The Arkansas Economic Development Commission's Division of Rural Services has more than $769,000 to give to Arkansas schools and educators for conservation education programs in the 2021-22 school year, thanks to fines from wildlife violations.
Educators in every county are encouraged to apply for grants by the Oct. 26 application deadline to make use of these free dollars for education. Any school or conservation district in Arkansas may apply for these grants, according to the Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Newsletter.
Fines from wildlife violations are not used for vehicles, salaries or other operations conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It never really leaves the county where it was collected. Instead, those dollars are given to the AEDC, which fulfills grant requests for conservation education in that county, according to the newsletter.
AGFC Chief of Education Tabbi Kinion says the grants can enhance learning opportunities for youth, especially in some of the rural areas of Arkansas where education dollars are at a premium.
"Many of the special programs our Education Division promotes, such as Archery in the Schools, Project WILD and Fishing in the Natural State, can be funded through these grants," Kinion said. "But they can also be used to purchase equipment unique to conservation education and even help offset the costs of field trips to AGFC nature centers, education centers and other outdoors learning opportunities."
Kinion says all AGFC nature and education centers are free to the public, and through these education grants, educators can even find funds to help offset some travel expenses to get the kids to their learning destination.
"We have even seen a school in Mountain Home work with an Eagle Scout candidate to create an outdoor classroom for their kindergarten," Kinion said. "It was a really creative way to make use of the money and benefit the kids in that school."
Grant applications for fiscal year 2022 must be received by Oct. 26.
For details on the program, a link to the application site and a county-by-county list of grant money, visit www.agfc.com/conservationgrants.