Category Archives: News

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.

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.

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.

Public Access Planning Underway for Wilson Springs Preserve

Wilson Springs Preserve to Provide Outdoor Enrichment Through Sustainable Access Planning

We have begun the planning process for providing public access to our Wilson Springs Preserve, a 121-acre wet-prairie remnant located behind Sam’s Club in Fayetteville.

Guy Hedland, Landscape Architect for the National Park Service RTCA Program and advisory board member for the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust speaks to Landscape Architecture students at Wilson Springs Preserve.

Wilson Springs will be an excellent “ambassador site” for the land trust to provide site interpretation, conservation education and recreational access for all members of the community. In collaboration with the University of Arkansas’ Department of Landscape Architecture, Department of Biological Engineering, the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program and others, we are studying the issues and opportunities presented by such a concept and ultimately hope to develop a public access plan that will be considerate of neighbors, safe for users, and sustainable within the unique habitats that are found on the property.

We thank our collaborators for providing their expertise as we embark on this exciting process!

Students from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Landscape Architecture shared their artistic interpretations of the site through temporary on-site installations as part of the public access planning process.

We are hosting a stakeholder input session on Monday, February 13 from 6:30-8:00pm at Holcomb Elementary (2900 N Salem Drive Fayetteville, AR 72704). Please join us to hear more about the site and the project and share your thoughts with us so that we may consider them moving forward.

For more information, please contact us at 479-966-4666. For more information on the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program, please visit www.nps.gov/rtca

Pam Nelson Joins NWALT Staff

Northwest Arkansas Land Trust Welcomes New Program Assistant

We’re excited to welcome Pam Nelson as our newest staff member! Pam started working with the land trust as a weekly volunteer, and was recently hired as staff to offer assistance with some of our LandWise program efforts.

Pam has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from University of North Texas and a Master’s in Applied Geography with a focus on Environmental Studies from Texas University. For her master’s research, she completed a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for Texas State University and analyzed strategies to reduce emissions at the University. Pam has been an invaluable resource for us as a volunteer and is already demonstrating passion and work ethic in this new position.

 

Learn more about Pam and the rest of our staff by visiting our Staff Page.

Historic Johnson Farm Property Protected Forever

Conservation Easement Forever Protects Historic Family Property at the Base of Kessler Mountain

The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is proud to announce the permanent protection the “Historic Johnson Farm”, a 168-acre property at the base of Kessler Mountain near Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The landowner, Ms. Anne Prichard, sought to ensure that the property which has been in her family for three generations would remain intact for generations to come.  Through a permanent conservation easement with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, her wishes have been met and this historic land is protected forever.

There are many reasons why the protection of this landmark property is an important conservation success for our region.  It is highly ranked in the Open Space Plan for Benton and Washington Counties due to its cultural, historic, wildlife, scenic and water quality values.  The property was acquired by the Johnson family in the early 1900’s.  The striking white barn is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the subject of a painting by acclaimed watercolor artist, George Dombek.  The barn and Ms. Prichard have been featured on local PBS station AETN’s “Back Road Barns” program.  The historic and cultural significance of the property is further advanced by the presence of the family’s original home, rebuilt by Ms. Prichard’s father in the 1920’s, and the old pear and apple orchards which are reminders of Northwest Arkansas’ once thriving fruit production.

The property is also important for wildlife.  With three undeveloped, forested tracts, including Round Top Mountain, a prominent landmark in the scenic viewshed of Fayetteville, the property provides important habitat for native plants and animals.  It is also a link between other conserved lands, including the city of Fayetteville’s 384-acre Kessler Mountain Reserve, which is also forever protected by a conservation easement held by the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. Connectivity of protected land helps prevent habitat fragmentation and provides the space and safe passage between habitat areas that wildlife need to survive.

Water quality preservation is another important benefit of the protection of this property.  Partially located in both the Illinois River and White River Watersheds, a spring-fed pond on the property serves as the headwaters of Cato Springs Branch, a tributary of the West Fork of the White River which feeds into Beaver Lake.  Land trust partner, Beaver Water District, contributed stewardship funding in support of the project, helping to enable the conservation of this land for the protection of water quality in Beaver Lake, the drinking-water source for more than 450,000 residents in Northwest Arkansas.

The protection of a “Greater Kessler Mountain Corridor” is a top priority for the land trust and this historic property is the newest contribution towards that vision to protect a connected landscape from Washington, Kessler, Miller and Stevenson Mountains.  This “green corridor” will protect wildlife, scenic values, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation to our community.  Connectivity of green space is also an important component of our effort to increase “climate resiliency” in the region, enabling local ecosystems to persist in the face of climatic change.

We thank Ms. Anne Prichard and her son Mr. Timothy Dallett for their commitment to conservation and for the important legacy they are leaving our community.   And we thank the Walton Family Foundation for their generous support of our LandWise Initiative, through which we continue working to increase the pace of conservation of special places like this one in our growing region. We look forward to working with other landowners that seek to protect their land in the Greater Kessler Mountain Corridor and throughout Northwest Arkansas.

If you are a landowner that would like to discuss your options for conserving your land, please contact us by phone: 479-966-4666 or email: info@nwalandtrust.org.

New Flint Creek Headwaters Preserve Donated to the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust

Flint Creek Headwaters Preserve Protects Water Quality, Public Enjoyment and Threatened Species

Thanks to a generous donation from conservation-minded landowner, Mr. John Wasson, seven acres of pristine habitat along Flint Creek in Springtown, Arkansas have been protected forever as our newest Preserve. The property and surrounding parcels have belonged in Mr. Wasson’s family for generations. He recalls learning to swim in the cool deep pools and jumping from limestone outcroppings that border the stream.

Land trust staff and board tour property with Mr. John Wasson (center).

Mr. Wasson donated the property to the land trust to ensure that it was forever protected and made available to residents of and visitors to Springtown for many more generations to come.

In accordance to Mr. Wasson’s wishes, the land trust will be developing a plan in 2017 to allow public access for “quiet pedestrian and educational” use, while ensuring the protection and proper stewardship of wildlife habitat on the property. Additional acreage may be added to the Preserve in the future.

The property includes a wooded riparian buffer along spring-fed Flint Creek, which is a tributary of the Illinois River. Riparian corridors protect water quality by slowing runoff and preventing excessive streambank erosion. They also provide habitat to a wide variety of plants and animals, and serve as important migration corridors for wildlife to move between habitat areas.

Flint Creek Headwaters Preserve includes seven acres of wooded riparian habitat in Springtown, AR.

A cave on the Preserve has been documented by The Nature Conservancy with small population of Ozark cave fish, a species that is listed as federally threatened. The land trust will be working with TNC and other local and state experts to further document, monitor and protect this and other species of unique plants and animals on the Preserve.

Due its conservation value, this property ranked highly in the Open Space Plan for Benton and Washington Counties. “Open space” refers to undeveloped natural lands such as forests, streams, prairies, parks, farms, and heritage sites. The Plan identifies those areas that are most important for conservation in our growing region. The land trust continues to partner with the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission and other regional partners to identify and protect this and other special places, before it is too late.

In addition to donating the property, Mr. Wasson provided funding towards the ongoing stewardship of the Preserve, an essential component of our perpetual land protection mission. A matching contribution was made by the Walton Family Foundation due to their support of the Open Space Plan and of our efforts to protect significant lands in Northwest Arkansas.

Protecting Birds – By Jenny Holt

How to Help Protect Bird Species in Arkansas

Freelance writer Jenny Holt has provided these thoughtful tips for how to promote bird conservation in Northwest Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust works to protect birds and their habitats in the region, and we appreciate Jenny for sharing this information with us!

Arkansas boasts of 550,000 acres of hardwood forest making the area the perfect home for several species of birds. It boasts of over 300 sightings of bird species including Sabine’s Gull and Parasitic Jaeger. In addition, it is the perfect pit-stop for migratory birds on their way to nest or escape harsh winters to places or countries with milder climates.

Declining Species

The red-cockaded woodpecker is an endangered species that can be found in old-growth pine forests in southeastern Arkansas

The state is not only an important home and stopover for migratory birds, it also boasts of ongoing conservation efforts. At present, there are several species of wildlife that are endangered including birds. Affected bird species that are on the decline are the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and Interior Least Tern.

Causes of Dwindling Bird Populations

There are many causes of birth deaths including lost or degraded habitats due to agriculture and land development as well as natural causes. Another source of bird morbidity is collisions with man-made structures such as buildings, poles or windows. Sadly, there are nearly a billion bird deaths in the US associated with glass collisions endangering migratory species and reducing local populations.

