MARIANNA — The St. Francis National Forest towers from the Crowley’s Ridge land formation in east Arkansas. Deep gorges and rolling ridges shaping this forest offer a diverse and remarkable addition in this otherwise flat Delta area. Although flat areas in the forest are relatively uncommon, many were cleared and maintained as wildlife openings that have been managed for decades. These openings further diversify available habitat by encouraging herbaceous vegetation to thrive with limited shady competition from trees. These openings offer exceptional habitat for many species. They provide whitetail deer fawning habitat, nesting and foraging habitat for wild turkeys, and habitat for pollinators and other species that thrive along the edge of open land.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Forest Service have worked together for many years to limit woody encroachment and to keep vegetation within these openings diverse, young and nutritious.
Thanks to the continued support of Friends of The St. Francis National Forest, these wildlife openings will continue to provide nutrition for wildlife and increased hunting opportunities for the public. This nonprofit conservation organization, founded 26 years ago, has again purchased seed to use as a cover crop in some wildlife openings that were recently disked.
Anne McClendon, President of Friends Of The St. Francis National Forest, said, “Friends of St. Francis National Forest is delighted to continue to support habitat work on wildlife openings as they facilitate hunter access, birding and other outdoor pursuits. We always appreciate the generous financial support that we receive that is used to support wildlife management initiatives on the St. Francis as hunting has a significant impact on the local economy. Funding for Friends of the St. Francis comes through donations, honorariums, memorials and we received a grant from the Lee County Community Foundation.”
According to Clifton Jackson, biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Brinkley regional office, about one-third of the mapped openings on the forest underwent some treatment this season. The openings are managed rotationally and is contingent on budgets and a federally coordinated approval process. The approved openings that were disked and planted this year totaled 53.2 acres and ranged in size from 0.1 acres to 4.2 acres.