Connecting the Community to Conservation through Art and Exploration

Since its completion in last year, the Kessler Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center has served a growing number of students from nearby communities, including all 3rd grade students from Fayetteville and Farmington school districts. The program has expanded its reach to local community kids’ programs this Summer, including field trips with the Yvonne Richardson Community Center and the Bentonville Adventure Club. All field trips are curriculum-based, interactive and offered free of charge, making them accessible for underserved school districts.

Art in Nature has been a powerful theme for field trips this Summer. By connecting nature to tangible art forms, we make difficult environmental concepts easier to understand. Our curriculum focuses on engaging all the senses. Students build structures using natural materials, and paint rocks using leaves and flowers as inspiration. On the outdoor interpretive loop trail, kids search for colors in nature, smell flowers and listen for bird songs. These small assignments widen students’ perception of nature, and hopefully plant a seed that grows our next generation of conservationists.

Thanks to our partners and volunteers that make the Kessler Outdoor Classroom possible! Contact us if you would like to support the Outdoor Classroom’s mission to raise the next generation of conservationists through research, outreach and education.

12th Annual Secchi Day – Saturday, August 19 9am-1pm

Join our community partners to celebrate and study water quality on Beaver Lake!

Beaver Water District is hosting its 12th Annual Secchi Day at Prairie Creek Park in Rogers on Saturday, August 19th. This event is named for the Secchi Disk, a black and white device lowered into the water to measure clarity.

At this free community event, Beaver Water District’s community partners will offer activities for all ages, including a mobile aquarium, on shore scavenger hunt with prizes, free lunch and ice cream, kayak and Stand-up Paddle-Board test rides, microscope activities, and more. The land trust will be there participating in the fun!

We hope to see you there! Contact the Beaver Water District for more information: awilson@bwdh2o.org

2017 LandWise Conservation Win-Win Workshop

Strategies for achieving conservation win-win outcomes in our growing region

 

Registration is open for our 2nd annual Conservation Win-Win Workshop.

August 8, 2017 at Pratt Place Barn, Fayetteville, AR

10am-4:30pm followed by an onsite networking reception.

$35/participant; includes buffet lunch and reception, CEU’s and materials.

CEU support generously provided by education provider USGBC-Arkansas.

This workshop is designed for regional “decision-makers”, including city planners, real estate professionals, elected officials, and business and community leaders. Participants will learn from local professionals with practical examples and resources for creating more profitable and longer lasting projects while improving our communities through preservation of landscapes, watersheds and wildlife.

This year will feature presentations by Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, Beaver Water District, NWA Regional Planning Commission, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, and others. Afternoon panel will include a conversation with regional conservation partners including Beaver Watershed Alliance, Illinois River Watershed Partnership, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Watershed Conservation Resource Center, Arkansas Archaeological Society, The Nature Conservancy and Walton Family Foundation.

CEU’s Available: Each speaker session approved for 1 AIA LU SD/HSW and qualifies for 1 hour USGBC/GBCI (non LEED specific) for a total of up to five credit hours.

Space is limited! Register online today:

Washington County Win-Win Registration

Special thanks to Walton Family Foundation, Beaver Water District, Specialized Real Estate Group, and Beaver Watershed Alliance for their support. CEU support generously provided by education provider USGBC-Arkansas.

 

Featured image by Amanda Bancroft

FrogWatch Volunteer Training Workshop – Sunday, July 16 12-4pm

Join in the regional effort to protect frogs and toads through this citizen-science program

Join the land trust on Sunday, July 16 from 12pm-4pm for our next FrogWatch training workshop. The workshop will be held at the Hobbs State Park – Conservation Area Visitor Center (20201 AR-12 Rogers, AR 72756)

Through this volunteer certification training, you will learn the unique calls of 23 species of frogs that can be found in Arkansas. We will also discuss the importance of frogs and toads in our environment, and why they need our help. By completing the training, you will join the nationwide team of FrogWatch volunteers that contribute important population and activity data to the scientific community.

Citizen-science programs are an excellent way to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors in a new and interesting way. It is also a helpful resource for nonprofits like the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust to efficiently collect important data about the environment and enhance local conservation efforts for healthy wildlife habitat.  It’s also a great opportunity for current volunteers to explore new areas and support local conservation efforts.

Contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org or call 479.966.4666 to register for the training.

Climate Resiliency Defined

Protecting the Place We Call Home

Protecting land throughout Northwest Arkansas increases the climate resiliency of our region.

Climate resiliency is the ability of ecosystems to withstand the stress of changing climate conditions, such as increased temperature, extended periods of drought, and heavy precipitation events. The plants and animals found in our region are influenced by natural processes in the ecosystem – interactions between plants, animals and the environment, including pollination, seed dispersal, erosion and photosynthesis. When we experience extreme weather events, such as flooding or prolonged drought, these natural processes are disturbed. An ecosystem’s ability to bounce back from the stress caused by the disturbance determines its level of climate resiliency.

For example, heavy rainfall washes away soil and often causes trees to uproot. Or, certain animals may lose their breeding sites or food sources. Prolonged drought coupled with higher temperatures can cause plants to shrivel and die, which may lead to an inadequate food supply for wildlife. These changes stress our local habitats because plants and animals are adapted to a specific range of temperature and moisture conditions, and if habitat conditions change beyond their range, they either adapt, move to a new location, or their population decreases. If this happens, we risk losing the biodiversity that makes our region unique. Approximately 160 species found in the Ozarks occur nowhere else in the world.

Many landscape features in Northwest Arkansas display the climate resilient characteristics identified by researchers. Our limestone bedrock creates a calcium-rich soil that supports diverse plant species. Rock overhangs, bluffs, caves and north-facing slopes create habitats with lower temperatures than the surrounding area. These areas are abundant in our region and, if protected, could provide refuge for plants and animals seeking cooler temperatures.

Many of the landscape features that are important for climate resiliency throughout our region are also beloved by our families and friends. Tall bluffs create a sense of grandeur as we enjoy swimming, fishing and paddling on our rivers. Old-growth forests offer a place to sit quietly and reflect or watch the birds. Freshwater springs attract wildlife providing hunting opportunities, which in turn boosts the local economy. Saving our region’s climate resilient landscapes not only helps ensure a place for plants and animals to thrive in our region, but also preserves the majestic beauty of the place we call home.

Searching for Biodiversity at Whooping Hollow Woods

Land trust staff and local experts team up to survey plants and animals at Whooping Hollow Woods

Sonny Guraedy, who lives on the property, keeps her own records of natural occurrences on the land and was thrilled by the additional species surveyed.

Initial land protection is just the beginning of NWALT’s work to preserve and maintain critical natural landscapes in our region. Once a property is conserved in writing, ongoing stewardship starts with a baseline documentation of the condition of the property and continues with annual monitoring and partnering to care for the property.

Biomonitoring is a critical aspect of our land stewardship program. Species inventories are used to inform management of the property in an effort to retain biodiversity and to provide the highest quality habitat for wildlife – and the greatest benefit for people.

Whooping Hollow Woods is a 577-acre preserve in Carroll County, and is the largest NWALT-conserved property to date. Permanently protected in 2011, the property is a convergence of multiple conservation values, including wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, scenic views, and water quality. Mixed hardwood forests interspersed with open hillside pastures provide sweeping vistas of the surrounding Ozarks countryside.

This lush stream provides habitat for birds, salamanders, and plants that depend on sheltered bluffs to thrive.

NWALT staff and volunteer surveyors made a trip to Whooping Hollow Woods to document species of plants and animals that reside there. Joe Neal, NWALT Elder, retired biologist and local Ornithologist, joined to survey birds, along with Lorraine Heartfield, retired environmental consultant and NWALT board member, as well as Sonny Guraedy, in whose family the property has belonged for over 100 years.

Joe Neal observed about the property; “Lots of crazy stuff, in my opinion, passes for the Ozarks, but here and there I run across a place that strikes me as being the real thing, the real Ozarks.”

The survey documented a rich diversity of plants and animals, including birds like the yellow-billed cuckoo, ovenbird, Louisiana water thrush, and yellow-throated vireo. Damselfly nymphs and crayfish were observed in steams, indicating good water quality, and deep under a low rock overhang bordering a stream, two species of salamanders were documented, underscoring the hidden biodiversity of our Ozark forest habitats.

