Northwest Arkansas Land Trust Receives Conservation Grant for 300 Acres of Ozark Forest
JOHNSON COUNTY, AR – The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT) announced on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 that recent grants from Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas Outdoor Fund contribute to the overall funding of their initiative to permanently protect 300 acres of Ozark said to be forest in southern Washington County, AR, west of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel on Interstate 49.
A designated scenic back road at the gateway to the region, the area known as Blackburn Bluffs Preserve is home to over 400 species of plants and animals, including turkey, black bear, white-tailed deer and smallmouth bass, and is an important feeding ground for the northern long-eared bat, a nationally threatened species , and the Ozark’s big-eared bat, a federally endangered species. Its natural beauty draws thousands of tourists to the area each year. According to Pam Nelson, NWALT Director of Land Conservation, “The region’s population is expected to double between 2020 and 2045, reaching nearly one million residents. Northwest Arkansas is the fastest growing region in the central United States. On average, the region loses 9 hectares of open space every day.”
Blackburn Bluffs Preserve is adjacent to 725 acres of privately owned land that was permanently protected with a Conservation Easement in 2019. Together, the lots form a protected corridor for wildlife movement beneath the elevated highway. The preservation of the two properties will protect 2.5 miles of Blackburn Creek, a tributary of the Lee Creek Watershed that provides drinking water to more than 200,000 people in the greater Fort Smith area. The acquisition of the Blackburn Bluffs Preserve is part of NWALT’s ongoing strategic effort to establish a Boston Mountain Scenic Wildlife Corridor aimed at connecting publicly protected areas in Devil’s Den State Park and the Ozark National Forest to the west with the Ozark National Forest to the east associate.
The grant from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is part of the company’s initiative to invest in programs consistent with its commitment to conservation. These include preserving wildlife and habitats, connecting new audiences with nature, advocating athlete access and rights, and strengthening communities in the Missouri Ozarks. “We believe our plan to preserve this area aligns perfectly with the mission of Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas Outdoor Fund, as the continued protection of the Blackburn Bluffs Preserve will provide residents of Ft. Smith, Arkansas and Benton and Washington counties, the state tourism industry, and hunters and anglers,” Nelson said.
In addition to preserving the natural resources and wildlife habitat at Blackburn Bluffs Reserve, NWALT believes that preserving this area will also increase access to outdoor recreation and community participation in guided hikes and outdoor excursions, leading to greater awareness of the municipality for the importance of landscape protection in the region.
About the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust
The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is the region’s premier local and accredited land trust dedicated to improving the quality of life through the lasting protection of land. By owning and managing donated land and providing conservation services, the Land Trust protects water quality, local farms, wildlife habitats and places for outdoor recreation while improving the quality of life for present and future generations. The Land Trust serves 13 counties in Northwest Arkansas, with a focus on Benton, Washington, Madison and Carroll counties. For more information, visit the Land Trust’s website at www.nwalandtrust.org.