The mangled sections of Ozark National Forest landscape along Highway 5 between Mountain View and Calico Rock will not be ugly for long, says Jim McCoy, Sylamore District Ranger.
McCoy said last week that he hopes the public will be patient as a habitat restoration project progresses. The 12-year project, now in its fourth year, is designed to restore habitat for the endangered Indiana bat and will transform what had been land choked by cedars to more open glades offering open timber and grassland habitat for not only the bats, but also for bobwhite quail, wild turkey and other wildlife.
“I’m really excited about the prospect for bobwhite quail,” McCoy says.
The Forest Service is collaborating with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, which has been making efforts to support quail habitat and recently hired a state quail coordinator based in the Calico Rock office. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has funding available to assist private landowners in improving habitat, which McCoy says is critical to establishing corridors that enable wildlife to move across tracts of land.
“The quail don’t care if it’s private land or public land,” he commented.
“If we can put our heads together we can really make a difference.” Positive results with quail populations are already visible in areas where the project is farther along, McCoy noted.
The limestone and sandstone glades are common in what is known as karst topography – cave country – where the landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks. McCoy says glades appear primarily in the Optimist, Sugarloaf, Culp and Bethel Springs areas.
In the 1930s and 40s the glades were open. Use of controlled burning was reduced and grazing declined, allowing the cedars to take over, choking out the natural diversity. The Eastern Red Cedar and Ashe’s Juniper are native species, but their dominance is out of proportion, McCoy explained.
“It took 70 years to get out of whack,” he noted. “We’re not gonna fix it in one or two.”
See the complete story in the Feb. 22, 2017 issue of the Leader.