Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV.  I’m Michelle Rupp, we’re glad you’re joining us. Have you ever wondered, what else does the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission do. We know they take care of hunter education and angler education, but there’s so much more. Joining me today is Trey Reid from Game and Fish. And you’re here to tell us just about the education component alone that Game and Fish is involved in.

Trey Reid: There’s so much to talk about Michelle. Uh, you and I were visiting uh previously and I was like, wow, where do you want to see? are, I mean because I I don’t think a lot of people realize that uh there’s such a big component of education that Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does. And of course as you mentioned, we are educating, you know, hunters. It’s mandatory if you were born after 1968 that you have hunter education when uh when you go hunting in Arkansas, but there’s, so much more to it than that. Uh, another thing I think some people, many people are probably aware of our nature centers which are these, you know, they’re brick and mortar places. They, they’re like almost like a museum where you can go and you can see the aquariums and you can kind of see these exhibits that tell the story of how we manage fish and wildlife in Arkansas, but we, our education division, we have an entire division of education staff. A lot of these folks are teachers or have degrees in teaching and But they, there are like 60 people in in, in that division. Uh they staff the nature centers that I talked about of course, uh which we have nine of those around the state. but they do so much more. I mean we work with schools across the state to implement conservation programming that’s aligned with the state education curriculum. Uh We have people that we have regional education coordinators that represent regions of the state that go do programming in schools. We do teacher in service workshop so they can take the lesson plans the about conservation and go back and teach that we have schools come to us to do field trips at some of these education and nature centers that we talked about. We have uh a shooting sports program, uh an archery program in the schools. I mean it really goes on and on. Where do you want to start?

MR: Well, let’s talk about the nature centers. I know you mentioned there were nine. That’s news to me. I’m familiar with the one in downtown Little Rock, but I didn’t realize that there were nine. So, we’re in the state I guess strategically.

TR: Yeah, we’ve got them all really across the state. The additional nature centers are in Little Rock, Pine bluff, Fort smith Jonesboro. And our newest is in Northwest Arkansas and Springdale. Now, those are those, I say traditional nature centers because we have for a number of years also had these education centers. They’re not really like a place where you go in and walk around and look at exhibits like the, but we’ve started calling them all nature centers. So, our education centers that we now call nature centers are located in Ponca. We have the elk education Center in Boxley Valley there, it’s kind of theme. The theme is the, the elk herd, the reintroduced elk herd in that area. We have one, down in southwest Arkansas, outside of Hope. The Grandview Prairie Center. We have one on Cook’s Lake over near the White River National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles east of Stutgart. And which is the other one that I’m missing, we’ll come back to it. But there’s a lot to keep up with Michelle. So those education centers have like the one at Cook’s Lake for instance, we’ve got like a laboratory. Uh schools can come there, we do hummingbird banding, we do programs on that.

MR: I’ve heard of this.

TR: That is a really popular program throughout the summer. But uh, we’ll have, we’ll have school groups come bring, come over on the bus and they’ll go out and collect bugs in Cook’s Lake, bring them back, look at them under a microscope, identify them and they can learn about water quality that way. So there are so many, so many programs. Oh, Yellville. Crooked Creek Education Center was the one that escaped me at first. Yeah, so again, agfc.com. We have a whole education tab that you can click on and learn about a lot of specific programming at each of these centers.

MR: I know you, you touched on it briefly. Um, some of the other programs that game and fish offer, such as the archery and um youth shooting sports.

TR: Yeah, so our youth shooting sports program I think is about 15 years old now and archery is a dozen or so years, but if you think about it on the surface like, well you’re going to have shooting programs in in schools, but you know it teaches safe use of firearms. Uh and it’s a type of competition that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, how high you can jump, how fast you can run. And that goes for the archery too. We have about 10,000 students in Arkansas that participate in the shooting sports program and many, many more, like probably 50,000 that participate in archery. Now a lot of that is through the classes at their school now they can also form teams and go on to participate in regional and state competitions that the game and fish Commission puts on every year. And so we have about, I think combined about five or 6000 students that participate in our state championships in both trap shooting and and archery competition every year.

MR: And you know, you can even medal at the Olympics in that well,

TR: We all know that we have a young woman from Arkansas, Kayle Browning who won a silver medal in the most recent Olympic games, summer Olympic games. And, she actually participated in the early stages of our program and she was shooting before, we started the program. But she has been a great ambassador for the sport and we’ve had many other students go on to participate in a junior Olympic competition and other international competition.

MR: But what a great opportunity that that a child could have talent there and you never know until they’re afforded the opportunity to participate and fall in love with it.

TR: And you know and this this always comes up but what I really love going to our state championships every year whether that’s archery or shooting sports and you have these girls and boys participating side by side. and the girls will shoot better than the boys a lot of times and you know, but it goes to the point that, I mean, again, it is not about yes, it requires a lot of skill and it requires training and it requires dedication and practice, but you know, you don’t have to be able to run faster than somebody to, to excel in these sports. And so we hear a lot of stories from, from uh, principals and administrators at schools that like this gives some kids that didn’t have an outlet for that kind of competition, that team sport to get involved with something and it gives them something that, that they can really get involved with.

