Ozark National Forest is located in northwest Arkansas within the Ozark-Ouachita Physiographic Province and the Central Hardwoods Bird Conservation Region. The southernmost portion runs along the Arkansas River Valley south to the Ouachita Mountains. The northern boundary extends beyond Lone Rock to Matney Mountain in Stone County. On the west the forest patchwork touches Oklahoma. The Main Division contains 3 ranger districts (Big Piney, Boston Mountain, and Pleasant Hill), 4 Wilderness Areas (Richland Creek, Hurricane Creek, Upper Buffalo, and East Fork), 4 Wild & Scenic Rivers (Big Piney Creek, Hurricane Creek, Buffalo River, and Mulberry River), 5 Scenic Byways (Ozark Highlands, Pig Trail, Highway 123, Mulberry River Road and Scenic 7), and 3 State Wildlife Management Areas (White Rock, Piney Creeks, and Ozark National Forest). Six endangered species and 5 threatened species live in the IBA. Diverse flora in the region include more than 500 species of trees and woody plants. Hardwoods occupy 72 percent of the forests; the oak-hickory types dominate.
The Main Division of Ozark National Forest is a significant source site for a wide variety of interior forest birds from Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Worm-eating Warblers. The forest supports more than 1% of the state?s population of 14 species including Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Future forest management will provide habitat for woodland and savannah species such as Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman?s Sparrow and Painted Bunting.
A significant threat is a lack of natural disturbances that set-back succession and maintain certain disturbance-dependent habitat types and their associated bird communities. In particular, periodic fire is needed to maintain communities such as glades, prairies, pine and oak savannas, pine and oak woodlands, and canebrakes. It is not practical to allow natural wildfires to burn uncontrolled, so prescribed burns are needed to mimic natural disturbances. Timber harvest also can mimic high intensity fire. Hindrances to establishing disturbance management regimes are a lack of adequate funding and a lack of public understanding concerning the need for management. Without public support, adequate funding and management will cease.
Burn regimes should consider high priority species that could be negatively affected such as the Cerulean Warbler. Short term and long term affects on Cerulean Warblers should be investigated. Research by Dr. Chris Kellner at Arkansas Technical University suggests that Cerulean Warblers do not occupy burned areas.
Invasive species continue to be promoted for use on private lands inside the forest boundary. Invasive species may be a threat but the extent of the problem is unknown. Again, funding and public understanding of the problem are first steps in proper management.
The land is owned by the US Forest Service as part of the
Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. White Rock Wildlife Management Area, 280,000
ac within the national forest, is owned by USFS but managed cooperatively with
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. There are approximately 230,559 ac of private
inholdings within the IBA boundary.
Oak-dominated forests cover more than 70 percent of Ozark National Forest. Close to 50 percent of oaks are over 100 years old. Most of these older forests also support relatively high tree densities greater than 100 square feet of basal area per acre. Dominant trees include oaks (red, white, black, blackjack, post), hickories, shortleaf pine, maples, dogwoods, and beech. Other habitat types such as riparian forest, ponds, and grasslands occur sporadically throughout the area.
Ozark National Forest is managed for multiple uses including both consumptive and nonconsumptive commercial and recreational activities. Recreational activities include hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, floating, kayaking, boating, camping, picnicking, swimming, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, four-wheeler riding and photography.