The Bark Camp Barrens Wildlife Management Area is part of a wetlands mitigation bank that originated with the National Ecological Foundation (NEF). In 1995, the NEF purchased through the sale of mitigation credits, 1,155 acres to restore the acreage to its original wetland condition. When the mitigation was completed, the land was donated to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and became part of the original wildlife management area. More than 50 years ago the mitigated area was a wet open grassland that through natural succession grew into a wetland hardwood forest that naturally flooded during the winter. In the late 70's and early 80's, when soybean prices were high, the land was cleared and tiles put in to drain the soil. This produced a 1,000-acre field where mostly soybeans were grown. In order to restore the hydrology, the drainage tiles were cut and some 49,862 feet of trenches intercepting the drain tiles were cut at right angles. In addition, all drainage ditches were plugged and 28 ground water monitoring wells were installed. In 1996, 430,000 seedlings of green ash and four species of oaks (willow oak, water oak, pin oak, and swamp white oak) were planted on 9' X 9' spacing on 860 acres of the mitigated area. The trees will be allowed to mature because of the mitigation bank and will become attractive to bottomland hardwood species. In February 2001 an arsonist burned about 150 acres of the planted area. The saplings were burned back to the ground but around 80% survived. In 2005, the burned planted area looked like a open grassland while the unaffected saplings were small and had grasses growing up in between providing early stage successional habitat for grassland species. In the spring of 2005, some 184 acres were controlled burned and converted to warm season grasses that will be maintained as such.

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Ornithological Summary

The site is a significant grassland habitat and one of a very few in the state where parts are specifically managed for grassland birds. About 1,078 acres of the 2,700 acres is suitable for grassland species.
Many grassland species, including several of species of conservation species, occur at Bark Camp Barrens. A gray male and female (brown) Northern Harrier, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, have been present during the breeding seasons of 2004-2006. No nest has been found, yet. At least 50 territories of Henslow's Sparrows, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, were counted in 2004-2006. This represents one of the largest concentrations of Henslow's Sparrow know in Tennessee. Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Eastern Meadowlark occur regularly, with fewer Grasshopper Sparrows in 2006. Prairie Warblers occur commonly in the reforested mitigation bank, however populations will likely decline as succession continues.

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