LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – More tourists, more ducks and cleaner water are three benefits Entergy hopes to see in east Arkansas with its recent $150,000 grant to Ducks Unlimited project to restore wetlands near the White River.
Steve Cook, chair of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Senior Flyway Vice President for DU, said the grant is excellent example of how partnerships can create results that benefit the resource as well as the sportsmen and women who use that resource.
"This grant will pave the way for some much needed habitat work in the White River Naitonal Wildlife Refuge that will create more and better hunting opportunities and offer increased habitat for a variety of species, not just waterfowl."
DU Director of Development Corey Dunn shares Cook's thoughts.
"Partners like Entergy make the wetland restoration work we do possible," Dunn said. "Improvements on public lands like the White River Refuge enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for everyone, including Entergy’s employees and customers. At the same time, we are enhancing habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife we are enhancing water quality and flood protection in the area."
For four years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service planned to modify the topography of 30 acres of land in the White River National Wildlife Refuge. The modifications will create two reservoirs that would enhance water quality by allowing suspended solids to settle. The project will also enhance the area’s capacity for waterfowl and provide other benefits.
While the plan has been in place, the money to execute it has not. A grant of $150,000 from the Entergy Environmental Initiatives Fund, funded by Entergy shareholder contributions, to Ducks Unlimited provided partial funding for the project. Using the grant from Entergy and a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, DU will work with the USFWS to design and deliver the project and several others on White River NWR.
"Entergy is committed to protecting our environment, in big ways and small," said Rick Riley, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, Inc. "Improvement projects we help implement in our local communities through the Environmental Initiatives Fund are good not only for the land and water, but also the local economy. Hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts flock to this part of the state to enjoy the natural resources found there and we’re happy to do our part to help preserve these delicate wetlands."
The project is on the Turner Tract of the White River NWR, which is in Arkansas County. It will begin this fall and is expected to take approximately one year to complete.
The White River is vital to the wildlife-related economy of Arkansas, which accounted for $2.8 billion in 2011. Tourism and outdoor recreation are second only to agriculture in the watershed. This project will enhance wetland habitat in a heavily farmed area, promoting watershed health.
The White River NWR is part of Arkansas’ Big Woods and one of the nation’s largest remaining seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forests. These forested wetlands are particularly important for mallards and other migrating and wintering waterfowl. The area is part of DU’s America’s River Initiative, aimed at ensuring sufficient wetland habitat in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley.