Entry Category: Environment

Mississippi Flyway

The Mississippi Flyway is one of four loosely defined routes used by some species of migratory birds as they travel each autumn from breeding areas in northern North America to wintering sites in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America, and back again in spring. Other North American flyways are the Atlantic, to the east of the Mississippi Flyway; the Central, through the Plains states; and the Pacific, west of the Rocky Mountains. In northern latitudes, summer brings long days and abundant insects and other invertebrates for food, conducive to nesting success for birds. Winter, however, means harsh weather conditions, the disappearance of invertebrates, and frozen lakes and rivers. As a result, most birds nesting in the …

Nature Conservancy of Arkansas

The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas is part of the international Nature Conservancy headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Nature Conservancy was incorporated on October 22, 1951, in Washington DC as a nonprofit organization. The Arkansas field office, established on April 12, 1982, became the organization’s twenty-ninth state program. The Arkansas program, which opened with about 250 members and a staff of three, has grown steadily in capacity and achievement. The conservancy now has about 6,000 members in Arkansas (the worldwide membership is about one million) and a staff of more …

New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812

The New Madrid Earthquakes took place between December 1811 and April 1812 along an active fault line that extends roughly from Marked Tree (Poinsett County) in a northeasterly direction, crossing several states for about 150 miles. The earthquakes and aftershocks caused extensive damage throughout northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri, altering the landscape, affecting settlement of the area, and leaving noticeable reminders that another huge earthquake could happen at any time. The town of New Madrid, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, was founded by Revolutionary War hero George Morgan in 1789. The town was named by Morgan in an attempt to ingratiate himself and receive a land grant from the King of Spain. Its later pronunciation placed the emphasis on the …

Nix, Joe Franklin

Joe Nix is a water chemist, environmentalist, naturalist, and educator considered by many to be the watchdog of Arkansas rivers and lakes with respect to water quality and usage patterns. His mission has been to have society use good scientific data in making decisions about environmental matters. Joe Franklin Nix was born on August 28, 1939, the only child of Frank and Era Nix, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). His father was a mechanic; his mother was a homemaker. He was a sickly child, so the doctor advised that he spend a lot of time outdoors. As a youth, he fell under the personal tutelage of family friend and former state geologist Joe Kimzey of Magnet Cove (Hot Spring County). …

Northern Snakehead

aka: Channa argus
aka: Snakehead
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a modern bony fish belonging to the family Channidae. It is native to China, eastern Russia, and parts of the Korean peninsula. The fish was discovered in Arkansas in 2008, leading to attempts to eradicate it. The northern snakehead has an elongate body, with long dorsal and anal fins, and a truncated tail. Coloration is dark tan to brown with darker spots laterally, extending above and below the midline. The jaws have sharp, pointed teeth. The fish can reach a size of one meter and weigh as much as eight kilograms. The northern snakehead breathes with gills but also possesses a suprabranchial organ, which consists of chambers filled with folded tissue that allow atmospheric …

OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology

The OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology of Fayetteville (Washington County) began its work as a traditional peace advocacy organization before moving into local community engagement linked to state, national, and global networks. The organization’s mission is as follows: “OMNI Center educates, empowers and connects, for a world that is nonviolent, sustainable and just.” The OMNI Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The OMNI Center’s founders were James R. (Dick) Bennett and Dana Copp. When Bennett retired from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1998, after a forty-year career as a professor of English, he wanted to start a peace organization and change the world. Copp agreed to help, and in the spring of 2001, they set …

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest, originally called the Arkansas National Forest, was created through an executive order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot remarked at the time that this national forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under the federal government’s protection. In January 1908, the Arkansas Sentinel newspaper reprinted an article from Forestry and Irrigation Magazine that praised the hearty spirit of cooperation manifested by Arkansas’s people and spoke of benefits to be gained by the conservation of timber supplies. At first, the Arkansas National Forest consisted solely of reserved public domain lands (part of the Louisiana Purchase) south of the Arkansas River. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized federal purchase …

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 6, 1980, to protect one of the remaining bottomland hardwood forest tracts in the Lower Mississippi River Valley (LMRV). Located in Ashley County, it is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior. These bottomland forests are used by a huge contingent of migratory birds including waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, and songbirds. Original refuge land acquisitions were limited to forested bottomlands only, as they were in eminent danger of being drained and cleared for agriculture. The refuge has been officially designated a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by the American Bird Conservancy. Most of the land within the …

Ozark Natural Science Center

The Ozark Natural Science Center (ONSC) is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental educational organization facility in the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s Bear Hollow Natural Area, located adjacent to the McIlroy Madison County Wildlife Management Area in northwest Arkansas. ONSC offers summer camps, adult and family programming, and conference facilities but is best known as the site of school excursions for more than 4,000 public and private school students from Arkansas and beyond each year. The mission of ONSC is to “enhance the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment.” This mission is achieved by providing educational programs that immerse participants in the Ozark ecosystems and celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster conservation and stewardship, and nurture appreciation of …

