The Harrison-Crawford Important Bird Area is located in extreme south-central Indiana along the boundary between Harrison and Crawford Counties. The IBA is bordered to the immediate south by the Ohio River and the Indiana-Kentucky state-line.
This complex comprises two large properties managed by Indiana?s Department of Natural Resources ? the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, which encompasses approximately 24,000 acres, and O?Bannon Woods State Park, a nearly 2,000-acre property ? along with some privately held lands located adjacent to IDNR in-holdings. In all, the boundary of this IBA encompasses over 40,000 acres of mostly near mature-aged woodlands, making it one of Indiana?s most sizeable and high-quality forest tracts.
The overall size of the Harrison-Crawford complex and the mostly contiguous nature of the habitat constituting the state-owned forest are central factors in this area?s ornithological importance. The large stands of near mature forest located here likely support one of the most diverse and abundant populations of nesting neotropical songbirds in Indiana. The property is especially significant for birds dependent of woodland interiors, including such WatchList species as Wood Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler. The Hooded Warbler, which is listed as a species of special concern by IDNR, can also be found at the Harrison-Crawford IBA.
Although each of these species have declined historically throughout their range and are difficult to find in forest patches away from the south-central portion of the state, such breeding neotropical birds remain remarkably common at this locale. Consequently, this IBA serves a significant reservoir for their nesting populations in Indiana and a critical locale for neotropical species conservation.
An immediate threat to the forest-dependent bird communities of the Highland Rim and Shawnee Hills Natural Regions is a recently proposed increase of timber cutting within state-owned forests. Historically, the state has opened up for harvest about 3.4 million board-feet of forest each year. Under the directive of Indiana's governor, that figure would rise between 10 million and 17 million board-feet. Harrison-Crawford State Forest has been one of the properties recently sighted as a recipient of such a precipitously increased cutting regime.
Although the proposed harvesting would create more early to mid-successional habitat within the confines of the state forest, thereby benefiting such species as Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Field Sparrow, the loss of mature forest would equally serve as a detriment to bird communities associated with older growth habitats. Consequently, the populations of WatchList species such as Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler would most likely be impacted. In addition, research performed by scientists from Indiana University-Bloomington has illustrated that fragmentation and the creation of forest edges are often associated with higher predation and parasitism levels in nesting neotropical birds within this natural region. These effects, compounded with the loss of mature forest habitat, would certainly cause long-term problems for the reproductive success and population recruitment of forest interior birds at Harrison-Crawford.