|photo: Christina Fowler|
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Sept. 25, 2012 – Thanks to a dedicated team of partners, revitalized forests and openings are providing quality wildlife habitat on the Ozark National Forest. On Saturday, Sept. 22, the National Forest Foundation, Ozark National Forest and many partners hosted a tour of the Bearcat Hollow project, spotlighting the restoration results emanating from one of the nation’s best examples of public-private partnerships.
In 2010, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) designated the Ozark National Forest as a “Treasured Landscape” under the NFF’s national restoration campaign. With that designation, the NFF joined with a number of partners already working in the region and brought additional private investment to achieve widespread restoration results.
NFF President Bill Possiel explained, “Under our Treasured Landscapes national restoration campaign, additional resources and leverage have rapidly advanced the goals of the Bearcat Hollow project. We have many partners to thank for this successful collaborative effort to improve Arkansas’ forests, including our lead donor, Southwestern Energy, and on-the-ground partners from many local and regional organizations. ”
With the NFF’s selection of the Ozark National Forest as a Treasured Landscape, the NFF and the forest worked together to identify projects that would: restore wildlife habitat, improve recreational resources, and provide public engagement opportunities. The bulk of the work selected has focused on wildlife habitat restoration and improvement in the Bearcat Hollow area of the Big Piney Ranger District. This area had the advantage of being part of a larger, overall restoration project that connects two states and federal, state and private lands.
Some of the work accomplished includes creation of wildlife openings, construction of water sources and control of invasive species. Together with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, a number of wildlife habitat improvement projects have been accomplished. Project results include: improving 974 acres of wildlife habitat, treating 296 acres of invasive weeds, constructing or improving 13 ponds, removing several miles of fence, and involving 123 volunteers donating more than 2,200 hours of their time.
Additionally, several recreation projects have been identified for implementation in 2013. Recreation opportunities that may be funded through the partnership include maintenance of sections of the Ozark Highlands Trail, trail relocation at Moccasin Gap, and relocation of the Richland Creek camping sites out of the floodplain.
According to Ozark-St. Francis Forest Supervisor Judith Henry, the restoration work at Bearcat Hollow would be difficult to manage by a single entity. “I am continuously amazed by the amount of good work that is accomplished because of the commitment and passion of our employees, our partners and our volunteers,” she said. “We are accomplishing so much more together than any one of us could do alone by pooling our resources, by leveraging our funding, and by putting more boots in the field.”
|photo: Christina Fowler|
Thanks to the private contributions of Southwestern Energy, matching support through the U.S. Forest Service, and matching support from local partner organizations, the NFF’s investment in Bearcat Hollow will total more than $861,000 at the project’s completion next year.
“For many of our employees, the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest is a place to go to create lasting family memories and escape the stresses of our day-to-day lives. But this project’s impact goes far beyond those who spend their time here. A properly managed forest provides clean air and water, things that benefit us all,” said Tim O'Donnell, SWN Legal & Audit Corporate Affairs Vice President. “At Southwestern Energy, we are committed to providing value to our employees, our families and the communities in which we operate. We are proud to be a partner in a project that provides so many benefits, and will be enjoyed for countless generations to come.”
Other valued partners involved in the project include: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission; National Wild Turkey Federation; Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; The Nature Conservancy; Buffalo National River; Arkansas Wildlife Federation; Arkansas Forestry Commission; Arkansas Tech University; Arkansas Chapter of the National Audubon Society; Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; University of Arkansas Coop Extension Service; and Southern Research Station.
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