The Arkansas Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Division is dedicated to conserving Arkansas’s land and water resources.
From Chris Colclasure, Natural Resources Division Director
Season’s Greetings from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Division!
We are excited about rolling out the first edition of the Conservation Corner Newsletter. It is designed to help us better communicate with districts, provide education and technical services, and celebrate successes. Through the newsletter, we plan to recognize districts that employ innovative ideas and incorporate best management practices to benefit Arkansas farmers and landowners and to conserve our natural resources.
This year has been a big year for conservation. Projects across the districts have ranged from feral hog eradication and nutrient management to groundwater and urban conservation. Our state has a very diverse landscape and culture, which means that conservation challenges are not always the same and a one size fits all approach doesn’t always work. This is exactly why the local aspect of what you do is so important. Annually, it is estimated that about $140 million in federally funded practices flow through the districts to tackle the unique conservation challenges in our state.
This month, our staff conducted four days of training across the state for conservation district employees and board members. Our goal was to educate the audience about our programs and answer any questions. More importantly, it provided a chance for Natural Resources Division staff to meet many of you in the districts.
We are looking forward to the new year. Here are some of our conservation district priorities for 2023:

  • Amplifying our effectiveness to improve water quality, reduce feral hogs, and conserve groundwater.
  • Improving processes, materials, and resources for conservation districts.
  • Elevating the relevancy and effectiveness of the conservation districts to provide services to local farmers and landowners.
  • Creating a district "toolkit" to be housed on the agency website.
  • Updating training materials to be presented in regional training sessions to district employees and directors.

In closing, I want to thank each of you for your hard work. We are thankful for our partnerships with each district, the Association of Conservation Districts, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Over my 23 years in state government, I have been passionately focused on conservation in our state. I love the State of Arkansas and I know you do too. We are truly blessed to live here, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I hope that over the next year we can work closer together and that I can get to know each of you. 
Thanks for all that you do to make our state a better place. I wish you all a very Happy Holidays and New Year!
Arkansas PBS Documentary Digs into Soil Conservation Efforts
Dirt, a documentary produced by the Arkansas Public Broadcasting Service, demonstrates ways Arkansas farmers, ranchers, and landowners can improve their operations by protecting the environment using best management practices. The film marks the culmination of the Pulaski County Conservation District’s most recent collaborative project with the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Arkansas.
The film tells the story of seven farmers’ participation in NRCS programs and highlights the impact of these practices on both the natural resources and economic sustainability of their operations. Through the words of these farmers and ranchers, the public will learn about high tunnel houses, cover crops, rotational and strip grazing, silvopasture, tailwater recovery, and much more.

The farmers and ranchers tell their personal stories, discussing their connection to the land and their commitment to the future of agriculture in Arkansas. The film's mission is to showcase new and effective ways to practice conservation and provide outreach to the general public while creating awareness and educating people about our state's number one industry.
Agricultural producers included in the project are:

  • Margie Raimondo – Pulaski County
  • Raymond Kelley – Faulkner County
  • Adam Chappell – Woodruff County
  • Stan Hayes – Searcy County
  • Dallas & Katie Peebles – Woodruff County
  • Steve & Paul Garrison – Fulton County
  • Steven Hawkins – Sebastian County
  • Richard White – Garland County
  • Cody Hopkins – Searcy County
  • Donnie & Patti Larimer – Sebastian County
  • Rodrigo Herrera – Jefferson County
  • John Smith – Greene County
Major funding for Dirt was provided by the Pulaski County Conservation District and the NRCS in Arkansas.
Click here to view Dirt. 
Raymond Kelley, rancher from Faulkner County
Dallas Peebles, farmer from Woodruff County
Natural Resources Division Conservation District Training
This month the Natural Resources Division (NRD) staff conducted four days of training across the state for conservation district employees and board members. Meetings were held in Hope, Monticello, Russellville, and Forest City. Our goal was to educate and update the audience about our programs. It was also an opportunity for NRD staff to meet district employees and learn how the NRD can better serve the districts.
Speakers for the events were: Christy Stewart, Groundwater Tax Credits; Sue Flat-Alami, Wetlands and Riparian Tax Credits; Kevin McGaughy, Unpaved Roads; Mike Guess, Water-use Registration; Mary Elizabeth Lea, Elections, Appointments, and Reappointments; Monica Hancock, Poultry Registration; Savanah Howell, Cost Share and 319 Programs; and JP Fairhead, Feral Hog Pilot Program.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the land resource specialist assigned to your area.
Conservation in Action
St. Francis County Conservation District Irrigation Project
Submitted by: Andrew Gibbons, Land Resource Specialist

