July 13, 2022

Multi-Year Effort To Protect Arkansas Wildlife Refuge Land Complete

UNION COUNTY, Ark. — The Conservation Fund announced the completion of a multi-year effort to add valuable ecological land to Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southwest Arkansas. Through the effort, a total of 8,384 acres have been transferred from The Conservation Fund to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for permanent protection as part of the Refuge. The conserved land will support wildlife habitat for various species including migratory birds and expand recreational access for the public. Both the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF), aka “Duck Stamps,” were critical to this effort.

Protecting these lands within the Felsenthal NWR boundary was a top priority for the USFWS. The northwest portion of the Refuge falls within the Mississippi Flyway, which attracts thousands of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey and neotropical songbirds each year. The effort also improves water quality for surrounding communities and expands recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.

“This latest Felsenthal acquisition represents our conservation vision of working with trusted partners for the benefit of wildlife and surrounding communities,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, regional director for USFWS. “This beautiful hardwood tract of swamps and sloughs will only add to the pleasure experienced by migratory birds, waterfowl and songbirds, as well as hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.”

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing solutions that deliver both economic and environmental benefits, was able to support USFWS by acquiring at-risk land that was adjacent to the Refuge and transferring the properties in phases over the last two years as federal funding became available. This week, the partners completed the final phase of the effort with the protection of 1,858 acres.

“Securing additional land for Felsenthal NWR benefits not just wildlife, but the people of Arkansas,” said Ray Herndon, vice president of the Lower Mississippi and Gulf Coast region at The Conservation Fund. “In fact, the state’s recreational economy generates up to 40,000 jobs and $2.8 billion annually for communities — demonstrating that environmental conservation and economic sustainability can go hand in hand.”

Federal funding from the USFWS’s MBCF — made up largely of “Duck Stamp” dollars that are generated from the sale of federal stamps to support conservation — and the LWCF were essential in USFWS’s acquisition of this land. Congressionally authorized, MBCF and LWCF help support critical land conservation efforts across the U.S. The congressional delegation representing Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge includes U.S. Senator John Boozman, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman.

“I applaud The Conservation Fund’s extensive work to expand the Felsenthal NWR,” said Senator Cotton. “This project will preserve the diverse wildlife in the Refuge and also attract more sportsmen and nature enthusiasts to Southwest Arkansas.”

Felsenthal NWR is over 70,000 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.

“The Commission is very excited for our partners at the USFWS to be adding additional public land in south Arkansas,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Austin Booth. “This is a great project that will benefit local communities and expand on-going wildlife habitat improvements that have been occurring in the region. There are fabulous hunting and fishing opportunities here for public hunters and anglers.”

James Brandenburg, chair of the Arkansas chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) added: “Arkansas BHA is excited to see the completion of this project. Securing critical habitat benefits the wildlife that depends on it and allowing public access to that habitat will ensure that future generations can develop a love and understanding of what it takes to maintain a healthy ecosystem. We are thankful for the vision and action of all the parties who came together to make this happen.”

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.

Contact: Val Keefer | 703-908-5802 | vkeefer@conservationfund.org