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Affiliate of the Week: Arkansas Wildlife Federation
In honor of our 80th Anniversary celebration throughout 2016, the National Wildlife Federation is recognizing each of our Affiliate Partners in a special “Affiliate of the Week” blog series that showcases the dedicated conservation efforts taking place across the country each day. This week we celebrate our affiliate, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and their commitment to wildlife.
Who We Are
Arkansas, “The Natural State”, is home to an abundance of fish and wildlife thanks in large part to the Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF). Established by outdoor enthusiasts and sportsmen in 1936, AWF promotes the conservation and responsible management of wildlife such as elk, black bear, whitetail deer, turkey, quail, trout, and ducks.
After 80 years, AWF remains the oldest statewide conservation organization in Arkansas with a mission to advocate for the sustainable use of Arkansas’ wildlife habitats and natural resources for future generations and serves as the state affiliate to the National Wildlife Federation. AWF President, Ellen McNulty, will receive the NWF Affiliate Volunteer of the Year award in June at the NWF Annual Meeting.
What We Do
AWF first formed for the purpose of protecting what wildlife Arkansas had left after the market hunters of the 19th century and early 20th century. Native wildlife such as the buffalo, wolves and trumpeter swans, as well as other mammals and birds were hunted to near extinction throughout the state. For the last 80 years, AWF has protected wildlife that call the state’s picturesque mountains, narrow valleys, dense woodlands, deep caverns, scenic rivers, and fertile plains home. Some important programs and achievements throughout the years include:
- Sponsoring and supporting the passage of the 1944 amendment that created the modern-day, autonomous Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC), and continuing to support conservation policies that preserve it. Understanding that the state’s natural resources are used for outdoor sports and recreation that are important for both Arkansas residents and visitors, AWF was instrumental in helping to develop and pass the ⅛ of 1% Conservation Sales Tax Amendment that has funded programs and operation of the AGFC since 1996. AWF continues to protect the tax from political attacks and many states look to Arkansas as a pioneer in supporting conservation policy.
AWF’s Duck Report has resulted in changes in duck hunting regulations that have improved the quality of duck hunting in the state. Photo by Mike Wintroath[/caption]Serving as a conduit of information about conservation policies, research and education opportunities for members, legislators, and the public. In August 2003, AWF published the widely praised “Improving the Quality of Duck Hunting in Arkansas” research project, which led to regulatory changes and improved quality of hunting in the state. The federation also publishes a quarterly magazine, Arkansas Out of Doors, that informs members and citizens about state advocacy and education efforts.
- Working with partner organizations, individuals, and agencies to further conservation goals. AWF is part of a cooperative habitat enhancement project with more than 20 organizations called the Bear Cat Hollow Project, which encompasses 320,000 acres of U.S. National Forest Service land in northern Arkansas. AWF was selected as “Hero for a Day” by Field & Stream in 2012 for their work on this project.
- AWF also focuses on reestablishing habitats for pollinators like the monarch butterfly. In partnership with NWF, AGFC, and USFWS, AWF convened a statewide summit of conservation agencies, land owners, nonprofits, and educators to develop a holistic and collaborative strategy for sustainable habitat restoration and enhancement to assist in the recovery of monarchs and pollinators in Arkansas.
Making a National Impact
America’s first national scenic river, the Buffalo National Scenic River, runs for 135 miles through the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. This area serves as a destination for wildlife watchers, anglers and canoers, and is home to a number of endangered species.
Since 2013, AWF and a coalition of citizen groups have been fighting the installation of a massive hog factory near the headwaters of the Buffalo River threatening the well-being of local fish and wildlife. In early February, AWF and NWF were able to garner over 15,000 comments asking the Farm Security Administration for a complete environmental assessment.
AWF continues to provide advocacy efforts on several federal policy initiatives including ongoing outreach on the Farm Bill, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Clean Power Plan, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, public lands protection, and much more.
AWF depends on volunteers to accomplish their conservation successes. What can you do to get involved in Arkansas conservation?
- Volunteer during a work day at Bear Cat Hollow
- Spread the word about the youth art contest
- Sign up for email notices and become an AWF member
AWF also invites you to attend the Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards program on August 13, 2016 in White Hall, Arkansas. This event recognizes Arkansans who go the “extra mile” to benefit the state’s fish, wildlife, water, education and our natural resources to keep Arkansas as “The Natural State.” As part of the awards celebration and banquet, a live and silent auction is held to raise additional funds for AWF conservation programs.