“The southwestern part of [Arkansas] south of the Arkansas River and west of the broad, level plain of the Mississippi is covered outside the river-bottom lands with an almost continuous forest of pine, in which the short-leaved species occupies the high, dry ridges and the loblolly the moist soil above the bottoms. … The hard-wood forests of the state are hardly surpassed in variety and richness…” – Charles S. Sargent (1884), Report on the Forests of North America
The Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain that covers much of south Arkansas is a mosaic of barrens, prairies, savannas and a variety of forest types. The biologically rich region is home to at least seven federally listed endangered species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker.
In Arkansas – and across the South – forests are increasingly degraded by urban and suburban development and ecologically incompatible forestry practices, such as conversion to loblolly pine plantations and the absence of prescribed fire, which create conditions less suitable for wildlife. The National Report on Sustainable Forests (USDA, Forest Service) found that less than two percent of the loblolly-shortleaf pine forest type – a major component of south Arkansas’ forests – is protected, making it the second least-protected forest type in the United States.
The Conservancy works on its own preserves and with other forest landowners to demonstrate conservation forestry – practices that provide us with the forest products we use every day, at a good economic return for the landowner, while maintaining a healthy ecosystem that is essential to our quality of life.
The Conservancy purchased its first conservation forestry demonstration site, the 820-acre Kingsland Prairie Preserve, in 2002. Since then the portfolio has grown to nine sites totaling more than 6,600 acres across southern and central Arkansas, with another 23,000 acres co-managed with partners. Our goal is to conserve 60,000 acres of Arkansas’ native pine flatwoods.
Small, selective tree thinnings, regular prescribed burning and other stewardship activities have begun restoring the forests to a more natural density while providing income for ongoing stewardship and the purchase of additional lands.
The Conservancy works with public land managers, such as the U.S. Forest Service and state agencies, in the development and implementation of ecologically appropriate forest management plans. Partnerships with timber companies include identifying ecologically sensitive forests and species on their land. The Conservancy’s work with non-industrial private landowners includes workshops on conservation forestry practices and incentive programs for fire restoration. In targeted areas of high biodiversity, the Conservancy accepts easements that allow landowners to conserve their land while retaining ownership, generating economic returns and improving habitat for wildlife like turkey and quail.
Today the Conservancy owns more than 3,000 acres as part of its conservation forestry program and with its partners co-manages another 20,000 acres.