A wide array of undisturbed habitat on the property creates an environment where such a rich diversity of organisms can thrive. For example, small intermittent streams flanked by mossy bluffs and rock outcroppings are nestled between steep slopes that lead to more dry, upland oak forests along the ridges. Such a variation in habitat is increasingly important as climate change places additional stress on the ecosystem and wildlife.

This recent survey confirmed the value of such pristine Ozark forests for wildlife habitat and water quality. Thankfully, Whooping Hollow Woods is protected and will forever provide a home to many species. Future surveys will take place to help us better understand and steward this incredible preserve.

Two timber rattlesnakes were observed at Whooping Hollow Woods, indicating the undisturbed nature of the property.

Volunteer Appreciation Party  Thursday, May 18 6-8pm

We want to celebrate our volunteers!

As a community nonprofit, we heavily on volunteers to help us save land in Northwest Arkansas. Whether by removing invasive plants, picking up trash, assisting with educational programs or helping around the office, we couldn’t do our work without our dedicated volunteers.

To show our appreciation, we are hosting a pizza party for all of our volunteers, both past and present, on Thursday, May 18 at our headquarters at the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse, featuring Frank Sharp’s famous make-your-own wood fired pizzas. This evening will be a time to celebrate the hard work of our volunteers, and to thank them for their commitment to local land conservation.

If you plan to join us, please RSVP to sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org by May 12.

Wilson Springs Herp Hike with J.D. Willson – Friday, May 12 7-9pm

Explore Wilson Springs Preserve with University of Arkansas Herpetologist Dr. J.D. Willson

See Wilson Springs Preserve in a new light at this year’s night-time Herp Hike! “Herp” is short for Herpetology, which is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Dr. J.D. Willson, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, will be leading the hike through Wilson Springs to hunt for frogs, salamanders, snakes, and turtles.

Wilson Springs Preserve is an important habitat for frogs like the Cajun chorus frog and snakes like the Graham’s crayfish snake, which is a species of greatest conservation need. This hike is a great opportunity to explore the property in search of these and other fascinating creatures.

Meet at Vold Vision (2783 Shiloh Drive Fayetteville, AR 72701) at 7pm. Headlamp or flashlight is required. Mud boots are highly recommended, as we will be wading through water at times. Space is limited for this program, so please register by contacting sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org by May 11.

Frog Bayou Invasive Plant Removal – Saturday, March 18 9AM-5PM

Visit one of the land trust’s more remote properties while removing invasive plants from Frog Bayou Preserve

The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is seeking volunteers to help remove invasive plant species at the Frog Bayou Preserve. Nestled in the Boston Mountains near Winslow, Arkansas, Frog Bayou Preserve is home to retired English professor and poet John Rule. Mr. Rule has lived there since the 1960’s in an off-the-grid homestead.

Frog Bayou Preserve is a unique property that serves as a sanctuary for wildlife and preserves water quality along Frog Bayou. However, non-native invasive plant species are taking over portions of the property, threatening the native riparian habitat nearby. Volunteers will spend the day pulling and cutting invasive plants. Removing these invasive plants will help to protect the riparian area and give native species the chance to establish again.

We hope that you will join us for this volunteer trip to Frog Bayou Preserve. Meet at the Ozark Smokehouse (1725 Smokehouse Trail Fayetteville, AR 72701) at 9am, where we will carpool to the preserve. Tools, drinks and lunch will be provided. We will be back in Fayetteville by 5pm. Please RSVP by contacting sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org by March 16.

Wilson Springs Litter Pickup Day – Thu, March 9, 3pm – 6pm

Join the effort to improve habitat at Wilson Springs!

Join the effort to improve habitat at Wilson Springs Preserve on Thursday, March 9 from 3-6pm. The land trust is seeking volunteers to pick up litter on the property as part of our stewardship program for the preserve.

Wetlands like Wilson Springs provide a necessary function to the environment and people: they slow runoff and filter pollutants while providing important habitat for a variety of plants and animals. However, trash from surrounding areas tends to accumulate, causing damage to the ecosystem.

Meet us at 3pm at the Vold Vision parking lot (2783 N Shiloh Drive Fayetteville, AR 72701). Snacks, refreshments, gloves and tools will be provided. Please wear rubber boots, as it can be wet and muddy in places.

Please contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org to RSVP.