Riding Shotgun 
AGFF a key partner in Arkansas’s outdoors

By Dwain Hebda

Youth shooting sports are just one way AGFF is attracting the next generation into the outdoors.

Youth shooting sports are just one way AGFF is attracting the next generation into the outdoors.

 

As the fundraising arm of the AGFC, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation (AGFF) provides a critical link between the sporting public and the programs that protect and enhance wild spaces. 

“There’s no question there’s a need for a supporting organization that has a little more opportunity to fill the short-term gaps for something as big as a state agency, with that much complexity, with taxpayer dollars involved and government oversight,” said John Rutledge, regional president with First Security Bank in Little Rock and chairman of the AGFF board.

“There’s a lot of steps and processes and checks and balances and procedures, and rightfully so, in those type of organizations. But sometimes you need a partner that’s there to help you fill gaps.”

The AGFF raises money to support AGFC initiatives through the Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet in August, the Duck Stamp Print program and other development activities, managing these efforts with a staff of just two full-time employees. Rutledge said the focus of Foundation activities changes with the needs of the AGFC.

“I’m not sure you can point to one [initiative] without having to really cover the waterfront,” he said. “The focus at that time was what was important to the commission at that time. Right now, we want to create a state championship-type bass fishing championship for high schoolers. which I think is awesome. 

“Six years ago, it was focusing on our youth shooting sports program being the fastest-growing, most successful thing we had going in Arkansas. We had an opportunity to step in and provide a major fundraising resource for building a shooting complex in Jacksonville to host statewide tournaments, regional tournaments and give kids a place to compete.”

Rutledge said even as the programs it helps support grow, most rank-and-file citizens of Arkansas have no idea of the AGFF’s purpose or function, something the organization is working to correct. 

“I would say the majority of outdoorsmen in Arkansas don’t necessarily understand the organization, it’s relationship with the commission and its primary function,” he said. “I see that as a great opportunity for the foundation, a positive opportunity. When we speak about how it all works, it’s an enlightening experience for those like me who are outdoorsmen, who are passionate about the outdoors and care about it. When that happens, many will want to help participate in the work that we’re doing.”