The Arkansas Forestry Commission was established with the passage of Act 234 by the 1931 session of the Arkansas Legislature. AFC works with agencies, organizations and residents to prevent and suppress wildfires, control forest insects and disease, grow and distribute trees, and gather and disseminate information concerning the growth, use and renewal of forests.
The Commission hired the first State Forester for Arkansas, Charles A. Gillett, on May 23, 1933. Gillett served through 1939, and was followed by Fred H. Lang (1939-1967), Virgil W. Cothren (1967-1971), Billy G. Gresham (1971-1980), Michael P. Mety (1980-1984), Edwin E. Waddell (1984-1993), John T. Shannon (1994-2012), and Joseph S. Fox (2012 to present).
Since 1935, AFC crews have suppressed more than 225,000 wildfires. Generations of schoolchildren have learned how to prevent wildfires with visits from Smokey Bear and AFC Rangers.
In addition to wildfire suppression, AFC crews respond to all other natural disasters, from tornadoes to ice storms to floods. Crews are often called upon to clear roadways to allow emergency access, and organize incident command centers used to provide a staging area for emergency responders.
When not responding to emergencies, AFC County Foresters and Rangers work with non-industrial private landowners to manage for their forested property. Since 1991, AFC Foresters have worked with more than 1,150 landowners to help them earn Forest Stewardship recognition.
AFC also provides forest tree seedlings at a low cost to ensure the availability of species for reforestation projects at Baucum Nursery in North Little Rock. Since 1935, more than 1.23 billion trees have been grown and distributed.