WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust announced Monday the donation of 25 acres along Wildcat Creek, near Tontitown, to create a one-of-a-kind nature preserve dedicated to the conservation of grassland birds.

According to a press release, birds that depend on open grasslands are the fastest declining birds in North America. Since 1970, an estimated 3 billion birds have been lost from the overall population, mostly because their habitats have been destroyed.

In Northwest Arkansas, 13 of the 42 birds listed as “species of greatest conservation need,” must have grasslands for food, shelter, and nesting. Some of these species live within the new conservation area. 

“Mrs. Betty and the Hinshaw family have been stewards of their land for 60 years and we are honored they have entrusted us with protecting and stewarding a piece of it for the future,” said Pam Nelson, NWALT Director of Land Protection. “In honor of Mrs. Hinshaw’s commitment to bird conservation, the sanctuary has been named after her.”

The NWA Land Trust says it will restore the 25-acre tract to its native grassland with local species of tall grasses and prairie wildflowers. A dedicated pollinator habitat will provide forage for birds while native shrub thickets will offer nesting areas and cover. Along with birds, the sanctuary will reportedly conserve and support hundreds of plant and animal species that depend on this kind of habitat.

There will also be a small parking area and a mile-long public trail to allow for quiet pedestrian access and birding opportunities for the community. 

“Like most people, I want to leave something behind that means something,” said Mrs. Hinshaw, who recently celebrated her 97th birthday. Partnering with the Land Trust gave her and her family the opportunity to do that. “I’m just happy our feathered friends will find a safe place to nest because of the responsibility the Land Trust has taken on.”

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 70 bird species have been documented within a one-mile radius of the Betty Hinshaw Bird Sanctuary. Some of the birds expected to be observed within the sanctuary and nearby pond include Bald Eagle, Mississippi Kite, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Eastern Bluebird.    

“I can’t overstate the importance of what Mrs. Betty has done by donating this land to the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust.  Not only has she preserved a piece of her family legacy, but she has also preserved a piece of our natural legacy,” said Marson Nance, NWALT Director of Land Stewardship and Research. “We hope that public access will open the door for educational opportunities and foster the next generation of conservationists here in Northwest Arkansas.” 

The Betty Hinshaw Bird Sanctuary will open to the public in Fall, 2022.

For more information, visit the land trust’s website at www.nwalandtrust.org.