A majority of waterfowlers tends to worry about short-term issues such as the fall flight, weather and water. Those are valid concerns for the upcoming season, but a larger trend with more potential impact is emerging across the country that will influence the long-term success of the sport.

As more options have become available to today’s youth that keep them indoors, fewer are spending time outside enjoying Arkansas’ abundant natural resources. Luckily, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is taking the lead in exposing kids to the opportunities outdoors.

While many Arkansas outdoorsmen are familiar with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) as the agency responsible for the preservation, protection and management of Arkansas’ wildlife, many are unfamiliar with the who, what and why of the Foundation. With a new mission statement and the refocus of a leadership group of dedicated sportsmen, the Foundation strives to become more forward thinking as it advances opportunities to enjoy the rich hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation embraced by so many in Arkansas.

What Is the Foundation?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Foundation and represents decades of contribution by countless volunteers and supporters who have given their time, energy and financial resources to help protect the state’s treasured heritage. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a board of directors and advisory board made up of dedicated advocates for all things outdoors. Each director serves in a volunteer capacity with a focus to support acquisition of wildlife habitat, conservation education and wildlife management. The Foundation also serves as a voice to help inform Arkansans of pertinent issues and to also act on their behalf.

Simply stated, the Foundation is an advocacy for the citizens of Arkansas, focusing on championing conservation efforts and the enjoyment of wildlife and natural resources for current and future Arkansans.

Truly The Natural State

Arkansas unquestionably has some of the best in natural resources that a state could hope for. Its abundant wildlife, forests, lakes and streams offer not only enjoyment but a quality of life for Arkansans, especially when it comes to public waterfowl hunting opportunities, as many of the wildlife management areas rival the prime private hunting grounds of other states. This doesn’t happen by accident. Volunteer organizations such as the Foundation, with AGFC involvement, ensure all Arkansans have access to prime hunting and fishing opportunities.

Energized and Focused

The Foundation is strengthening its leadership and relevance statewide around an expanded mission that moves its youth-focused initiatives to the forefront. Key to the Foundation’s vision is the task of significantly growing its volunteer base of men and women around the state who value our outdoor heritage and are likeminded about keeping our youth connected to nature. As a progressive and innovative organization that uses its time, money and influence to protect and serve its members and the citizens of Arkansas, its long-term outreach is planned across every county and community within the state.

Involving Kids

“We can never do too much to educate and encourage our youth to connect with the great outdoors,” said Foundation Chairman and lifelong waterfowler Bobby Martin. “While we are fortunate to have a significant base of kids who still grow up learning, just as their mom and dad did, to hunt, fish and enjoy nature, that base is shrinking. We cannot afford to let that trend continue.”

The Foundation has charged itself with the daunting but achievable goal of exposing more of Arkansas’ youth to the outdoors. From involving single parents and their children in fishing to teaching kids firearm safety, the Foundation is creating programs and initiatives that will get kids to “unplug” and get back outdoors.

The Foundation works in a supportive role with the AGFC and other agencies to expand efforts around education centers, shooting sports (gun and archery), fishing programs and others to get youths excited about the outdoors.

“The men and women of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission deserve so much appreciation from all of us across this state for their passion and dedication to providing us the best in Arkansas’ Great Outdoors,” Martin said. “Go and take your child through one of the conservation education centers. It will light you up. It’s incredible to see how kids turn on to nature and get excited. If you can’t do that, at least remember the next time you are enjoying a float down a stream, or the abundance of our wildlife and its habitat. It’s not the way it is by accident. May we never take it for granted.”

Hunters Making a Difference

All waterfowlers should fear the day they ever overlook the stewardship role they need to play or take for granted the many unsung heroes who are dedicated to protecting resources. While the outdoors we all enjoy today is not in crisis, our youths are the future of our outdoor opportunities and today they are more disconnected from nature than ever.

The time has come for Arkansas’ duck hunters to follow the Foundation’s lead and work to pass on the experiences they have enjoyed for a lifetime. Waterfowlers are urged to get involved, be active, grow the sport and pass on the heritage.

For more about the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation’s mission and initiatives, please visit their website.