Across the globe, rapid development, deforestation and freshwater scarcity threaten to derail our shared future. But nature is resilient—and with the right support, it can mount impressive comebacks. Using a $14 million gift from BHP Billiton, The Nature Conservancy has created The Sustainable Rivers and Forests Initiative, to help realize large-scale conservation success in Texas and Arkansas.
In Texas, the initiative will establish two new preserves—Brazos Woods and San Bernard Woods in the historic Columbia Bottomlands region, near Houston—an area that boasts a unique mix of native Texas grasslands, hardwood forests and coastal wetlands.
In Arkansas, the Conservancy has established the Bluffton and South Fork preserves on 1,840 acres along the upper portion of the Little Red River.
This Columbia Bottomlands is integral to the story of Texas—Stephen F. Austin settled the first colony of North American families in Mexico-owned Texas here in 1821. By the Texas Revolution, more than 30,000 people called the region home.
The Little Red River supports more than 23 rare native fish species and empties into Greers Ferry Lake. This lake is a recreational hotspot within Arkansas's Ozark Mountains, cherished by the local community and visitors alike.
The preserves in Texas protect more than 1,800 acres of critical wildlife habitat and protect water quality in the San Bernard and Brazos rivers.
Arkansas' 973-acre Bluffton Preserve includes 4 miles of the Little Red River's Archey Fork.
Texas' Brazos Woods Preserve will be home to an open-air educational pavilion, which offers community members, visitors, students and researchers, outdoor enthusiasts and partner organizations an array of new opportunities to explore the beauty and biodiversity of nature.
The 867-acre South Fork Preserve in north Central Arkansas was historically used for cattle ranching. The Conservancy will reforest more than four miles of stream-side corridors and repair eroded streambanks on the property.
To date, the Conservancy has protected more than 2,200 acres of the imperiled Columbia Bottomlands region.
The program also includes a Greers Ferry Lake Water Protection Fund to support sediment reduction projects like streambank restoration, unpaved road repairs, and restoration with interested private landowners and counties to restore the health of the watershed, which is integral to life in north central Arkansas. Three projects are underway this fall.