by Jill Rohrbach
Artwork by Duane Hada, owner and principle artist at Rivertown Gallery in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
This year’s inductees into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame have undoubtedly contributed to conservation of the state’s resources and supported initiatives aimed at youth. In being recognized, they also show the common quality of humility.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation’s 2018 inductees are Jim Hinkle, Ellen Moorhead Fennell, and Randy Young, along with Legacy Award recipients J.B. and Johnelle Hunt.
The honorees will be acknowledged during the 27th Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, August 24 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. Tickets for the event are $125 and tables of 10 are available for $1,250 each. The night will include dinner, live and silent auctions, and the induction ceremony. A reception and silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, call 501-223-6468.
Proceeds from the event support the year-round work of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. Established in 1982, the Foundation is an independently operated 501c3 non-profit organization that serves as the fundraising adjunct to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Foundation’s membership includes men and women who are passionate about promoting hunting, fishing and conservation education among the youth of Arkansas.
J.B. and Johnelle Hunt
Legends of Arkansas’ business and philanthropic communities, J.B. and Johnelle Hunt built J.B. Hunt Transport Services from a five-truck operation into one of the largest transportation companies in the nation. The success of the company is rivaled only by the couple’s generosity, supporting innumerable worthwhile causes throughout Arkansas.
Among the most recent examples is a $5 million pledge toward building the AGFC Northwest Arkansas Nature and Education Center in Springdale, yet another legacy for future generations that bears the Hunt stamp.
“This nature center is extremely important for the families of Northwest Arkansas,” Mrs. Hunt says. “Having grown up in Heber Springs, I had the opportunity to explore the woods and creeks. This magnificent facility will provide a platform for learning about nature and all the wonderful opportunities it presents. Our family is very excited about being part of this project and we thank all those that have been involved.”
While the Hunts have been honored in numerous ways for their generosity, the Legacy Award from the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is no less an honor. “Philanthropy is the opportunity for me and my family to say thank you to all those that have worked so hard for us to be in a position to provide opportunities for others. The Legacy Award is a tremendous honor,” she adds. “I am accepting the award as a representative of all the amazing and hardworking people that built J.B. Hunt Transport. Also, all the people associated with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and Commission that really deserve the credit for this facility.”
She adds that she feels blessed to live and work in Arkansas. “In my opinion, Arkansas is the best place in the world to live and raise families. There is an obvious reason why Arkansas is named The Natural State. The natural beauty of our state is an inspiration.”
Ellen Moorhead Fennell
Like the other recipients, Ellen Moorhead Fennell of Little Rock is an Arkansas native and finds her induction into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame to be a surprise and honor. “I never expected it. There have been some women that have been leaders in conservation in the State of Arkansas and many of them are in the Hall of Fame, so I feel especially honored to be with that group,” she says. “The environmental field is not always the easiest for women to be a part of. I wonder if I deserve it, because some of those people have contributed a lot. So, at the end of a 30-year career, it’s very nice and fulfilling.”
Fennell’s career speaks for itself in regard to deserving the induction. In various roles with Audubon Arkansas, including vice president and executive director, Fennell was an outspoken advocate for native bird species, flyways and nesting habitat throughout Arkansas. During her tenure with the organization, she was instrumental in securing funding for several state initiatives including environmental programs in the state’s schools, water quality education, energy policy and habitat restoration.
Fennell helped establish The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arkansas, two big conservation agencies in the state that have a long-lasting future to protect birds and the environment.
“The Audubon is a conservation organization and it has a focus on birds. We’re concerned with habitat quality with birds, climate change and global warming,” Fennell says. She’s proud of Audubon’s work in the 40-year-old Christmas bird count where volunteers all over the state go out and count birds at the same time and places each year. “Nationally, we’ve found bird populations are moving further north, a good indicator of a warming planet, and we wouldn’t have been able to ascertain that in a scientific way without the help of all these volunteers,” she adds. “We work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on that.”
During her time with Arkansas Audubon, the organization also worked with the Sierra Club on renewable energy and founded an Audubon center at Granite Mountain in southeast Little Rock. It serves as office headquarters and an educational facility to teach school children about nature and animal habitats. “Audubon education staff also go to schools and work with kids on nature and gardening projects, teaching children about native pollinators, like insects and birds, water quality and what makes a healthy environment,” she explains.
“It’s a problem that kids stay indoors so much now. They’re on their computers and they don’t have the connection with the outdoors that kids used to have,” Fennell says. “It’s impossible to learn about nature when you’re just plugged into television or computers. That’s a lot of the reasons we have education centers. We don’t necessarily hunt or fish there, which I did a lot of when I was a kid, but we do things like bio-blitzes where the kids learn about different aspects of habitats. For example, they may go to a lake or a pond and drag a net through it to see what kind of critters they find, which indicates how healthy the water is. The more people know about nature, the deeper their appreciation and the more they enjoy it.”
