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story.lead_photo.caption Grants totaling more than $500,000 were awarded to school districts in 65 counties in the state, including several in southeast Arkansas. The money will provide the districts with wildlife education and conservation programs. (Special to The Commercial)

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission Division of Rural Services has awarded $536,401 in grants to promote wildlife education and improve school conservation in 65 counties, including Southeast Arkansas.

The grants were awarded to 150 schools, school districts and conservation districts, according to a news release.

The grant program is funded by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission through fines collected from hunting and fishing violations. Only money collected in the county where the violation occurred may be used as grant funds for that county.

Southeast Arkansas recipients include:

• Arkansas County -- Stuttgart School District, $9,718.37;

• Bradley County -- L'Aigle Creek Conservation District, $932.50;

• Chicot County -- Lakeside School District, $3,552.29;

• Desha County -- Desha County Conservation District, $11,450.10; McGehee High School, $1,525.89; Cornerstone Christian Academy, $8,500; McGehee Elementary School, $10,174.50; Cornerstone Christian Academy $1,500;

• Drew County -- Drew County Conservation District, $4,000; Drew County Conservation District, $5,614.58; Drew Central High School $2,000;

• Grant County -- Poyen School District $3,000; Sheridan School District $3,575.27;

• Jefferson County -- White Hall High School $2,500;

• Lincoln County -- Star City High School, $4,848; Star City Middle School, $4,609.

All schools in the state are eligible to participate in the program. The funding schools received previously helped create and maintain archery, fishing, and competitive shooting sports programs, according to the release.

Schools also use the money to help improve wildlife education by purchasing educational materials, materials for the creation of indoor and outdoor habitats, lab supplies, and field trips to AGFC nature and education centers.

Conservation districts use the funding to help promote wildlife conservation awareness in the communities by hosting environmental education days and fishing derbies for children of all ages.

"This year more than ever, we are seeing the benefits of getting out and enjoying the wildlife that we often take for granted," said Secretary of Commerce and AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston. "The Wildlife Education program enhances educational opportunities by getting kids out of the classroom and into the world in their own backyards. AEDC is excited to be part of this opportunity that not only enhances education and economic development, but also volunteerism and community involvement for Arkansans of all ages."

For a list of award recipients and program narratives, visit https://www.arkansasedc.com/Rural-Services/division/grants/grant-recipients.

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