WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — Earlier this week, the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT) announced they received grant funding from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Outdoor Fund. The funding will go towards NWALT's first-ever loan to purchase land.
The land consists of 300 acres of Ozark forest and sits just west of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel on I-49.
"At the heart of one of the big priorities that [Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's] hold is conservation of wildlife habitat," said Pam Nelson, Director of Land Protection for NWALT.
The tract of land sits next to 725 acres of privately-owned land that NWALT entered a conservation easement with the owner to permanently protect the land in 2019. In total, the acreage of Blackburn Bluffs Preserve covers more than two miles of Blackburn Creek and is home to more than 400 species of plants and animals.
"There's just something that wild space does to your soul," said Nelson.
Blackburn Bluffs Preserve is part of a larger corridor NWALT hopes to connect from Devil's Den all the way down to the River Valley. Conservation is a key part of the acquisition and future because it is also home to two bat species, the Northern Long-Eared bat, which is federally threatened, and the Ozark Big-Eared Bat which is federally endangered.
Both species of bats and all the plants and animals that call the area home are vital to the ecosystem and help keep the Natural State natural for generations to come.
"If we can save the most climate-resilient lands, then we know that if and when things change we have the best chance at supporting the greatest number of species overall," said Nelson.
The population of Arkansas, and in particular, Northwest Arkansas, is growing. NWALT is working with private landowners and through their own purchases to help protect and conserve natural land for plants and animals to thrive.
"This place is important," explained Robert Hopper, Director of Engagement and Giving for NWALT. "This helps us define a sense of space and, you know, we are only going to get where we need to go in serving and conserving all of these lands together."
The NWALT is dedicated to bettering and protecting the quality of life through permanent land protection. From wildlife to the water we drink, they play a vital role in ensuring Arkansans continue the spirit of staying natural.
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