins a diverse group of business leaders charged with conserving the state’s natural resources.

Here’s a look at the seven members who make up the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission board of commissioners and some of the ways they are working to conserve wildlife and outdoor resources for everyone.

Ken Reeves

Ken Reeves, Chairman, Harrison
Now retired, Reeves is the former vice president and general counsel for FedEx Freight in Harrison.
• Term expires 2021
• Appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe in 2014

How is the Commission building public engagement and trust? 

We work to continually expand and enhance our communications. We’re using a wide range of media from magazines to social to AGFC.com in an effort to inform the public about our mission, educational and outdoor opportunities. We’re making our regulations, game check, permits and license buying more accessible and user-friendly. We’re doing everything we can to make the general public’s experience with the Game and Fish Commission positive and more transparent. We strive to make sure that we’re giving the state a good return on investment.

Andrew Parker

Andrew Parker, Vice Chairman, Little Rock
Parker is the director of governmental affairs for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas.
• Term expires 2020
• Appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe in 2013

What is the Commission’s strategy for personnel management?

Diversity, a highly skilled workforce and providing staff with opportunities to advance to build long-term careers are three of the most important objectives. We are very focused on putting talent throughout the agency in a position to be able to move up through the ranks to form a succession plan so we can have a level of consistency across the board. This is something that we have done for quite a while now, and it is an important trend to continue. 

Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan, Little Rock
Morgan is a retired Chevrolet auto dealer and has served on the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission for 14 years, three of those as chairman.
• Term expires 2022
• Appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2015

In what ways is the Commission working with private landowners to address low quail and turkey populations?

We have private land biologists throughout the state that are dedicated to working directly with private landowners to develop custom habitat-management plans to meet their goals. Those biologists will go in, check the land and give them a comprehensive plan on what they could do to improve and enhance habitat for wildlife. Quail and turkey habitat are big focuses for us right now. These ground-nesting birds have very specific habitat needs in order to flourish and our biologist are offering this type of guidance at no charge to these landowners. In fact, they even try to connect landowners with alternative funding sources to help meet their project goals. The response from landowners has been very, very positive. 

Bobby Martin

Bobby Martin, Rogers
Martin is an operating officer with the Stephens Group, a former CEO of Walmart International and past chair of the AGFC Foundation Board.
• Term expires 2023
• Appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2016

How does Game and Fish keep the next generation engaged in the outdoors and address the issue of declining license sales?

We’ve got to be sharper in where and how we communicate our message. Anglers and hunters — the hook and bullet crowd — have represented the largest funding source of our conservation body. We have to double down on marketing and social media and how we reach the public. We’re losing a generation, losing potential conservationists, and we can’t let that happen. The people we serve are changing, and the way we serve, has to change. People enjoy the outdoors differently today. It’s not all about hunting and fishing anymore; it’s about natural resources. We need to make sure the next generation stays engaged with the outdoors in some capacity, and we need new folks to engage into conservation. It doesn’t have to be hunting or fishing, but they need to know the importance of hunting and fishing in conservation. We cannot, we must not, lose that generation.

Stan Jones

Stan Jones, Alicia
Jones is a farmer with thousands of acres of rice and soybean fields and a duck hunting guide of more than 30 years.
• Term expires 2024
• Appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2017

In what ways is the Commission working to improve public land?

We’re trying to educate the general public as much as possible on all the things that Game and Fish is doing to manage Wildlife Management Areas and state fisheries. Across the state, biologist and technicians are on the ground enhancing infrastructure, maintaining quality habitat, supplying supplemental stockings and tweaking regulations to making insure that wildlife, hunters, and anglers have the conditions to be successful. We are very focused on managing public lands to conserve wildlife and create quality experiences for today and years to come.

J.D. Neeley

J.D. Neely, Camden
Neeley is president of Neeley Forestry Service and principal broker for United Country Neeley Forestry.
• Term expires 2025
• Appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2018

How is the agency working to expand conservation efforts on private lands?

It’s very important to get our private lands back in better shape. We’re focused on working with private landowners to do things that are proactive for turkey and quail habitat, which in turn will benefit deer and the entire ecosystem. Our biologists are offering workshops, conducting site visits and helping enroll landowners in educational programs. The main thing is, we want to see private land improve. Good forest management is good wildlife management. Eighty-seven percent of land in the state is privately owned, and there’s a different landscape now. Much of the land that used to be owned by Georgia-Pacific and International Paper now falls under real-estate investment trusts, and the corporate management that was so prevalent before just isn’t there anymore. It’s been a little neglected. Our management goals have to be different. It’ll take expertise from our biologists, education and a lot of communication to get habitat management back to where it used to be.

Anne Marie Doramus

Anne Marie Doramus, Little Rock
A founding member of the Arkansas Outdoors Society and board member for the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show, Doramus is the first woman appointed to a full-term in the Commission’s history. She is vice president of special projects and sales for Arkansas Bolt Co.
• Term expires 2026
• Appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2019

In what ways is the Commission working on conservation, across the board? 

We are getting into our quail and turkey management season and have really taken a step forward in that, which greatly benefits a lot of other aspects of wildlife, especially our pollinators, our butterflies. We just passed a new regulation extending our fur bear season to a year-round season. Around the state on private lands, people who have hired trappers to come in and get these nuisance animals — raccoons, possums, etc —  have noticed a huge comeback, especially in turkey population, which is great because we want to make some huge strides there. Another big focus that I have seen in the past couple of years that I think is really important is the agency as a whole being more transparent; getting out and letting our sportsmen and women know what’s going on.  

Top image courtesy of Arkansas State Parks

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