By Ronnie Weston| May 31, 2012 at 9:47 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 5:50 AM
JONESBORO (AGFC) – During the last monthly meeting of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Jonesboro, commissioners approved an agreement with the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to pursue site development on a 31-acre tract in Cave Springs. The property includes the 6-acre Lake Keith.
The property is known as the Watershed Sanctuary at Cave Springs. The AGFC will help the IRWP with planning and site development and will partially finance costs of development. The AGFC costs include cash or in-kind services up to $880,000. AGFC projects include fish and wildlife conservation programs, as well as education programs on the property. The programs and projects will include watchable wildlife trails, kiosks, an outdoor classroom, a fishing pier and fisheries management of the lake.
The AGFC also will have an option to construct a regional office on the property. If the AGFC exercises the option, it will receive a 99-year lease for $1 per year.
The commission also approved the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. The compact includes 37 other states and will allow Arkansas to recognize certain fishing and wildlife convictions and license-suspension actions occurring in member states. For example, if a person is convicted of a wildlife crime in Arkansas that results in a suspension of the person's hunting or fishing license, other member states may suspend that individual's license privilege as well.
In other business:
*Requested current AGFC Director Loren Hitchcock postpone his retirement until a replacement can be found. Hitchcock agreed to stay on while a search for a new director is complete.
*Approved a grant advance of just over $154,900 to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission for purchase of 312 acres of land surrounding Foushee Cave in Independence County. The acquisition of the tract is a cooperative partnership between the two agencies and will likely be designated a wildlife management area pending U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval.
*Approved a quit claim on a portion of Crystal Lake in Benton County.
*Approved the Beaver Tailwater Management Plan. The plan covers the period 2012-17.
*Col. Jeff Crow recognized Wildlife Officer Michael W. Neal of Monroe County as Arkansas Waterfowl Officer of the Year and Mississippi Flyway Officer of the Year.
*Approved a budget increase of just over $25,720 to complete infrastructure repairs on FEMA projects within Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA.
*Accepted a proclamation by Gov. Mike Beebe to start free fishing weekend at noon, June 8, and end at midnight, June 10. Licenses will not be required for fishing in Arkansas during that period.