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Conservation education grant funding open for Arkansas schools

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A grant program from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will make over $800,000 available to schools for conservation education.

The state of Arkansas is allocating over three-quarters of a million dollars to help expand conservation education in schools. The $808,146 grant program is a partnership between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

AEDC Director of Rural Services Becca Caldwell says enhancing education about the state’s natural resources is key to their goal of economic development, particularly in rural areas.

“We also manage other grant programs that focus on the infrastructure of these rural communities, but when it comes to the wildlife grants themselves, improving quality of life for the community is a big economic driver,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell says counties are allocated a specific amount of funding based on fines collected by the Game and Fish Commission, as well as receiving unused funds rolling over from previous years. She says the funding can be used for a variety of different initiatives.

“We have specific programs that the Game and Fish [Commission] funds through this wildlife conservation education grant. Typically that’s the funding of wildlife habitats, and that can be the development of those sites, game cameras for observation, pollinator gardens, bird feeders, trails et cetera,” Caldwell said.

She says the program has seen as many as 300 applications in past years to fund things like outdoor classrooms, archery and shooting programs, along with field trips to conservation sites and agricultural facilities. One successful example, Caldwell says, was a cleanup of the Saline River, which also doubled as an education and outreach event.

“We hadn’t actually seen anything like this before. It was a cleanup project and an education project to kind of educate the public on proper recycling procedures and just care for the ecosystem in general,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell says the AEDC and the Game and Fish Commission have partnered on the program since 2016. A breakdown of funding for all 75 Arkansas counties and information on how to apply is available online at arkansasedc.com, or by calling (501) 682-3292.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.