Cultivating Conservation: A Landowner's Journey in Conservation
The Ozarks hold a special place in Philip Thompson's heart. Having grown up in this region, Philip spent approximately 37 years away, pursuing doctoral studies and a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Eventually, he returned to his roots, and his wife, Rebecca, a relative newcomer, joined him in his love for Northwest Arkansas. They both share an appreciation for the natural beauty of this area, with its mountains, forests, clean water, farmland, and unspoiled open space that contribute to the high quality of life we all enjoy here. Their commitment to this place runs deep, and they are determined to play a part in preserving the beauty of Northwest Arkansas forever!
As Philip put it, “The conservation of open space is not just a personal passion but a critical necessity for preserving the quality of life that draws both visitors and newcomers to Northwest Arkansas. While we celebrate the global economic success of local companies and the growth they've generated, we must ensure that our region doesn't fall victim to its own success. Rapid development and a population boom threaten the very features that make this place so special.”
"Conserving open space is critical to protecting the natural resources that underpin tourism, leisure, and other economic activity. It is also indispensable to the health of our entire planet, and to hindering climate change. While not everyone is in a position to acquire or designate land for permanent conservation, everyone can support the work of the Land Trust through membership, volunteering, or donations," adds Rebecca.
Philip and Rebecca were considering the best way for them to contribute to local conservation efforts. They became aware of the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT) and were impressed with the comprehensive research and thought that went into the Land Trust’s strategic conservation plan. They noted in particular that the goals of the plan include a wildlife corridor in the area just south of the Bobby Hopper tunnel.
The path towards conservation took a turn when Pam Nelson, NWALT's Director of Land Protection, informed the couple that the land they now call "The Mountain", just south of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel, was available for purchase. They made several visits and were in awe of the rugged beauty of "The Mountain" -- its waterfalls, glades, and forests.
"The land has trails that can be used for hunting as well as hiking, horseback riding, and many other outdoor activities. It also has some spectacular views of the surrounding area. Furthermore, invasive species in Northwest Arkansas such as Asian bush honeysuckle, Callery pears, privet, English ivy, and kudzu are absent. So, we grabbed it," said Philip.
The Thompsons also took into account The Mountain’s proximity to I-49, a road frequented by hundreds of thousands of motorists daily. This section of I-49 is renowned for its scenic beauty, and the conservation easement put in place by NWALT ensures that "The Mountain" will remain an open space in perpetuity, whether as privately owned land or a potential addition to a state park, national forest, or other protected land.
Philip and Rebecca's commitment to conservation extends beyond their own property. They actively encourage fellow landowners to explore the benefits of conservation easements with NWALT.
"Every chance we get, we encourage landowners to get in touch with NWALT and learn about conservation easements. We know that there are many others who want to ensure their beloved land will remain open space in perpetuity. We want other landowners to know that, thanks in large part to NWALT, we were able to purchase The Mountain and get a conservation easement on it fairly quickly and easily, and we are getting a tax break to boot. We’ll still be able to do limited building on The Mountain if we so choose, and we can sell it, designate it for our heirs, or donate it to an adjacent protected area. In any case, we have greater peace of mind in knowing that "The Mountain" will remain beautiful open space for future generations."