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Acres Added to H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, September 28, 2018

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission recently acquired an additional 81.8 acres at H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area in Franklin County. The natural area, along with the nearby Cherokee Prairie Natural Area, is among the few remnants of the more extensive Cherokee Prairie Complex that formally occupied approximately 135,000 acres of the western portion of the Arkansas Valley.

The new disjunct tract, which occurs within the Cherokee Prairie Complex, brings the total acreage of the natural area to approximately 457 acres. This acquisition provides expanded opportunities for hunting, birding, hiking, and other outdoor recreation and education opportunities. The purchase was funded in part by a Natural and Cultural Resources Council grant.

Flanagan Prairie was added to the Arkansas statewide System of Natural Areas in 1988. The former Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers grew up in Franklin County and the natural area is named after her father, H.E. “Babe” Flanagan, who once owned the property.

Flanagan Prairie is an excellent example of a tallgrass prairie, which differs from prairies elsewhere in Arkansas due to its shale-derived soil. Tallgrass prairies often have rich topsoil, and as the name implies, are dominated by several species of tall grasses, most notably big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), switch grass (Panicum virgatum), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). In addition to these “backbone species,” prairies support hundreds of other species of grasses, sedges, rushes, forbs (wildflowers), and shrubs, as well as a rich and varied fauna.

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