The actions of a few are preventing the privileges of many in regard to accessing lands inside state Wildlife Management Areas. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission made the following announcement on Tuesday:

Historically, sportsmen have been able to access and manipulate three Northeast Arkansas wildlife management areas prior to waterfowl season. That practice will no longer be allowed on Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands and Dave Donaldson Black River WMAs and has never been allowed on any other state WMA.

In the past, sportsmen were allowed to perform maintenance on public duck blinds and existing waterfowl holes on the three WMAs. Due to past violations, that routine will no longer be allowed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Violations have included the illegal use of herbicides and excessive clearing of existing waterfowl openings.

Another concern is the possible degradation of habitat by ATVs due to flooding this spring and summer. Enforcement officers will be monitoring all state-owned waterfowl areas to ensure compliance.

Director Loren Hitchcock says he understands that cleaning hunting spots in preparation for the season is part of the of the schedule for many hunters. “Unfortunately, this has led to conflicts between hunters. We want our WMAs to be open to everyone with equal and fair access to public hunting grounds.  It’s regrettable this change will affect what many people have come to expect, but we need to ensure these public lands are not abused and everyone has equal access for hunting,” Hitchcock said in a released statement.

The public will not be allowed to access existing waterfowl openings, create new openings or to build and repair any blinds in any WMA throughout the state. The AGFC says those acts “create more hazards than it rectifies.”

The first stage of the 2011-12 waterfowl season in Arkansas begins on Saturday, Nov. 19.