Category Archives: News

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

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.