WHITE COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) -Grim conditions affecting the economics of waterfowl hunting have caught the eyes of not only the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission but also U.S. Representatives French Hill and Bruce Westerman.
Westerman and Hill recently met with AGFC officials at the Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area in White County to discuss the future of waterfowl hunting.
According to a press release from AGFC, gradual changes in water cycles and shifts in land uses have affected greentree reservoirs, habitats created from intentional flooding when trees are dormant during the winter.
In White County, major flooding during the growing season, coupled with the loss of 212 acres of trees in the interior of the greentree reservoir, has caused Hurricane Lake WMA to reach its breaking point.
“Much of the problem is how high the White River has been flowing in the last decade,” Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for AGFC, said. “But we also need to address how quickly we can get that water off the area when we have the chance. All of our water-control structures have been evaluated, and all of them throughout the entire GTR system are undersized for the amount of water we need to move.”
Carner said the issues facing Hurricane Lake are a wake-up call to the conditions of many GTRs throughout Arkansas.
AGFC officials moved the date to Nov. 15 to allow trees to go dormant before water is placed in the reservoirs. Carner said normally, AGFC closes the structures on most of the GTRs in October.
A study with the University of Arkansas-Monticello will help AGFC get a better grasp on tree dormancy that “matches the various conditions of the GTRs in the state.”
AGFC has also partnered with Ducks Unlimited to start work on several infrastructure improvements to the GTRs.
Former President of Ducks Unlimited George Dunklin said the losses experienced at Hurricane Lake should serve as a call to action for people who love waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.
“What we’re seeing on Hurricane right now is an example of the way water management is impacting our waterfowl habitat,” Dunklin said. “It’s an extreme example of where we’re headed, but there are many places in Arkansas that aren’t too far behind if we don’t do something.”