Sunset view of the Flatside Wilderness from Flatside Pinnacle Mountain.

Rep. French Hill Introduces Bill to Expand the Flatside Wilderness Area

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. French Hill (AR-02) introduced H.R. 3971, the Flatside Wilderness Additions Act, which will add 2,215 U.S. Forest Service acres to the Flatside Wilderness area. In 2019, Flatside was initially expanded by over 600 acres under Hill’s original bill, H.R. 5636, the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act.
“Arkansans and visitors should enjoy the amazing landscape our great state has to offer. In 2019, my bill, the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act, added over 600 acres to Flatside Wilderness, known as Bethune Woods. In 2019, I also commissioned a study of all possible qualifying additions to Flatside,” said Hill. “I am proud to introduce H.R. 3971, the Flatside Wilderness Additions Act, which will complete my work on the final expansion of Flatside Wilderness and add an additional 2,215 acres of existing forest service land to the area – bringing more opportunities for Arkansans and visitors to explore more of Arkansas’s natural qualities and further boost our state’s outdoor recreation economy.”
The map below was provided by the office of Representative Hill.  The green area outlines the 2,215 acres that would be added to Flatside Wilderness Additions Act (HR 3971). The blue area is the 640-acre tract that was added under the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act in 2019 (HR5636).
Map of proposed new Wilderness Area in the Ouachita Mountains.
Map of proposed new Wilderness Area in the Ouachita Mountains.

What is a Wilderness Area?

A Federal Wilderness Area, also known as a Wilderness, refers to a designated land area in the United States managed and protected by the federal government under the Wilderness Act of 1964. These areas are recognized for their pristine and undeveloped nature, offering outstanding opportunities for solitude, recreation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems.

The Wilderness Act defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It emphasizes the preservation of wilderness character, which includes natural conditions, minimal human impact, and self-regulating ecological processes.

The designation of a Federal Wilderness Area imposes certain legal protections and restrictions on the land. Motorized vehicles, mechanized equipment, and permanent structures are generally prohibited within wilderness areas. The primary activities allowed in wilderness areas include non-motorized recreation, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife observation. Mountain biking is currently not allowed in Wilderness Areas.

See also  Ozark-St. Francis National Forest Interested in Partnership Opportunity at Lake Wedington Recreation Area

Federal Wilderness Areas are managed by various federal agencies, including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. These agencies work to maintain the ecological integrity of wilderness areas while also providing visitor access and enjoyment, often through the establishment of designated trails and campsites.

Bicycles and motorized vehicles will continue to be allowed on the forest roads surrounding the Wilderness Area.
Bicycles and motorized vehicles will continue to be allowed on the forest roads surrounding the Wilderness Area.

Designated Wilderness Areas in Arkansas

There are 11 designated wilderness areas in Arkansas, all within the U.S. Forest Service properties except Big Lake Wilderness in the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Buffalo National River Wilderness: several parcels along the Buffalo National River corridor.

Here are the 11 designated wilderness areas in Arkansas, with their acreage and the year they were designated:

  • Big Lake Wilderness (8,430 acres): 1986
  • Black Fork Mountain Wilderness (11,300 acres): 1980
  • Buffalo National River Wilderness (130,717 acres): 1972
  • Caney Creek Wilderness (14,460 acres): 1975
  • Dry Creek Wilderness (8,640 acres): 1975
  • East Fork Wilderness (17,690 acres): 1980
  • Flatside Wilderness (12,390 acres): 1984
  • Hurricane Creek Wilderness (10,630 acres): 1980
  • Leatherwood Wilderness (11,120 acres): 1975
  • Poteau Mountain Wilderness (11,299 acres): 1980
  • Richland Creek Wilderness (10,890 acres): 1980

These wilderness areas are home to a variety of plant and animal life, including white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, and bald eagles. They also offer a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking.

Further Background
H.R. 3971 – Flatside Wilderness Additions Act – This bill will designate an additional 2,215 acres to Flatside Wilderness. This area is a part of the Ouachita National Forest and is in Perry County, Arkansas, which is in the Second Congressional District. At the direction of Congress, this addition was thoroughly studied and evaluated by the U.S. Forest Service. They issued their report in May of 2021. This legislation is designed based on their analysis and findings.
This legislation has support from local and state agencies, as well as numerous outside organizations, including:
  • Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • Perry County Judge Larry Blackmon
  • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Arkansas Parks and Tourism
  • Friends of the Ouachita Trail
  • The PEW Charitable Trusts
  • Southern Environmental Law Center
  • The Wilderness Society
Angry Dave's

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *