The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) recently completed a grant project to improve the quality of prairie, shrub habitat, and riparian (along rivers and streams) woodlands at Chesney Prairie Natural Area (NA) in northwest Arkansas. Habitat enhancement work included planting local genotype prairie flower and grass seed to re-establish native tallgrass prairie species composition on a 20-acre restoration area, controlling invasive plant species, managing shrub habitat, and prescribed burning of the natural area.
To maximize conservation success, only seed sourced from a high-quality area of Chesney Prairie NA and a nearby privately owned prairie was planted, as this seed was adapted to the conditions at Chesney Prairie NA. These activities have increased the quantity and quality of Ozark grassland habitat at the natural area, thereby benefiting 12 animal Species of Greatest Conservation Need such as northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus, also commonly called quail) and prairie mole cricket (Gryllotalpa major), as well as other grassland-dependent wildlife.
The ANHC’s work was supported through a $54,600 grant award from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s State Wildlife Grant Program and was matched with $29,400 in state and partner funds. The project was completed in cooperation with the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society and Ozark Ecological Restoration, Inc.
Located in Benton County, Chesney Prairie NA is one of two remaining remnants of a much larger tallgrass prairie, the historic Lindsley Prairie, which formerly covered more than 12,000 acres. The natural area supports over 290 native plant species, including at least 18 rare plants. This plant diversity provides the foundation for Chesney Prairie NA supporting more than 150 species of birds recorded nesting, wintering, or migrating at the natural area, making it one of the best and most popular bird-watching sites in northwest Arkansas.