AUGUSTA, AR (AGFC) - A close connection to the land has been with Bert and Cheryl Haralson all their lives. When their interests focused on wildlife, the next step came naturally.
They went to work for habitat, the foundation and the backbone for Arkansas's bountiful wildlife. They have made significant contributions in Arkansas wetlands for waterfowl and in Arkansas upland country for elk.
Both Bert and Cheryl are natives of Augusta. Bert is a product of a farm family and has been in farming all his adult life. Cheryl worked as a legal secretary in her younger years and has been an enthusiastic partner with Bert in habitat work and outdoor activities for many years now.
It is natural for many east Arkansas farmers to blend their agricultural pursuits with duck hunting. Bert Haralson did this for many years, and it led to a major undertaking for them five years ago. They put 750 acres of wetlands into a conservation easement, assuring it will remain wildlife habitat forever. The land is on the Cache River and adjoins Rex Hancock Black Swamp Wildlife Management Area of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as well as the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.
The Haralsons were already involved in wildlife work as one of the first farm families to join the Conservation Reserve Program in 1987. Tree planting drew their attention on land better suited for growing wildlife than for producing crops.
A trip to the West for mule deer hunting evolved into elk hunts for Bert in the 1980s. He quickly became an elk enthusiast, with Cheryl in step with him. They became life members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and when talk of an Arkansas elk hunt on a limited basis began in the late 1990s, the Harlasons were quick to step up as volunteers. They were already involved as Elk Foundation representatives in partnership habitat improvement projects, and Cheryl served on the Elk Foundation's national board of directors for a number of years.
From the beginning, a feature of the Arkansas elk hunts was the auctioning of two permits at Elk Foundation banquets, with most of the money going to elk work in Arkansas. The Haralsons helped talk up and sell the Arkansas hunts at the Elk Foundation national banquet then went a major step further.
They hosted the out-of-state permit winner each year, and they were stylish hosts to the extent the experience has brought repeat high bidders. "Elk camp" with the Haralsons is a tradition much talked when Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members gather.
The Haralsons bought land and a house in the elk country of Newton County, and they made a conservation easement on 314 acres that is bordered by the AGFC's Gene Rush WMA, insuring it will be a home for elk, deer, turkey, bear and other wildlife forever.