A new wildlife preserve will soon be open in Arkansas. Slated to tentatively open sometime this month, the Moro Big Pine Wildlife Management Area will protect native loblolly-shortleaf pine forests, one of the least-protected plant communities in the nation, and wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, which have been classified as endangered since 1970.
The preserve will be located in south Arkansas between Hampton and El Dorado and stands out because it offers a chance for large landscape-scale conservation. The new preserve will be less than five miles from Moro Bay State Park as well as the 65,000-acre Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge. At almost 16,000 acres, it will be the largest site in the System of Natural Areas and the largest conservation easement ever established in the state.
Visitors to the area will be able to hunt as well as bird watch and enjoy nature. Camping will also be available at designated locations. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the WMA fills a major void geographically in the southeast part of the state where outdoor opportunities have been largely limited to timber company properties and expensive leases.
The preserve was made possible thanks to a conservation easement several state agencies and a non profit purchased from Potlatch Forest Holdings, Inc., one of the state’s largest timber companies. Under the agreement with Potlatch, which will keep ownership of the land, timber operations and hunting will continue.
As a condition of the easement, project partners developed a forest management plan that includes a wildlife section and guidelines for harvesting timber. The project ensures the land will remain forested, provide habitat for wildlife and be open to the public. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will manage public access and activities, including hunting. For more details and updates on the project, visit www.agfc.com.