The Arkansas Economic Development Commission Division of Rural Services has awarded grants totaling $444,230 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 (AGFC) through fines collected from hunting and fishing violations. Only money collected in the county where the violation occurred may be used as grant funds for that county.
All schools in the state are eligible to participate in the program. The funding schools have received in previous years has helped create and maintain archery, fishing and competitive shooting sports programs. Schools also use the money to help improve wildlife education by purchasing educational materials, materials for the creation of indoor and outdoor habitats, lab supplies, and field trips to AGFC nature and education centers. Conservation districts 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.
Some schools’ projects funded in part by the grant include gardening supplies and equipment, materials to build a beaver dam, birding supplies, recycling bins for recreational areas, and supplies for science labs and outdoor classrooms. For more information, including a complete list of award recipients and program narratives, visit www.ArkansasEDC.com/Rural-Services.