AR Briefly

U.S. Rep. French Hill proposes further expansion of Central Arkansas wilderness area

By: - June 13, 2023 2:11 pm

The view from atop Flatside Pinnacle overlooking the Ouachita National Forest. (Hunter Field/Arkansas Advocate)

U.S. Rep. French Hill wants Congress to approve another expansion of a wilderness area on the eastern edge of the Ouachita National Forest in Central Arkansas.

The Little Rock Republican introduced H.R. 3971, which proposes adding 2,215 acres of U.S. Forest Service land to the Flatside Wilderness Area.

The proposal is an outgrowth of a 2019 bill Hill sponsored that added 600 acres to the wilderness area and directed the Forest Service to study the addition of more land.

“Arkansans and visitors should enjoy the amazing landscape our great state has to offer,” Hill said in a statement. “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.

U.S. Rep. French HIll, R-Ark.

“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 Flatside Wilderness area sits near the Ouachita National Forest’s eastern boundary near the Perry and Saline county line.

The 223-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail runs through it, and it includes a popular, 1,550-foot-high rock outcropping called Flatside Pinnacle that overlooks the Ouachita Mountains.

Federally designated wilderness enjoys the highest level of government land protection. The designation bars permanent roads, motorized equipment, cars, bicycles and permanent structures.

Congress has set aside more than 109 million acres of wilderness, and Arkansas has roughly 153,000 acres — the 19th most in the U.S..

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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.