Fennell says one of the most important things people can do is to enjoy nature with the children in their lives. “People protect what they love and they love what they value. That’s the secret to growing good conservationists.”
Jim Hinkle of Mountain View may have lived his whole life in a small town, but his thinking and his deeds have been big.
“I grew up in two family-owned businesses, but thank goodness I was raised by parents that truly believed in giving back,” says Hinkle. His parents supported his time spent volunteering on boards and performing community service.
He is proud to have served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “AGFC is the only commission in the State of Arkansas that you cannot be reappointed to. It’s one seven-year opportunity and that’s it,” he explains. “I came along at just the perfect time.”
He was appointed in July of ’96 and the 1/8th of a cent conservation tax passed the following November. “For the first time AGFC had additional funding. So many doors opened because of that. We have expanded the hatchery facilities in order to stock more fish in the state and purchased additional acreage for wildlife management areas for constituents in the state to be able to use,” Hinkle explains. Hunters and anglers aren’t the only ones to enjoy the benefits of the conservation tax. He says many watchable wildlife programs have been established as well as AGFC Nature Centers for kids and adults. “We were able to do a broad spectrum of things with this funding,” Hinkle says.
While he was with the commission, Hinkle had the opportunity to work with other groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Turkey Federation. He particularly enjoyed NWTF projects, including those that focused on women and young people in the outdoors. “There were just so many great projects that they were doing,” Hinkle explains. When his stint on the AGFC was over, he didn’t want to stop giving back and found a great opportunity with the turkey federation.
Hinkle served 14 years on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation, ultimately serving as president of the national chapter. During that time, he worked for the expansion and improvement of habitat throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada through various NWTF initiatives.
Community service and the outdoors have always been important to Hinkle. Born and raised in Mountain View, he has lived in this Ozark town all his life, except for the four years he spent at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Growing up in a rural town meant outdoors and hunting was a way of life.
“I grew up with a dad who loved quail hunting and pheasant hunting,” Hinkle says. “I grew up with a grandfather who loved it all. I learned to fish for many different variety of fish, and I’m located about seven miles from the beautiful White River that is known nationwide for its trout.”
He’s thankful for that upbringing and says kids today need a happy medium between time spent with technology and time in the outdoors. He’s proud that during his AGFC tenure there was an opportunity to establish youth days for hunting.
“Probably something that is staring us in the face nationwide is to get the youth involved in the outdoors,” he says. “The message should be to take a young person hunting or fishing or just to enjoy the outdoors. I hope we all accept the challenge to do so.”
Hinkle has certainly done his part, which is evident by his inclusion as an Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Inductee. “When I received the call I was very surprised, very humbled, very pleased,” he says. “I felt very honored but my first reaction was that I don’t belong in the group that has been inducted before me.”
He says it means even more to him because he has had the opportunity to work with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. “The foundation is extremely important,” he says. “The state game and fish commission is certainly limited in a lot of the things they can do being a state agency. So, fundraising is extremely important. [The Foundation’s] done an excellent job of supporting the commission.”
Randy Young grew up on his family’s dairy and poultry farm in Dover, Arkansas. Exploring the great outdoors was part of life. “I’m almost 70, so at the time I was growing up we still had quail in Arkansas and that’s what I enjoyed the most,” Young says.
He went on to work in a field that manages and protects the nature he grew up enjoying. Young joined the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission as an entry-level water resource engineer in 1971 and within four years was promoted to deputy director/chief engineer. In 1985 he was appointed executive director, a post he would hold under five governors over the next 31 years. He retired two years ago and counts among his accomplishments his work with conservations groups to fight erosion, floodwater and sediment damage that threatened fragile ecosystems.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is the number of people that have good quality drinking water,” Young says. “We financed well over a billion dollars on drinking water projects. And I’m proud of the work we did on water quality issues in Northwest Arkansas dealing with reducing phosphorus that got into the Illinois River watershed with those problems we had with Oklahoma. And I think we’re on track to address the over pumping of water in eastern Arkansas with the Grand Prairie Project and Bayou Meto.”
Young explains that partnering with local conservation districts in each county of Arkansas is extremely important to successful projects. “We’ve partnered extensively with them and partnered recently with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to update the state water plan,” Young adds. “That’s probably the last big project I finished before I retired.”
He’s been retired for two years now and is doing a lot of ranching. He advocates spending time in the outdoors. “Don’t take it for granted. Certainly get outside and enjoy it. It’s good for your health to do that,” he adds. “When I was a kid growing up in a rural setting on the family farm, there were always opportunities to get outside. My wife and I spend a good deal of time with our grandchildren and we encourage them to get outside.”
Young attributes the fact that he is being honored as a Hall of Fame inductee to the number of friendships and partnerships he has established around the country and the state. “A lot of my friends over my career went out of their way to help me,” he says. “It’s certainly an honor and one that I was quite surprised to receive. I want people to know how honored I feel to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”