Why the Conservancy Selected This Site. The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas dedicated its Smith Creek Preserve in Newton County in 2005. The 1,226-acre preserve lies above Sherfield Cave, where the largest colony of Indiana bats in the state hibernates each winter.
Smith Creek Preserve, along with an easement the Conservancy purchased on adjacent property where the main entrance of Sherfield Cave is located, limits disruptions to the endangered bats during hibernation, which can increase the bats’ mortality rates. In addition, the preserve, which is also home to gray bats, black bears and elk, conserves the surrounding forest necessary for the Indiana bats’ foraging and roosting needs, and it will help ensure the water flowing into the cave and the Buffalo River – the first national river in the U.S. – remains clean. The preserve also serves as an additional connection between the Ozark National Forest and the Buffalo National River Wilderness Area.
The ecological benefits of the preserve caught the attention of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which administers Wal-Mart's “Acres for America” grant program. As part of the program, Wal-Mart pledged $35 million over 10 years to purchase one acre of priority wildlife habitat for every acre it develops. In 2005, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation chose the Conservancy as one of five initial grantees, and granted $400,000 to the Conservancy for the Smith Creek Preserve.
Threats. Had the Conservancy not acquired the preserve, it probably would have been developed, which would have negatively affected the Indiana bats living in Sherfield Cave and the other animals spend all or part of their life cycles on the property. Development would have also affected water quality in the cave and in Smith Creek, which would have impacted water quality in the Buffalo National River.
Bloodroot, a wildflower (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Elk (Cervus elaphus)
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing. The Conservancy has developed stewardship plans for Smith Creek that include forest management practices that benefit roosting and foraging opportunities for Indiana bats. The Conservancy and its partners monitor Indiana bat populations and other species in Sherfield Cave every other year.