Category Archives: News

50 Acres on Washington Mountain Permanently Protected

Leflar Easement Preserves Land in Greater Kessler Mountain Conservation Priority Area

An additional 50 acres in Fayetteville has been forever protected thanks to Rob and Charles Leflar, who together donated a conservation easement with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. The property, which is adjacent to Finger Park in South Fayetteville, is made up of mixed hardwood forest on Washington Mountain. The steep slopes, sandstone bluffs and forest create valuable wildlife habitat and protect water quality in the Beaver Lake and Illinois River watersheds by providing the natural service of slowing the flow of surface water and allowing it to filter into the ground. It also protects the scenic viewshed behind urban development along MLK Boulevard.

The Leflar Easement falls within our Greater Kessler Mountain Priority Conservation Area, which is made up of Washington, Kessler, Stevenson and Miller mountains. The property, which is ranked in the Northwest Arkansas Open Space Plan, is part of NWALT’s vision to protect core habitat on these mountains. Core habitats serve an important role for native plants and animals, which depend on large tracts of land to meet their seasonal needs. The need for places like this will only increase as the climate continues to change. The Leflar property, with its north-facing aspect and sandstone bluffs, will provide important refuge for plants and animals as their environment changes. The preservation of this and other landscapes in our region is a key tool for creating a climate resilient landscape.

By protecting this largely undeveloped area in South Fayetteville, we can save a place for wildlife and plant diversity in our community in the face of rapid growth in the surrounding area. In turn, we will benefit from healthy, functioning ecosystems that continue to provide clean air and water, fertile soil, and quality of life for the region. We thank Rob and Charles Leflar for their lifelong support for local land conservation and for forever protecting their land with us.

If you would like to learn more about conserving your land with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, contact info@nwalandtrust.org.

200 Acres Preserved in the Illinois River Watershed

200 Acres of Farmland in Illinois River Watershed Permanently Protected through a Conservation Easement

We’re proud to announce that 200 acres of farm and forest in the Illinois River Watershed have been forever protected by the Davis Family, who recently donated a conservation easement on their property. The Smith Family Farm, named for Melinda Davis’ family who has lived on the property for over 80 years, is located along the Illinois River near Siloam Springs, which is under intense development pressure as the urban core of Northwest Arkansas continues to expand outward. By placing their land into a conservation easement with the land trust, the Davis family is forever preserving their legacy and the land they love.

The Smith Family Farm, which is highly-ranked in the NWA Open Space Plan, is a definite win for conservation in the region. The property also falls within our Illinois Headwaters Corridor Priority Area. This priority area, which connects the largely undeveloped Greater Kessler Mountain Priority Area to the U.S. Forest Service’s Wedington Wildlife Management Area, allows for necessary movement of wildlife between the two core natural areas. Through the preservation of properties like the Davis Family Farm, we are protecting water quality in the Illinois River, encouraging healthy wildlife habitat, and preserving the family farms and rural heritage of the region. Thanks to the Davis family, their land will continue to provide these benefits to the region for many generations to come –  a true benefit to the community.

If you would like to learn more about conserving your land with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, contact info@nwalandtrust.org.

NWALT Joins the 118th Christmas Bird Count

Volunteers Survey Birds as Part of Nationwide Citizen Science Program

Birdwatchers look for birds at the Historic Johnson Pear Farm during the Christmas Bird Count

On Sunday December 17, several volunteers joined land trust staff to participate in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), America’s longest-standing citizen-science program. The CBC, which first began in 1900, is organized by the Audubon Society and takes place across the country. The Christmas Bird Count has a rich history of bird conservation and research. As part of its biomonitoring program, the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust led a team of birders to survey NWALT-conserved properties within the Fayetteville Count Circle.

The NWALT team surveyed five properties and covered a wide variety of habitats. Two riparian restoration projects along the West Fork of the White River yielded waterfowl, belted kingfishers and great blue herons. At the Historic Johnson Farm, the team observed golden-crowned kinglets flitting from branch to branch in the old pear orchards and enjoyed hot cider and cookies, provided by landowner Anne Prichard and Ryan and Amanda Bancroft, who run Ripples and assist with stewardship of the property.

In the afternoon, the team hiked along the ridge-line on Kessler Mountain Reserve, where they saw woodpeckers, and warblers, despite wet and foggy conditions. Finally, just before dusk, the volunteers visited Wilson Springs Preserve, where they counted hundreds of American robins as they came to roost for the night. There was a final flurry of activity from multiple sparrow species, providing a satisfying finale to a full day of birdwatching.

In all, the team counted 45 bird species across the five properties. The results of the count were compiled with the other teams at renowned ornithologist Doug James’ house, who led the first Fayetteville Christmas Bird Count in 1961. A total of 92 bird species were documented for the day!  These results will be added to the extensive Christmas Bird Count database, which has been used to document shifting habitat ranges due to changing climate conditions. It will also be used to inform management of NWALT’s properties.

Thanks to our dedicated birdwatching volunteers! If you are a birder and would like to become a biomonitoring volunteer, contact us to learn more and sign up.

NWALT Seeks Intern for Kessler Classroom

Help us expand the reach of the Kessler Mountain Outdoor Classroom through our internship program!

The land trust is seeking an energetic and knowledgeable education intern to help us expand the Kessler Outdoor Classroom program. The intern will lead field trips for local schools and community groups, develop new exhibits, and perform regular upkeep of the facilities. The position will require 10-15 hours per week, and is offered for the Spring, Summer and Fall field trip seasons. The intern may be invited to remain for additional semesters. Applicants should have a strong interest in environmental education and an interest in working with kids. Relevant coursework in biology, environmental science or related field is preferred.

This internship is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience in environmental education in a nonprofit setting. Internship credits may be available for college students. Read the Classroom Internship Advertisement for information about how to apply. Contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org or call 479-966-4666 to ask questions.

Support for this internship is provided by the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust.

Tailgating is for the Birds

Birdwatchers Celebrate Fall Migration at Wilson Springs Preserve

With fall migration in full swing, local birdwatchers escaped the hustle and bustle of the city by attending our Big Sit at Wilson Springs Wetland Preserve. With binoculars in hand, the group explored the diversity of habitats and found many of the birds that live there, including marsh wrens, sedge wrens, swamp sparrows, blue winged teals, and many others. Birding 101 was offered to novices as an introduction to birdwatching. Between hikes, they enjoyed grilled hot dogs and beverages while relaxing with fellow birders. The event was a great way to celebrate the annual migration and experience the key habitat that is protected at Wilson Springs Preserve. Thanks to Joe Neal and Doug James for leading hikes and assisting with bird identification. Thanks also to everyone that attended!

The Big Sit is just one of many programs offered at Wilson Springs. If you’d like to learn more about upcoming programs, volunteer opportunities, and on-the-land events, contact us to join our mailing list.

Climate Resiliency In Northwest Arkansas

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.

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.

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.

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