This site consists of the Kisatchie and Calcasieu Ranger Districts of the Kisatchie National Forest, and the forested lands in between.
The Calcasieu Ranger District consists of two management units, including the Evangeline and the Vernon Units.

Most of this gently rolling terrain is covered with upland pine and pine-hardwood forests. The forested upland is dissected with numerous riparian areas, including a limited amount of bottomland hardwood habitat. There are also small areas of open water in the form of reservoirs, including greentree reservoirs, and several lakes, including Valentine and Kincaid Lakes.
The Calcasieu Ranger District was completely cut over by the 1930?s. The Evangeline Unit was then replanted with loblolly and slash pine and the natural fire regime was altered and suppressed. The Vernon Unit was replanted with loblolly and slash pine, but a local tradition of woods burning favored survival of longleaf from residual seed rather than the planted, off-site pines. Therefore, the Vernon is typified by natural longleaf stands to a greater extent than other areas of Kisatchie National Forest.
Until the late 1990?s the primary forestry objective of the Kisatchie National Forest was intense commodity production but with the revision of the Forest Plan in 1999 the Forest?s objectives became ecosystem restoration and recovery of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Now, prescribed fire is used aggressively to restore and maintain habitats of open pine forest with a grassy ground layer. Thinning and small clearcuts are also now being used to move the structure and species composition of the uplands toward the historic condition.

Some of the private lands within the IBA have been clearcut for agriculture, and thus do not support the primary target species for the IBA. However, some of the lands are managed for timber, and still support or have the potential to support the IBA target species.

Ornithological Summary

In recent years, populations of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker have been steadily increasing in several areas of West Kisatchie. In the Vernon Unit, the RCW population probably never dipped as low as other KNF populations, possibly due to military use of the northern half of the area which precluded the intense forest management that occurred elsewhere. The number of potential breeding groups, or clusters, has increased on Calcasieu and Kisatchie Ranger Districts from 214 clusters in 2001 to 346 in 2006. As the amount of suitable habitat increases with forestry management, RCW populations will increase accordingly, and other birds of conservation interest that share the RCW?s habitat needs will also benefit. Chief among these are the resident Northern Bobwhite and Bachman?s Sparrow. Henslow?s Sparrow and American Woodcock find the area attractive wintering range. Other species found in these upland pine habitats on the Vernon include Black-and-white Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Kentucky Warbler, and Prairie Warbler. Swainson's Warbler and Wood Thrush inhabit the thicker pine habitats and Louisiana Waterthrush is found along the small creeks. This forest is also home to large numbers of common species such as Hooded Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Pine Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting and Summer Tanager. A pair of Bald Eagles nests on the shoreline of Kincaid Lake within a Forest Service Recreation Area. Some commonly encountered raptors include Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Cooper?s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Mississippi Kite, southeastern American Kestrel, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl.

Conservation Issues

The most significant impacts within the forest are intensified forest management practices, primarily tree thinning, which is done to better mimic natural forest stand composition, and limited clearing and replanting to restore historic species composition. The biggest threats exist in the private lands at the boundary of the National Forest units. Most landowners outside the forest actively manage their land for maximum timber and agricultural production which is detrimental to late-successional wildlife species. Thus, the red-cockaded woodpeckers have less room for clusters to expand, and may face more disturbance and risk near the edges of the managed forest, than in interior habitat. Ares that might buffer the area are currently managed moderately for row crops and beef cattle, and intensively for timber extraction.

Ownership

The U.S. Forest Service owns the Kisatchie (41,532 ha) and Calcasieu Districts (74,074 ha), part of the Kisatchie National Forest. The Calcasieu District consists of the Evangeline and Vernon Units. While each of these ranger districts are fairly contiguous, there are a few interior pockets of private ownership within the national forest.

The U.S. Army owns the Ft. Polk Wildlife Management Area (42,849 ha), and the Peason Ridge WMA (13,526 ha).

The state owns Alexander State Forest (3,450 ha) and the Walnut Hill WMA (192 ha).

Much of the remaining land is privately owned, some by individuals and some by companies.

Habitat

The West Kisatchie IBA consists primarily of forested upland, mostly pinewoods. Wetland habitat types include bayheads, western hillside seepage bogs, and baldcypress-tupelo gum swamps. The pine type was historically mostly longleaf pine in the uplands and loblolly in the riparian zones with some shortleaf pine on some of the slopes. Most of the federally owned land has been restored to deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forests. Hardwoods interspersed in pine areas or predominating in some stands include various oaks and hickories, sweetgum, black gum, maples, and flowering dogwood. The predominanat riparian forest type is beech/magnolia/loblolly. Common shrubs include blueberries, American beautyberry, and wild azalea. Herbaceous vegetation is mostly grasses, dominated by little bluestem, and myriad wildflowers.

Land Use

Within the Kisatchie National Forest lands, land use differs by ranger district. Military training is the primary land use on much of the Vernon Unit. Other significant uses are timber extraction on a managed rotation system and silvicultural activities.

Forestry is the primary land use on the Evangeline Unit, most of which involves timber extraction on a managed rotation system. There are also some forest protection and silvicultural activities. Military use on the Department of Defense special contract lands consists of air warfare training. Water management consists of wells that supply water to the Alexandria municipal water system.

Throughout the IBA, hunting is another major activity, primarily deer and turkey hunting, but occasional hunting for waterfowl, small game, turkey, and other animals. Other types of land use include tourism, research, urban/industrial/transport, and water management. The many types of tourism and recreation include ecotourism, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, ATV use, birdwatching, and some fishing. The forest also fills a role in environmental education, conservation, and ecological research, ornithological research, and wildlife management. Roads, bridges, pipeline networks, and utility rights of way cut through the forested areas.

The West Kisatchie IBA includes a considerable amount of private land as well, much of which includes upland pine forest. Land use in private ownership includes silviculture managed intensively for timber extraction, hunting, private residences and camps. There is also agricultural land, managed intensively for production.

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