Past abuses of three WMAs lead to change in practice

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LITTLE ROCK -- Historically, sportsmen have been able to access and manipulate three Northeast Arkansas wildlife management areas prior to waterfowl season. That practice will no longer be allowed on Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands and Dave Donaldson Black River WMAs and has never been allowed on any other state WMA.

In the past, sportsmen were allowed to perform maintenance on public duck blinds and existing waterfowl holes on the three WMAs. Due to past violations, that routine will no longer be allowed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Violations have included the illegal use of herbicides and excessive clearing of existing waterfowl openings.

Another concern is the possible degradation of habitat by ATVs due to flooding this spring and summer. Enforcement officers will be monitoring all state-owned waterfowl areas to ensure compliance.

AGFC Director Loren Hitchcock said he understands that many people have become accustomed to cleaning hunting spots.

"Unfortunately, this has led to conflicts between hunters. We want our WMAs to be open to everyone with equal and fair access to public hunting grounds. It's regrettable this change will affect what many people have come to expect, but we need to ensure these public lands are not abused and everyone has equal access for hunting," Hitchcock said. "We welcome the public's help identifying boat lane hazards and we will remove those hazards," he added.

The AGFC will not allow public access for cleaning existing waterfowl openings, creating new openings, building blinds or repairing blinds on any wildlife management area in the state. This public manipulation of the WMAs may create more hazards than it rectifies.

As on all WMAs, the public is encouraged to use the areas for their recreational pursuits. As public stewards of the land, AGFC employees will continue to maintain and clear boat lanes and provide other habitat development to the WMAs.

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