Ozark Society

The Ozark Society is an Arkansas-based environmental organization initially founded to give organized resistance to the construction of dams on the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas. Adopting the motto “Conservation, Education, Recreation,” it soon broadened its goals to larger environmental conservation and sponsors a variety of floating and hiking opportunities for members and the general public. The Ozark Society was formed during a time of heightened interest in state conservation efforts. Individuals in northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County had contacted and investigated alliances with national groups about preventing the Buffalo River from being dammed and creating a national park to protect it; however, local activists opted to form a separate organization. On May 24, 1962, the Ozark Society held an …

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are replete with distinct topographical, geological, and biological features. The forests are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which employs a multiple-use management concept to serve the best interests of the landowners and visitors. The forests serve as a source of renewable hardwood for industry and as prime recreation areas in the state. On December 18, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating the Arkansas National Forest (now the Ouachita National Forest) from the land south of the Arkansas River. On March 6, 1908, he signed the proclamation creating the Ozark National Forest from the land north of the river. The Ozark National Forest was the only major hardwood timberland …

Parker, Mamie Aselean

Mamie Aselean Parker is a trail-blazing conservationist. The first African American to hold numerous positions in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), she ultimately served as northeastern regional director of the service. Since her retirement from the USFWS, she has been an active consultant and public speaker. Mamie Parker was born on October 14, 1957, in Wilmot (Ashley County). Her mother, Cora Parker, was a single parent who supported her family as a sharecropper and was determined that her eleven children (of whom Mamie was the youngest) would receive an education. Named after President Dwight Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie Eisenhower, Parker shared her mother’s love of fishing, which ended up shaping her eventual career path. Parker grew up in Wilmot …

Passenger Pigeons

aka: Ectopistes migratorius
The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was a North American bird species in the order Columbiformes (pigeons and doves) that became extinct in the early twentieth century. The fate of the passenger pigeon serves as a graphic lesson in the misuse of natural resources, as the species went from an almost indescribable abundance to extinction in only a few decades. The decline came primarily as a result of relentless persecution of its breeding colonies by market hunters, largely for meat, with no (or ineffectual) regulation that might have maintained a stable population. The passenger pigeon had the same general body shape as the common and familiar mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) but was larger and somewhat more colorful, with areas of slate-blue …

Plum Point Energy Station

The Plum Point Energy Station (PPES) is a 665-megawatt (MW) energy facility located approximately five miles east of Osceola (Mississippi County). The station began commercial production of electricity on September 1, 2010, serving members of the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) in the Arkansas communities of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Osceola, and Piggott (Clay County), along with the Missouri communities of Carthage, Kennett, Malden, and Poplar Bluff, plus all thirty-five members of the Missouri Public Energy Pool No. 1 (MoPEP). The Empire District Electric Company, East Texas Electric Cooperative, and Municipal Energy Agency of Mississippi own smaller shares of the company. Development and Construction Spurred by recent economic setbacks in the community and surrounding areas, the city …

Ponca Elk Education Center

The Ponca Elk Education Center was established in 2002 to serve wildlife enthusiasts coming to Newton County to view elk, which were introduced to the state in 1981. The center is in a handsome log building on Arkansas Highway 43 in the village of Ponca in western Newton County. The building was for a short time used as a charter school by a religious organization and was later leased by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). The Ponca facility has displays of elk and many other Arkansas wildlife. It features eye-catching photographs and a gift shop selling nature-related items, as well as hunting and fishing licenses. There is also a small meeting room. Porches offer visitors a chance to …

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the 501st refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System, protects and preserves one of the last remaining bottomland hardwood tracts in the Red River Basin. Established in 1994 under the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act, the refuge encompasses approximately 28,000 acres and is located in southwest Arkansas along the Texas/Oklahoma border. Originally established as Cossatot National Wildlife Refuge, the name was changed in 1997 at the request of citizens to retain the local name, Pond Creek Bottoms. Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge is one of four refuges managed as part of the South Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex with headquarters at Crossett (Ashley County). Geographically positioned in an area where the Central and Mississippi flyways overlap, …

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

aka: Picoides borealis
With the exception of the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) are the rarest of Arkansas’s nesting woodpeckers. A century ago, the bird was common in mature, open pine stands. Its natural range included millions of acres of pine habitat throughout the southeast United States. An estimated ninety-nine percent of suitable habitat was lost because of logging, wildfire suppression, conversion to agricultural lands, and urbanization. Best estimates range-wide indicate an original population numbering over four million. By the time the bird was declared endangered, it had declined to an estimated 10,000. The Arkansas population dwindled to under 400 birds. The red-cockaded woodpecker was designated as endangered on October 13, 1970. It received formal legal protection with the passage …

River Designations

aka: Wild and Scenic Rivers
aka: Arkansas Natural and Scenic Rivers System
Designation of rivers as a method of protection grew out of the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In discussions of designation, the terms “river” and “stream” are used interchangeably. At the national level, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was landmark in recognizing that certain rivers have value and should be preserved in their free-flowing condition. This legislation served as a model for state initiatives. The federal and state models for designation concentrated on activities in the principal channel of the river, such as damming and dredging. At the time, these activities were the biggest threats to rivers. Issues such as gravel mining, minimum stream flow requirements, and property rights activism had not yet …