MOUNTAIN HOME — Ron Pierce closed his final meeting as chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, leaned back and smiled. It was a smile of satisfaction. His term ends June 30.
Pierce served on the Commission from mid-2006 and was involved in and witnessed a variety of changes, achievements and — at times — some tumult. He worked with three directors of the AGFC in his term.
Mere minutes after his last meeting ended, Pierce made a concise assessment of the commissioners. "Every one of these men is successful. Every one of them wants to do things and have ideas, and they work to carry out those ideas."
A major achievement for Pierce is close to home for him. The long-sought minimum flow of water for trout management on the White and North Fork rivers is becoming a reality. Trout fishing is a major economic factor in the White, close to where Pierce has lived most of his life.
Pierce’s origins were at Nowata, Okla., and he began his professional career as a plastics engineer for Phillips Petroleum Co., in Bartlesville, Okla. He took the knowledge of working with plastics to Mountain Home and a key position with Baxter Travenol Laboratories. Later he and his wife Jan founded the company that produces BassCat bass boats.
Pierce competed in a number of national bass tournaments and was a member of the Bass Research Foundation. He was Mountain Home’s mayor for 10 years, 1976 to 1986, a period of impressive growth for the north Arkansas city.
Pierce helped in a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore Arkansas River backwater habitat. He helped authorize the funding to renovate Spring River Dam and approved the Arkansas Aquatic Nuisance Species Plan. He also helped with trout habitat projects on the Beaver, Bull Shoals, Narrows and Norfork tailwaters.
Pierce pointed to the AGFC’s annual budget as a key to operations that touch on a myriad of different topics. "We (commissioners) have to know the budget, and we have to keep a close eye on the spending. That is why I appointed Ty Patterson to the Budget Committee. He’s learning about the finances of Game and Fish."
Patterson, of Texarkana, was named in February to fill out a 16-month term remaining when a commissioner resigned.
Pierce said, "People think we have all this gas money coming in, and we don’t." Leases with Chesapeake Energy for drilling rights on two WMAs produced $32 million, but gas production has not started on AGFC land. Some royalties are coming to the agency from adjoining sections with producing wells.
The lease money did fund numerous conservation programs, facility renovations and new projects. AGFC has also provided grants to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for additional inspectors in the Fayetteville Shale to protect wildlife in the lease areas.
Early in Pierce’s term as a commissioner, he joined the others in opening Arkansas’ first alligator hunting season in 2007.
Jan Pierce, a co-owner with Ron of the company that builds BassCats, attended Commission meetings and many other AGFC events with her husband. The Pierces have a son, two daughters and eight grandchildren.