International Paper announced the donation of its Lake Erling property in southwest Arkansas to the American Gamebird Research Education and Development (AGRED) Foundation. The AGRED Foundation will preserve and improve the property to protect wildlife and will maintain the lake for public recreational use in perpetuity. The approximately 7,000-acre donated property includes the lakebed, a controlling dam and a small park that provides public access to the lake. The lake is a man-made impoundment that was constructed in the 1950s as a water source for International Paper's nearby Springhill Mill, which closed more than 30 years ago.
"International Paper is very proud of its legacy of stewardship and community service, and the preservation and donation of Lake Erling for the greater good of the communities around it is a great example of that," says International Paper Vice President of Global Sourcing David Liebetreu. "We are very pleased that we were able to identify an organization like AGRED, that shares our view that the lake is an asset to the community and should be preserved for generations to come. We're confident that under AGRED's ownership, the shared interests of the community around the lake will be balanced with the interests of recreation and conservation, and the lake will endure as a great example of what industry and the charitable community can accomplish when working together."
The Lake Erling dam and water flow are currently operated and controlled under an agreement with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the fish and wildlife are managed through an agreement with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. These agreements will continue under AGRED's ownership.
AGRED Foundation Directors Eric Fletcher and Daniel Thomas, also Lake Erling property owners, feel that Lake Erling is the crown jewel of southwest Arkansas and northwest Louisiana. "AGRED plans to sustainably manage the lake much like International Paper has for the past 57 years and has employed some of International Paper's past Lake Erling managers to continue the tradition," they said.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Mike Knoedl said he's excited about the future of the lake. "We're pleased to learn the new owners will allow the AGFC to continue to manage fish and wildlife at Lake Erling and maintain public accessibility to this popular fishery," he said.