LITTLE ROCK — Duck hunters looking for publicly available opportunities this fall will have even more options to enjoy The Natural State’s calling card. The Arkansas Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement program was awarded a grant to expand, keeping food on the ground for ducks and opening doors for hunters.

The grant, from the National Resources Conservation Service’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, will boost the program to the tune of $2.1 million, distributed during the next three years.

During its first year of public access opportunity, the pilot program operated on a budget of $125,000. With that money, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was able to provide access to 11 hunting fields through a weekend draw program during the 2019-20 season. With the federal grant, that access may increase to more than 50 private fields available to hunters through a drawn permit system.

“Leasing land for public hunting is nothing new for the AGFC, but this is the first time we’ve been awarded a grant to help us create public hunting opportunities on privately owned land like you see in Walk-in Areas in the Midwest,” said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator. “There has been a perception in the Southeast, that private hunting leases are too competitive to enable such programs to exist, or that landowners might be hesitant to participate in such a program, but a surprising number of landowners have worked with us on this, and we hope to offer even more the opportunity to be a part of this program.”

The conservation component of the WRICE program is to combat the loss of waste grain on Arkansas rice fields resulting from tilling the ground in fall. Farmers getting a head start on their next year’s crop will turn the stubble under

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