The Black River Watershed was historically composed of extensive pine-oak forests and woodlands, with interspersed glades (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). Pine woodlands predominated higher, flatter terrain, especially at the southern end of the watershed, while forest dominated the hilly dissected lands characteristic of the northern bulk of the watershed. Today, much native vegetation regenerated after the logging boom of the early twentieth century, with extensive second-growth oak-pine forest dominating the landscape (nigh and Schroeder 2002). Although pines and mature pine woodlands have been diminished, the watershed is at the heart of the largest contiguous block of forest in the lower Midwest.
Thirty-two percent of the IBA is publicly-owned conservation land, comprising:
Mark Twain National Forest, Salem-Potosi District (partly), US Forest Service(USFS), 12,2705 acres, 49,678 ha;
Mark Twain National Forest, Poplar Bluff (partly) (USFS), 97,763 acres, 39,580 ha;
Clearwater Lake, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), 3,068 acres, 1,242 ha; Clearwater Lake Conservation Area (CA), Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), 17,055 acres, 6,905 ha; Clearwater CA (MDC), 11,421 acres, 4,624 ha; Lon Sanders Canyon CA (MDC), 128 acres, 52 ha; Riverside CA(MDC), 2,169 acres, 878 ha;
Funk Memorial SF and WA (MDC); 183 acres, 74 ha; Champion Springs CA (MDC), 173 acres, 70 ha; Ketcherside Mountain CA (MDC), 1,460 acres, 591 ha;
Lower Taum Sauk Lake (MDC), 1,346 acres, 545 ha; Logan Creek CA (MDC); 11,616 acres, 4,703 ha; Current River CA (MDC), 4,545 acres, 1,840 ha;
Poplar Bluff CA (MDC), 1,591 acres, 644 ha; University Forest CA (MDC), 2,030 acres, 822 ha; Hammer Memorial CA (MDC), 331 acres, 134 ha; Johnson Shut-ins State Park (SP), Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), 2,584 acres, 1,046 ha; and Taum Sauk Mountain SP (partly) (MDNR); 6,755 acres, 2,735 ha.
Cerulean Warblers are numerous along the Black River during their breeding season, and extensive cane thickets support a local population of Swainson?s Warblers. Bald Eagles have nested in the southern end of the IBA on a tributary of the Black River. Red-shouldered Hawk have nested at Johnson Shut-ins State Park. The Black River Watershed IBA is included in the extensive contiguous forest of the Ozark Highlands, which provides suitable nesting habitat for forest-interior songbirds (Robinson et al 1995), possibly facilitating source populations (Donovan et al. 1995b). Forest birds in the IBA include Acadian Flycatcher, Ovenbird, and Worm-eating Warbler (Palmer and Palmer 2001). Glade and shrubby areas provide habitat for Blue-winged and Prairie Warblers.
The Black River Watershed IBA overlaps MDC?s (2005) St. Francois Knobs Conservation Opportunity Area, where the agency has identified conservation challenges of maintaining igneous glade and woodland communities with prescribed fire, though the importance to the IBA criteria species of these communities is minimal. Recent activities led by MDC Private Lands staff have initiated restoration of glade, savanna, and woodland habitat on private lands within this IBA. Prescribed burning of forests and woodland, pine woodland restoration, and timber salvage from red oak borer (Enaphalodes rufulus) damage are included in USFS?s management plan for the Mark Twain National Forest in the IBA.