Continuing Conservation Success in Arkansas’ Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Success in NWTF’s Mid-South Rebirth Big 6 Region of Conservation

The Mississippi Alluvial Valley, a huge swath of land that stems from Ohio and into the Gulf of Mexico, once supported 24 million acres of floodplain forest, swamps, sloughs and riverine habitat. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the area is considered the southeast’s most deforested region, with more than 75% of the forested region lost to development. However, the NWTF is continuing its multiyear partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to bring the Mississippi Alluvial Valley back to its former glory in the Natural State.

This partnership is made possible through a grant provided to NWTF by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation via its Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund and a grant agreement with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  

“Through our conservation work in the region, flood-prone lands are restored back to as close to the original hydrologic function [ability of an area to store and release water] and the native cover type before development began,” said Sid Munford, NWTF and NRCS cooperative forester. “This benefits a wide variety of wildlife species and helps mitigate downstream flood events, as well as providing carbon sequestering in hardwood timber growth.” 

Munford is working with the NRCS and Arkansas Game and Fish to restore native, bottomland hardwood forest stands on easements enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement and Wetland Reserve Easement programs. This work will enhance and expand the available wildlife habitat and improve overall ecological health in Arkansas’ Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

“This project benefits wild turkey populations directly by providing more forested cover and more hard-mast-producing trees for food sources in areas that native hardwood stands were cleared for agricultural uses,” Munford said. “The work is also benefiting wild turkeys and other wildlife by increasing forest connectivity through these reforested easements.” 

Conservation work includes:

•    Reforestation design development on WRE restoration projects.                                             
•    Coordinating and monitoring tree-planting operations.                                                  
•    Sampling older plantings to assess seedling survival.
•    Marking timber harvests and thins for habitat improvement.
•    Assessing older plantations to determine management needs.
•    Consulting with landowners in the WRE program to help them meet management goals. 

In 2021 alone, there were 12 easements enrolled in the WRE program that, collectively, had 5,463 acres enhanced through the above management and conservation practices.

Moreover, Munford developed three reforestation plans under the Emergency Watershed Protection program that included an additional 659 acres slated for restoration.

“Given the success of the plantings, the growth rate and eventual wildlife benefits of bottomland oaks on the Arkansas Delta, I think the time and effort that went into hardwood restoration through the ACEP-WRE program is more than worth the investment,” he said. 
 

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