AGFC seeks pub­lic in­put on deer man­age­ment plan re­vi­sion

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - Spe­cial to The Saline Courier

LIT­TLE ROCK — Bi­ol­o­gists with the Arkansas Game and

Fish Com­mis­sion are seek­ing pub­lic in­put on the cur­rent re­vi­sion to Arkansas’s White­tailed Deer Strate­gic Man­age­ment Plan. This is the first re­view and re­vi­sion of the plan since 2013.

The plan is re­viewed ev­ery five to seven years to adapt to chang­ing needs by de­vel­op­ments in Arkansas’s deer herd and avail­able habi­tat.

“Ob­vi­ously, the dis­cov­ery of chronic wast­ing dis­ease in Arkansas is a ma­jor fac­tor that has changed Arkansas’s deer man­age­ment strate­gies since the last ver­sion of the plan,” Ralph Meeker, AGFC Deer Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor, said dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Com­mis­sion about the re­vi­sion. “We also have an up­com­ing re­view of our CWD man­age­ment plan that fo­cuses solely on that part of our deer man­age­ment. How­ever, this strate­gic plan takes a deep look at trends in har­vest, bi­o­log­i­cal, and ob­ser­va­tion data for each deer zone. From that we are able to draft reg­u­la­tion pro­pos­als in­tended to reach tar­get deer den­si­ties.”

The plan was drafted by the agency’s deer pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor and as­sis­tant deer pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor with con­sid­er­able in­put from the agency’s Deer Man­age­ment Team, a col­lec­tion of bi­ol­o­gists and en­force­ment per­son­nel from ev­ery re­gion of the state. Ad­di­tional re­view was pro­vided by Wildlife Man­age­ment Divi­sion ad­min­is­tra­tion as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the agency’s Re­search, Eval­u­a­tion, and Com­pli­ance Divi­sion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Divi­sion be­fore be­ing sub­mit­ted to the Com­mis­sion­ers for their re­view.

“A lot of work goes into the de­vel­op­ment of this plan. Once the nuts and bolts of the plan are in place, we try to get as much in­put from staff that work reg­u­larly with both deer and the pub­lic in or­der to en­sure that we sub­mit a qual­ity doc­u­ment for pub­lic re­view. Once the pub­lic is able to sub­mit their com­ments through the on­line sur­vey, we will try and in­cor­po­rate per­ti­nent changes be­fore the plan is pre­sented to the Com­mis­sion for fi­nal ap­proval,” Meeker said. “We try to be as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble about the plan, and we try to do what we can to ad­just it to what the ma­jor­ity of our hunters want as long as it is some­thing that makes sound bi­o­log­i­cal sense. We do re­al­ize and ap­pre­ci­ate that hunters are our big­gest part­ner in the man­age­ment of white­tailed deer in Arkansas.”

The draft of the plan and a pub­lic com­ment sur­vey are avail­able at www.agfc.com/en/hunt­ing/big-game/deer/2019strate­gic-deer-man­age­ment-plan/. Com­ments will be ac­cepted un­til

Jan. 20th. The Deer Man­age­ment Team will then make needed re­vi­sions and sub­mit the fi­nal draft to the Com­mis­sion at its reg­u­larly sched­uled Fe­bru­ary meet­ing.

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