[audubon-news] AUDUBON ARKANSAS TO RESTORE FOURCHE CREEK

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: #Audubon Board of Directors <IMCEAEX-_O=AUDUBON_OU=NATIONAL_CN=RECIPIENTS_CN=BoardOfDirectors@xxxxxxxxxxx>,#Audubon Staff <audstaff@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 09:37:56 -0400

                                Contact: Linda Vanderveer
212/979-3197
lvanderveer@xxxxxxxxxxx

AUDUBON ARKANSAS TO RESTORE FOURCHE CREEK BOTTOMLANDS; 
EPA AWARDS $265,000 FEDERAL GRANT TO LAUNCH PROJECT

Coalition of Partners Will Assist With Education and Conservation Programs
On Site

Little Rock, AR Monday, August 5, 2002 - With the support of nearly a dozen
partner organizations from around the state, Audubon Arkansas is beginning a
multi-year project to restore the habitat of the Fourche Creek bottomlands,
the organization announced today.  The announcement was made at a press
conference at Little Rock's Hindman Park, which was attended by Mayor Jim
Dailey and other key dignitaries.  The 6,000-acre Fourche Creek bottomlands
are located at the south end of Little Rock, and provide a drainage basin
for 98 percent of the city.  Among the many benefits of Audubon's
restoration work will be cleaner air and water for the region, increased
recreation opportunities along the watershed, and educational programming.

"This is an unparalleled project in both the state of Arkansas and the city
of Little Rock," said Ken Smith, executive director of Audubon Arkansas.
"As the largest urban watershed rehabilitation ever undertaken in the state,
the Fourche Creek Restoration and Education Project is an important
investment in both the people and the wildlife of Arkansas.  The benefits of
the project will extend well beyond the city limits, and will be experienced
for years to come.  We are grateful for the generosity of our many partners
in making this project possible."

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $265,000 federal grant to
Audubon Arkansas to launch the project.  The Arkansas Soil and Water
Conservation Commission will administer the grant, which went into effect
July 1, on the local level.  In addition to the EPA grant, Audubon Arkansas
has received commitments for donated services totaling $700,000 of the
project costs, including pledges from the Arkansas Department of
Environmental Quality, the Arkansas Forestry Commission, the Arkansas Canoe
Club, Little Rock Public Works, and Little Rock Parks and Recreation.

"The Fourche Creek project will not only improve the environment but will
also provide new conservation education opportunities for all Arkansans,"
said Gov. Mike Huckabee.  "This is an excellent example of what happens when
state, federal and local government agencies work closely with the private
sector.  This project will not only benefit those of us who enjoy the
Fourche Creek area now, it also will benefit future generations in our
state. This is one of the most exciting urban watershed projects in the
country. I'm proud we're doing it here in Little Rock."

"I grew up in the Fourche Creek Bottomlands hunting, fishing, and exploring
as a kid will do," said Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey.  "The city's
partnership with Audubon to restore the Fourche Creek watershed is one of
the most exciting projects I have been involved in.  It is a major step
toward fulfilling our vision of a "City In A Park."  I want all of our
city's children to learn about Fourche Creek, its wildlife and towering
trees, and to develop a deeper appreciation for nature."  


To implement the project, Audubon Arkansas is leasing 2,000 acres of stream
and wetland habitat from the city to be used for conservation and education
programs.  Audubon will co-manage the site with Little Rock Parks and
Recreation, and will partner with federal and state agencies, private
companies, educators, non-profits, and the general public to carry out the
projects.  

The plan for the Fourche Creek Restoration Project focuses on three main
conservation components: identification of baseline data, such as water
quality and sites in need of work; pollution reduction; and revitalization
of wetland function through reforestation and stream bank restoration.  

Education will also play a major role in the restoration work.  Each of the
conservation initiatives will include on-site environmental education
programs for youths and young adults.  Audubon will work with over 30
schools within the Fourche Creek area to provide real-world experience in
the conservation arena.  Among the partner schools will be the University of
Arkansas at Little Rock, and Philander Smith College, Little Rock's
historically African-American university.  Audubon has established 11
internships for local university students within the Fourche Creek project.
Through the project interns will learn job skills and benefit from training
provided by state and federal environmental experts.  The interns will also
be responsible for bringing high school participants into the restoration
process and passing on their newly acquired skills and knowledge to yet
another generation of future scientists.  

Additionally, in order to continue serving the environmental education needs
of the community for decades to come, Audubon will begin construction in
2005 on a new nature education center in the community of Granite Mountain,
adjacent to the Fourche.

While the Fourche Creek Restoration project will focus heavily on
environmental and educational components, recreational opportunities will
also be developed along the watershed.  Audubon will work with the Arkansas
Canoe Club and Little Rock Parks and Recreation to create and maintain a
system of hiking, biking, and canoe trails associated with the Audubon
Center.

In addition, Little Rock Parks and Recreation, along with City in a Park
Conservancy, has submitted two grant applications to improve access to, and
interpretation of, Fourche Creek.  Several sites will be improved with
parking, boat launching ramps, and picnicking areas.  Signs will be
installed along the canoe trails to provide direction and interpretation of
the ecosystem.

"The Fourche Creek Restoration Project is a massive undertaking," added
Smith.  "In order to accomplish all of our goals we will not only be relying
on our partners, but on the public as well.   We will need continued
commitment and action as well as financial support."

The Fourche Creek Watershed spans 108,000 acres, roughly 6,000 of which are
located within the city limits of Little Rock.  The watershed is home to
hundreds of plant and animal species, including many types of birds such as
herons, owls, warblers and ducks.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat
that supports them.  Our growing network of community-based Audubon Centers,
grass roots science programs for bird enthusiasts, and advocacy on behalf of
ecosystems sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people
of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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