Weekly Columns

June is recognized as Great Outdoors Month. First celebrated as a week-long event in 1998, there is so much beauty in our backyard it deserved an entire month. As Arkansans, we are well acquainted with Mother Nature’s offerings. The Natural State provides numerous opportunities for locals and visitors to enjoy the great outdoors.

These resources make Arkansas a destination for people from across the country and the globe. They help drive the economy in communities across our state by supporting area businesses, spurring critical development and fueling commerce.

The recreation and tourism industry accounts for more than 39,000 jobs and contributes $3.5 billion to our state’s GDP. Ensuring we remain an attractive location to vacation and connect with the outdoors is a priority at all levels of government.                                                    

As the nation’s top rice producer, thousands of acres of flooded fields after harvesting create an ideal habitat for migrating ducks, making Arkansas the duck hunting capital of the world. Estimates by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) indicate hunters contribute nearly $1 million each day of duck hunting season. 

Outdoor enthusiasts have an interest in preserving the fish and wildlife habitat so they can continue to enjoy their favorite pastimes. In the Senate, I’m contributing to those efforts by championing the Recovering America’s Wildlife (RAWA) Act, legislation that supports investments in conservation work in Arkansas and throughout the country to restore habitat to endangered and threatened wildlife.

In addition to the wildlife offerings, folks are flocking to our state to enjoy the growing system of bike trails. Outside magazine recently named Arkansas Monument Trails the best mountain biking trails in the country. This network, part of the state parks apparatus, challenges the most experienced riders while highlighting the landscape of our state. 

We’re also working to improve popular destinations managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by allowing these sites to retain the money they collect to reinvest funds in facilities in need of repairs. Some of Arkansans’ favorite summer recreation locations like Bull Shoals, Beaver, Ouachita, Greers Ferry and Norfork Lakes are managed by the Corps and could benefit from this policy update.

We all want what’s best for our public lands, and we all want to be able to utilize these national treasures for years to come. Recently Congress has made significant investments in the conservation and preservation of public lands with passage of legislation including America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act.

This law advances and expands programs to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems. AGFC Chairman Bobby Martin has been a leader in state and national conservation work, including helping Congress pass the landmark ACE Act. He was instrumental in building the coalitions critical to advancing this legislation and protecting our natural resources. His commitment to environmental education and outreach programs has fostered a sense of stewardship among Arkansans of all ages. As his tenure as Chairman comes to an end, we celebrate his contributions to preserve our landscape and wildlife. 

We can be proud of the numerous conservation efforts throughout our state. Our ancestors had the vision to set aside lands we use today and we will continue to honor that legacy by expanding on that mission and creating opportunities for more people to connect with Arkansas’s outdoors.