Oct. 20, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK — Nearly 6,000 acres of publicly-accessible property will see major improvements for wildlife habitat, thanks to the combined power of partnerships with the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Arkansas State Chapter and the sales of Arkansas’s voluntary turkey and quail stamps, according to a recent report given to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission by AGFC Statewide Turkey Program Coordinator Jeremy Wood.
The work is divided among 15 projects of various sizes and complexity ranging from prescribed fire and chemical defoliation to mulching and bush hogging wildlife openings and overgrown thickets.
“Seventeen projects were proposed for funding this year from conservation agencies and nonprofit organizations, and we were able to satisfy all but two of them by combining the efforts of partner organizations with the help of conservation-minded individuals who purchased turkey and quail stamps,” Wood said.
Although the AGFC supplied $101,108 and $38,767 from the sales of its Turkey Conservation Stamp and Northern Bobwhite Conservation Stamp, respectively, more than $1.6 million worth of work is being conducted through the program.
“The Arkansas chapter of the NWTF’s Hunting Heritage Habitat Super Fund added $67,350, which resulted in $207,000 to distribute,” Wood said. “Additional contributions of labor and equipment derived through the many partners in the project really stretched the value of those dollars to put more habitat on the ground for turkeys, quail and all sorts of wildlife that share their habitat.”
According to Wood, the projects were ranked and chosen by a committee of biologists from the AGFC, NWTF and Quail Forever in Arkansas. Emphasis was placed on wildlife and hunting priorities, such as turkey walk-in areas and quail focal areas, but many species and landscapes will benefit from the work.
“We also considered which projects we could get the most bang for our buck,” Wood said. “Some projects provided as high as 95 percent match while others were at 25 percent. We also had some projects that had already begun and could be enhanced even more with a little extra funding. We spread the money where we could do the most good. ”
Many projects were proposed on relatively small acreages, 40 to 200 acres in size, but benefitted much larger pieces of property due to their location.
“Small openings created through mulching or chemical applications can offer huge wildlife benefits when they’re interspersed with other habitat types,” Wood said. “Quail, turkey, deer and all sorts of other wildlife thrive in edge habitat created by these openings. It’s as much about location as it is size in some of these cases.”
Three of the projects, however, did stand out when it came to their dimensions. Warren Prairie Natural Area, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area and the Big Piney Ranger District in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, all saw funding for wildlife stand improvements, prescribed fire and chemical manipulation of undesirable tree species on more than 1,200 acres each.
“All three of these areas can offer very good turkey and quail habitat, and Warren Prairie also is one of the Natural Heritage Commission’s active sites for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which also will benefit from the added management,” Wood said.
Wood thanks the efforts of former Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioners Steve Cook of Malvern and Ken Reeves of Harrison, who spearheaded the establishment of the quail and turkey stamps during their chairman years on the Commission. He also credits the success to Arkansas’s conservation-minded hunters and anglers who purchased the stamps.
“The stamps aren’t required for hunting, but they’re a great way for hunters and nonhunters alike to support their passion in conservation at a small individual price,” Wood said. “But they opened up a new source of funding to really put some valuable work on the ground to help our turkey and quail populations.”
Visit www.agfc.com and click the Buy License|Check Game button to purchase a quail or turkey stamp and contribute to continued conservation work for these birds and other wildlife in Arkansas.