WASHINGTON– Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). Gov. George Washington Hays signed Act 124 creating the AGFC on March 11, 1915. This agency rejuvenated the state’s natural resources for future generations of Arkansans. U.S. Senator John Boozman honored the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on its centennial anniversary in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of Congress.
Boozman will present a copy of the Congressional Record to AGFC leaders during events on Sunday. The following are remarks printed in the Congressional Record:
Mr. President, I rise today to celebrate a century of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). Enjoying our wildlife and outdoors is a way of life for residents of the Natural State; and the efforts of AGFC help preserve this time-honored tradition through management of our state's fish and wildlife populations.
In the early 1900’s, maintaining healthy wildlife populations was desperately needed in the state. Elk, bison, and swan populations in Arkansas were extinct; and deer, duck, quail, and fish species were near extinction.
Following the leadership of President Teddy Roosevelt, Gov. George Washington Hays signed Act 124 creating the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on March 11, 1915.
One of the commission’s first orders of business was improving hunting, fishing, and trapping regulations. Thanks to these efforts we’ve seen extinct animal populations flourish, while creating an excellent environment for fishing and hunting. This has allowed tourism to become a leading sector of Arkansas’s economy. Our state now has a thriving Elk population with a regulated hunting season. We’ve also seen growth in the deer population. More than 200,000 deer are harvested annually in Arkansas, up from just over 200 checked in the 1938 hunting season. Once known as the Bear State, black bear in Arkansas neared extinction with fewer than 50 believed to be in the state in the 1930s. Today there are more than 5,000 bears in the state, making it one of the most successful reintroductions of a large carnivore in history.
The AGFC laid the foundation for Arkansas to become the 'Duck Hunting Capitol of the World’ in 1948 with the establishment of Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area. Today Bayou Meto WMA consists of 33,832 publicly-owned acres, providing world class duck hunting that attracts hunters from all over the world.
The AGFC’s five fish hatcheries help stock some of finest lakes, streams, and rivers in Arkansas that attract anglers from around the world. More than 12.5 million fish are harvested from these hatcheries annually.
While the mission is the same, the agency has experienced many changes in the last century. The first nine game wardens were paid $80 a month and had to provide their own horse. Today the agency operates an $88 million annual budget and employs thousands of Arkansans.
In the past 100 years, the AGFC has created policies that maintain the natural beauty and abundance of wildlife in the Natural State so Arkansans and visitors from across America and around the world can enjoy the great outdoors. From restoring habitat, managing wildlife and protecting the public, the men and women of the AGFC help preserve the Natural State's beauty and natural resources. But this mission comes at a cost: throughout its history AGFC has lost five brave officers in the last line of duty. I thank them and all the men and women of the AGFC for their service and commitment to making sure future generations can experience the natural resources and outdoor activities that we enjoy today.