LITTLE ROCK - Earlier this month, the USDA Forest Service announced that Congress has approved a $2.06 million Forest Legacy grant to the State of Arkansas to purchase approximately 2,400 acres of south Arkansas forestland in Bradley and Drew counties.
The project, called the Pine Flatwoods Recovery Initiative, will protect an ecologically important forest landscape. It also will provide public access for hunting and other forms of recreation; protect a federally listed threatened plant species, provide essential habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, and help protect the water quality of the Saline River, which is designated as an Arkansas Extraordinary Resource Waterway.
The PFRI tract is adjacent to and will be added to Warren Prairie Natural Area, more than doubling its size. The PFRI grant was supported through the efforts of Representative Mike Ross, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and Senator Mark Pryor. The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission will be the primary non-federal, cost-share provider along with The Nature Conservancy. The ANHC will hold title to the property.
The Forest Legacy Program is a nationally competitive grant process overseen by the USDA Forest Service and administered in Arkansas by the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Arkansas has been the recipient of two previous FLP grants totaling nearly $2.7 million. These funds went towards the purchase of the 15,923-acre conservation easement known as the Moro Big Pine project in Calhoun County.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was the primary non-federal, cost-share provider along with the ANHC and TNC. The Moro Big Pine conservation easement is now a Wildlife Management Area/Natural Area owned jointly by the AGFC and ANHC, and is available for public hunting in cooperation with the landowner, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Inc. All three FLP grants were supported through the efforts of Representative Mike Ross, Senator Blanche Lincoln and Senator Mark Pryor.
FLP protects forests from conversion to non-forest uses. Property is purchased through fee-simple land acquisitions or conservation easement acquisitions from a willing seller with the purchaser being the state or unit of state government. Private landowners owning forested land within Arkansas's designated Forest Legacy Areas are eligible.