Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act: The Right Way to Conserve

The Flatside Wilderness has been a cherished piece of the Natural State since it was originally protected by The Arkansas Wilderness Act of 1984. Decades later, a bipartisan bill named “The Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act” sponsored by Rep. French Hill (R-AR-2) and Rep. Don. Beyer (D-VA-8) seeks to expand the protected territory by approximately 640 acres next to Forked Mountain.

What makes Flatside Wilderness unique for land conservation is they have “left [their] wilderness areas wild and roadless to make sure that they are available for exploration, camping, hunting, and hiking for this and future generations,” wrote Rep. Hill on his website. The land has never been developed and is unspoiled. Instead, Flatside Wilderness offers a unique experience for all visitors who want to explore a world unaltered by man. While reviewing the bill, the Congressional Budget Office stated the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act “would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits.” This will make all fiscal conservatives happy.

Due to the decision not to develop this land, the only thing this bill will do is extend the land boundaries and name it after former Rep. Ed Bethune, who originally wrote the bill to establish Flatside Wilderness in 1984. Indirectly, the bill will help boost Arkansas’ economy through tourism. If passed, the additional 640 acres would be only beneficial. Conservatives may initially show skepticism of the addition if private property is not protected, but Rep. Hill insures that no private property is within the recommended boundaries. Rep. Hill spoke about the bill on the House floor, expressing the positive views Perry County has towards this bill. Various local conservation and business groups support the measure, along with both Perry County and Saline County judges. It is a common-sense, bi-partisan bill that has virtually no opposition.

Although this bill is written by a member of the Republican Party, Democratic Party members are willing to work together to push this bill to the President’s desk. On the House floor, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) urged a yes vote from all members of the House. The bill was moved to a vote in the House and was passed unanimously, and the next hurdle is the Senate.

The American Conservation Coalition fully endorses the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act and commends everyone who has worked to get the legislation this far. This bill will preserve the beautiful forestry for countless people to enjoy while increasing Arkansas’s economy. We hope the Senate will vote in favor of this measure and more land conservation bills will take a similar approach to the one taken for the Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act. Contact your member of Congress here if you agree we need to get this done this year.

Landon Jones is a sophomore Political Science student at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois. Landon has advocated positions on many political issues on campus and around Illinois, including promoting Free-Market Environmentalism.

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