MR: And being a hunting state to begin with, it’s natural that you would offer something like this because you know, some of those kids were out in the woods, they were participating long before and shotguns in their hands a lot of times. Let’s talk about because these are great programs, but they all cost money. So how are these programs funded

TR: Well it’s Interesting that you should ask that. We have, uh, most of this stuff doesn’t cost schools, anything, uh, we have a lot of grants that are available to schools. And one thing that I’d really like to tell people about Michelle is that there’s a big misconception that when game and fish wildlife officers write a ticket for a violation. Uh, you didn’t have your fishing license or your hunting license or whatever the case may be, uh that that money comes back to game and fish. But we, we never see any of that, that all goes into a fund that can only be used for education programs. And it goes back to the county where the fine was assessed. So every year I think this year it was somewhere around three quarters of a million dollars, like $750,000 that was available. The grants are administered through the uh division of rural services, uh state of Arkansas, Division of rural services and in each county there’s a uh you know, x number of dollars that are available. And these schools can apply for these grants if they want to start a shooting sports program, they can buy clays, they can buy a trap, throwing machine, they can buy the bows and arrows and the targets. Uh if they want to start a schoolyard habitat project, that’s a program. We didn’t even talk about schoolyard habitat uh where they can uh learn about certain plants uh that are. for pollinators, which we all need for our agriculture industry in Arkansas to grow vegetables in our garden, you name it, they can be used for all these different educational purposes. So, most of these programs don’t cost the school anything. You can even use it to put diesel in the school bus to go on a field trip to one of our nature centers. So, it’s a really, really wide array of uses for the, when I say educational purposes. Uh, but And unfortunately Michelle a lot of this grant money goes unclaimed every year.

MR: Is it because there’s just not interest or this maybe the schools don’t know,

TR: I think it’s an awareness issue, you know, and I go on programs like yours and other TV shows, so you know every year to tell people about this. But I think yeah it it’s out there uh and so thank you for the opportunity to talk about it because it’s you know, you could say, well why does the game of fish even embark on these educational programs? Like what is that? That’s not necessarily hunting and fishing. But our view on it is if, if we can connect people to, to nature, whether that’s with a shotgun to hunt ducks or a rifle to hunt deer or a bow and arrow to, to hunt deer or put a fishing pole in their hands, That’s great. But so many other people don’t, they’re just not hunters and anglers and they don’t necessarily have, uh, an interest in that. But if we can connect them to the natural world, like paddling a canoe or kayak, like uh, bird watching, whatever the case may be, it’s going to foster this sense of environmental stewardship, it’s going to make them want to take care and if we don’t have, you know, as we’re becoming a more urban uh and technology dependent uh sort of society, let’s face it, that’s happening, we’re losing these kind of connections that we’ve historically had as humans and as our cans to the natural world. And if we can keep we’ve got to keep those connections alive. And education is the way that we think is a good way to do that. And so if these people care and can appreciate this, we’re going to have folks in the future to be able to take care of.

MR: And how great to be able to get some of these tools into city slickers’ hands in some of the city schools who maybe have they’ve not been exposed. Maybe they don’t come from a family background of hunters or anglers or anything like that. And now they’re getting this little taste and you never know what switch that might flip you.

TR: You’re absolutely right. And, and we have found there’s a lot of research out there and this sort of drift away from nature is not like we’re pretty lucky in Arkansas because we are a rural state. We’ve got a lot of wonderful wild spaces, but this is something that’s happening across the country. There’s been a lot of research into it. And one of the reasons that people don’t necessarily take to these outdoor sports is they didn’t have like they didn’t grow up in a household that did it, they didn’t have a mentor that that did it. And that’s one of the challenges of of some of these programs is you know, hunting angling and some of these other outdoor things, I can’t just teach a class of 50 people how to do it. It’s kind of one on one or 1 to 21 to three. You know, it’s sort of, you need to have a small group, so it’s hard to scale up, but that’s one of the things we’re trying to do through some of these programs and you know, even at our nature centers, we talked about the things they do like uh you know, you can go and look at the fish and see the exhibits. But they do programming all the time where you can do, take like a crappy fishing one oh one seminar or learn how to catfish or learn how to deer hunt. These classes are going on all the time all over the state. Like I said, we’ve got nine locations. Uh we even do some virtual instruction through zoom and things like that. So, if you want to learn about this stuff, there’s a way to do it.

MR: That’s awesome. Well and it can all be found. Give us the website.

MR: agfc.com and we have a wonderful new calendar tool and events calendar. Uh, you can put in like uh events that are within a certain mileage from where you live or different filters you can put on to search like hunting, fishing, paddling, sports, whatever the case may. And you’ll get a whole list of different opportunities to learn about this stuff. Fantastic.

MR: All right, Trey, thank you so much for coming in today, telling us all the things about Game and Fish.

TR: There is so much out there. I wish. We could do this for an hour and not cover everything.

MR: We absolutely could. Thank you so much and thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.