Building Bridges: Landscape Scale Conservation
Those of us that call Northwest Arkansas home know that the Ozarks are special. Views of rolling hills in the Boston Mountain skyline surround us. We regularly encounter wildlife while exploring our forests and rivers, reminding us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. In 2020, NWALT embarked on a scientific journey to help identify priority landscapes for conservation in Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington counties. With limited staff and resources, we wanted to better understand the places where NWALT could maximize its efforts. What places are the most important for accessing the outdoors, protecting scenic views, and ensuring lasting habitat for plants and animals? Are there missing links in our land protection portfolio that could benefit not only Northwest Arkansas, but other regions of the state and nation?
We found that when we broadened our lens, the research revealed new opportunities for conservation impact. The diversity of life in the Ozarks is fostered by the unique geography of the region. The landscape serves as a transition zone between the Eastern Temperate Forests and the Great Plains, making it a critical connection for species migrating to other parts of the continental United States. Thankfully, our region has past successes to build off in our landscape scale conservation work. In 1908, Ozark National Forest was created by the proclamation of Theodore Roosevelt. The US forest land spans parts of 16 counties in Arkansas, including portions of southern Washington and Madison counties. Private land conservation is an important tool for building bridges between these public lands in Northwest Arkansas and Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest to ensure wildlife and recreation corridors feed into a larger network of permanently protected lands for future generations.
To learn more about NWALT’s Strategic Land Conservation Plan and how NWALT is working to advance landscape scale conservation, visit