One Voice Leads to Destruction of Duck Blinds in the Wetlands - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR--Brad Bean Reports

One Voice Leads to Destruction of Duck Blinds in the Wetlands

August 24, 2005--Posted at 10:45 p.m. CST, updated at 7:47 a.m. on 8/25/05

JONOESBORO-- K8 News has been following the burning of duck blinds in the St. Francis River Mitigation Wetlands. The U.S. Army's Corp of Engineers confirms it is responsible for burning them down.

 The smoldering question is, however, why the Corps is just now removing structures that have prohibited since 1988?

When the Corps of Engineers obtained land in the St. Francis Wetlands, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission signed an agreement stating the Commission would run and manage the land, which still holds true today.

In other words, hunters within the area would abide by the most recent regulations that hunting from existing commission-approved permanent blinds is permitted.

In documents obtained by K8 news, Scott May, an attorney in Memphis, wrote Harris Vandergriff, chief of the real estate division for the Corps, on September 5th of 2003, asking about a new licensing agreement between the Corps and Game & Fish.

In the letter, May made reference to a telephone conversation he had with Game and Fish Commissioner Scott Henderson on September 2, 2003.

According to Scott May during the telephone conversation, Henderson said, "He was not going to sign any new agreements unless the Corps could prove to his satisfaction that the duck blinds that currently exist on U.S. property were not there prior to 1988."

May continued by saying, "The Corps should hold Commissioner Henderson's feet to the fire."

The question is, who is Scott May? Scott May is a former attorney for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission during the mid 1990's. He is also a member of the Hatchie Coon Hunting and Fishing Club, which owns over 700 acres in the St. Francis Wetlands. 34 of it's 35 members are Tennessee residents.

K8 News spoke with Scott May this Wednesday afternoon and asked him about his involvement.

Scott May: "I called this to the attention to the Corps of Engineers Memphis District Office and reminded them that federal law that prohibited any private structures from being on federal property."

K8's Brad Bean: "It seems that the only action that has been taken was after you made mention of it. In the opinion of all the people that I have talked to, that are Arkansas residents, are quite upset that the Hatchie Coon Hunting and Fishing Club, who are mainly run by Tennessee residents, are the one's fighting this."

Scott May: "HatchieCoon is an Arkansas corporation first. Secondly, HatchieCoon has owned it's property in the St. Francis floodway for over 100 years. It received a patent in 1892 to it's lands. So if a long time citizen over there and it's members have been hunting over there for as long, if not longer than anybody else. The fact that some of its members live in Tennessee and some live in Arkansas is un material."

When the Corps of Engineers informed hunters that their blinds were going to be destroyed, over 1,000 hunters signed petitions addressed to Senator Blanche Lincoln and 1st District Congressman Marion Berry protesting the Corps asking for their intervention.

Legislation is currently in the works, requesting the land be given back to the state, but it seems as though, for many hunters it's too little, too late.

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