During the Alliance’s annual Friendraiser event, which was held on September 21st, 2023, an awards ceremony was held to recognize outstanding landowners and partners working towards successful watershed management. Five awards were distributed this year under the following categories: “Watershed Guardian – Professional Partner” and “Watershed Champion” awards for Streamside, Urban, Agriculture, and Forest/Grassland landowners. The following recipients received the awards this year:
Watershed Guardian – Professional Partner: Sean Saunders, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Stream Team. The Alliance is pleased to recognize Mr. Sean Saunders for his efforts with the AGFC Stream Team to help improve water quality, wildlife habitat, instream habitat, and more in the Beaver Lake watershed. Dozens of projects have been completed over the years, ranging from low water crossing repairs to allow for better fish passage, stream restoration, to riparian establishment and conservation workshops. Sean has helped to educate landowners, install native trees and plants, and raise awareness of streamside and watershed management throughout the NWA region. We appreciate our strong partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and are grateful for Sean’s leadership that has helped many landowners and our water resources around Beaver Lake.
Watershed Champion – Streamside Landowner: Brian & Jenn Glenn, Brush Creek watershed. Mr. Glenn and his family have exemplified what it takes to be a watershed champion. Their efforts have included participating in conservation programs like the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water Quality Initiative to help restore their stream reach along Brush Creek, a major tributary to Beaver Lake. The Glenn family also welcomed local landowners and neighbors to see how they can participate as well, through hosting workshops at his farm. The Glenns have graciously allowed the Alliance and other groups to conduct surveys on the stream reach to better understand water quality. These efforts are simple yet impactful as we work together to continue towards reaching goals for a better Beaver Lake watershed.
Watershed Champion – Urban Landowner: Josh Brown, West Fork – White River watershed. Josh Brown has shown true commitment to protecting wildlife and water quality near a quiet suburb of Fayetteville, AR. Josh has worked hard to create a wetland bird stopover pond and bird sanctuary on a flood-plain property nestled between the subdivision and the West Fork – White River. Along with his wildlife conservation efforts, Josh has also been working with the Alliance, Watershed Conservation Resource Center, and BioxDesign to create a water quality “buffer zone” at this location through the use of prairie mounds and depressions that mimic the historical prairie landscape. This project will decrease sediment and excess stormwater runoff from reaching the West Fork. The Alliance is beyond grateful for the collaboration and positive impact Josh has made on this property and his willingness to share with others.
Watershed Champion – Agriculture/Producer Landowner: The Garrison Family/ Moonlit Heights Native Plant Nursery, War Eagle watershed. Shonda and Travis Garrison, owners and operators of Moonlit Height Native Plant Nursery, are working hard to increase the availability of Ozark eco-type native plant availability in the Beaver Lake watershed. Moonlit Heights Native Nursery started production in 2021 through an Alliance and USDA NRCS program to build hoop houses for native plant production. They are currently offering native forbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees, all of which are great for protecting water quality, preventing erosion, providing wildlife and pollinator benefits, and so much more. The Garrisons are committed to learning more about the watershed and natural processes and are frequent attendees of Alliance educational events and workshops. We appreciate their dedication to increasing the availability of local native plants for the Northwest Arkansas region.
Watershed Champion – Forest/Grassland Landowner: Jeff and Laurie Barber, Roberts Creek watershed. Jeff and Laurie Barber are passionate stewards of their property that overlooks the White River. The Barbers have worked with the Alliance and other partners to improve their riparian habitat by planting native trees, establishing no-mow zones, and improving an existing low-water crossing. They have worked with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to convert pasture to native prairie for wildlife habitat and pollinators. The Barber’s leadership serves as an excellent example for landowners that strive to implement conservation practices on their property.
Congrats, and thank you to these outstanding Watershed Champions!