This 2,900-acre landscape, a gift from the Buddy Smith family, rests in south-central Oklahoma and holds bottomland oakforests, savannas (essential for migratory birds such as painted buntings), mixed-grass and tallgrass prairies, springs and cool running streams.
Pontotoc Ridge Preserve is a premier Arbuckle Plains property located on top of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, providing critical recharge for the water source. This untilled landscape has proven to be a regional hot spot of butterfly diversity, boasting over 90 species documented at the preserve to date.
Whether it's cactus, bluestem or collared lizards, Pontotoc Ridge Preserve is an excellent example of Oklahoma's ruggedly beautiful lands.
This unique diversity however, doesn’t come without its threats which include: the spread of eastern red cedar and other early successional woody encroachment as well as, invasion by exotic species such as sericea lespedeza, chinese privet and feral hogs. Additionally, the lack of natural disturbances such as fire or grazing are threats to the ecosystem.
Further, researchers and conservation staff have monitored an increase in siltation and turbidity in the waterways. There is no known source for this increase, but we do know that increased siltation, sand and sediment, in the water is a cause for algae blooms which alters the environment of the river and streams where small fish and larval fish can’t survive. This change in the environment can also affect beetles, pollinators, and migratory birds. Monitoring this preserve is critical to understanding the effects of human activity on these delicate ecosystems.
Conservation In Action
Our work currently centers around re-establishing the nature disturbance regimes that this landscape evolved with, such as prescribed fire. We are working with surrounding landowners to implement prescribed fire practices in a safe and efficient manner. Beyond that, thinning will be implemented to remove over abundant shade-tolerant trees. We continue to monitor and map these processes which help us evaluate our management effectiveness and adapt our methods.
Access is limited to personnel and is open for public visitation during events hosted by The Nature Conservancy such as our field trips.