A developer has proposed a 495-unit apartment complex/golf course ("The Links at Centerton") to go in beside Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery at the corner of Vaughn and Fish Hatchery Road. Everyone who has birded this site and knows how important it is for birds is encouraged to submit a comment in opposition to Centerton Mayor Bill Edwards and the Planning Commission:
- The National Audubon Society recognizes the hatchery as an Important Bird Area (IBA), a network of locations around the country that provide critical habitat for significant bird populations (272 species have been recorded). Therefore, it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular birding spots in the region. Birders visit from across Arkansas and adjacent states, bringing avitourism dollars to the area.
- We have lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, in large part due to habitat loss. This IBA offers critical waterbird habitat in northwestern Arkansas where little wetland habitat remains. Projects similar to the Links at Centerton have contributed to the demise in bird populations by replacing critical bird habitat bit by bit. Rapid urban development in the region competes for groundwater resources. Without sufficient water the hatchery could close, losing critical bird habitat forever.
- A high density urban development and a golf course are water intensive properties. Golf courses, with their intensively managed lawns, will lead to runoff of fertilizers and herbicides, which will directly affect a spring that has the endangered Ozark Cavefish.
- More panes of glass on a high-rise overlooking a place where birds gather in large numbers will lead to window collisions and bird deaths. Collisions with glass, which birds can’t see, is one of the biggest sources of bird mortality.
- More people and more traffic will scare away some sensitive species. Runoff from the parking for 1,000+ cars at Links at Centerton would be a killer for the recharge zones for underground springs. Adding 1,000+ people to the immediate hatchery neighborhood would result in considerable disturbance to the native wild creatures that increasingly have no other suitable habitats.
- Ozark springs create rich and varied habitats used by a variety of unique species. The underground parts of this ecosystem that we cannot readily view have been well-studied. Numerous rare and unusual life forms, such as the endangered Ozark Cavefish, rely on the integrity of these springs; therefore, the impact of building a huge development right on top of spring recharge zones would be enormous.
- If construction cracks into the underground spring void it will disrupt or alter the flow path, or reduce the water table. If that happens, it will reduce the habitat for the cavefish and reduce/eliminate the flow to the hatchery.
- Records from the hatchery formed the core of our state’s bird book, Arkansas Birds, which was published by University of Arkansas Press in 1986.