With students headed back to school, be it in-person or online, education is again in full swing in Arkansas, and so is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Education Division. Thanks to fine money collected throughout the state for hunting and fishing violations, educators can increase some of their outdoor educational opportunities by applying by Oct. 8 for Wildlife Fine Grants administered through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s (AEDC) Department of Rural Services.
“We have more than $735,000 available this year for grants to schools for conservation education,” said AGFC Deputy Director Chris Colclasure. “We had some counties that didn’t use all of their available funds last year, and we’re trying to make sure teachers and administrators know this funding is there for them.”
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does not spend any of the money derived through wildlife violations. Instead, fine money is handed over to the AEDC to administer these grants for educational opportunities. Specific programs eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, the study of general fish and wildlife conservation issues, Project WILD Workshops, Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program, Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, Fishing in the Natural State, Arkansas Stream Team, School Yard Habitat Site Development, and specialized AGFC conservation education/educator training workshops focused on the programs above. Funds also may be used by educators to take students on field trips to AGFC nature centers, conservation education centers and wildlife management areas.
“The grants not only help fund some of these conservation-oriented activities, they give us an opportunity to introduce all the programs we have to schools,” Colclasure said. “We have regional educators that can give presentations, provide materials and help plan things like schoolyard habitat programs. Project WILD, shooting sports programs and archery in schools might be a good fit for them as well. All of these activities can be eligible for these grants.”
With more people rediscovering the value of the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers may find renewed interest in helping youths build basic hunting and angling skills, and programs such as FINS, ANASP and AYSSP can do just that. Even students not interested in consumptive activities like hunting and angling may find a bond with nature through Arkansas Stream Teams and School Yard Habitat sites.
“Researchers have seen an increased loss in our bond with nature,” Colclasure said. “But with the current pandemic, we are seeing an uptick in people who are finding time to get back outdoors. We want to foster that any way we can, and these grants are an excellent way to help educators carry that message with us as one of our partners in conservation.”
Grant funds available for counties in Southeast Arkansas
• Ashley – $6,401.89
• Bradley – $932.50
• Chicot – $3,552.29
• Cleveland – $838.60
• Desha – $33,150.49
• Drew – $11,614.58
• Lincoln – $21,513.25