The Arkansas Forestry Commission was established with the passage of Act 234 by the 1931 session of the Arkansas Legislature. The mission of the AFC is to protect Arkansas’s forests, and those who enjoy them, from wildland fire and natural hazards while promoting rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development and conservation for all generations of Arkansans.
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. Wildland firefighters are carefully trained in prevention and suppression efforts. Generations of school children have learned how to prevent wildfires with visits from Smokey Bear and AFC Rangers. The Arkansas FireWise program leads the state in recognized communities - and is a program solely dedicated to wildfire prevention in communities, by communities.
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.
The AFC is also a leader in forest and land management, stewardship, and forest conservation efforts. County Foresters and Rangers work with non-industrial private landowners to manage for forested property. Since 1991, AFC Foresters have worked with more than 1,150 landowners. The AFC is also a great resource for forest industry directories, consultant foresters, arborists, and several conservation and stewardship programs - including Tree City, USA.
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.