With the arrival of spring, many Arkansans are heading out into the great outdoors to enjoy the beauty of the Natural State. And according to Pat Fitts, director of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Arkansans can help conserve the state’s great natural resources through hunting and fishing licenses.
Since taking the helm of the commission in January, Fitts has been striving to bridge the gap between Arkansans who hunt and fish and those who just enjoy spending time outdoors. The work of the AGFC, he said, benefits both parties, as dollars collected from license sales are put towards conservation and sustainability.
“There’s a large component of our citizens who love the outdoors and conservation, but don’t hunt and fish,” said Fitts. “They would have no reason to buy a license, but they appreciate conservation. Whether it’s hiking, canoeing, paddle boarding, outdoor running, and you can go on down the list – we need to get the conversation going with that segment of the population. How can we better serve them?”
Fitts says the AGFC continues to add programing to reach non-consumptive outdoor enthusiasts. Through the proceeds of license sales, the commission is able to make Arkansas a better place for everyone who enjoys nature.
“I know a person may say, ‘well I don’t hunt or fish, so I don’t need a license,’” said Fitts. “My message to them would be that this is dollars for conservation. If you enjoy getting out into nature, the dollars for conservation comes from those licenses. Conservation extends well beyond hunting and fishing. If you enjoy the outdoors, for $21, you can purchase a small game hunting license.”
According to Fitts, the dollars spent on licenses at the AGFC go toward the commission’s apportionment figures that are turned in every year. Those statistics are then used to aid the commission in receipt of federal dollars, all of which are put towards the conservation of Arkansas’ natural resources.
“If you made us a donation, we’d certainly put it towards conservation,” he said. “But if you buy a hunting or fishing license, those dollars get leveraged towards federal grant dollars flowing back to the state. We can turn $1 from a license into $3 for conservation.”
And Arkansas’ natural resources – the great outdoors – has a major impact on the state’s economy. In 2016, the state’s GDP grew by 3.9 percent, leading the entire country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, more than half of that growth was a direct result of Arkansas’ outdoor sector, including hunting and fishing.
“So much of the work we’re doing is good for today. But it’s also aimed at helping the next generation,” Fitts said of the AGFC’s work to conserve Arkansas wildlife. “I want to be able to hand to the next generation this rich heritage, these outdoor traditions. I want them to know what it’s all about.”
To help the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s conservation efforts, hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased here.