The West Fork-White River Initiative is a voluntary program designed to help landowners in the West Fork of the White River watershed implement conservation and land management practices on their property to protect water quality in our region. These practices also help protect property value. The project is coordinated by the Watershed Conservation Resource Center and funded in part by the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is a key partner in the program, working with landowners in this project area to permanently conserve their land through conservation easements or fee simple acquisitions. This voluntary program is available to landowners in approximately one-third of the West Fork White River Watershed. This section of the river was identified as the highest priority for conservation action after a comprehensive river assessment conducted by the Watershed Conservation Resource Center.
The entire West Fork of the White River corridor is a priority landscape for the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust and for our regional partners. All interested landowners in this watershed should contact the land trust to learn more about conservation options and resources.
Protecting Your Land
Land conservation provides many co-benefits to the property owner and the community. Protecting this river corridor safeguards wildlife habitat, protects water quality, and preserves scenic views and the rural character of our communities for generations to come. To initiate the land conservation process, Northwest Arkansas Land Trust staff can visit your property and provide a site assessment detailing the conservation values of your land.
Conservation easements are the most common method for permanently protecting land. Through a voluntary legal agreement, landowners work with the land trust to preserve a single feature, or all of their land while retaining full use and ownership of the property. Landowners with river or stream frontage on their property often choose to conserve the riparian area or floodplain bordering the waterway. Preserving your property, or a buffer strip on the water’s edge, is a critical practice for conserving the river, reducing erosion, and protecting water quality. Conservation easements can yield significant tax benefits, including federal income tax deduction and state tax credits. Contact the land trust and your tax professional.
Land Conservation and Water Quality
Preserving undeveloped land is crucial to maintaining water quality standards in our region. Undeveloped landscapes slow down storm water, control erosion and filter pollutants before they enter local waterways during rain events. The West Fork of the White River is a major tributary of Beaver Lake, the source of drinking water for over 420,000 people in our growing region. The river currently does not meet state water quality standards and is categorized as impaired by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). The Beaver Lake Watershed Protection Strategy, prepared by Beaver Watershed Alliance and Beaver Water District cite land conservation as a core best management practice for protecting water quality. When we protect water quality, we reduce water treatment costs, safeguard aquatic habitat and ensure recreational activities continue on the West Fork of the White River. As population growth continues in our region protecting our water supply is imperative for human, ecological and economic health.
The West Fork of the White River Regional Conservation Partnership Program was proposed and made possible by the Watershed Conservation Resource Center and regional partners, including the Beaver Watershed Alliance, Beaver Water District, Walton Family Foundation, and many other coordinating agencies.
How You Can Help
If you are a landowner, farmer, elected official, planner or developer working in the West Fork White River Watershed and are interested in learning more about land conservation options and benefits, please contact the land trust. Together, we can protect this important landscape and our region’s drinking water supply for future generations.