The Arkansas Wildlife Federation was formed in 1936 for the primary purpose of taking a hands-on approach to conservation issues in The Natural State. AWF is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 conservation organization whose mission is to promote conservation, responsible management, and sustainable use of Arkansas' fish, wildlife, natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities through education and advocacy.
Market hunters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had hunted much of the native wildlife in Arkansas—such as the buffalo, elk, wolf, and trumpeter swan populations—to extinction, near extinction, or extirpation. Market hunters also decimated most of the native deer, black bear, mountain lion, and turkey populations within Arkansas. To protect the wildlife remaining in Arkansas, the AWF was founded in 1936, the same year as the formation of its parent organization, the National Wildlife Federation.
In 1944, AWF sponsored and worked for the passage of Amendment 35, which helped create the autonomous Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). To inform AWF members, media, government officials, and organizations about its activities, the AWF began publishing the bimonthly newspaper Arkansas Out-of-Doors in June 1946. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the AWF advocated for the passage of the one-eighth of one percent Conservation Sales Tax Amendment (Amendment 75), which was adopted in 1996 and funds the programs and operations of the AGFC. In August 2003, the AWF published the Arkansas Wildlife Federation Duck Report, “Improving the Quality of Duck Hunting in Arkansas,” which resulted in changes in duck-hunting regulations. The organization continues to conduct waterfowl seminars covering habitat management, biology, and other topics.
In an effort to protect and conserve forests throughout Arkansas, the AWF and others convinced the U.S. Forest Service to reduce clear-cutting in the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests. AWF also worked cooperatively on the planning and implementation of the Oak Forest Symposium, whose subject was the decline of oaks in Arkansas’s national forests. This was the origin of the Bearcat Hollow Project, which began in 2010. AWF supported the addition of approximately 100,000 acres of wilderness “walk-in areas” in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests. AWF supported land trades with Weyerhaeuser and Potlatch that resulted in more than 100,000 acres of wildlife-rich lands being added to national wildlife refuges and forests. The AWF joined the Lake Ouachita Citizens Focus Committee to create a forty-five-mile hiking/biking trail on the south side of Lake Ouachita.
The AWF has organized regional farm seminars to inform farmers of the financial benefits of government programs that encourage conservation, in addition to conducting conservation contests in schools. The organization also hosts the Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet.
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