LITTLE ROCK Gar Lile, a Little Rock real estate agent, says a proposed land swap will provide more public duck hunting opportunities at Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife management division agrees. The commission approved the swap April 21, contingent on input from two public meetings the AGFC will hold May 17-18 at DeWitt and White Hall.
Specifically, the swap involves four parcels of land in Arkansas and Jefferson counties. Goose Lake Farms, LLC., owner of a large in holding within the WMA, wants to exchange two 80-acre parcels of land with the AGFC for two nearby AGFC parcels totaling 155 acres. One Goose Lake parcel is 80 acres. The other is 75.5 acres.
Goose Lake owns and leases 2,600 acres on the southeast side of the WMA. Lile, president and principal broker of Lile Real Estate, Inc., represents Goose Lake in this deal. He said the appraised value of the AGFC land is $560,000, and the Goose Lake property is appraised at $625,000.
“The reason our tracts are more valuable is because both of our tracts have duck hunting and access,” Lile said. “Only one of the Game and Fish tracts has consistent, dependable duck hunting. One has partial access, and one has no access. The timber value is remarkably similar.”
The obvious question is why Goose Lake Farms wants to trade straight up for properties of lesser value.
“It would straighten up the AGFC’s and our property lines and eliminate considerable trespass issues that have been ongoing in that area,” Lile said. “The swap eliminates the gray areas of boundary lines that exist today. The boundaries are patrolled, and that’s no fun for anybody. Swapping properties would allow people to spread out and bounce around without trespassing or being harassed for trespassing.”
The 75.5-acre parcel that Goose Lake wants to trade is on the north side of Buckingham Flats and south of the Wasteway Bayou. In return, Goose Lake will get an 80-acre parcel just east of the Goose Lake lodge. Lile said there is no public access to that AGFC property. He said it’s high ground, so it doesn’t flood, so it has no value for duck hunting. It does have some potential for upland hunting, but the public can’t get to it.
Access to the 75.5-acre parcel going to the AGFC would be from the Buckingham impoundment or the Cannon Brake parking area.
The other swap involves two adjacent, 80-acre parcels in the Beaver Dam Slough Green Tree Reservoir, near the northwest boundary of Goose Lake. The property that the AGFC will get is about 183-185 feet in elevation. The property that the AGFC will trade to Goose Lake is182-188 feet. The lower elevation will flood more often, which means it will provide more consistent duck hunting.
Lile acknowledged that Goose Lake’s primary interest is duck hunting. So, an another obvious question is why Goose Lake wants to trade for inferior duck hunting property. Again, Lile said it’s to reduce conflicts with hunters on the public area and clear up property lines.
“We have tremendous trespass issues,” Lile said. “It’s been more of an issue for the Game and Fish on the northwest parcel than for us, but that will all go away. It completely eliminates the trespass issue, and it will lessen the Game and Fish’s headaches a bunch.”
While any trade involving public land - especially on hallowed ground like Bayou Meto WMA - bears close scrutiny, this deal does not have the fishy smell that tainted an ill-fated land swap that came up earlier this year at Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA. The AGFC’s wildlife management division endorses the Bayou Meto deal. It firmly opposed the Rex Hancock Black Swamp deal. David Goad, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC, said it’s a win-win for the agency, for Bayou Meto’s duck hunters and for Goose Lake Farms.
The public meetings will be May 17 at the Phillips County Community College Community Room in DeWitt. The May 18 meeting will be at the Pine Bluff National Bank branch in White Hall. Both meetings will run from 7-9 p.m.