MT. JUDEA, Ark. – One thousand four hundred and twenty-five acres that directly impact the Buffalo National River are now in the hands of conservationists.
The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas recently announced it has purchased Council Rock Forest, located near Mt. Judea in Newton County, Arkansas.
The area includes a portion of Big Creek, which is one of the largest tributaries flowing into the Buffalo River.
“It’s really going to be a great place for people to discover and enjoy,” says Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas.
Simon’s organization has teamed up with the Buffalo River Foundation to fundraise for the conservation of Council Rock Forest.
One of the first steps was purchasing the 1,425 acres from landowners, who have been in talks with conservationists for about a decade.
“They sold their property to us at a favorable price,” says Simon, “and now we have hundreds and thousands of other people that are donating to a campaign to conserve it.”
While the area doesn’t sit on the Buffalo National River, it does share much of the scenic beauty the icon is known for. Recent studies have also shown the area is home to three rare species of bat: the northern long-eared bat, Indiana bat, and the gray bat.
The blue waters of “Big Creek” are also fed by rainwater that rushes off the mountain the forested land sits on.
“Every tributary is important to the Buffalo, Big Creek certainly is a big one,” says Buffalo River Foundation board member, Mike Mills. “And each little piece of the puzzle makes the puzzle bigger.”
The puzzle Mills is referring to is the Buffalo River watershed. Mills says 60-percent of the watershed is currently in private hands.
Turning areas like Council Rock Forest into nature preserves helps to protect the water in more ways than one, Mills says.
“There’s so much pressure on the Buffalo River tourism-wise,” he says, “canoeists, hikers, elk watchers.”
The plan for spreading the pressure out through the new preserve will take about a year. The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas will use that time to craft a plan that balances conservation and public use.
“We want people to enjoy our places incompatible ways with the conservation work,” say Simon.
Council Rock Forest will be the 35th property the Nature Conservancy in Arkansas has taken ownership of.
For more information about the group’s conservation efforts, and how to help, click here.