The St. Francis County Conservation District utilized the Grants to Districts opportunity to provide four local producers the chance to use moisture sensor technology on their farms to improve irrigation efficiency.

The district chose four producers who were interested in the technology to take part in the project, and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Division (NRD) purchased four moisture sensor units with telemetry. A company representative provided education to the district on how to assemble and use the equipment. The producers then selected the fields and installed the units. Sensors were placed at 6, 12, and 24-inch depths and readings were available for each individual sensor.

A flow meter was installed on the water source which allowed for data collection of the actual amount of water applied to the field. The moisture sensors come with an app that producers can use to monitor the moisture level in the field and make decisions on irrigation timing based on the need of the crop. NRD staff helped producers load the app on their phones and answered questions and provided assistance throughout the entire irrigation season. Producers followed the sensor recommendations, even when they thought it was time to start irrigating, they trusted the technology and waited.

The project monitored moisture in one corn field, two cotton fields, and one soybean field. NRD staff went out monthly to check the equipment and the progress of the crop. Once the irrigation season was over, the sensor units and flow meters were removed from the fields. The amount of water that was applied during the season was calculated using flow meter data.

NRD staff will collect yield data from the producers once the field is harvested, but other than that, the project is complete. Project cost data and information about each farm assisted in the project was tracked in a project information spreadsheet.

The goal of the project was to introduce technology to producers that can help them make decisions that could potentially save them money and conserve water. The four producers in the project were very interested in the technology and the project helped them understand how it works and allowed them to save at least one irrigation during the season. The moisture sensor units are available for cost-share through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The district will continue to make the sensors available to producers that are interested in the technology and want to learn more about it.
The control box transmits soil moisture data from the sensors to a tablet or phone.
A flow meter measures the amount of water pumped from a well.
Soil moisture probes are installed at 6, 12, and 24-inch depths in the lower quarter of the field.
Conservation District Election News
Submitted by: Mary Lea Elizabeth, Agriculture Program Specialist

Each year the districts will hold an election to designate three new board members to serve for three years on their conservation board. Each district is responsible for handling and running their election.

The following districts will hold an election on March 7, 2023:
  • Ashley
  • Benton
  • Chicot
  • Crittenden
  • Crooked Creek
  • Desha
  • Drew
  • Franklin
  • Grant
  • Hot Spring
  • Independence
  • Izard
  • Jackson
  • Johnson
  • L'Aigle Creek
  • Lafayette
  • Lawrence
  • Lee
  • Lincoln
  • Madison
  • Miller
  • Mine Creek
  • Mississippi
  • Montgomery
Election packets were mailed on October 31, 2022. Appointed district directors were notified of the election by letter on November 4, 2022. An electronic version of the packet was emailed to districts on November 8, 2022.
Conservation District Election Dates
  • Publish AD - Notice of Availability for Election, Due January
  • Election Forms E1-E4, Due February 1
  • Early Voting, February 20-March 3
  • Election Day, March 7
  • Election Forms E5-E8, Due immediately after the election
Technical Service Providers (TSP) Deadline Reminders
  • 2nd Billing (October, November, December) for TSP, Due January 11
  • 3rd Billing (January, February, March) for TSP- Due April 12
  • 4th Billing (April, May, June) for TSP- Due July 12
If you need more help or training and would like to schedule a time with Mary Elizabeth Lea, click here. After submission, Mary Elizabeth will reach out to you via email to schedule a meeting.
Upcoming Events

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.