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  • Writer's pictureMarson Nance

Promises Made, Promises Kept Stewarding Land in the New Year

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

For NWALT, every year begins with a reaffirmation of the Land Trust’s mission- to preserve and enhance the quality of life for all people in Northwest Arkansas through the permanent protection of land.

Once the lands are put into permanent protection, projects move from the land protection desk to land stewardship, a short paper airplane trip across the room.

The promise of perpetuity is carried out across all NWALT conservation properties by our land stewardship team, and a huge component of keeping this promise is annual monitoring of conservation easements and inspections of Land Trust owned properties and preserves.

Every year starts with a bang, with the stewardship team monitoring and inspecting more than 40 conservation properties, spanning over 6,500 acres across 7 counties. We also monitor a few conservation easements and properties for other organizations. Each year we add more properties and more acreage, steadily expanding our footprint throughout the region.

What used to take about a month, property monitoring now takes most of the first quarter of the year, a time before the growing season and before the public access season really kicks in on our preserves.

To say this is a “down time” is far from reality. In the land management world, there’s always something to do! In between monitoring we’re conducting prescribed fires, making trail improvements, onboarding interns, and leading on-the-land events.

A person stands by a stream on rocky point, holding an IPad, a dog stands nearby
Renee Sniegocki, Land Stewardship Manager, started the new year with the first easement monitoring visit of 2023 at a 123 acre property along the West Fork of the White River protected by Janet Bachman and Jim Lukens

But our promise of permanent protection means we must make time to dirty our boots on all our properties, and it’s one of the most exciting times of the year for the stewardship team.

Not only do we get to see some of the most breathtaking private lands in the region, we get to talk to and see our landowners- the backbone of our whole operation. Our landowners made a permanent agreement with us and a commitment to preserve and protect their properties for posterity. Many of our landowners live and work on their properties, and it’s always a good time to tour the grounds with them and see the work they do to steward their lands. As we whiz around on a 4-wheeler or side-by-side, we get to see the property from their point of view, learning and hearing their stories along the way. From grazing lands and hunting properties to farms and off grid homesteads, I’m always amazed by the care and commitment shown by each individual and family. We’re even treated occasionally to lunch and a warm beverage! Seeing their passion for the land instills pride in our whole team and renews our own passion for the mission of the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust.

When we monitor and inspect conservation properties, we’re often looking for changes in the landscape. We revisit established points throughout the property and make notes on new ones. On our visits, we’re making sure the terms we all agreed to are being followed, and work with our landowners to identify issues or assist in land management planning- be it a neighbor whose new fence crosses the property line, or a landowner converting a Bermuda grass pasture to native warm season grasses.

Our stewardship team is there to serve our landowners and fulfill the mission of the Land Trust. After all, we’re partners. And partnerships, trust, and keeping promises are the foundation of lasting land protection.

A waterfall, a shale barren, a bear sighting, a stunning view from the highway, or a new calf- there’s always something exciting to see on our conservation properties! Stewarding these lands ensures our promise of perpetuity is kept, and that our children and their children will always know a Northwest Arkansas that’s a diamond in the Natural State. That’s our purpose, and that’s our promise.


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