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75th Natural Area Protects Endangered Woodlands and RCWs

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Huttig Pine Flatwoods Natural Area, a 1,376-acre tract in Union County, has been named as the 75th natural area in the statewide System of Natural Areas. Huttig Pine Flatwoods NA provides direct protection to the largest population of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Dryobates borealis, RCW) in the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain of Arkansas, and is the second largest population of RCWs statewide.

Located in far southern Arkansas, Huttig Pine Flatwoods NA is comprised of Open Pine-Hardwood Flatwoods, a natural community that once covered approximately 1 million acres along the lower two terraces of the Saline and Ouachita rivers. Identified as the most endangered forested ecosystem in Arkansas, Open Pine-Hardwood Flatwoods are a primary target for protection in the 2002 Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain Ecoregional Plan, published by The Nature Conservancy. Much of this historic ecosystem has been altered by fire suppression, leading to a closed-canopy forest. Other areas have been converted to pine plantations, diminishing the diversity of these flatwoods.

Open-Pine Flatwoods were historically dominated by widely spaced, mature pines with some scattered hardwoods. These woodlands have a diverse prairie-like ground cover and support many plant and animal species of concern found primarily in this habitat. According to the Arkansas Wildlife Action Plan, published by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), this habitat type supports 14 animal species of greatest conservation need.

The acquisition of this natural area was funded by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council grant, other state funds, and a $100,000 grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation. The ANHC co-owns the natural area with the AGFC.

Photo above of Huttig Pine Flatwoods Natural Area, courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.

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