Feb 5, 2019 -
Folks who spend any time outdoors understand that in nature, everything’s connected. Hunters
are among the most avid conservationists on the planet.
Good stewardship benefits all – people and wildlife. Sometimes, that stewardship can take
unexpected paths. In Arkansas, a fire restoration program by The Nature Conservancy and
other state and federal partners is being put to good use.
Here’s some background from TNC/Arkansas:
The oak forests, woodlands and savannas of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains, which
together are known as the Interior Highlands, are the largest intact remnant of a habitat
that once stretched from Oklahoma to the middle Appalachians and Eastern Seaboard.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Interior Highlands forests were heavily cut. “During
the latter part of the 20th century, people began to realize what had been lost,” says
[McRee] Anderson, who serves as the Interior Highlands fire restoration manager for
The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. “So people did what seemed right at the time. The
forests were allowed to grow, and fires, for the most part, were suppressed.”
Overcrowded forests represent a risk for uncontrollable wildfires and enable pests to thrive.
The red oak borer has eaten its way through an estimated 1.6 million Arkansas oaks.
Proper forest management is a long-view approach that benefits future generations. Brad
Carner of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission told TNC that wildlife officers on the ground
see more game in areas where controlled burns have been restored, and those areas provide
ideal habitat for game.
“Anytime we make efforts to regularly burn areas, we definitely see positive responses from
ground nesting birds like turkey and quail,” he said. “And the burns increase forage for deer and
elk and help increase their numbers as well.”
TNC/Arkansas reports that the effects of fire and thinning on trees in a research area reveal a
40 percent increase in the number of ground plant species and an 11 percent increase in
ground plant coverage with just one or two prescribed fires. The number of shrubs, which can
crowd out other ground plants, has decreased 75 percent per acre in burned areas, it says.
Good stuff. Read more here.