Hikers walk past a mossy rock outcropping

Markham Hill Preserve

Conservation Easement to protect more than 50 acres on Markham Hill

This summer, we signed a letter of intent with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust agreeing to pursue a conservation easement of more than 50 acres on Markham Hill between I-49 and the University of Arkansas. The forested land contains a variety of large oak, hickory, maple and ash trees and traces of century-old logging roads and hand-built native stone walls and culverts. Much of this land was identified as highest priority by the Northwest Arkansas Open Space Plan. These hillsides, rock outcroppings, springs, and mature forests will be permanently protected and carefully maintained. The conservation easement is adjacent to approximately 62 acres of forested land recently acquired by the City of Fayetteville, amplifying the value of the land for wildlife and watershed protection.

This detail of the NWA Open Space Priority Map shows SREG’s property outlined in blue, and the neighboring City of Fayetteville property in Red. Interstate 49 is shown in dark brown on the left side of the image. Darkest green shades the highest priority areas for conservation. The dashed blue and white lines show the SREG’s Markham Hill property that will be permanently preserved.

A conservation easement not only sets the land aside, it also provides for careful management to improve habitat quality and balance public access with habitat protection. According to Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, a conservation easement is a legal agreement between the landowner and the land trust that places certain agreed-upon restrictions on uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. For example, a conservation easement protects the land from being subdivided and developed. The terms of the conservation easement stay with the property deed and are upheld by the land trust in perpetuity. 

The conservation easement on Markham Hill is made possible by the adjacent development of a neighborhood of new homes and the expansion of Pratt Place Inn, a development that will take place in phases over the next decade.

“As the population of Northwest Arkansas grows, we cannot consume land at the rate as we have in the past,” says SREG CEO Jeremy Hudson. If each household continues to consume a quarter acre of land or more, this place that we love will soon disappear. Our land-use plan for this property provides new housing and services to meet the needs of our growing region while preserving a beautiful natural area. In partnership with the land trust, we aim to create a new neighborhood with healthy habitat for people and nature alike.”

In addition to conserving important ecological services, the easement will also preserve a wooded hillside view that welcomes visitors to Fayetteville on Interstate 49. The land management plan for the new preserve will focus on restoring native habitat, removing invasive species, and offering low-impact public access. We have begun documenting the local ecology with a baseline botanical inventory and a study of Three-Toed Box Turtles in partnership with University of Arkansas biologists, and are planning to open nature trails to the public later this year.

Visit the Markham Hill Nature Trails

Rock shelves on the north side of Markham Hill rest in the area to be permanently protected by a conservation easement in partnership with Northwest Arkansas Land Trust.

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