AGFC to purchase prime bobwhite quail habitat

Posted: March 17, 2017 at 2:30 a.m.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted to acquire a prime piece of bobwhite quail habitat in Faulkner County on Thursday at its monthly meeting in Little Rock.

Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the Faulkner County parcel comprises 989 acres adjacent to the Camp Robinson Special Use Area. It is known locally as Stone Prairie. The Commission voted to buy the property for about $1.5 million, which is about $495,000 -- 25 percent -- less than its appraised value. The AGFC will use the discount as its 25-percent required match for a Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration grant that will pay for the balance. There will be no net cost to Arkansas taxpayers.

Chris Colclasure, assistant director for the AGFC, said that quail habitat restoration will be the primary focus on the property.

In another property related manner, the commission approved spending about $2.1 million over the next three years to complete the purchase of 1,390 acres adjacent to Frog Bayou WMA in Crawford County near Alma. The commission approved the purchase of the property in April 2016 to be paid over a three-year period. The first two phases of the purchase, totaling $2.46 million, have been completed.

Also in Faulkner County, the commission voted to purchase 1.3 acres of shoreline at Lake Conway to provide public bank fishing access. The property is at the Arkansas 89 Bridge, a popular bank fishing spot.

Jason Olive, assistant chief of fisheries, said the appraised value of the property is $24,000. The landowner would not accept less than $35,000, Olive said, but said the property's value to the public justifies paying more than appraised value.

"Fisheries Division believes that this is a highly valuable tract for us to provide high-quality bank fishing access," Olive said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, addressed the commission regarding what he perceives to be its overreach of power. He cited an incident involving a citizen in Greenwood that trapped a group of feral hogs and kept the pigs confined for about one year. The AGFC wrote the man a citation for unlawful possession of feral hogs. Rice said he personally paid for an attorney to represent the man, a 70-year old Vietnam veteran, in court.

Jeff Crow, the AGFC's director, said the legislature passed the statute in question, and that it is not a Game and Fish Commission regulation. He said that confining feral hogs does not change their status to domestic hogs, and that possessing or moving feral hogs is unlawful.

"If he had killed them and taken them to a processor or put them in the freezer, he would have been fine," Crow said. "If you catch them, you have to kill them. You can't keep them confined."

Sports on 03/17/2017