Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is proud to announce the completion of two conservation projects, permanently protecting almost 200 acres of wildlife habitat and farmland in Madison and Washington Counties.
PROTECTING PRISTINE LAND
Madison County landowners Larry and Marty Karigan-Winter worked with the trust over several years to place their 113 acres of pristine wildlife habitat and organic working farm into a conservation easement. “I’ve always known this was a special piece of Ozarkia,” Karigan-Winter muses.
The largely undisturbed piece of land surrounds a large glade habitat, a unique outcropping of barren sandstone, that neighbors refer to as “Flatrock.” Nine freshwater springs on the property feed into a deep ravine that cuts the property half. “There’s a beautiful bluff line,” Larry describes, “With five waterfalls and a bluff shelter with artifacts from the Native Americans.”
Later inhabitants of the land used it lightly. Homesteaders in the 1800s grew corn, pumpkins, and produced sorghum. The vast majority of trees were never cleared for timber or cattle, and the land and surrounding waters were not subjected to the use of agricultural chemicals. “I believe the land is as pristine as can be for living or raising food,” Larry says. He and his family have operated an organic farm on the property since 1973.
Keeping the land pristine for sustainable food production was important in Larry’s decision to protect the land with a conservation easement. “With all the water…this land could produce much more locally grown food, and clean food is becoming harder and harder to find.”
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between the landowner and the land trust that limits certain mutually agreed upon uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Conservation easements are custom to every property. The landowner continues to own and use their land and they can sell it or pass it on to their heirs. The terms of the conservation easement stay with the deed and are upheld by the land trust in perpetuity.
"Conservation easements are an important tool for preserving healthy Ozark forests and working lands for future generations. Our work would not be possible without willing landowners. Their dedication to conservation leaves a legacy that will benefit the public for years to come," adds Director of Land Protection Pam Nelson who works with landowners during the easement process.
For other landowners considering protecting their property, Larry advises owners to reach out to their local land trust and start a conversation. “As a landowner, you only have this small time where you can make a difference on how the land you control will be used in the future…You can, as small as you are, make a difference,” he explains.
The NWA Land Trust worked with landowner Jerry Hall to protect 84 acres along the West Fork of the White River with a conservation easement. The land was originally purchased by his great grandparents in the 1930s and operated as a dairy farm. “Their business name was Petall Dairy, and they delivered fresh milk to the people of the Fayetteville area,” Jerry recalls. The human history of the land, however, goes back “more than 12,000 years.” “Many people have made a life from this land,” Jerry suggests. Archeologists from the University of Arkansas have documented several stone artifacts from Native American populations, as well as a pre-Civil War road through the property.
In addition to preserving the human history of the land, conserving the property will help protect water quality along the impaired river. The West Fork of the White River carries water through the Beaver Lake Watershed, the drinking source and recreation hotspot for half a million people in Northwest Arkansas. Yet over 115 miles of rivers flowing into the lake are listed as impaired.
“This conservation initiative was a huge win for connectivity on the West Fork of the White River,” explains Pam Nelson, Director of Land Protection for the NWA Land Trust. The trust worked with a cohort of partners, including the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, and Beaver Watershed Alliance, to protect and restore the land in the West Fork White River watershed as part of a Regional Conservation Partnership Program with funding from the USDA’s National Conservation Resource Service. Jerry’s property is located near several other projects along the waterway.
“Conserving land around our waterways is one of the most effective ways to keep our drinking water clean,” Nelson continues. “Protecting riparian corridors is a win-win for the region and the economy. These sensitive lands filter pollutants before they wash into our rivers and streams. This not only helps maintain lower drinking water treatment costs, but also supports recreation and tourism in the region.”
Now and forever, development along this stretch of the river will be prohibited, safeguarding the thousands of trees Jerry and his family have planted to restore the land.
“I hope more people will support the NWA Land Trust,” Jerry concludes, “Anyone lucky enough to own a piece of at-risk Ozark land should consider protecting it for future generations in whatever ways possible.”
If you have questions or would like to discuss conservation of property you own, please reach out to Pam Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 479-966-4666.