Renowned for sparkling streams, rivers and lakes as well mountains, valleys and woodlands – Arkansas boasts natural amenities that offer something for everyone. Since the turn of the century, when Roosevelt placed a priority on America’s natural resources and Arkansas Game & Fish Commission was established, the agency has worked tirelessly to conserve and preserve the state’s fish and wildlife. Civic leaders, like Yvette Parker, recognize the intrinsic value of the great outdoors. During her tenure as an Arkansan and service on the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation, she has realized more + more opportunities to engage in the offerings of the Natural State.
A California native, Yvette moved to the state after meeting her husband Andrew Parker. She remembers enjoying California’s rugged landscape throughout her childhood, but “there was no hunting or fishing – that was all new.” Andrew was appointed to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission by Governor Beebe and is currently chairman. “We often say, when in doubt ask the Eagle Scout! That’s Andrew, he knows every nook and cranny of Arkansas,” Yvette jokes. The initial introduction to “all things Arkansas” definitely included some surprises. She recalls her first experience with a 20 gauge shotgun and laughs, “It was opening morning of dove season and the force of the gun knocked me off my bucket seat.”
Yvette was immediately impressed by the commitment and expertise of Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. “The staff of biologists, education specialists and wildlife officers is so knowledgeable. It was the perfect way to learn about all there is to do in Arkansas. Not to mention, my female friends who are outdoor enthusiasts encouraged me.” Yvette’s West Coast vibe is undeniable; her unpretentious perspective and willingness to give just about anything a try made the decision to attend a Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop in 2015 easy. “During that weekend – I received my ATV permit, baited a fish hook, trailered a boat, honed my archery skills and shot a shotgun. Just the basics, but it was a great introduction to recreational activities that Arkansas Game & Fish Commission supports.”
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission remains a beacon for wildlife education as well as responsible + sustainable utilization of resources. Its legacy includes wildlife and habitat protection with a finite focus on accessibility to all Arkansans. Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Director Pat Fitts elaborates, “The more people understand, the more they will respect – that is why an essential part of ensuring healthy wildlife populations involves people. We hope our public message generates awareness of ethical and sound management principles. We believe working with people of Arkansas is just as important a factor in managing wildlife as any other.”
The travel and social restrictions during the pandemic created a unique opportunity for the commission to restructure its virtual offerings and engage a broader demographic. Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Chief of Education Tabbi Kinion explains, “With more families spending time together and spending time outdoors, we’ve developed online courses that teach the basics of boating, fishing and hunting.” Yvette adds, “The proximity to literally hundreds of fun outdoor activities is amazing. Great trails and access to rivers and lakes are all within an hour of Central Arkansas and most are free.”
For nearly four decades, the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation continues its support of the commission, cultivating interest among Arkansas youth in the mission of Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. “My son Ben is the driving force behind my passion for the outdoors. I didn’t want to miss time with him so I learned to hunt, camp, hike, fish and get up early – turns out I love it all. His generation will be strong leaders for preservation of The Natural State.”