Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioners (AGFC) voted to temporarily suspend the issuance of new Wildlife Importation and Wildlife Breeder/Dealer permits for venomous or poisonous wildlife species at today’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The 120-day suspension only affects people seeking to apply for a permit to import, sell or breed venomous or poisonous wildlife species. This suspension does not impact anyone who already possesses a Wildlife Breeder/Dealer or Wildlife Importation permit, nor will it impact people who wish to keep native nongame wildlife species under Code 09.14 of the AGFC Code of Regulations. Under that code, anyone may hand-catch and keep up to six individual animals of native nongame wildlife species (other than birds, bats, alligator snapping turtles, ornate box turtles, hellbenders, Ouachita streambed salamanders, collared lizards, cave-dwelling species or endangered species). Accredited members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association also are exempt from this suspension of new permits.
During the suspension agency staff will work to revise criteria for Wildlife Breeder/Dealer and Wildlife Importation permits and captive wildlife requirements. This revision will be conducted in cooperation with other government agencies, experts in the field and other stakeholders. Once revised regulations are prepared, they will be distributed for public comment.
During yesterday’s committee meetings, Steven Beaupre, P.hD, ex-officio commissioner, reflected on his experiences as a reptile expert, being called to houses with venomous reptiles requiring identification and relocation during police or fire department activities.
“Our facilities for these sorts of animals at the University of Arkansas have to meet certain standards to prevent escapes or mishandling that could cause a dangerous situation,” Beaupre said. “This should not be an attempt to prevent responsible owners and educators from having reptiles. Rather, responsible ownership should ensure public safety and protect native wildlife from escapes of unwanted invasives.”
In other business, the Commission:
● Signed a memorandum of understanding with the Arkansas Agriculture Department to submit all samples for chronic wasting disease testing to AAD facilities in return for assurances of timely and accurate results.
● Recognized Enable Midstream Partners as recipient of its Corporate Conservation Partnership Award for their work introducing wildlife habitat on natural gas pipeline rights-of-way.
● Recognized Cpl. Joe Williams and Sgt. Frankie Tucker (retired) for their participation in National Police Week and the Police Unity Tour, raising $260,000 for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
● Recognized seven employees with a combined 135 years of commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.
● Received a $50,733 rebate from Entergy in response to the recent installation of energy-efficient lighting systems throughout the Little Rock Headquarters, which will save 362,378 kWh per year.
● Approved a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for full-time AGFC employees.
● Approved a total Operating Funds Center Budget of $103,486,618 for Fiscal Year 2018-19.
● Approved a Gas Lease Funding Budget of $316,200 for Fiscal Year 2018-19.
● Approved a Black River WMA Restoration Fund Budget of $1,177,000 for Fiscal Year 2018-19.
● Approved an annual budget of $250,000 for feral hog removal issues during Fiscal Year 2018-19.
● Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $ 224,869 and a current net book value of $737.
● Awarded outgoing Commission Chairman Steve Cook his service sidearm.
● Awarded retiring Enforcement Sgt. Vernon Morris his primary service sidearm, and offered him the option to purchase his other issued firearms at current fair market value.
● Elected Commissioner Ford Overton as chair of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
● Elected Commissioner Ken Reeves as vice-chair of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.