Frequently Asked Questions
The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) is charged with the responsibility of protecting the best of the last remaining vestiges of the state's original landscape. ANHC does this through its System of Natural Areas. Natural areas are lands specifically managed to preserve, protect, and sometimes restore vital habitat for plants and animals that represent the natural heritage of all Arkansans.
ANHC was created by Act 112 of 1973 and is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH). Professional staff are employed through this agency to conduct the work to protect the System of Natural Areas and conserve the state’s natural diversity. The commission itself is made up of 15 members. The commission participates in quarterly meetings, provides general direction to ANHC professional staff, and acts on proposals for acquiring and dedicating natural areas. Adding land to the System of Natural Areas combines strategic planning with sound science. Most additions secure habitat for rare species or offer a chance for restoration measures. Some tracts may buffer and protect natural areas from surrounding land use practices that could ultimately impact the survival and/or quality of protected ecosystems.
Locations of exceptional importance to preserving Arkansas’s natural diversity are considered for additions to the System of Natural Areas. Sound scientific site conservation methodologies serve to prioritize areas of primary concern and identify those that can be successfully managed. The commission must hold a perpetual interest in the property to become part of the System of Natural Areas. The interest varies by site, and might range from a donated conservation easement to fee-title ownership. For additional information, contact the chief of Acquisitions and Stewardship.
Natural areas are managed for varying levels of public usage, and site development varies widely. When compatible with the overall conservation vision of the area, efforts are made to provide safe opportunities for moderate, low-impact public use such as bird watching, photography, scientific research, education and even public hunting. Travel is limited to foot traffic to minimize erosion and disturbance to sensitive areas. Some areas or features within areas are not directly accessible by road and may require a significant hike. Trails and parking are not available at all areas and may be very limited at some. Camping and campfires are not allowed.
Some of Arkansas’s State Parks include critical habitat and are managed through partnerships and easements with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. A cooperative agreement between ANHC and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has incorporated certain natural areas into the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Area (WMA) System which opens up more public lands for hunting.
The very concept of "natural areas" would seem to imply that these are places that should be left untouched. The reality is often just the opposite. We cannot simply fence these lands and walk away. Long-term viability of natural communities requires science-based conservation through active and sound management. In some cases, natural areas must undergo restoration to improve their overall condition. ANHC stewardship staff take methodical steps, based on sound scientific research, to restore ecosystem functions and maintain or enhance habitat conditions required to perpetuate rare species and natural communities. Where appropriate, staff use a variety of techniques, including non-native and/or invasive species control, timber stand management, and prescribed burning.
Access to natural areas or certain features on natural areas is limited by safety concerns, protection for rare species, and specific restrictions related to the property and neighboring landowners. Many natural areas are surrounding by private property and we work with our neighbors to provide access where feasible.
The collection and/or removal of plants (including fruits, nuts, or edible plant parts), animals, fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead, is prohibited. Collecting for scientific or educational research requires a permit issued by ANHC.
Plants and animals are designated as “threatened” or “endangered” through the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The ESA is federal legislation that aims to conserve the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend. The ESA was signed into law by President Nixon in December 1973. The ESA protects plant and animal species and is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. Its aim is twofold: to provide protection for species that are in danger of extinction and to conserve the habitats on which those species depend. ANHC works with what we term “rare” plants and animals or, more specifically, “Species of Conservation Concern.” These are native plants and animals that are at-risk due to declining population trends, threats to their habitats, restricted distribution, and/or other factors. Listing as a Species of Concern is based on the Arkansas status ranking, and is not a statutory or regulatory classification. These designations provide information that helps resource managers make proactive decisions regarding species conservation and data collection priorities. If at all possible take pictures from many different angles. If that is not possible, try to write as complete a description as possible, including a size reference (bigger than a robin, taller than a yard stick, etc.), color(s), location (streambank, field, tree top), time of day, behavior, and anything else you feel noteworthy. Do NOT pick it, capture it, or otherwise remove it from the wild. You can email this information to our general email [email protected], or call our main office number 501-324-9619
ANHC usually discourages landowners from growing rare plant species, especially using seeds or plants from outside Arkansas. Plants from other regions experience different environmental conditions than those here. In the short term, imported rare plants may be less successful in Arkansas, and could even spread new genes to native populations that make the native plants less successful. Plants from native stock of common species are available from a variety of sources.
Environmental reviews are handled through the Research Section of ANHC by the Heritage Program Data Manager. Currently, that staff person is Cindy Osborne, [email protected], 501-324-9762.
We have lesson plans containing Arkansas-specific information for pre-K through 12 curriculums, with correlations to state frameworks and resource lists for additional information. We also have detailed, printed booklets available for downloading on topics such as the natural divisions of Arkansas. We have posters illustrating the plants and animals that live in different types of habitats in Arkansas. Activity sheets such as word searches, crossword puzzles, and coloring pages are also available.
All programming is free of charge and professional staff are available, on a limited basis, to present programs or workshops to a variety of audiences, ages, abilities and backgrounds, including classroom students, teacher workshops, and community groups.
We have an active volunteer program with a variety of opportunities to help with “hands-on" activities. We also accept charitable contributions through our Natural Areas Stewards program.
The photographs on this website are the property of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) unless otherwise stated. They may be used for purposes such as teaching, scholarship, private study or personal use, as long as a credit statement (to the ANHC) is included; however, any other use such as commercial publication or multiple reproductions requires written permission from ANHC.
ANHC is an agency of Arkansas Heritage (DAH), a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. All job listings and applications are handled through the Director’s Office of DAH. Applicants will need to send a completed state application directly to: DAH Personnel, 1100 North Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. DAH is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All vacancies are also listed on the general “Arkansas Jobs” website for all jobs in state government: https://www.ark.org/arstatejobs/index.php.