Important Bird Areas

Shugart/Felsenthal Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Arkansas

The Shugart/Felsenthal Red-cockaded Woodpecker IBA site is a GLOBALLY recognized IBA and named after a past president of Arkansas Audubon Society who first led the efforts to protect Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Arkansas in the 1960s. It is Arkansas' largest IBA at over one million acres of Loblolly and Shortleaf pine forest in various stages of growth.. The majority (approximately 85%) of this land is privately owned. The largest proportion of private land is held by Plum Creek and Potlatch timber companies, while the remaining private in-holdings belong to smaller timber companies, farmers, and homeowners. Casey Jones Wildlife Management Area (60,000 of which is included in this IBA) is presently leased by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for public hunting access, but is owned and managed by Plum Creek. Felsenthal NWR (65,000 acres) is primarily bottomland hardwood forest, but contains 9,400 acres of loblolly pine forest. The U.S. Forest Service's Crossett Experimental Forest is 1,600 acres of pine forest, including some old-growth and mature stands. Due to the size of the proposed area, several towns lie within its boundaries, including Crossett and Hampton, AR.

Ornithological Summary

This site regularly supports significant densities of one or more bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas. The proposed area would include approximately 120 Red-cockaded Woodpecker family clusters, with two to four individuals per cluster. Also, Felsenthal NWR maintains breeding populations of Bachman's Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Prothonotary Warblers. Surveys are needed to determine the species composition and the size of breeding populations of other birds of conservation concern found within the Shugart IBA. At Felsenthal NWR, the 10-year average winter waterfowl population is 75,000 ducks. Common species are Mallard, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, LEsser Scaup, Wood Duck, and American Wigeon. Several locations on Felsenthal Refuge support in excess of 100 nesting pairs of wading birds, including Great Blue Herons (150+ nesting pairs), Green Herons (50+ nesting pairs), Snowy Egrets (30+ nesting pairs), Cattle Egrets (30 nesting pairs), Great Egrets (100+ nesting pairs), Black-crowned Night-Herons (20 nesting pairs), Yellow-crowned Night-Herons (20+ nesting pairs), and Little Blue Herons (15+ nesting pairs).

Conservation Issues

The most serious issue in Shugart/Felsenthal is the extensive timber harvest that destroys Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters. Clusters located on Felsenthal NWR and Crossett Experimental Forest land are being conserved. However, over 100 RCW clusters exist outside of these protected areas. Timber company Habitat Conservation Plans include translocation of individual RCWs from areas that will soon be logged to small habitat conservation areas. While this often relocates RCWs from isolated forest fragments to areas in which the birds are highly concentrated, the overall area of suitable habitat for this species has been reduced. Coordination of management for RCWs by independent landowners is greatly needed.

Ownership

The majority (approximately 85%) of this land is privately
owned; the largest proportion of private land is held by Plum Creek and
Potlatch timber companies, while the remaining private in-holdings belong to
smaller timber companies, farmers, and homeowners. Casey Jones Wildlife
Management Area (approximately 72,000 acres, 60,000 of which would be included
in this IBA) is presently leased by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for
public hunting access, but is owned and managed by Plum Creek.  The IBA also includes Felsenthal NWR (65,000
acres) and the Forest Service’s Crossett Experimental Forest (1,600 acres). Towns
lie within this landscape-scale IBA, including Crossett and Hampton.

Habitat

85% Upland Pine Forest, 13% Lowland Hardwood Forest, and 2% Swamp (cypress, tupelo, or mixed forest).

Land Use

65% Forestry, 15% Hunting/Fishing, 13% Nature and Wildlife Conservation, 4% Suburban/Residential, 2% Research, 1% Urban/Commercial.