Better Unpaved Roads for Nature and People

Partners Organize to Improve Roads for Nature and People

Many of the best places in Arkansas can only be reached by leaving the pavement. Dirt and gravel roads are the transportation backbone for rural communities and for many industries in Arkansas, including forestry, row crop agriculture, ranching and energy. They are also our connection to hunting, fishing, boating and hiking in the wild places we love.

Although we rely heavily on unpaved roads, they can wash tons of harmful sediment into the very streams, rivers and lakes we love to visit and that provide us with drinking water. Too much sediment harms wildlife habitat and makes water more expensive to treat for drinking. Eroding roads are expensive to maintain for county governments and can cause a lot of wear and tear on vehicles.

Fortunately there are cost-effective and proactive solutions to managing roads that minimize these problems. The Arkansas Association of Counties is the lead partner joined by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, Arkansas Forestry Association, Arkansas Forestry Commission, The Nature Conservancy and many others.

The program partners provide 50% funding to be matched by 50% funding or in-kind donations from the counties for high priority individual county road improvement projects. The Department of Rural Services administers the program with the partners participating in an advisory committee. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View.

The partners envision a two-part program:

(1) provide training to unpaved roads professionals in construction and maintenance techniques that protect water and air quality; and

(2) fund on-the-ground unpaved road improvement projects where they will do the most good for nature and people. The partners are currently working together to establish dedicated sources of funding.

“This program makes sense for Arkansas both economically and environmentally,” said Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison. “With so many partners pulling in the same direction, I’m excited about what we’ll be able to do together.