Nature Conservancy Collection Now Open to Researchers

In the forty-two years that the Arkansas Field Office of the Nature Conservancy has operated, staff and volunteers have combined their efforts to conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of natural habitat in the state. This protected land includes forests, prairies, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Conservancy efforts have created and preserved national wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, and state natural areas. The Nature Conservancy also engages in educating the public about conservation, taking inventories of the state’s natural treasures, and providing ongoing funding to protect the Natural State.

Boaters on a field trip surveying Bayou DeView in Monroe County, October 4, 1997. Bayou DeView, along with the Cache River and portions of the Arkansas and White rivers, waters the Big Woods region in Arkansas. Preserved lands within this region contain bottomland hardwood forests of cypress trees and are home to many plants, fish, birds, and other species, some of which are rare or endangered.

The Nature Conservancy was formed in Washington DC in 1951. Since that year, the Conservancy has created field offices in various states and also in other nations around the world. Unlike some other conservation organizations, the Conservancy seeks cooperation with “big business” rather than operating in an adversarial relationship. In Arkansas, such cooperation has included companies such as Alcoa, Aromatique, Entergy, Georgia-Pacific, Potlatch, and Weyerhaeuser. Such businesses donate land for conservation and also help to fund conservation efforts. On occasion, businesses and the Conservancy exchange pieces of land, returning some locations to economic development while offering protection to other locations that have a greater significance for the preservation of rare and endangered plants and animals. The Field Office’s Corporate Council for Conservation combines recognition of past contributions with continued education for business leaders, building upon past successes to create further opportunities for environmental protection and conservation.

Lisenne Rockefeller and Winthrop Paul Rockefeller hosting a garden party to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Nature Conservancy Arkansas Field Office at their home in Little Rock, April 24, 1993. Both Rockefellers were/are lifelong supporters of the Conservancy’s work in Arkansas. Lisenne worked on the staff of the Field Office when it began in 1982.

Nancy DeLamar (state director of the Conservancy in Arkansas from 1986 until 2003) and Scott Simon (who succeeded DeLamar in the director’s office) donated materials from the Nature Conservancy Arkansas Field Office to the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in 2013. These materials include minutes from the Field Office’s Board of Trustees between 1982 and 2013, as well as planning notes, photographs, and evaluations of Conservancy activities in Arkansas. Among these activities were fundraising events (a tenth anniversary brunch in 1993 at the Rockefeller home in Little Rock; a meal at Wingmead resort in Prairie County, Arkansas, in 1995; annual meetings of the Corporate Council for Conservation, and other events), celebrations of acquired properties (including Baker Prairie in Harrison and the Lorance Creek wetlands in Pulaski County); and agreements with various landowners for donation or exchange of lands. Also in the collection are newsletters, audio/video recordings, scrapbooks, slides, and mementos from Conservancy work in Arkansas.

The Conservancy has received many accolades for its work, but probably no event outweighs the accounts in 2005 describing sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker. That elusive bird, long believed to be extinct, was reported to be found in the Big Woods region of Arkansas, located along the Arkansas, Cache, and White rivers and Bayou DeView. The Conservancy, working with state and county officials, had long been involved in conservation of that part of Arkansas, so news of the woodpecker’s possible survival in these protected lands reflected well on it.

The Conservancy’s work is taken seriously by staff, volunteers, and partners; however, this work also has light moments. Following reports of the ivory-billed woodpecker sightings, the Arkansas Field Office received many communications, some congratulatory and others expressing doubt. One sincere writer offered several suggestions to ensure that the creature that had been spotted was a live bird and not a robot…

Hannah Peacock and Nancy DeLamar in the Field Office in Little Rock, August 28, 1996. They were celebrating the tenth anniversary of Director DeLamar’s leadership of the Conservancy in Arkansas. Hannah is the daughter of Lance Peacock, who was the resident scientist on the staff of the Field Office.

In a memorandum shared within the office, a staff member offered a reply to the writer, which said in part, “Actually we at The Nature Conservancy are very familiar with robotic birds. As you may well know, much of the acquisitions within the national wildlife refuges are paid for by revenues from duck stamps. Because this funding is very critical to habitat conservation, we at The Nature Conservancy were quite concerned when the number of waterfowl harvested in Arkansas began to decline, which directly impacted duck stamp revenues. It was then that we hired the world’s leading robotic bird engineer to design a life-like, fully functional, yet inexpensive mallard duck that could be mass produced. Our hope was that the robotic ducks would once again entice more hunters to buy duck stamps in Arkansas. In short, we produced more than a million of these robotic birds, which led to a record year of duck hunting in 2005. And we calculate that only half of our robotic mallards were harvested this past hunting season. We just hope they do return to Arkansas next season, and that they do not find a more suitable habitat elsewhere…. On a somewhat humorous note, Mr. Luneau attributes a robotic squirrel, not fate, for his video that’s provided the best evidence for the continued survival of the living ivory-billed woodpecker. Mr. Luneau said that while searching for the living ivory-bill, he had been watching a squirrel eating nuts for an hour and decided to motor his canoe closer for a better look. He said he’d never seen a robotic squirrel eat nuts, but he—like you—was very familiar with robotic qualities in seemingly life-life creatures. (In this case, he recognized an apparent electrical short in the tail, which caused it to resemble more an automatic dusting machine than the natural movements of a living squirrel.) And it was as he was on his way to take a closer look that he captured the living ivory-bill video!”

The Nature Conservancy Arkansas Field Office records (BC.MSS.14.37) contain material from the Nature Conservancy Arkansas Field Office from 1982 to 2013. Included are organizing documents, records of Board of Trustees meetings, staff activities, fund-raising events, negotiations to obtain land for conservation, and events celebrating the conservation of natural areas. The collection includes paper documents, photographs, audio and video recordings, and elements of public displays.

The collection is now available to researchers, and the finding aid is here. Come visit us in the Research Room at the CALS Roberts library to check it out!

By Steve Teske, archivist at the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies/Roberts Library

(Header image: Guests at the dedication of the Strawberry River Preserve in Sharp County, Arkansas, June 9, 2001.)





Butler Banner Archive

The Butler Banner archives between 1999-2018 are available in PDF format only. The Butler Banner was our print newsletter.

> Check out the back issues


We allow certain outlets to reprint our copyrighted Butler Banner or CALS Roberts Library blog posts with express permission. To seek permission, please email Glenn Whaley at