31 Dec State's conservation centennial to be celebrated in 2015
In a few months, the 100th anniversary of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be celebrated.
The date is Wednesday, March 11. The AGFC was created that day in 1915 and, in following decades, came state agencies dealing with parks, forests, soil and water, along with conservation courses in schools.
A variety of events are planned by the AGFC and partners to celebrate the centennial. Major programs are planned at the State Capitol on March 11, and at open houses at AGFC nature centers, fish hatcheries and other facilities across Arkansas on Saturday, March 15.
More information will be posted on the AGFC website – agfc.com – and its Facebook page.
Two books published by the AGFC are on sale. One is a coffee-table format photo history book. The other is a colorful cookbook with 100 recipes from AGFC staff members.
“We invite everyone in Arkansas to participate in many of the centennial events that will be coming up,” said AGFC Director Mike Knoedl. “The natural resources of Arkansas belong to all the people, and we are privileged to look after the wildlife and the fish within our borders.”
Ron Duncan, chairman of the AGFC, said, “This is a milestone anniversary for all Arkansas, not just the Game and Fish Commission. We have the abundant and productive hunting and fishing today because of the foresight of Arkansas leaders a century ago. Without the support of citizens, this could not have been successful.”
The outlook for conservation in 1915 was dark for several reasons. Europe had become embroiled in a world war, with the United States would be pulled in just two years later. Mexican revolutionaries crossed into American territory. In Arkansas, elk, bison and swans were gone, deer were drastically reduced, bears extremely scarce, and ducks and geese in decline.
Creation of a state agency to look after wildlife and fish failed in the Arkansas Legislature in 1913. With renewed efforts, it passed two years later through intense efforts by state Sen. J.M. Futrell of Paragould and state Rep. Lee Miles of Little Rock. Act 124 was signed into law March 11, 1915, by Gov. George Washington Hays.
The AGFC’s birth came in a period of nationwide movements to protect natural resources. Spearheaded by President Theodore Roosevelt, numerous state and national agencies were created over a dozen or so years. The Migratory Bird Act passed in 1913, which effectively ended market hunting. The death of the last passenger pigeon came in 1914. Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge was created in northeastern Arkansas in 1915.
Later came amendments to the state Constitution. In 1945, Amendment 35 gave the AGFC semi-autonomous status and in 1996 Amendment 75 gave it secure revenue with the 1/8-Cent Conservation Sales Tax.