The LSU AgCenter's wildlife research programs will benefit from a $600,000 donation made by the Irene and C.B. Pennington Foundation.

The donation will lead to the establishment of the Pennington Chair for Wildlife Research, an endowed research position, at the LSU AgCenter's Bob R. Jones — Idlewild Research Station.

“We appreciate the generous donation of the Pennington family to establish this Chair in Wildlife Research,” said David Boethel, vice chancellor for research in the LSU AgCenter. “It will be a major step in establishing a nationally renowned research and educational program in wildlife management at the Bob R. Jones — Idlewild Research Station.”

In addition to the initial donation, LSU AgCenter officials have applied for another $400,000 in matching funds from the Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund administered by the state board of regents. If received, that funding would complete a $1 million endowment for this position.

Boethel and Dearl Sanders, professor and coordinator of the Bob R. Jones — Idlewild Research Station, said they look forward to conducting a national search to identify an eminent scientist to provide leadership for such research efforts.

Both men pointed out that wildlife enterprises contribute handily to Louisiana's economy and range from hunting leases to “game ranching,” where wildlife such as white-tailed deer are raised in fenced areas.

“Wildlife enterprises support in excess of 12,000 jobs and have a total economic effect of $1.2 billion annually for Louisiana,” Boethel said. “The direct benefit to rural landowners, as well as the state's economy, is multifold.”

Approximately 29 percent of Louisiana's available land is leased for hunting — including 8 million acres leased for either waterfowl or upland game hunting in 2006.

“Hunting leases have tripled in the past 15 years, giving rural timber owners an immediate source of income,” Boethel explained.

The LSU AgCenter administrators also say game ranching in Louisiana is flourishing — with 250 licensed white-tailed deer farmers and 30,000 acres under high fence for such purposes. Since 2001, there has been a 140 percent increase in licensed deer farmers and a 400 percent increase in acres fenced.

Such game farming enterprises were among the connections that led to the donation for a Wildlife Chair in the LSU AgCenter, according to Sanders.

“The driving force behind the donation was Darryl Pennington, grandson of C.B. and Irene Pennington,” Sanders said, adding, “He is a strong supporter of wildlife research being an avid hunter and fisherman.”

Sanders said Darryl Pennington's ties to the Bob R. Jones — Idlewild Research Station come primarily through the Bob R. Jones family, since both are major landowners in East Feliciana Parish. But he said Darryl Pennington also had visited the station several times to look at its captive deer herd, since he has a captive herd nearby.

“Darryl was aware of our interest in establishing a Wildlife Research Institute based out of the station, and he said he would like to support it financially,” Sanders explained.

Those discussions eventually led to the initial donation from the Pennington family foundation earlier this year (January 2008).