Pine-Bluestem Buffalo Road Tour

 

Welcome to the Virtual Tour

Pine-Bluestem Buffalo Road Tour
[Click on the image of each stop for a high resolution version of the image.]
 

[Picture]:  A pine canopyThe tour of the pine-bluestem project demonstration area begins west of the Needmore community, located 7 miles south of Waldron, Arkansas, on highway US 71. Note the Needmore Store on 71. The turn onto Buffalo Road is opposite the east turn onto Arkansas 28 to Parks. Look for the sign ”Buffalo Creek Road” and turn west. This is the place to set your odometer at 0. The first tour stop is approximately 2.4 miles west of US 71. Look for informational signs along the roadside.

 

[Picture]: Heavily shaded stand conditionStop 1: The “Undisturbed Forest” (2.4 mi from US 71)

The Ouachita Mountains are noted for east-west ridges. North facing slopes are cooler and retain more moisture when compared with hot, dry south-facing slopes that receive more sunlight. While both hardwoods and pines can grow anywhere, hardwoods thrive on north slopes, whereas pines dominate south slopes.

In the Ouachita National Forest, there are thousands of acres like the ones before you. This heavily shaded condition persists when forests are protected from fire and no trees are harvested. The trees grow close together; little sunlight reaches the forest floor. With limited sunlight, ground cover consists primarily of leaf litter with limited potential for growth of the grasses, forbs, and legumes important to wildlife. Few trees produce acorns or fruit due to competition among plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight.

 

[Picture]: Mature, open pine standStop 2A: Habitat For Survival (4.0 mi. from US 71)

Like all animals, endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCWs) have certain habitat requirements to assure survival. Three requirements are met here:

 

• mature, well-spaced, live pine trees

• frequent fires

• open, grassy understories

 

A mature pine tree used by RCWs is a short walk up the hill through the grass and shrubs. Guards and shields attached to the tree prevent other species--including other birds, snakes, and squirrels-- from taking over the tree cavity (or hole) where RCWs roost and nest.

Restoration of a healthy population of RCWs and other species of plants and animals will require years of effort and over 150,000 acres of the Ouachita National Forest.

Stop 2B: Diversity: Many Species Live Here (4.0 mi. from US 71)

Numerous species of plants and animals thrive in fire-maintained habitats featuring older pines and open, grass-like understories. A few of these are:

Plants: bluestem grasses, bird’s foot violet, pale-purple coneflower, woodland sunflower, beggar’s lice, blazing star

Animals: Bachman’s sparrow, flying squirrel, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, black rat snake, diamondback rattlesnake

As many as 36 species of plants have been identified on one square yard of this diverse habitat.

 

[Picture]: Stand opened by fireStop 3: Fire In The Ouachitas (4.4 mi. from US 71)

Due to more severe burning conditions in summer, growing season fires have played an especially important role in shaping the Ouachita Mountains ecosystem. Naturally occurring fires were started by lightning, while others were set by Native Americans or settlers.

This area was burned in September 1997. Detailed information about this forest vegetation was collected before, during and after this prescribed fire. This information will help forest managers better understand how growing season fires shape plant and animal communities in the Ouachitas. It will also help to determine which vegetation management tools will be used in the future.

 

[Picture]: Grassy understoryStop 4: Renewing An Ecosystem (5.1 mi. from US 71)

Habitat featuring mature pines, periodic fire, and grassy understories was once common in the Ouachitas. A variety of habitat management tools, including timber harvest, can help restore this habitat.

Treatments illustrated in this one-acre block, if conducted, would result in habitat similar to fire-maintained presettlement forest conditions:

Pine trees marked with blue paint would be removed with a timber harvest.
Hardwoods with blue paint would not be removed or cut.
Hardwoods without blue paint could be cut and left as woody cover for wildlife or removed as firewood.
All berry-producing shrubs or trees would remain uncut.
All den trees would be uncut.

Other forest uses including hunting, fishing, berry picking, firewood gathering, and hiking will continue following habitat restoration.

 

[Picture]: Artificial cavities in treesStop 5: New Homes For RCWs (5.9 mi. from US 71)

Red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCWs) naturally roost and nest in cavities (or holes) which they excavate in mature live pines. In front of you are 5 large pine trees in which artificial cavities have been installed to encourage future occupation by RCWs. Look for those trees with an orange spot on them.

Timber harvest and prescribed fire have been used in this area. This makes the habitat more suitable for RCWs and other plant and animal species that depend upon this open, park-like condition.

 

[Picture]: Thinned stand Stop 6: Renewable Resources For The Future (7.9 mi. from US 71)

Part of the mature pine timber growing here was harvested in 1984. The young pines now occupying this site grew from seeds that fell from the seed trees that were left. Hardwood trees developed from root sprouts of trees that originally grew here.

An arsonist started a fire that burned this stand in 1987. Nearly all of the young trees were top-killed. The young pine and hardwood trees started regrowing from basal sprouts in 1988.

To achieve the goal of establishing a healthy stand of pine and hardwood trees, it became necessary to remove some of the many thousands of trees that occupied each acre. This process, termed pre-commercial thinning, was done with chainsaws in 1993.

The area was burned in a carefully controlled manner in 1994, 1997, and 2000. This removed the accumulation of cut trees that, if ignited during a wildfire, could have destroyed the stand. The fires also helped develop the diverse understory of grasses, forbs, and legumes.

As the overstory of pine and hardwood trees matures, future activities will include additional timber harvest and frequent prescribed fires to maintain a grassy, open condition.

 

[Picture]: ShelterwoodStop 7: Regeneration (approximately 11.1 miles from US 71)

(shelterwood with seedtrees at head of Henry Mountain)

Even aged regeneration.

Pine bluestem renewal began here in 1991, with commercial harvest of mature shortleaf pine trees. Other mature pines were left uncut and remained as seedtrees.

Note the residual shelterwood stand now features a vigorous regeneration of young pines, various hardwood species, and a lush ground cover of native grasses and forbs. As part of this regeneration process, the stand was carefully burned in 1998 and 2000.

In future years some mature seedtrees may be removed to encourage additional regeneration, but a canopy of mature trees will remain here indefinitely.

The visitor’s center inside the Poteau Ranger District office at Waldron includes displays about the pine-bluestem project and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. For additional information, contact Poteau Ranger District, corner Arkansas 248 and US 71 in Waldron, or call 501-637-4174.

 

Below is a general map of Poteau Ranger District and surrounding private lands

in Scott County, Arkansas, with suggested tour stops. Visitors are of course welcome to stop anywhere on public lands in the area. A round trip can begin at Waldron, to Needmore, up Buffalo Road to just past Stop 7, then north through Denton to Winfield, where a right (east) turn on Arkansas 248 returns the visitor to Waldron.

Public lands on the map are depicted as darkened areas, contrasted to private lands, depicted as white (or green versus light yellow in color).

Map of the Pine-Bluestem area (Click on image to see full-sized map)

 

 



Back to Natural Resources

 

Red Cockaded Woodpecker and Pine Bluestem Restoration

Shortleaf Pine Renewal
Pine-Bluestem Literature Review
RCW and Shortleaf Pine
Pine-Bluestem Buffalo Road Tour
Birding Opportunity

 





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