WRP Success Stories
Waterfowl flock to new WRP site
4,000 acre Raft Creek Wildlife Management Area opens for public hunting
Thousands of ducks were in the sky over the Raft Creek bottoms along the White River a couple weeks before duck season -- a site that is returning to its heyday thanks to the Wetlands Reserve Program.
Historically, waterfowl by the hundreds of thousands (approximately 23-25 percent of the waterfowl that winter in Arkansas) stage in the area that had been converted to mostly cropland.
“We initially reclaimed 3,000 acres during the 1994 WRP sign-up period. But, now we have an adjoining 4,008-acre complex developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in association with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Ducks Unlimited,” said Jody Pagan, a biologist in the NRCS state office.
The Raft Creek Wildlife Management Area opened to public hunting Nov. 23 with 18 hunters averaging 1.1 ducks per hunter Saturday and 22 averaging 1.5 Sunday. The area is open to hunting in the mornings on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during hunting season.
The area features 1,400 acres of water, 2,000 acres of trees and 350 acres of native prairies (blue stem, switch grass and others).
“This is the first time in Northeast Arkansas we have used native prairie grass,” said Nelson Childers, a biologist in the Jonesboro NRCS Technical Service Center. “The 4,000-acre complex highlights the benefits of WRP not just in Arkansas but throughout the nation as a way to revitalize wetlands and educate the public on their functions and values.”
Seventy-five percent of the hydrology work has been completed and 50 percent of the trees have been planted. Plans call for planting 650 acres trees this winter.
“Across the state, 233 participants in 34 counties have turned their marginal farmland into havens for waterfowl, shore birds and wildlife,” Pagan said. “In October, we celebrated our 100,000th acre enrolled in WRP. The largest tract is 7,300 acres in Pulaski County. The smallest is six acres in Cross County. The average tract size is 400 acres.”
The projects resulted in 63,000 acres of reforestation and 25,000 acres of shallow-water habitat.
“We have 313 tracts (80,000 acres) awaiting funding. With adequate funding, we could plan on enrolling about 20,000 acres per year,” Pagan said.