A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: Salazar Highlights Two Proposed Projects in Arkansas to Promote Outdoor Recreation, Conservation
Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Arkansas that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Extension of the Delta Heritage Trail from Helena to Arkansas City and the Arkansas River Trail from downtown Little Rock to West Little Rock are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Mike Beebe and the state of Arkansas, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Arkansas and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Arkansas highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Delta Heritage Trail
Arkansas State Parks acquired the Delta Heritage Trail in 1993 when the abandoned Union Pacific Rail line was converted to the “Rails to Trails” program. Ultimately, the state hopes to complete a 73-mile hiking and biking trail through the heart of the delta that would provide recreational access to a largely inaccessible area.
The area includes vital habitat for 265 species of neotropical migratory and resident songbirds and is the most important wintering area for mallard ducks in the United States. Designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, the area includes the largest contiguous block of bottomland hardwood forest remaining on any tributary of the Mississippi River.
The state has now completed 14 miles of the trail and there is an opportunity to build more. The trail skirts the White River National Wildlife Refuge and Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery National Historic Landmark, part of the National Park Service-managed Japanese American Confinement Sites Program. It also runs along the Osotuoy Unit of Arkansas Post National Monument.
When completed, the project promises to provide greater opportunities for outdoor recreation, to increase public understanding of the diverse landscapes of the Arkansas delta, and to enhance partnerships between Interior, agricultural interests, state agencies, and environmental organizations. It also will engage young people in outdoor recreation and education.
Arkansas River Trail
A chain of parks, on both sides of the Arkansas River, links a complex of city trails and parks that runs from the Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock to the Big Dam Bridge in West Little Rock.
The state and the communities envision the Arkansas River Trail reaching from downtown Little Rock to Pinnacle Mountain State Park (and the 225-mile Ouachita Wilderness Trail) on the southern shore and from downtown North Little Rock to Cook's Landing on the northern shore.
These routes will directly connect city residents to the surrounding rural areas. A pedestrian bridge across Murray Lock and Dam and a renovated railroad bridge near the Presidential Library Center and Park will help create another 14-mile loop. All together this project will open approximately 24 miles of trail in central Arkansas.
While a great deal of progress has already been made in developing these trails and parks, another 12.5 miles of the Arkansas River Trail needs to be completed.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Arkansas, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance for extension of the Delta Heritage Trail and completion of the Arkansas River Trail.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.