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722-mile White River, watershed designated as second National Blueway

The Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of federal forest land within the newly designated White River Blueway.
The Forest Service manages
more than 1 million acres of
federal forest land within the
newly designated White River

The 700-plus-mile White River and its watershed, which includes two national forests and flows through Arkansas and Missouri, is now the second National Blueway river system in the U.S. after a dedication ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Little Rock, Ark.

“The designation of the White River watershed as a National Blueway demonstrates the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to the protection of public and working lands that are crucial to the growth and revitalization of rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The resources made available through this designation will support and promote needed conservation efforts and bolster valuable economic growth and job creation in years to come.”

As part of the new White River National Blueway, USDA announced that in FY 2013, working with the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts to establish priorities, it will commit more than $22 million to soil and water conservation in counties located within the White River Watershed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Approximately $13 million of those funds will be directed to pasture land to provide soil and water conservation needs that arose from the drought in 2012.

Additionally, the Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of federal forest land within the boundary of the Blueway, and is engaging in dozens of projects aimed at improving habitat within the watershed.

Among the efforts the agency has tackled within the watershed are:

  • Remove barriers to movement of aquatic organisms.
  • Increase vegetative restoration treatments.
  • Remove non-native invasive plants.
  • Reduce chronic erosion issues.
  • Increase outdoor recreational opportunities and access.
  • Rehabilitate recreation sites to reduce erosion and sedimentation entering stream courses.
  • Address cave management issues associated with white nose syndrome and bats.


As part of the White River Blueway watershed, the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri’s only national forest, manages almost 1 million acres and the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests manage an additional 14,000 acres.

The White River flows from its headwaters in the Ozarks to its mouth at the Mississippi River. The White River drains a watershed spanning 17.8 million acres across 60 counties in Arkansas and Missouri, home to 1.2 million people who rely on the economic impact that recreation, tourism, agriculture and commerce along with river provide. Wildlife-related economies of Arkansas and Missouri accounted for $1.8 billion and $2.8 billion in 2011, respectively.

Public and private landowners in the watershed have already conserved more than 3.2 million acres of their land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Work within the White River Blueway will help<br /> protect the lands for such uses as recreation.
Work within the White River Blueway will help
protect the lands for such uses as recreation.

The first National Blueway is the 410-mile-long Connecticut River and its 7.2 million-acre watershed that cuts across Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The program is intended to provide a national emphasis on the unique value and significance of a “headwaters to mouth” approach to river management.

The National Blueways System is part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century. A National Blueways System will help coordinate federal, state, and local partners to promote best practices, share information and resources, and encourage active and collaborative stewardship of rivers and their watersheds across the country. National Blueways are nationally recognized rivers and their watersheds that are highly valued recreational, social, economic, cultural and ecological assets for the communities that depend on them.

US Forest Service
Last modified April 15, 2013

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