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Neighbors at Middle Fork Barrens Pitch In to Remove Cedar

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ANHC has been working to remove Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) from Middle Fork Barrens Natural Area (NA) in Saline County. Middle Fork Barrens contains a complex of open glades, barrens, and dry oak woodlands. Because cedar is an aggressive invasive species, extensive removal work has been necessary to restore open glades and woodlands to the natural area. Some of the neighboring landowners at Middle Fork Barrens NA have volunteered to help ANHC staff in this ongoing effort.

Jay Tonsfeld, a neighboring property owner, met Bryan Rupar, ANHC chief of Acquisitions and Stewardship, at Middle Fork Barrens NA while Bryan was evaluating the effects of a recent prescribed burn on the natural area. As a concerned neighbor, Jay had several questions about our usage of prescribed fire and invasive species management goals.

A prescribed burn is the safe use of fire under specific conditions to achieve land management objectives. At Middle Fork Barrens NA, prescribed fire is one of the tools ANHC uses to remove cedar, increasing the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, which promotes the growth of native grasses and forbs (flowering plants). Prescribed burns have helped increase the size and connectedness of glade openings and invigorated the herbaceous layer at Middle Fork Barrens NA.

Typically, cedar trees are cut by chainsaw and piled and burned on-site. However, leaving a thicket of felled cedars on the natural area would create unwanted fire intensity due to cedar’s high fuel load, so the thicker areas must be thinned prior to a prescribed burn. Where the cedar thickets are less dense, the trees can be cut down and left to be consumed by the next prescribed fire.

Learning of ANHC’s land management goals, Jay offered to help remove cedars from less dense areas and organized help from his neighbors, Jim Ralston, Bill Taylor, and Mike Prouhet. Jay and the other volunteers have spent several afternoons working on this project and have made substantial reductions to the cedar population. The cedars were removed from the natural area by Kurtis Sutley, and other members of the Hot Springs Village Anglers Club, as well as members of the Hot Springs Village Baitcasters Club. The volunteers are working in cooperation with the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association, as well as the Hot Springs Village Lake Management Department, to sink the cedars as fish habitat within the 11 lakes of Hot Springs Village.

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