Natural Areas Stewardship

Prescribed Fire

The very concept of "natural areas" would seem to imply that these are places that should be left untouched. The reality is often just the opposite. Today, many natural areas exist as "islands" of natural habitat in a veritable "sea" of altered land. What happens, or in some cases, does not happen on surrounding lands can have a profound impact on the ecological integrity of natural areas.

As a result, we cannot simply fence these lands in and walk away. Long-term viability of remnant natural communities requires science-based conservation through active and sound management. In some cases, natural areas must undergo restoration to improve their overall condition.

The System of Natural Areas encompasses a wide range of natural communities and supports a rich diversity of animal and plant species. To protect these natural areas, management by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) is essential. Stewardship staff take methodical steps, based on sound scientific research, to restore ecosystem functions and maintain or enhance habitat conditions required to perpetuate rare species and natural communities. Work activities are conducted within the framework of a conservation vision and are guided by management plans specific to individual natural areas. Management plans are updated in a five-year review cycle and incorporate research findings and the results of proactive land management practices.

The foundation of stewardship work includes routine ground maintenance activities such as boundary demarcation, installation of appropriate signs, removal of trash, and establishing public access points. Where appropriate, staff also apply a variety of techniques to maintain or restore a site's ecological integrity. These techniques include non-native and/or invasive species control, timber stand management and prescribed burning.