LITTLE ROCK — Morale among employees of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has improved dramatically over the past 18 months, an extensive survey by a Virginia-based company showed Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — Morale among employees of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has improved dramatically over the past 18 months, an extensive survey by a Virginia-based company showed Thursday.


The state Game and Fish Commission received the report this week from Mark Duda, head of Responsive Management Inc., of Harrisonburg, Va. The survey was a follow-up of one done in 2012 in which Game and Fish workers were harshly critical of some commissioners and administrators.


Both surveys were done with employees’ identities kept secret.


"Results from the new survey are notable for confirming how sharply opinion at the agency has changed within a relatively short amount of time," Duda said. "Employee ratings increased, often dramatically, in each category of survey questions and across each commission division."


The results come as welcome news to the commission after a much-publicized 2012 survey revealed apparent widespread discontent within the agency, Duda said.


"The new survey, by contrast, suggests a markedly more positive atmosphere at the commission today, thanks in part to new leadership," he said.


Two commissioners and a director who drew fire from employees in the 2012 survey have left the agency.


Mike Knoedl was elevated to director by the commissioners after the 2012 survey. Knodel said that the survey’s results helped kick off a series of meetings around the state, at which he met face-to-face with employees.


"Our employees were brutally honest with the last survey," he said. "I wanted our employees to know that I was sincere when I looked them in the eyes and said, ‘I need your help to make this agency better than it was yesterday. You have to help me do that, and your opinion counts.’"


In other action Thursday, the commission:


—Gave a go-ahead to plans for purchasing a site at Jasper for building a new facility for the Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum. Rent has nearly doubled at the present site and parking is inadequate, the commissioners were told.


—Approved an agreement with the city of Warren for building a shooting range. The range will be open to the public and also will be used in the AGFC’s youth shooting sports activities. Estimated cost is $242,000, with federal grants paying much of it.


—Authorized a reimbursement to The Nature Conservancy for restoration work on the channelized Cache River near Clarendon.


—Recognized wildlife officers James Montgomery, Chesley Sigman and William Stark for completing training at the Criminal Justice Institute of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


—Recognized Kirsten Barlow, AGFC’s watchable wildlife coordinator, for being named Arkansas Trails Council Professional of the Year.