Land Conservation and Inclusiveness – Working Together to Preserve Quality of Life

Ed Clifford, NWALT founding board member, discusses the importance of community conservation for quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.

Chances are, even if you have been in Northwest Arkansas a short time, you’ve heard the name Ed Clifford, and benefited from his community service spanning over three decades.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, and recruited to Walmart Stores Inc. in 1984 as a buyer, he sees similarities in the roles he has played and initiatives he leads today. “The key to success in any endeavor is building relationships and demonstrating trustworthiness,” says Ed. “As others develop confidence in you, you are given an even greater opportunity to serve. It all works together.”

As Ed artfully blended his 17-year Walmart career with community service for dozens of organizations including the Bentonville Rotary Club, the first rendition of Downtown Bentonville Inc. and later as CEO of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber and now over the Jones Center – he pioneered or championed what’s become a national and important local conversation about quality of life.

While Ed appreciates preserving nature for nature’s and wildlife’s sake alone, he sees exponential value in how land conservation contributes to quality of life. “Quality of life is all the things that make a community a great place to live, start a business, raise a family or retire. We have some great anchor employers in our area and new enterprises cropping up that will need a talented workforce. We need next generation leaders committed to creating a future equal to if not better than the one we envision today as well as vibrant main street small businesses, which also contribute to exciting community centers. The NWA Land Trust is playing a key role in both our area’s economic development as well as our culture and preservation strategies.”

The NWA Land Trust has grown and benefited from Ed’s vision and collaborative approach. “It’s exciting and rewarding to see the progress we’ve made over the past 14 years for the NWALT in securing support through land donations, staff and board recruitment as well as complementary program development including the NWA Open Space Plan.”  We need to continue to educate current and future generations about the value we can create for the community as well remain open to diverse perspectives and cultures to ensure our work is relevant and inclusive, reflecting the broader NWA community. It all works together.”

For more information about becoming a Member of the NWA Land Trust, property donations, planned gifts or other contributions, stewardship and volunteering, please contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org.

Calendar of Events

We’re hosting several events, programs and volunteer opportunities this Fall. Check out our schedule and mark your calendars!

September 11 – Kessler Classroom Garden Work Day 

6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Historic Ozark Smokehouse

Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty? Join us as we work in our native plant garden preparing for the fall. We will be weeding and mulching our perennial plants.

The native plant gardens at the Kessler Mountain Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center are a key educational tool for the facility. They teach about the importance of pollinators, the benefits of native plant landscaping, and their impact on water quality. They are also beautiful throughout the growing season.

September 16 – Kessler Classroom Open House

9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the Historic Ozark Smokehouse

Join us in exploring the Kessler Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center as we learn all about birds! This family-friendly program will feature crafts and activities in the Nature Center and a guided hike 10:00 a.m. Bring your own binoculars!

September 16 – Bats and Bluegrass hosted by Illinois River Watershed Partnership

4:00-9:00 p.m. at the Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary

Come out to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP)’s Sanctuary for the 5th Annual Bats & Bluegrass event. Family-friendly outdoor activities including nature hikes, fishing, and canoeing start at 4 p.m. Live music will begin at 6 p.m. At dusk (around 8:30 p.m.), you’ll get a chance to watch the gray bats exit Cave Springs Cave. For more information, email contact@irwp.org or visit http://www.irwp.org/.

September 30 – Town Branch Preserve Cleanup

9:00-11:00 a.m. at Town Branch Trail, Fayetteville

Join us as we work to cleanup one of our urban pocket preserves along the Town Branch multi-use trail to improve water quality and habitat on the property. We will bring gloves and trash bags. Please wear closed-toe shoes. Parking is available on the West side of Spectrum Apartments, along Horizon Way. Please RSVP by contacting sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org.

