2017 Private Lands Conservation Nominees

Conservation heroes in our own backyard!

Bull Dog Bayou Hunting Club

Bull Dog Bayou Hunting Club is a demonstrated leader in wildlife conservation.  Adjacent to the historic Mud Lake in St. Francis County, Arkansas, Bull Dog Bayou holds significant acreage under Wetlands Reserve Easement, row crop converted to moist soil habitat, and mature bottomland hardwood forest.  Over the last 12 years of intensive wildlife management, they have managed the club’s moist soil units through rigorous research and development of a variety of chemical treatments and soil manipulations to make desirable conditions on the soil types.  They have enhanced water flowage throughout the mature bottomland hardwood forest by improving the ability to move water and managing nuisance beaver. 

Bull Dog Bayou Hunting Club is a leader of wildlife conservation.  Through the direction of manager Mike Halowell, they have provided critical bird habitats that support quail, doves, shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and other various migrants. With these management techniques in place many other wildlife species have flourished, such as rabbits and deer.  Most managers want more wildlife directly on their property and lose sight of the bigger picture; Bull Dog Bayou understands and delivers the big picture approach.  To improve the landscape, Halowell has managed to find time to work with adjacent landowners to provide insight on the wildlife management techniques proven on Bull Dog Bayou.


Fowl Play Lodge

Fowl Play Lodge’s footprint in Chicot County, Arkansas, is marked by effective wildlife habitat management and commitment to natural resource conservation.  This commitment is exemplified in a recent decision to forgo flooding their green-tree reservoir for a winter season in the interest of long-term health of the forest.  Giving up quality hunting opportunities on a hunting lodge is no small sacrifice!  However, they understand the long-term resource benefits of responsible management.  Beyond this decision, the Lodge in the process of implementing a forest thinning to promote a healthier forest based on principles of Desired Forest Condition for Wildlife (DFCW). 
They maintain critical bird habitats that benefit shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and neotropical migrants. These habitats are protected either permanently through Wetlands Reserve Easement or through agreements with NRCS and USFWS.  The Lodge’s manager, Ronnie Strickland, is committed to communicating with adjacent landowners to provide insight on management as well as gather ideas for their property.  Fowl Play Lodge has facilitated several field visits for colleges and NRCS staff for educational purposes - going above and beyond for wildlife conservation.


Davis Minton

Davis Minton began the process of going full circle with the 5,000 acres he farms with his brother Bradley when the “no-net-loss wetlands policy” was announced in 1989. The circle began in the 1950s when Davis, Bradley, and their late parents drained and cleared swampland in southeastern Missouri. The land where Minton grows soybeans, corn, rice and cotton is some of the most productive farmland in the region.  The circle was completed in 2000 when Minton took the lead in creating the first agricultural wetland mitigation bank in the nation. The bank offsets the impacts of conversion to farmed wetlands for USDA program participants.

Minton also participates in CSP, EQIP and WHIP. When NRCS created the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative to aid birds in response to the Exxon-Mobil oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Minton was one of the first to sign up. 
Minton’s innovative use of cropland flooding benefited birds both during a drought in 2010 and a flood in 2011. The spring flood resulted in bare fields that would have provided little or no food for migratory birds. Minton pioneered an unconventional solution: June disking and pumping water into the dry wetland units, which provided massive amounts of food.   While migratory birds are the focus, Minton describes the work he has done as a “labor of love” that is dedicated to all aspects of wildlife habitat. He says he wants to return his land to what it was when he was a child: bottomland hardwoods, timber, cypress and tupelo.



Judy Wilson and her daughter, Jessica Rudy, own a farm in the western part of Missouri in what is commonly known as the “Upper Bottoms”.  Their farming operation in Fulton County is not protected by a levee, making the prospect of farming a struggle.  However, the landowners are strong women that are determined to keep the farm that the family purchased over 34 years ago, and make it successful.  In 2012 the landowners enrolled a significant portion of the farm into the USDA-NRCS Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program through a perpetual easement.  The landowners saw value in restoring the land to wetland habitat that would support migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds as well as a wide variety of plants and wildlife from salamanders to endangered bats. 

From her earliest farming activity in the Upper Bottoms in 1977, Judy has worked closely with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and recently donated land to them for use as a parking area for their Wildlife Management Area.  These landowners are role models for others, especially women who own land and want to build a legacy of wildlife habitat conservation within their farming operation.