Each year, the Alliance hosts an annual Friendraiser to celebrate another year of successful watershed protection. It is the relationships and partnerships among agencies, organizations, landowners, and other perspectives that help put funding on the ground to restore, protect and enhance the Beaver Lake watershed. Beaver Lake supplies drinking water to 1 in 6 Arkansans, provides industries with the water needed to produce products and services and contributes over $101 million in visitor spending to the regional economy of Northwest Arkansas. Managing the watershed area, or lands that drain into Beaver Lake, including portions of Benton, Carroll, Washington, and Madison counties, takes a lot of collaboration and resources. The Friendraiser is a celebration of these efforts, bringing together landowners and stakeholders that work together to keep local lands and waterways healthy and resilient.
Part of the Friendraiser event is an awards ceremony to recognize outstanding landowners and partners working towards this successful watershed management. Six awards were distributed this year under the following categories: “Watershed Steward- Volunteer Award”, “Watershed Guardian – Professional Partner,” and “Watershed Champion” award for Streamside, Urban, Agriculture, and Forest/Grassland landowners.
Thank you to these extraordinary individuals, groups, and partners that help to elevate conservation for Source Water Protection!
Watershed Steward- Volunteer Award: Ken & Mary Smith. The Smiths have devoted their lives to conservation and volunteering; projects within the watershed that the Smiths have helped to lead include the City of Goshen Rain Garden project; Tree Plantings with the Arbor Board for Goshen; and the City Parks and Rec – Mill Branch Park Management Plan. They have helped to advance and support Source Water Protection through their leadership at the community level.
Watershed Champion – Streamside Landowner: Renee & Gary Valentine. Renee and Gary Valentine are nature enthusiasts, forest advocates, and streamside landowners. Renee is passionate about environmental education and presently serves as the Program Manager for the Ozark Natural Science Center. The Valentines participate in the H2Ozark’s Stream Smart program and have partnered with the Alliance and other organizations in hosting educational and stewardship events, including two riparian tree plantings.
Watershed Champion – Urban Landowner: Sharon Killian / Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association (NWAAAHA). Sharon Killian is a renowned artist and active community member helping many organizations in Northwest Arkansas, especially those promoting the Arts and diversity. Sharon presently serves as the president of the Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association (NWAAAHA) as well as the board president of Art Ventures NWA, which she founded in 2016. Sharon and the NWAAAHA supported the Alliance piloting a series of innovative erosion controls at East Mountain Cemetery, structures built from natural materials which will mitigate future erosion and encourage native vegetation without compromising the sensitive history and archaeological features of this important site.
Watershed Champion – Agriculture/Producer Landowner: Scott Mattke. Scott Mattke has worked with the Alliance and Baylor University to conduct technical and scientific research and evaluation of headwater ponds through a demonstration pond on his property. Mr. Mattke is a cattle producer, with forested and pasture lands, in the headwaters of Rock Creek, a tributary to the West Fork – White River watershed. Mr. Mattke has hosted several groups of state, federal and local partners, including the Alliance Board, to see the pond demonstration, and continues to allow his property to be a study site to show ponds as a viable land management practice and peak flow reduction tool.
Watershed Champion – Forest/Grassland Landowner: David & Karma Nees. David and Karma Nees are incredibly passionate stewards of their forests and grasslands, their land sitting on a ridge just east of the beautiful town of Garfield, overlooking the watershed, Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area, and the Rob and Melani Walton Preserve. David works with the Alliance and our partners to manage his forests, implementing several management practices to improve soil health, increase biodiversity, and practices a land ethic he hopes will inspire other landowners. In addition, David and Karma are also producers in the Alliance’s High Tunnels for Native Plants program, which will help increase the cultivation and availability of Ozark-ecotype native plants, including several which are rare and difficult to find species of grasses, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs.
Watershed Guardian – Professional Partner: Madison County Road Department & Judge Frank Weaver. The Madison County Road Dept, under the leadership of Judge Frank Weaver, has demonstrated leadership in conservation and restoration activities throughout the Madison County area, which positively impacts Beaver Lake. Some examples of their work include unpaved road improvements, such as innovative works with The Nature Conservancy and streambank restoration projects. They have also supported educational signage to be installed throughout the watershed to provide education on Source Water Protection. In addition, Madison County Road Dept staff have attended unpaved road trainings to reduce sediment runoff impacts on unpaved roads.