What You Can Do to Help

Everyone can pitch in to help birds sustain their numbers. If you are a homeowner, you can create habitat by planting native trees, bushes and flowers. Erect bird baths and birdhouses as well as bird and nectar feeders. To reduce glass collisions, make sure your windows are visible to birds by putting a screen, installing UV decals, hanging curtains and drawing shutters.  Bird tapes are also effective in making windows visible as well as drawing on the glass with tempera markers.

At nighttime, draw curtains or turn off the lights. You can also volunteer at bird conservation groups such as Audubon Arkansas or Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society to help monitor species or assist in caring for injured birds.

Volunteers support bluebird populations at Wilson Springs Preserve in Fayetteville

Education of your kids and family members begins at home. You can never stress enough the importance of the value of wildlife and birds. They help balance the ecosystems, pollinate plants, scatter seeds and nourish our spirits.

Another place where you can offer your free time is through land trusts that are mandated to preserve and protect lands, forests, mountains as well as wildlife habitat. The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust offers several opportunities to get involved with bird conservation. You can also advocate for land conservation and wildlife protection as well as contribute to nature programs.

At the office, switch off lights and close blinds. Studies show that birds are attracted by lights which result to deadly collisions and crashes. In short, there are many ways to get involved as a citizen for bird protection.

 

 

Jenny Holt  is a freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it all and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, and taking some time to enjoy nature, as well as writing about saving it, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.

Land Trust Staff Survey Groundwater Resources on Kessler Mountain

Groundwater Survey to Evaluate Water Quality Impact of Kessler Mountain Reserve

With support from the Beaver Watershed Alliance, land trust staff have initiated a groundwater resource survey on the Beaver Lake Watershed portion of the 386-acre Kessler Mountain Reserve, Fayetteville’s newest public natural recreation area. As part of the survey, we are taking an inventory of the springs and seeps on the mountain to better understand the groundwater resources on the reserve, an important component of watershed protection for this region’s drinking water source.

Forested lands like Kessler Mountain are important areas for recharging groundwater, a vital component of a healthy watershed. As precipitation falls on the land, some of that water percolates underground, into the water table below.  Through this process, the flow of runoff is slowed and sediment is filtered, helping to clean the water. When land is cleared or developed with impervious surfaces such as rooftops and parking lots, however, water is unable to filter into the soil and surface runoff is increased, leading to erosion and pollution of our waterways.

The Ozark zigzag salamander, Plethodon angusticlavius, is a species of special concern that has been documented in groundwater sources on Kessler Mountain

The springs and seeps that land trust staff have found are important indicators of groundwater quality.  In addition, they provide important habitat for flora and fauna on the Reserve, like the Ozark zigzag salamander, pictured right.  Our survey will include water quality testing at each site, as well as an inventory of the plants and animals that are found there. The results of the study will increase our understanding of the role of groundwater on the Reserve and can be used to inform land management practices by the city of Fayetteville and its partners.

Surveys like this are an important aspect of our land stewardship program. Through our LandWise Initiative, we are working with landowners in key conservation priority areas, including the Greater Kessler Mountain landscape, to save land in this important mountain corridor habitat.   In turn, and with the support of partners like the Beaver Watershed Alliance, we help to preserve water quality for the benefit of the community for generations to come.

If you are a landowner that wants to learn more about how protecting your land can enhance water quality in the region, send us a message or give us a call: 479.966.4666.

 

 

NWALT Joins #GivingTuesday

One-Day Event to Raise Donations for Land Conservation in NWA

2016-gt-logo-wdate1The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is excited to join the #GivingTuesday movement, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Occurring this year on November 29, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

We have joined #GivingTuesday in order to encourage our supporters and the community to rally around land protection at a time when natural landscapes in the region are at risk of disappearing forever. We are dedicated to saving land in our growing region by working with landowners and community partners to find win-win solutions for conservation, protecting wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, and places for people to enjoy the outdoors.  And as an accredited land trust, you can be sure the lands entrusted to us will be protected forever.  But we can’t do our work without the financial support of our community.

When you support your local land trust, your money will stay right here in Northwest Arkansas, preserving the special places that matter most to you and the people of our region. We encourage you to pledge your support to local land conservation this year on November 29th by giving online at www.nwalandtrust.org/donate.

For more details about the national #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website (www.givingtuesday.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday) or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.