Arkansas members of Congress tour conservation projects

Conservation partners Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Army Corps of Engineers took several members of Congress and their staffers on a tour of conservation sites in Arkansas during the August recess.

The first day started with an ATV tour of M&C Farms, a 1,160-acre working farm until 2010, when it was enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to return the property to its natural state. As part of its participation in the Mississippi River Basin Initiative with NRCS, TNC paid for the restoration of M&C Farms and placed a conservation easement on the property.

Following restoration, AGFC and USFWS moved to purchase the property as two separate tracts. Ducks Unlimited wrote and provided the match for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant that supported purchase of the AGFC component. The entire farm is now in public ownership and links Cache River National Wildlife Refuge and Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, creating a critical corridor for wildlife. A large portion of the AGFC tract was developed into a youth waterfowl hunting unit. 

Because the WRP tract is so young and there are also areas on the property that remain untouched, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate how WRP works and compare the initial WRP growth results with what the property will look like 40-50 years from now when it fully matures.

Following the ATV tour, the group next explored the lower Cache River reconstruction project via boat. The project, which is currently being spearheaded by the Army Corps of Engineers and TNC, is reconnecting the original meanders of the Cache River that were disconnected after the Corps plugged them up, built a channel and drained the surrounding wetlands in an attempt to turn them into productive agricultural land. The channeling and resulting conversion were unsuccessful because the soil remained too wet, so now they are restoring the Cache River and surrounding wetlands.

The group began the Cache River tour by visiting with Burton Moore Jr. Mr. Moore’s father was one of the original and leading conservationists in the state of Arkansas, and made many visits to Congress to oppose the original channelization of the Cache and drainage of the adjacent wetlands. His family has continued to champion the cause, and has been an excellent partner in wetlands conservation and this reconstruction project.

Members of the Arkansas congressional delegation who attended the tour included Sens. John Boozman and Mark Pryor, and Rep. Rick Crawford. Staffers from both senators’ offices and those of Reps. Crawford, Tom Cotton and Tim Griffin also attended.

DU President and Arkansas native George Dunklin Jr. also joined the tour. Special thanks to AGFC, USFWS and NRCS staff who helped with ATVs, boats and tour logistics.