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6 March 2019 The Devil and the Deep Blue Lake: How Natural Area Acquisition and Stewardship Helps Protect the Major Drinking Reservoir in Northwestern Arkansas
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The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC)'s 1225-ha Devil's Eyebrow Natural Area (DENA), located at the northern end of Beaver Lake along Indian Creek, Butler Creek, and their tributaries, is an ecologically significant site in the Ozark Highlands that falls primarily within the Beaver Lake Watershed, deemed the number-one priority watershed by Arkansas's Unified Watershed Assessments and Restoration Priorities Report due to its designation as an extraordinary water resource, the presence of imperiled aquatic species in the watershed, its role as one of the most important supplies of drinking water in the state, and its status as both an impaired water body and an interstate “water of concern.” Beaver Lake supplies drinking water to more than 420,000 people, one in eight Arkansans, and industries including the Walmart Home Office in northwest Arkansas. DENA protects 5 km of Beaver Lake frontage and 7.5 km of critical tributaries in the watershed and is part of a broader interconnected Conservation Corridor that includes Nature Conservancy preserves, Army Corps of Engineers property surrounding Beaver Lake, Hobbs State Park Conservation Area in Arkansas, and the Mark Twain National Forest and Roaring River State Park in Missouri. Water quality protection and improvement has been a critical component driving the funding of DENA, as well as both a direct and indirect focus of much of ANHC's ongoing restoration efforts on the property. Road improvements to decrease sedimentation, reforestation efforts, and feral swine removal have all served to improve water quality in the watershed. A project to improve glade habitat for several species of greatest conservation need through cedar removal has had the added benefit of providing aquatic habitat structure for fish and improving angling opportunities in Beaver Lake. This project serves as a model for conservation partnerships in critical watersheds and also highlights how efforts to directly improve water quality, as well as efforts with indirect benefits to watersheds (conceived primarily to restore terrestrial habitats), can have far-ranging benefits for ecosystems, imperiled species, and stakeholders. Here we present how the ANHC and its conservation partners have successfully used various strategies to build local support, leverage funding, engage the public, and conduct meaningful conservation at a regional scale.

Dustin T. Lynch, C. Theo Witsell, Bryan A. Rupar, William C. Holimon, and Darrell W. Bowman "The Devil and the Deep Blue Lake: How Natural Area Acquisition and Stewardship Helps Protect the Major Drinking Reservoir in Northwestern Arkansas," Natural Areas Journal 39(1), 78-89, (6 March 2019).
Published: 6 March 2019

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