Conservation is the name of the game for G&FC director Austin Booth
Since being selected to serve as the 19th director of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission earlier this year, Austin Booth has been grappling with the agency’s biggest challenge: his financial future.
Booth, an outdoor enthusiast with a background in military and government finance, knows the key to securing funding lies in expanding the base of supporters for the Game & Fish Commission mission.
âWhenever we talk about fish and game – whether it’s deer, turkey, trout, largemouth bass – it always comes down to habitat,â Booth said.
âWe want to develop all the habitat we have, so that more Arkansans across the state can come out and enjoy the best the state has to offer. But there are a lot of people in Arkansas who don’t necessarily call themselves hunters or anglers, but they do a lot of conservation. We need to meet them better wherever they are, whether they are paddleboarders, kayakers or mountain bikers, and we have a lot of room to grow there in the future, âhe added.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission annual credit of approximately $ 141 million is based on license fees, federal aid, and part of a one-eighth-cent conservation sales tax passed in 1996 Sales tax is stable, but license fees have declined by about 16% since 2014, Booth said.
The agency manages wildlife and fishing assets and habitat across the state, including more than 2.9 million acres of land in Wildlife Management Areas and Cooperative Agreements. It also manages 600,000 acres of lakes, 90,000 miles of rivers and streams, 382,569 acres it owns, six hatcheries and net pens, 20 local and regional offices, and nine education and nature centers.
âWhat we need on the budget side of the house is a long-term, comprehensive view of how the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission is going to serve the Arkansa Outdoors. Then we can talk about how we’re going to get there and how to pay for all of these things, âBooth said. âI have been articulating my vision since July 1st. One of the things I always mention – central to my view of the common man, the common woman, conservation – is the fact that we don’t just conserve fish, we don’t just conserve animals or their habitat, we ultimately retain the outward character of our state.
Booth said new infrastructure funding passed by Congress, but not supported by any member of the Arkansas delegation, could provide some relief to flood controls, which may help critical duck habitats in the Arkansas which he says are the # 1 priority.
âWe hope there will be some flood mitigation projects that we can undertake in the futureâ¦ At the top of the list are our greentree reservoirs. You know, we’ve been on the road since October talking about what we’re doing in our greentree tanks. They are household names, not just in Arkansas, but across the United States. Places like Lake Hurricane Wildlife Management Area, Black River, Bayou Meto, and we have a double problem there. The first is that our infrastructure is between 50 and 60 years old and was not designed to maintain or even manage the amount of rain that we have received in recent years. On top of that, it has led to some pretty serious forest health issues. And those red oaks, the red oak forest, those lowland hardwoods, are really what made the Arkansas duck hunt what it’s known for today. This is the number one priority, not only because it is a huge priority in the short term, but because every time we talk about forest management it takes a long time to get it right, âhe said. .
You can watch Booth’s full interview in the video below.