August 22, 2005--Posted at 10:57 PM CST
MARKED TREE--Duck hunting brings thousands of out of 'Staters' to the area, bringing with them deep pockets and revenue to local businesses. Locals who have hunted here for years know the best spots and build permanent structures to call in the birds.
There are over 200 duck blinds in the St. Francis wetlands, some of which have been there for decades. Hunters getting ready for this years season are upset. Why?? They are finding their duck blinds in ashes.
Kenny Phillips is a working man, has lived in Marked Tree his entire life, and has duck hunted in the St. Francis Wetlands for as long as he can remember, that was until he found his duck blind, a structure that once stood 12 ft. high by 20 ft. wide and was built by his father, in ashes.
"I want some answer to know why they did it, and what was the reason for doing it. We have never had any trouble out here," said Phillips.
The St. Francis Wetlands are managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Part of the same region was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1979. The problem is the Corps does not allow permanent structures like blinds on their property.
Now nearly 30 years after the acquisition of the land, the corps instead of asking the original owners to remove blinds, are burning them and destroying personal property and memories.
"My kids are just now getting to the age to come out here, and the Arkansas Game and Fish has always made it to where you could bring your kids to hunt with you," said Robert Brown, a Region 8 hunter.
"I don't see a young kid coming out here standing in the waste deep water freezing their little 'hinees' off or disabled people coming out here sitting in a boat," said Phillips.
I asked Mr. Phillips what he thinks that he will do this upcoming season??
"I am hoping something gets done about this. I hope we get permission to come out here and rebuild these blinds, even though I honestly feel like the Game and Fish or the Corps of Engineers or whoever torched this should pay for it and furnish me the materials to build it back," said Phillips.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does allow permanent preexisting duck blinds to be used, adding that they must not be relocated or added on to.