Town Branch Preserve is located along the Town Branch multi-use trail in Fayetteville. This small 0.7-acre property protects riparian habitat along Town Branch Creek, which flows into the West Fork of the white River, a major tributary of Beaver Lake, the primary source of drinking water in Northwest Arkansas. It also provides habitat for local wildlife and offers a scenic backdrop for trail users.

October 7 – Wilson Springs Preserve Cleanup

9:00-11:00 a.m. at Wilson Springs Preserve, Fayetteville

Join the effort to improve habitat at Wilson Springs Preserve. The land trust is seeking volunteers to pick up litter on the property as part of our stewardship program for the preserve. This work day will help prepare the site for upcoming restoration work.

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 9 am 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.

October 14 – Kessler Trail Run hosted by Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association

9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Kessler Mountain

Come out to the best trail race in NWA! Option to run a 10K or 20K. Race goes by some of the best trails in NWA, including Rock City. Doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced trail runner or if this is your first trail run, you are sure to enjoy this race!

Register here: https://app.regwiz.io/register/kessler/236

Oh and did we mention they have the BEST after party?!

 October 15 – The Big Sit

1:00-5:00 p.m. at Wilson Springs Preserve, Fayetteville

In honor of the beloved tailgating tradition in college football, we are hosting a tailgating party for birders at our Big Sit at Wilson Springs Preserve! Birdwatchers of all skill levels are invited to join us for free food and drink as we watch the birds at this unique and vital wetland habitat. Local experts will lead guided hikes and demonstrate bird sampling techniques. Bring a chair and binoculars. Please RSVP by contacting sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org.

Second Annual LandWise Win-Win Workshops Conclude in Northwest Arkansas

Workshops Led to Productive Conversations About Regional Land Conservation

We recently hosted our second annual Conservation Win-Win Workshops in Benton and Washington Counties. These workshops serve as a forum for community decision makers – elected officials, municipal planners, civil engineers, landscape architects, developers, and others – to discuss the mutual benefits of conservation-minded development for both people and the environment in Northwest Arkansas.

This year, presentations featured practical examples and resources for creating more profitable and longer lasting projects while improving the community through preservation of landscapes, watersheds and wildlife. Presenters from both local and state agencies highlighted the importance of open space for quality of life, and gave updates on current conservation efforts, like the Northwest Arkansas Open Space Plan.

Seth Mims, Partner and President of Specialized Real Estate Group, presented the importance of working with the landscape to design better residential developments that foster a sense of community while protecting our natural resources. He advocated for the inclusion of preserved open space in all development projects and gave case studies from across the country. Theo Witsell, botanist and ecologist with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, explained how they collect and provide important biological data on rare and sensitive plant and animal species throughout the state. This data is critical for protecting species diversity and prioritizing land conservation. James McCarty, Manager of Water Quality at Beaver Water District, presented on how strategic land conservation protects water quality in the region, and Elizabeth Bowen from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission discussed the future of the NWA Open Space Plan.

After the presentations, a panel of conservation professionals from state and local conservation organizations answered questions about the opportunities and challenges for conservation in Northwest Arkansas, and how they contribute to the overall conservation effort in the region.

We thank our sponsors, partners and presenters for another successful round of workshops, and look forward to working together to achieve more conservation win-win outcomes for our growing region.

Help Teach the Next Generation of Conservationists

Do you love working with kids and exploring the natural world?

We are seeking volunteer educators to help continue and expand our environmental education program. The Kessler Mountain Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center, located at our headquarters in the Historic Ozark Mountain Smokehouse in Fayetteville, is a local community conservation program that hosts field trips and special events throughout the year. Our mission is to grow the next generation of conservationists through research, outreach and education. Currently, all 3rd grade students in Fayetteville participate in a half-day field trip hiking and connecting with nature, and the land trust is working to expand to other nearby schools.

We need volunteer educators to help lead field trips for our growing number of schools. Training is provided. With your help, we can grow this program and offer experiences to students in other communities and schools throughout the region. For more information, contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org.

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.