The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies named the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) as the 2017 SEAFWA Diversity and Inclusion Award winner in the category of Diversity Outreach and Education at their annual meeting in Louisville this week. The AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program partners with community organizations to raise the profile and awareness of conservation within the state’s growing minority communities.
“The AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program has been providing family friendly fishing experiences in the state's more largely populated areas for nearly two decades.,” SEAFWA President Alvin Taylor said. “In an effort to increase attendance at fishing events, and especially to increase attendance by minorities, the Family and Community Fishing Program partnered with a local non-profit organization called Community First Alliance and the local Univision Television Network.”
Through connections with the Community First Alliance, the event was expanded to include free food for all attendees cooked on site by a service fraternity, entertainment such as a bounce house, and educational outreach focused on health and community services. Attendance has increased to from 150-300 individuals to 600-1,000 people. The positive exposures for the agency and connections made have been outstanding, and the effort is growing.
The partnership with the Arkansas affiliate of the Univision Television Network targeted engaging the state’s growing Hispanic population. In 2017, the program held their first fishing event which targeted the Hispanic community in Bentonville and had more than 60 percent Hispanic attendance.
The winner, chosen by a small group of volunteers with the SEAFWA Minorities in Natural Resources Committee, was judged on their commitment to diversity and inclusion, the effectiveness of their programs, and any partnership developed and used to support their diversity and inclusion goals.
The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.