by Max Brantley
Since 1982, the Conservancy and its partners have reforested over 50,000 acres and safeguarded more than 120,000 acres in the Big Woods. Fortunately, the Conservancy’s work was preceded by decades of conservation action. Large-scale conservation efforts from the 1930s to 1950s created the White River National Wildlife Refuge and numerous state wildlife management areas. And in the 1970s, a group of concerned citizens working alongside the Arkansas Wildlife Federation stopped a project to channelize the Cache River. [Note: It was Dale Bumpers who vetoed Army Engineers' plan to channelize the Cache River in the early 1970s.]]
The Conservancy’s first purchase in the Arkansas Delta was a 380-acre tract that was transferred in 1985 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the new Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. During the 1980s the Conservancy assisted in adding thousands more acres to the Cache River refuge. In 1992 a land exchange facilitated by the Conservancy, Senator Dale Bumpers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Potlatch Corporation created a protected 80-mile corridor connecting the Cache River and White River refuges. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Conservancy helped landowners conserve thousands of acres in the Big Woods through voluntary conservation easements under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program.