Acres for Wildlife program helps improve environment
By Ronnie Weston| February 7, 2012 at 10:19 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 11:20 AM
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – The quality of the environment in Arkansas is dependent upon decisions made by the many individuals who own and manage the land. Out of 33 million surface acres in the Arkansas, 29 million are under private ownership.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Acres for Wildlife coordinator Steve Fowler says the agency has initiated a new and improved AFW program which continues to target all wildlife species in the state, with special emphasis on wildlife species of greatest conservation concern in the state.
"We have put specific emphasis on bobwhite quail and associated declining grassland songbirds to encourage landowners and managers to improve the habitat for wildlife on their land," Fowler said. "You can play an important part in improving the habitat for wildlife in Arkansas by taking an active role in this program."
Landowners also have a new native warm-season grass project available to them. The competitive project requires at least five contiguous acres the landowner is willing to plant. Seed is limited to a maximum of 20 acres per landowner. Applications for the project must be received by Feb. 29 to compete for each year's planting materials. Native warm-season grasses and forbs are primarily selected to provide nesting, brood-rearing and escape cover for quail and other grassland birds.
Most landowners and managers are interested in the environment and in wildlife, but they often forget to include such considerations in their management activities or they don't know what to do, Fowler says.
"In some cases, they unknowingly perform activities that are detrimental to wildlife and the environmental. The results of these facts have been a great, often needless, reduction of habitat for all kinds of wildlife."
The AFW program is intended to benefit all species of wildlife. It does not retire cropland or grazing land; neither does it open posted land to hunters. This is left entirely to the discretion of the landowner or tenant.
As an AFW cooperator (landowner), you can help Arkansas's wildlife and the environment by managing all or a portion of your land for wildlife. The AFW program creates additional habitat and encourages considerations for wildlife needs, in conjunction with good farming, livestock production and forestry practices on the entire farm.
Landowners enrolling in the AFW program have access to an AGFC private lands biologist who can offer specific wildlife management recommendations for the property along with advice for landowners regarding other state, federal and private programs offering financial and technical assistance. Many program opportunities offer cost-share assistance and other incentives to improve or create habitat on private lands across the state.