Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Leased riparian areas to be restored to protect Illinois watershed

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

State, Federal Government To Lease Land To Protect River

By Doug Thompson
ROGERS — More than 20 square miles of land along the Illinois River and its tributaries will be planted with trees, native grasses and other plants under a project launched Tuesday.

The program's goal is to stop 10,000 tons a year of pollutants and sediment from getting into the river, state and federal organizers said. The 15,000-acre, $30 million program will be the largest of its type in Arkansas, by far, said Randy Young, director of the state Natural Resources Commission.
"Northwest Arkansas, growing economic gem that it is, is also cognizant of the need to protect our natural resources," said Gov. Mike Beebe. The governor publicly thanked the Walton Family Foundation for a $1 million contribution to the project.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is voluntary, organizers said. Landowners can apply to sign 15-year contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their plots of land along the river and streams.

Cropland and poor quality pastures are sought under the $30 million project. Those lands will be planted with native plants to stem erosion and provide food and shelter to wildlife, organizers said. The contracts will pay an estimated average of $85 per acre annually with a starting bonus amounting to as much as $350 an acre.

"I'm very interested. I'd sign up today if the forms were here," said dairy farmer Bill Haak of Gentry. "This is very farmer friendly and, if you look at the details, you can see that the people who wrote this up have the insight into what will make it work."

"I have grandkids," Haak said when asked why he was interested. "You need another reason than that? Well, this is a chance for farmers to step up to the plate and help preserve water quality."

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is suing Arkansas poultry companies in federal court over pollution in the Illinois River. The case is scheduled for trial Sept. 21.

"We hope this project will help prevent pollution from reaching the waters of the Illinois and its tributaries and support these types of efforts in both states," Edmondson said in a prepared statement about Tuesday's announcement.

The conservation program in Arkansas will match up with a similar one in Oklahoma. The two programs will cover the entire Illinois River watershed, Young said.

Of the $30 million, $24 million will come from a federal appropriation sought and obtained largely through the efforts of 3rd District Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, organizers said. Most of the rest will come from a $1.5 million appropriation from the state and in-kind services provided by the state, such as planning for each plot's project by the state Game and Fish Department and other agencies and water quality monitoring by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Contact Information
Watershed Leases

Those interested in the project can call the Washington County office of the federal Farm Service Agency, 479-521-4520, or the Benton County office, 479-273-2622. Information is also available at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Joe Neal reminds people to listen to his reports and bird songs on KUAF FM radio and online

Joe Neal reports
Some folks might enjoy my recent short piece for Ozarks At Large (OAL) on KUAF, the National Public Radio affiliate at UA-Fayetteville. It involves Great Egrets nesting on a sandy island in the Arkansas River near Alma. You can get the program on this page:


I have been doing such programs as a volunteer for KUAF off & on since 2001. Quite a few are now readily available from the OAL archives. Producer Jacqueline Froelich (with additional technical help from other KUAF staff) taught me to use a compact digital recorder (current model is Sony Hi-MD Walkman MZ-RH1 & a Sennheiser shotgun mic) & Cool Edit sound editing software. I go out and find the sweet spots where birds are singing -- or as in the case of Chesney prairie Natural Area -- where prairie mole crickets are courting -- get a bunch of recordings, bring them home & edit them, and write a brief descriptive commentary. Froelich then packages into a program of 4-5 minutes.

What birds, frogs, crickets say interests me quite a lot, especially when our social air is often so heavily polluted. I rarely feel that way when some of the earth's other residents are talking...and I'm just listening in to catch the latest...
Joe Neal

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brown, Oakley and Neal enjoy August 9, 2009, in the Arkansas River valley

Joe Neal reports:
Jacque Brown, David Oakley, and I spent Sunday morning, August 9, in the Arkansas River valley, in the vicinity of the U of A vegetable experiment farm & a private sod farm southeast of Kibler in Crawford County. We saw a Black-bellied Plover still in immaculate nesting plumage, plus a good sprinkling of other migrating shorebirds: Greater Yellowlegs (2), Solitary Sandpiper (6), Spotted (1), Upland (8, including 1 flock of 6), Semipalmated (1+; many peeps), Least (2+), Pectoral Sandpiper (24+); 8-10 Horned Larks and a similar number of Lark Sparrows, both either at the turf farm or alongside sandy roads through bean fields (including yoy [young of the year]), Grasshopper Sparrow (1 adult singing, 2 yoy near, at turf), Painted Bunting (1; yoy), and BIG flocks of Dickcissels in the bean and sorghum fields.

