Conservation, Harvey Williams says, boils down to improving quality of life. Williams, the executive vice president of the Bank of the Ozarks Northwest Arkansas division, also believes that conservation creates a better environment in which businesses can flourish.
“Without conservation, Northwest Arkansas would not be the thriving business center it is today,” he says. “Several years ago, Wal-Mart vendors began setting up offices here. What happened is that the people who moved here went back to their headquarters with stories of how wonderful a place Northwest Arkansas is to live.”
In turn, companies like Proctor & Gamble grew from an office with a few employees to more than 250 employees that live and work in Northwest Arkansas today.
“A big part of why they’re here is because of our clean lakes and rivers, our fresh air and our state and federal parks and preserves,” Williams says. “Our investment in conservation has paid off.”
For Williams, special places like The Nature Conservancy’s Smith Creek Preserve in Newton County add to his quality of life. He’s an avid photographer, and he describes himself as the preserve’s “unofficial volunteer monitor.” He visits the secluded 1,226-acre site about once a month, focusing his camera on the amazing waterfalls that flow over gargantuan boulders in Smith Creek, which continues into Sherfield Cave – a cavern that harbors the largest hibernating population of endangered Indiana bats in Arkansas.
“Smith Creek is a gorgeous and pristine place,” Williams says. “The solitude of Smith Creek is something I’ve become addicted to. I do a lot of photography by myself, and I can go there and spend as much time on a particular shot as I need to.”
Williams and his wife, Terri, started a tradition of visiting a new Conservancy preserve each year. In May the couple spent a week at the Conservancy’s Bear Mountain Lodge in southwest New Mexico, watching birds and photographing at nearby natural areas, including the Conservancy’s Gila Riparian Preserve.
“We probably saw 50 different kinds of wildflowers, and we added 83 birds to our list,” Williams says. “We went on guided hikes and learned a tremendous amount from the lodge’s naturalist. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be involved with an organization that does good work all around the world.”
Back in Arkansas, Williams is doing his part to promote the Conservancy’s work. He’s been a Conservancy member for more than five years, and he’s actively involved in launching the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Green Growth, a group aimed at cultivating and engaging the next generation of Nature Conservancy supporters.
“You’ve got to create that new wave of people who have an interest in conservation,” Williams says. “Young people have lots of energy and passion, and as they mature in their careers and build influence and wealth, they’ll already be in the habit of supporting conservation.”
Bank of the Ozarks, Williams says, is committed to supporting Green Growth. Three years ago, Bank of the Ozarks also joined the Corporate Council for Conservation, a coalition of more than 100 of the state’s leading corporations that support the Conservancy’s work throughout Arkansas.
“As business people – good corporate citizens – we have to be interested in the communities in which we work,” Williams says. “It should be a badge of honor for a business to be part of the Corporate Council for Conservation.”
Doing good business
To provide its members businesses more opportunities to become engaged in the work they support, The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas recently revamped the structure of its Corporate Council for Conservation. The Conservancy encourages you to visit nature.org/arkansas and select “Corporate Support,” to learn more about these opportunities and how support from the business community is vital to the conservation of the Natural State’s natural lands and water.