CROSSETT – Hunters in south Arkansas soon will have more than 3,600 new acres of public land to pursue their passion, thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s approval to purchase a large block of land bordering Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area at its March 22 meeting.
The land currently belongs to The Nature Conservancy, and will be purchased at a price of $4 million. It was appraised at $5.3 million, but TNC has agreed to the discounted price to be used as a match toward federal funds in the purchase. The entire cost of the purchase will be reimbursed by federal funds, so no state dollars will be required to secure this property for public hunting use.
Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC, says the property was previously leased to hunting clubs, and the purchase has not been completed, but the area should be open to the public within the next two years after the purchase is complete and staff have had a chance to set seasons for the property. The purchase will be completed in two phases, with roughly 1,000 acres being acquired by June, and the remainder being purchased in the next fiscal year.
“We plan to add it to Beryl Anthony, but we need to see how the expansion will impact drawn permit numbers for turkey and season dates for other species,” Carner said. “This is an exciting purchase because hunters have relatively little public land in this part of the state.”
Carner says 2,600 acres of the property are currently being managed for the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, but hunters shouldn’t worry that this would impact their hunting now or in the future.
“Other WMAs in our system have active colonies of (red cockaded woodpeckers), and it hasn’t been any conflict to hunting,” Carner said. “Moro Big Pine WMA near Hampton and Warren Prairie Natural Area WMA near Warren both have colonies of these woodpeckers and provide excellent hunting opportunities.”
Most of the property being purchased consists of older-aged pines with an open canopy and tall grasses underneath. Bottomland hardwoods also are available, but this expansion should offer good habitat for animals when the lower portions of Beryl Anthony WMA and Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge flood.
Currently, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA offers 7,020 acres of prime bottomland hardwoods. It is a key link in the south Arkansas-north Louisiana wetlands chain along the Ouachita River. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge joins it to the north. Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge joins it on the south, with the Louisiana state line separating the two tracts. Combined, the three provide major wintering grounds for ducks and other migrating birds. It also plays host to a variety of other species, including deer and turkey.
“The Nature Conservancy has done an excellent job of managing the area very aggressively with prescribed fire, and the area offers great habitat for a host of species like deer, turkey and northern bobwhite,” Carner said. “We look forward to this expansion to Beryl Anthony adding an excellent hunting opportunity in South Arkansas for generations to come.”