October 1, 2021

At-Risk Wildlife Habitat Protected in Arkansas

UNION COUNTY, Ark. — Today, The Conservation Fund and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a significant milestone in their multi-year effort to add valuable ecological land to Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southwest Arkansas. To date, a total of 6,525 acres have been transferred from The Conservation Fund to USFWS for permanent protection as part of the Refuge, where the land will support wildlife habitat for various species including migratory birds.

These additions, which lay adjacent to the existing Refuge, fall within the Mississippi Flyway which attracts thousands of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey, and neotropical songbirds. The 6,525 acres will also improve water quality for surrounding communities and expand recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.

“Our goal, as a federal agency, is to connect and conserve lands, waters and wildlife for the benefit of the American people, so the addition of this bottomland hardwood tract checks all the boxes,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the South Atlantic, Gulf and Mississippi Basin. “It adds another piece to the Mississippi Flyway puzzle that not only benefits migratory birds, but birdwatchers, hunters and fishermen too.”

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing solutions that deliver both economic and environmental benefits, is supporting the Refuge by acquiring at-risk tracts of land and transferring them to USFWS in phases as federal funding becomes available. This is part of a larger effort by the partners that aims to add more than 8,300 acres in total to Felsenthal NWR.

“Arkansas’s recreational economy generates up to 40,000 jobs and $2.8 billion annually for communities—demonstrating that environmental conservation and economic sustainability go hand in hand,” said Ray Herndon, vice president of the Lower Mississippi and Gulf Coast region at The Conservation Fund. “We’re proud to support USFWS in their dedicated efforts to enhance the experience for both wildlife and people at Felsenthal NWR.”

Federal funding from the USFWS’s Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) were essential in USFWS’s acquisition of this land. Congressionally authorized, the MBCF and LWCF help support critical land conservation efforts across the United States.

Felsenthal NWR is roughly 65,000 acres of buttonbush swamps and sloughs located in the bottomland hardwood forest, which rises to an upland forest. The Refuge contains numerous water sources, including the Ouachita and Saline Rivers and the Felsenthal Pool. Periodic flooding of the bottomland creates important wintering habitat for waterfowl and several native plant species. The Conservation Fund and USFWS’s recent additions to the Refuge support a larger state-wide wildlife action plan to preserve critical wildlife and bird habitat, and secure migratory connectivity across Arkansas.

“We wholeheartedly support this project because it increases public access for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Austin Booth, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director. “Arkansas is well known for providing critical wintering habitat for migratory birds, not only for waterfowl but neotropical migrants and wading birds. Working through public and private conservation partnerships, our focus has been two-fold. First to increase the amount of protected core forest blocks while simultaneously increasing access for hunters, anglers, and nature-lovers. This is a powerful combination and adds value to the local economics of south Arkansas.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land.

About U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Southeast region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Val Keefer | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5802 |vkeefer@conservationfund.org
Daniel Chapman | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | 404-245-7211 | daniel_chapman@fws.gov