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Collaborative Forest Treatment Leads to Improved Resilience in the Ouachita National Forest
The shortleaf pine-bluestem woodlands in the Ouachita National Forest are home to 29 endemic species found nowhere else on earth. The woodlands also provide habitat for deer, turkey, quail, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Through thinning and controlled burn treatments, the Shortleaf-Bluestem Community Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project is making the woodlands more resilient to wildfire, drought, insects, pollutants, and climate change to maintain the area’s value for people and wildlife.
Summary of Action and Outcome
Tree thinning and prescribed burning were important in reducing fire risk in the forest. Collaboration of conservation and research groups allowed these projects to be implemented and habitat health to be monitored. Local workers were also hired in this process, and students were involved for educational purposes.
Congress authorized appropriation of up to $40M annually for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project implementation and monitoring to cover up to 50 percent of these costs, with no more than $4M going to any one project. The Forest Service funding shown here is the lifelong request for CFLRP funding. Forest Service and partner match funds, as well as goods for services through stewardship contracts, are leveraged to cover the remaining costs of the projects. Total annual expenditures are given in project annual reports.
All CFLRP projects were selected by a Federal Advisory Committee. Details on project proposals can be found here.
For up-to-date project information, see the annual reports on the “Results” page of the USFS CFLRP website.
In 2015, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collected plant community monitoring data from 50 permanent macroplots on the Arkansas side of the project in the Ouachita National Forest. These data, along with data from 50 more macroplots in Oklahoma to be collected in the summer of 2016, will be included in the 2016 plant community monitoring report. In addition, data from the baseline monitoring efforts (2012–2013) were analyzed and a draft report was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service for review.
The Ouachita National Forest collaborated with the Mark Twain National Forest (under the Missouri Pine-Oak Woodlands Restoration CFLRP project) and Ozark National Forest (under the Ozark Highlands Ecosystem Restoration CFLRP project) to share techniques for vegetative and bird monitoring. Both Arkansas forests are conducting the same vegetation monitoring protocol with TNC and ANHC, with the Mark Twain National Forest performing similar vegetation monitoring with the addition of floristic data. Data will be collected at all points every year for three years (2013–2015), with three years of no data collection (2016–2018), followed by three more years of data collection (2019–2021).
Central Hardwoods Joint Venture will be analyzing the bird data and submitting interim reports after each year, with more consolidated reporting after the first three years of data collection.
This collaboration will allow comparison of landscape responses on multiple forests within different ecoregions within the shortleaf-pine range.
Monitoring tasks were divided among many of the partners, allowing each to exercise its expertise.
In 2015, the forest experienced unusual weather and other events that frustrated prescribed burning expectations for the year. The year began with promise because we experienced good prescribed fire weather as early as mid-January, extending to about Valentine’s Day. Most of the FY 2015 prescribe burn—70,000+ acres of accomplishment—occurred during that time period. The forest then experienced an extended spell of wet and cold weather that prohibited burning until late March.
As the program was on the verge of resuming in large scale, a helicopter accident with fatalities occurred on the National Forests of Mississippi. This unfortunate event necessitated a safety stand-down for an extended period region-wide.
On the Ouachita, prescribed burning did not resume until after the end of the forest’s stand-down in late June. Prescribed burning of small tracts continued from that time up to when the area became too dry for prescribed burning in early September. This small-scale burning did not contribute significant accomplishment to the year’s overall program production.