At one point a couple of guys in a flatbed work truck hailed us to a stop. They explained there are vandalism problems in the area, including stealing watermelons. Our bins and floppy hats marked us as potentially weird but probably harmless. It was Sunday morning, after all, and real bad guys would be shacked-up somewhere. They had 5 big melons on the flatbed just picked. After a friendly talk, they gave us directions we needed. In 5 minutes we spotted a watermelon that had rolled off the truck and split open blocking the roadway; there was no putting that one back together again.

We left by noon, because of heat, and because I wanted to get back to Fayetteville and still have a little August energy to see some public art: the Quaker-sponsored exhibit “Eyes wide open” displayed at the Fulbright Peace Fountain on the U of A campus PLUS to make a program marking the anniversary of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at one of the chapels adjacent campus. My dad was on a Navy ship in the Pacific ready for the invasion of Japan when the bombs were dropped. He always credited the bombs with saving his life and, by the way, getting him home soon, resulting in me. “Eyes wide open” features combat boots arranged in symmetric rows for US servicemen from Arkansas killed in more recent wars & civilian shoes in another area honoring dead non-combatants. It was honorable & sobering, even to a devout bird-watcher. My own eyes and head were still wide open to Black-bellied Plovers & sudden materializations of Upland Sandpipers & generally to the timeless wonde
r of massive continental-wide bird movements. Thinking of my dad, birds, all of these war dead, seemed a confluence of modernity, even on campus, as we honored the disparate victims of various species of spectacular orgasmic violence.
Joe Neal,
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Monday, August 3, 2009

Green Faith Alliance of Central Arkansas to meet by telephone with like-minded or curious Northwest Arkansas residents at UA business school

The Green Faith Alliance of Central Arkansas will meet with us by
telephone on Monday, August 3, at 5:30 pm. Our meeting will be held in
Willard J. Walker Hall, room 546 (fifth floor) on the Business School Campus area at the
University. Attached are directions (from I-540) to the Harmon
parking garage, which is directly across from Walker Hall. The cost
to park there is about $3 for an hour.
As you may recall from my previous email, we talked briefly about the
possibility of having a Green Faith Alliance of Arkansas (dropping the
word “central”) instead of forming a second group called Green Faith
Alliance of Northwest Arkansas. This way, there would be one group,
instead of two, and we might accomplish more by working together than
we can separately.
I am currently on vacation in Georgia. Vivian Hill from St. Paul’s
will be your host for this meeting.
Please RSVP accept or regret to Vivian at vhill@walton.uark.edu as
soon as you can.
We hope that you will be able to join us for this meeting. Again, the
details are:
· Monday, August 3rd
5:30 pm
Willard J Walker Hall, Room 546, U of A Campus
Many thanks to you and thanks for your ministry for the planet that we share.
Michele Halsell

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Doug James, president of Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society and mentor of generations of biologists, on hand for Joe Neal's lecture on Birds in NW Ark

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of crowd on August 1, 2009, to hear Joe Neal discuss birds in Northwest Arkansas. Neal's recently published update of a decades-old book that he and his mentor, Dr. Douglas James of the University of Arkansas, and he compiled, met with the approbation of the record crowd in nightbird's meeting area adjacent to Chad Hammontree's bar and restaurant.

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society publishes Joe Neal's newest book and many members attend signing party

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of fans of Joe Neal at Nightbird Books on August 1, 2009.

Diverse crowd attends Joe Neal's book-signing party at Night Bird Books on August 1, 2009

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of people at Night Bird Books on August 1, 2009.

Three more photos from Nightbird on Saturday night

Please click on images to ENLARGE photos made Aug. 1, 2009, at Night Bird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Four more photos with faces from Joe Neal's August 1, 2009, presentation at NIght Bird Books

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of people talking after Joe Neal's booksigning on August 1, 2009.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A few more faces from Joe Neal's August 1, 2009, presentation at NIght Bird Books

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of more faces from Night Bird Books on August 1, 2009.

Joe Neal's presentation draws record crowd to Nightbird Books' lecture venue

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of some of the people who attended Joe Neal's birding lecture and signing of his newly published book on the birds of northwest arkansas.