Fort Chaffee is a GLOBAL IBA and an active military training facility of the Arkansas National Guard. Fort Chaffee contains extensive amounts of shrub-scrub, prairie and oak savanna habitat. It is the largest landscape-size conservation area in the Arkansas River Valley and may support the largest shrub-scrub habitat in the state. An Arkansas Game & Fish Commission office located on the base regulates hunting and fishing. Prescribed fire is used primarily to maintain and improve military training areas, but has the added benefit of enhancing wildlife habitat. This site likely supports the largest population of Bell's Vireo in Arkansas as well as several other important shrub, grassland, and oak savanna bird species.

Ornithological Summary

Site regularly supports significant densities of one or more of the bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas: Likely supports the largest population of Bell's Vireo in the state along with several other important breeding populations such as Painted Bunting, Prairie Warbler, Northern Bobwhite, Red-headed Woodpecker, Bachman's Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow and a regularly occurring population of wintering Smith's Longspur. This site includes one or more outstanding examples of the following special bird habitats: shrub-scrub, prairie, and oak savanna. There are smaller amounts of other habitat such as bottomland hardwood forest and glades. The site supports long-term avian research efforts. Virginia Tech has a contract with the military for avian surveys for all seasons of 2003. Similar, though less intensive, surveys have been conducted periodically over the years. This site is important for Arkansas birds because it supports significant populations of birds that utilize shrub-scrub, prairie, and oak savanna habitat. Open habitats such as these have in general been assigned low priority over the past few decades when it comes to conservation efforts (Askins, Robert. 2001. Sustaining biological diversity in early successional communities: the challenge of managing unpopular habitats. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 29:407-412). The site is frequently burned for military training purposes, which fortuitously maintains the open habitat that this suite of bird species requires. Shrub nesters such as Bell's Vireo and Painted Bunting are very common at Fort Chaffee, likely more common than any other site in Arkansas. The oak savanna also supports healthy populations of Bachman's Sparrow and Red-headed Woodpecker. Northern Bobwhite, which have declined dramatically since the 1960s, occur in large numbers in all of the open habitat types. Smith's Longspur winter with regularity at the Arrowhead Landing Strip. Fire, primarily wildfires ignited from military maneuvers, is too frequent for buildup of thatch, which may explain the absence of nesting Henslow's Sparrows. However, there may be some potential to work with the army to reduce the frequency of fire in some of the prairie habitat (e.g., Massard prairie) to create suitable habitat for breeding Henslow's Sparrow. this potential is far from trivial given the large number of Henslow's Sparrows that breed relatively nearby in northeast Oklahoma. Fort Chaffee is the largest landscape-size conservation area in the Arkansas River Valley and may support the largest shrub-scrub habitat in the state. This large landscape-level area likely has lower levels of problems such as nest parasitism and depredation that are often associated with habitat fragmentation relevant to other similar, but smaller open habitats in Arkansas. It is imperative that management activities such as prescribed fire continue to be used at this site so that these important open habitats are not lost to forest succession.

Conservation Issues

The primary conservation issue at Fort Chaffee is the frequency and intensity of fire. In some areas fire frequency or intensity is higher than it was historically; in other areas the reverse is true. A fire plan that more closely resembles what occurred historically is needed. In addition, there are food plots created by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the middle of intact, quality prairies. The Nature Conservancy has suggested to the Natural Resources division that food plots be restricted to disturbed areas such as right of ways.

Ownership

Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center is owned by the Department of the Army and leased to the Arkansas Army National Guard.

×