LAKE VILLAGE, Ar (AGFC) - Freddie Black's tenure on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ended July 1, but his work fulfilling the agency's mission-to wisely manage Arkansas' fish and wildlife resources while providing maximum enjoyment for the people-will be felt for years to come.
Black, Chairman and CEO of Simmons First Bank of South Arkansas, was appointed to the Commission in 2002, replacing former commissioner Marion McCollum of Stuttgart. In his last year, Black's leadership capabilities were demonstrated when he supervised AGFC's leases with Chesapeake Energy for drilling rights on Gulf Mountain and Petit Jean wildlife management areas, producing $32 million to fund numerous conservation programs, facility renovations and new projects. Through the gas lease funds, AGFC purchased the $2.12 million Wallace Land Trust near Arkansas City in Desha County. The land covers over 1,800 acres of wildlife habitat near Choctaw Island WMA. The original purchase of Choctaw Island WMA is now know as the East Unit and the Wallace Trust land is as the West Unit of the WMA.
A lifelong hunter and angler, Black strived to represent outdoor-enthusiasts on a number of fronts. He especially supported youth involvement in outdoor programs like Archery in Schools and the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, which has experienced exploding growth from 900 students in its first year to a current 4,000 students. The Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program has expanded into a partnership with USA Shooting, resulting in a development camp for exemplary youth shooting athletes from Arkansas. Black also advanced efforts for youth to enjoy more hunting and fishing excursions. Regarding waterfowl hunting, Black pushed to end the ban on using spinning-wing decoys, and supported increasing the daily bag limit on mallard hens from one to two.
During Black's tenure, the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock opened to the public, delivering nature to an urban audience. The facility is situated along the Arkansas River near the Riverfest Amphitheatre in downtown Little Rock.