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Big Woods WRP Success Story

Project connects fragmented bottomland forest

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Wetlands Reserve Program is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to restore thousands of acres in the Big Woods of Arkansas – a 550,000-acre corridor of floodplain forest along the Mississippi River.

Of the 550,000 acres of bottomland forest still standing, about 300,000 acres are contiguous. The remainder exists as islands among agricultural fields -- less than 10 percent of Arkansas’ original 8 million acres of forested wetlands remain.

A 404-acre WRP project in Woodruff County is designed to tie some of the fragmented areas together by converting the agricultural fields back to wetlands.

"This practice is a win-win situation for everyone involved -- especially for the wildlife that inhabit these areas," said Jerry Hogan, a Field Representative for The Nature Conservancy.

"We have installed four levees and planted approximately 70,000 trees," said David Fowlkes, Conservation Agronomist at the Jonesboro Technical Service Center.

"By incorporating five water control structures into the plan, we can control the water level with flashboard risers to flood fields for waterfowl and shorebirds," Fowlkes said. "By dropping the water slowly we can create several ages of forage for the birds."

Shallow water areas with mounds also provide semi-permanent to permanent water on the site for a variety of birds, amphibians and other animals.

"Our goal with each WRP project is to return the land to its natural state," Fowlkes said.

To accomplish this, a mixture of bottomland hardwood species was planted to provide cover and a food source for the wildlife.

The NRCS and The Nature Conservancy are working on five other WRP projects in the Big Woods area to restore nearly 6,000 acres.

Last Modified: 02/25/2011