July 17, 2020
Division of Agriculture to assist conservation project efforts in Buffalo River watershed
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Division of Ag water quality experts to help local conservation groups implement grant funding over five years
- Efforts focused on five sub-watersheds
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LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will be helping to guide conservation efforts in the Buffalo River watershed, as local conservation groups implement $2.8 million in federal funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, as well as an additional $2.9 million raised from other partnering organizations, over the next five years for the Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project.
John Pennington, extension water quality instructor and associate director of agriculture and natural resources for the Division of Agriculture, said the division will be working in various ways with the groups over the life of the project.
“Our role is to provide water quality and watershed stewardship information for the public,” Pennington said. He said Division of Agriculture employees will also “provide landowner site visits, conduct water quality education programs such as field days and workshops for landowners about pasture and streamside management.”
Pennington said he will also encourage landowners to sign up for NRCS funds available for the implementation of pasture and water quality best management practices.
Volunteers with the Searcy County Agriculture Conservation Co-Op and other volunteer organizations will primarily focus their efforts within five sub-watersheds within the Buffalo River watershed: Calf Creek, Bear Creek, Lower Big Creek, Tomahawk Creek and Brush Creek. The goal of this Project is to enhance water quality, improve wildlife habitat and reduce on-farm operating cost by implementing voluntary conservation practices on pasture and hay lands, riparian areas and unpaved roads.
In addition to the Division of Agriculture, other partnering organizations for the project include the Arkansas Division of Natural Resources, Arkansas Division of Forestry, Buffalo River Conservation District, Searcy County Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo River Foundation, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Searcy County, Searcy County Cattlemen’s Association, Arkansas Farm Bureau, the U.S. Department of Interior, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas Center for Training Professionals, Searcy County Agricultural Conservation Co-op and The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas.
The partnership will provide technical and financial assistance for farmers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices. The project is expected to start in December 2020, with funding for practices available incrementally in 2021-2025.
“This project is unique in that it is locally led at the community, grassroots level, by farmers and landowners,” Pennington said. “They’re following the watershed approach to achieve successful voluntary watershed protection, maintenance, and improvement.
“This is the largest amount of money from the federal government that has ever been devoted to water quality protection efforts in this watershed, and I am thankful to Clay Knighten with The Nature Conservancy for recognizing this opportunity and taking the initiative to develop the project,” he said.
The Searcy County Agricultural Conservation Co-Op, which helped initiate the Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project, is seeking pilot project submissions from landowners within the project’s five sub-watersheds. The cooperative is looking to address issues including eroding unpaved roads near streams, pasture management and streambank erosion. These pilot-demonstration sites will be used for future workshops and field days as interpretation sites.
Landowners in the project area who would like to be considered for a pilot-demonstration project should contact at the Buffalo River Conservation District’s Whitney Sutterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service