On April 7, Gov. Mike Beebe presented this year's awards to the winners during a ceremony at the State Capitol. For their efforts in promoting the AFW program and wildlife habitat on private lands in Arkansas, Beebe recognized three individuals for outstanding service. A landowner (cooperator), a wildlife biologist and a wildlife officer were recognized for their efforts in preserving wildlife habitat in Arkansas.
Steve Modelevsky, AFW Cooperator of the Year -
Steve Modelevsky 's winning entry is his farm on 355 acres in Cross Co. He has improved nearly every acre of the farm, managing for deer, quail, turkey, small game, waterfowl and fish. Besides the 25 acres or so of extremely productive food plots and four ponds, Steve has improved over 85 acres of habitat through Farm Service Agency's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices including CP22: Riparian Buffers, CP23A: Wetland restoration, and CP33: Native Grass Quail Buffers. Two years ago most of the forestland on the property was subject to a selective cut for wildlife as well. The approximately 10 miles of roads that have been constructed also serve as wildlife openings, and are seeded with oats. These roads also serve as firebreaks for the prescribed burning program that is conducted on appropriate compartments annually.
According to Rex Roberg, wildlife specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service, "Over the past several years, Steve has worked tirelessly to establish and manage on his entire farm to create wildlife habitat for deer, turkey, and quail, not to mention small game and non-game species, and was selected for his work and passion to restore wildlife to his property landscape."
David Long, statewide AFW coordinator for the AGFC noted, "Along with being involved in the AFW program, Steve has used the Continuous CRP program to create new habitat to include wetlands, riparian forest, and native grass habitat on his land and feels the combination of these programs with technical wildlife assistance from David Covington, our private lands biologist out of the Brinkley regional office is making his dream a reality. Wildlife populations are definitely on the rebound."
Matthew Irvin, AFW Biologist of the Year -
Irwin has been a private lands biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission since 2004. He is based out of the AGFC west central regional office in Russellville and has worked with the AFW program in 14 different counties. He has coordinated the pick-up and distribution of Korean lespedeza and food plot packets, conducted wildlife habitat evaluations for landowners, given presentations, written wildlife management plans, and judged the annual landowner contest.
The AFW program is a great way for me to introduce landowners to the basic concepts of wildlife management, Irwin says. "This program is also the gateway for me to offer technical assistance and the many other programs that benefit the landowner and wildlife," he added. Since working with the program beginning in 2004, he has assisted 129 landowners and impacted 35,630 acres in his region. He led this private lands effort, coordinating with many additional personnel in the regional to accomplish these impacts.
Long had these words to share regarding Irwin's selection, "Matthew goes the extra mile to assist landowners and deliver the program in his part of the state and is passionate about helping landowners create and manage their lands for wildlife."
Sergeant Kirk Harris, AFW Wildlife Officer of the Year -
Harris has worked for the Commission for 11 years and is assigned to Crittenden County. He has been actively involved in the AFW program for about eight of the 11 years. This year, he enrolled 56 cooperators with a total of 85,970 acres in six different counties. His average over the last five years has been 58 cooperators covering 70,200 acres.
If there is any county in need of habitat improvement, Crittenden would be at the top of the list, Harris said. "Private landowners hold the key to better habitat resulting in increased wildlife populations," he said.
Long complemented Harris by saying, "Kirk promotes the program to small landowners of one acre all the way up to large farmers and hunting clubs to include birdwatchers, wildlife lovers and devoted hunters. He strives to promote the program with all sportsmen and landowners he comes in contact with while making the rounds in the county and enforcing AGFC regulations. This year he conducted one presentation on the Acres for Wildlife program and enrolled several new cooperators. He has done an outstanding job of maintaining ongoing contacts with his cooperators year after year."
All of this year's awardees were presented a nice walnut plaque in the shape of the state of Arkansas for their work in preserving wildlife in Arkansas by Gov. Beebe.
"Those recognized by the Governor and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation are great examples of the commitment landowners and our personnel have to ensuring the future of wildlife on private lands across the state, and brings attention to the importance of these private lands to the future of wildlife populations in Arkansas. During the 2007-2008-enrollment year, 3,359 landowners were enrolled in the program, covering 1,240,157 acres," Long explained.
The AFW program provides limited wildlife food plot packets benefiting primarily bobwhite quail, but also species such as wild turkey, deer, cottontail rabbits and numerous songbirds and other non-game wildlife. In addition, and maybe the most important benefit of the program, landowners may request technical wildlife assistance from an AGFC biologist to provide them professional recommendations on proper establishment and management to create and maintain premium habitat on their lands.
Landowners may contact any AGFC Private Lands Biologist, Wildlife Officer and County Cooperative Extension Agent or go on line at http://www.agfc.com/wildlife-conservation/afw.aspx to obtain additional information and print an AFW application for enrollment.