LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas students participating in conservation education programs will have nearly a half a million dollars in support, thanks to the fines collected from poachers and other people who violate hunting and fishing laws in the state.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission Division of Rural Services has awarded $444,230.34 in grants to promote wildlife education and improve school conservation programs to 164 schools, school districts, and conservation districts in 70 Arkansas counties. The grant program is funded by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission through fines collected from hunting and fishing violations.
“Many people think fine money goes to the AGFC, but that’s just not the case,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “In fact, that money goes to schools and educators in the exact county where it was collected to help teachers explain the wonders of nature to young Arkansans.”
All schools in the state are eligible to participate in the program. Only money collected in the county where the violation occurred may be used in grants for that county.
These grants have helped create archery, fishing and competitive shooting sports programs, created and enhanced outdoor classroom opportunities and provided funding for educational materials, lab supplies and field trips to AGFC nature and education centers. Conservation districts also use the funding to help promote wildlife conservation awareness in the communities by hosting environmental education days and fishing derbies for children of all ages.
“The Wildlife Education program enhances educational opportunities by getting kids out of the classroom and opening their eyes to the world around them,” said Mike Preston, AEDC Executive Director and Secretary of Commerce. “Education is the foundation of a strong economy, and we are excited to be a part of a program that makes learning fun for kids while promoting volunteerism and community involvement for all ages.” Outdoor education plays a vital role in understanding the need to encourage a more viable existence for Arkansas youth, according to AGFC Chief of Education Tabbi Kinion.
“By understanding habitat and resource management, we hope to develop a connection between the state’s youth and our wonderful natural resources,” she explained.
Applications for these grants are each fall, with deadlines for grant proposals usually set at the beginning of October.
Visit www.ArkansasEDC.com/Rural-Services for more information on the grants, including a complete list of award recipients and program narratives.