Green Line Meeting in Arkansas Promotes Collaboration

On September 10, a Green Line meeting brought USDA Forest Service researchers and managers together, along with state partners. Participants represented the Southern Research Station, the Ouachita National Forest, the Ozark National Forest, and the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

bluestem and shortleaf pine
Grasses dominate the understory of shortleaf pine ecosystems. Shortleaf pine restoration was one of the topics Arkansas managers wanted to hear more about. Photo by Jim Guldin.

Twenty-eight people attended the meeting, including leadership from SRS, the Southern Region and Arkansas state forester Joe Fox. “Arkansas is the most collaborative state in the union for forestry,” said Fox. “And Shared Stewardship will make helping the forests in the future easier.”

Green Line meetings are modeled after State Line meetings, which SRS initiated in 2012. Both types of meetings are designed to boost collaboration. The Green Line meetings help Forest Service researchers identify questions and issues that national forests face.

Station director Rob Doudrick said, “the history of the meetings revolves around us asking the question, ‘are we doing the work you need and at the right scale?’”

The meetings also helped introduce the national forests to the depth and breadth of SRS research.

“Before the meeting, we collected questions from the national forests and identified SRS experts who could address each topic,” says Stephanie Laseter. Laseter serves as the liaison between SRS and the Southern Region, in addition to coordinating the SRS Experimental Forest Network. The topics and speakers were:

  • Prescribed Fire in the Ozarks, by Marty Spetich and Gregg Vickers, Forest Silviculturist. Prescribed fire is used throughout the Ozarks – Vickers and his colleagues burn 50,000 to 75,000 acres each year on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest.
  • Shortleaf Pine Restoration, by Don Bragg and Virginia McDaniel. Shortleaf pine has declined rapidly across its range, along with the grassy ground layer – dominated by bluestem – associated with shortleaf pine woodlands. SRS scientists shared restoration and management recommendations and news of a cross-site study that will assess shortleaf pine across the Experimental Forest Network.
  • Pine-Hardwood Stand Establishment, by Marty Spetich and Gregg Vickers. Since the 1800s, oaks have become more prominent than pines in Arkansas forests. Forests have also become more homogenous with less woodland and savanna, which means fewer grasses and forbs. The scientists discussed silviculture, prescribed fire, and fire history, including fire suppression.
  • Ips Bark Beetles: Treatment and management, by Brian Sullivan. In general, Ips damage can be reduced by maintaining healthy forest stands, planting species that are suited to the site, and avoiding leaving slash piles or logging debris by healthy pines. When high levels of Ips are present, a study which took place on the Oconee National Forest in Georgia suggests prescribed fire can reduce loblolly and shortleaf pine mortality.
  • Wildlife Habitat and Monitoring: Northern long-eared bat distribution patterns and monitoring efforts, by Phillip Jordan. Long-eared bats have been decimated by white-nose syndrome and are disappearing from the Ozarks.
  • Resources available through the SRS Website, including TACCIMO, by Laseter. TACCIMO is designed to help managers plan for and respond to climate change impacts.

The group also discussed where research is located on the landscape, including the Crossett, Alum Creek, Sylamore, and Koen Experimental Forests and two research natural areas in Arkansas.

About twenty-eight people attended the meeting and may convene again virtually in the future. Photo by Don Bragg, USFS.

The conversations and connections left many participants feeling energized about future opportunities to engage.  For example, SRS plans to engage with future interdisciplinary forest planning teams and participate in forest leadership team meetings. The group plans to explore biannual virtual Green Line meetings.

SRS has a long history of conducting research in response to the needs of the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests. A suite of studies initiated in the 1990s examined the effect of silviculture on forest birds. Additional research has addressed small mammals, pine regeneration, hydrology, and visual quality.

For more information, email Stephanie Laseter at stephanie.laseter@usda.gov.

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