Mid-South Rebirth: Habitat Enhancements on Arkansas’ Poison Springs State Forest

The NWTF and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division recently collaborated to enhance 4,750 acres on Arkansas’ Poison Springs State Forest, which is part of the NWTF’s Mid-South Rebirth in its Big 6 Regions of Conservation.  

The state forest in both Ouachita and Nevada counties is an approximately 23,500-acre Wildlife Management Area and is beloved by Arkansans and nonresidents alike for the varying recreational opportunities it provides, including hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding and a firing range, among others.

“This pine-dominated region is known for its rich soils, rolling hills with small streams, interspersed wildlife openings and hardwoods draws,” said Jeremy Everitts, NWTF district biologist. “The Forestry Division manages the forest intensively for pines, utilizing prescribed burns to control the succession of understory and woody vegetation.  This management practice, along with timber harvests, benefits the fire dependent short leaf pines, promotes oak species that are fire tolerant and maintains a natural disturbance regime.”

While the habitat in the Poison Springs State Forest is especially great for wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and many other species, implementing proper forest management also reduces fuel loads and risk for wildfire and encourages early successional habitat, allowing wildlife to thrive, revitalizing game populations and fostering healthy habitats and healthy harvests for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

Since 2017, The NWTF Arkansas State Chapter contributed $38,000 dollars in funding to implement prescribed fire on various sites in need of management.

The project included dozing a total of 85 miles of fire lines and a total of 11 miles of temporary access roads to facilitate prescribed burning operations.  

Prescribed burns were conducted between October and March on a total of 4,750 acres.  Implementation consisted of a scattered-block format across the forest, creating a mosaic of small-burned areas that are ideal for wildlife habitat.

The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas also contributed funds to help facilitate this project.

 “Projects implementing forest management practices as done on Poison Springs State Forest creates a beneficial form of disturbance,” Everitts said. “This disturbance is extremely important to wild turkey populations because it provides that early successional component necessary for successful nesting and brood rearing.”

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