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Blackburn Bluffs Preserve

County: Washington

Size: 300 Acres

Date Conserved: 2020                                       *Only open for land trust guided events

Blackburn Bluffs consists of 300 acres in southern Washington County, west of the Bobby Hopper tunnel on Interstate 49 and the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop. The property, named Blackburn Bluffs Preserve by the land trust, is adjacent to Rotten Bluff Hollow, a privately owned 725-acre tract the land trust protected working with supportive conservation buyers and a conservation easement agreement in late 2019. Together, the properties establish a 1,025-acre protected corridor for the movement of wildlife under the interstate. Permanent conservation of the two properties protects 2.5 miles of Blackburn Creek, a tributary in the Lee Creek Watershed that supplies drinking water for more than 200,000 people in the Fort Smith metro area.

The purchase is part of an ongoing strategic effort by the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust to establish a Boston Mountain Wildlife Corridor, aiming to connect publicly protected lands at Devil’s Den State Park and Ozark National Forest in the west to Ozark National Forest in the east.

The conservation of Blackburn Bluffs Preserve alongside Rotten Bluff Hollow forms an anchor for continued conservation efforts to the east and west. The land trust seeks to work with willing landowners in the proposed corridor to place voluntary conservation easements on private lands, as well as willing sellers who support the effort. The ultimate outcome will create a landscape-scale network of public and private conservation lands, linking the two tracts of Ozark National Forest. 

Within the target corridor are populations of endangered Ozark Big-eared Bats and Northern Long-eared Bats. Ozark Big-eared Bats are identified in the Arkansas State Wildlife Action Plan as critically imperiled with a ranking of S1, or extremely rare. The area also lies within the US Fish and Wildlife Service Consultation Area for Northern Long-eared Bats, a federally threatened species.

Additionally, this core is part of the viewshed for a designated scenic byway at the gateway to the region. The project area is visible from the interstate, the National Forest, and Devil’s Den State Park. Protection of the viewshed and wildlife habitat will help maintain a sustainable tourism industry in the region.

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