Moro Big Pine: conservation and collaboration in the pine flatwoods of Arkansas
Established by a conservation easement in 2006, Moro Big Pine Natural Area-Wildlife Management Area (MBP) encompasses ~16,000 contiguous acres in the pine flatwoods of southern Arkansas. This large-scale cooperative effort, focused on an ecosystem with high conservation value in a landscape increasingly dominated by planted, intensively managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), arose from an initiative by Potlatch Corporation, the State of Arkansas, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The MBP is a permanent easement purchased with a combination of public and private funds that seeks to balance the improvement of open pine woodlands with economic interests. Potlatch now manages the MBP under a prescription that ensures both timber production and forests capable of supporting the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis). State agencies, including the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Forestry Commission, have partnered with TNC and Potlatch to achieve a range of objectives, including the improvement of pine flatwoods, greater landscape connectivity, protection and habitat enhancement for species of special concern, and increased public access. Potlatch has also recently offered carbon credits from MBP to the California carbon market. MBP exemplifies some of the opportunities now available to private landowners and public agencies—a melding of conservation and production goals to protect working forests, improve ecosystem services, and provide recreational opportunities.