DANVILLE — The Yell County Wildlife Federation, Arkansas Tech University Fisheries and Wildlife Society and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently combined efforts to pave the way for better habitat on Petit Jean River Wildlife Management Area in Yell County. The team gathered for a day of work Feb. 22, removing undesirable trees on both openlands and forested areas to aid in habitat management on the area.
Craig Davis, senior technician assigned to Petit Jean River WMA, says the work done by many hands has helped wildlife management on the area tremendously.
“We had 18 volunteers come out with axes, bow saws, trimmers and chainsaws to remove these undesirable trees and brush from some of our open land habitats,” Davis said. “They worked from 8 a.m. to noon on a Saturday and then had a great meal provided by the YCWF.”
Volunteers worked under the supervision of Drake Cooper, an AGFC technician who works regularly on the WMA.
At 15,542 acres, Petit Jean River WMA represents the largest remaining expanse of bottomland hardwood forest in the Arkansas River Valley. The area also includes many acres of uplands filled with pine and hardwoods typically found in the Ouachita Mountains. The combination of rich delta-like soils and rocky elevation changes creates an interesting combination of habitat types filled with diverse vegetation and wildlife. According to Davis, bottomlands and forested areas are plentiful, so maintaining open habitat that provides food and cover for deer, rabbits, Neotropical migratory birds and northern bobwhite is a priority.
“We strive to keep the area as diverse as possible,” Davis said. “So regular use of prescribed fire and removal of undesirable tree species is important. With the fertile soils here, we have to burn very regularly to keep up, and this work will help us stay on track.”
Davis says the partnership between AGFC, YCWF and Arkansas Tech has been doing great work for the last five years. Each year, the students and wildlife federation volunteers ask what they can do to help, and each year they accomplish a new goal at the WMA.
“Over the past five years they’ve helped with planting trees to create a buffer between open areas and roads, helped maintain existing gates and install gate posts to prevent people from driving trucks and abusing handicapped-accessible trails and cleared fire lanes to help prepare the area for prescribed fire treatments,” Davis said. “I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate their partnership on the WMA. James Manatt, and the Yell County Wildlife Federation also has been instrumental in reaching out to contacts in the community to help us with our CWD efforts and identifying landowners who would be willing to improve habitat on their property through private lands biologists.”