We didn’t really need a reason to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, but public land hunters in Arkansas can raise a toast to a long-term management agreement for the Pine Tree Research Station WDA.
During the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s monthly meeting on March 17, Commissioners authorized Director Austin Booth to sign a 10-year cooperative agreement with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture for the Pine Tree Research Station WDA. The new agreement will allow the two entities to work together “in the control, management, restoration, conservation, and regulation of birds, fish, game, and wildlife resources on the Property.” The agreement also includes an option for AGFC to extend the agreement by another five years.
After the intense battle to prevent 6300 acres of the Pine Tree property from being sold to private, out of state buyers, this new long-term agreement comes as a welcome development. Though the Arkansas General Assembly blocked the sale during the 2021 legislative session, there remained a lot of work to be done to determine how the property would be managed for wildlife resources and public access. After years of declining attention to many parts of the property, both sides had to agree how these areas would be rehabilitated and then managed into the future.
Fortunately for Arkansas Public Land Owners, steady leadership at both AGFC and U of A Division of Agriculture prevailed. In early March a group of decision makers gathered at the station to review their plans with a committee of concerned local citizens. Next, they moved to a negotiating session where they were able to resolve the final few differences and come to a tentative agreement.
This agreement may not have happened if the concerned citizens had not stepped forward to demand that the property not be sold, and then continued their pressure to ensure Pine Tree was well cared for into the future. Leaders like State Senator Ron Caldwell and State Representative Steve Hollowell kept attention on the issue. AGFC Director Austin Booth and Division of Agriculture interim Vice President Chuck Culver kept working to iron out the last remaining roadblocks to a long-term agreement. Arkansas BHA applauds all sides for coming together for the benefit of our state.
Where do we go from here? The Arkansas Chapter remains committed to enhanced habitat and opportunity at Pine Tree Research Station WDA. There are many places where access can be improved for the benefit of hunters and anglers. After a few years in legal limbo, renewed attention to roads will make it easier for people to get where they want to go. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of grasslands and timber that need attention. Saving and improving habitat doesn’t just serve hunters and anglers, but the wildlife that depends on it.
Arkansas BHA will be watching future Pine Tree developments closely and working with AGFC and the Division of Agriculture to make sure Pine Tree is well managed.