Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center and director Tommy Young have recently received a remarkable donation. Long-time area resident Laura Lee Head has donated 71 acres of heavily forested timberland to Young’s organization. The property is located on Highway 71 South, just past The Fish Net Restaurant.
Young explained that about three months ago a friend of his, Everett Fairless, was working for Laura Lee Head when she expressed a desire to help conservation and animal organizations. Everett offered a suggestion about Young and his group. Young met with Head, and after hearing about his plans to create an exceptional nature center and preserve in Polk County, it led to the magnanimous gift.
While the process has begun, it will be quite some time before all the paperwork is completed, but eventually Young said he hopes to turn his present facility on 270 West into a bird of prey hospital and use some of the pine timber from the new location to build a remarkable facility that will not only be a boon to animals everywhere but a fine addition to the county’s tourist industry.
For well over a 30-year span Young has been a major part of rehabbing and conservation for our community and the Central U.S. In his career he has received “The Governor’s Award” for Wildlife Rehabilitation, he was chosen as “Wildlife Conservationist of The Year” by The Audubon Society, as well as “Citizen of The Year” by The Elks and The Rotary Club of Mena. Young has also received the prestigious “Modern Woodsman Hero of The Year” and the Governor’s “Conservation Achievement” award, among many others.
Young explained that this could well be the opportunity he has sought all of his life. The money will put him over a legal hurdle he has struggled with for years.
“I have been required to have a net worth of $200,000 to operate successfully within the parameters of government and state,” he explained. “We’ve always been the red-haired stepchild when it comes to government, never having that kind of net worth, we have not been eligible for most Federal and State grants. This will provide us the financial success to become legitimate in the eyes of the system.”
Now with this unprecedented opportunity, Young can have the wildlife center of his dreams.
“The property contains a wealth of pines,” he explained. “We can harvest them and allow the area to go back to a natural hardwood forest, and use the revenue from the pines to build the new center. The new center will be called DARR Faculty, as per Laura Lee Head’s wishes – in honor of her parents.”
But while this has been a remarkable blessing for Young and his group, it won’t be completed for some time to come. Young estimates as much as two years before he will be totally operational. In the interim, he still has to maintain his present facility with dozens of creatures to feed and nurse to health. Young is planning a remarkable mass release of animals and birds he has nursed back to health in the first part of November and he wants everyone to watch for the dates on the release. It should be an exceptional experience for nature lovers.
In the meantime, he has lots of mouths to feed, and the center can always use donations of dry dog food, and fruits and vegetables (especially those that are dropping from trees now and won’t be eaten by humans). Anyone who would like to donate money to this very worthy cause can contact The First National Bank in Mena, where there is a donations account set up.
The Manataka American Indian Council has supported Tommy Young and the Arkansas Native Plant and Wild Life Center for many years. Manataka continues contribute funds, volunteers and expert advise.