The floodplain of the Mississippi delta once comprised a vast and unique wetland ecosystem consisting of bottomland hardwood forests, oxbow lakes, and cypress swamps. These characteristics, along with the region’s long growing season and mild winter temperatures, produced extremely diverse habitat for wildlife, including winter foraging habitat for migratory waterfowl. However, it is estimated that 80 percent of these bottomland hardwood wetland forests have now been converted. The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in Arkansas emphasizes the restoration and protection of this delta ecoregion, which contains critical waterfowl habitat.
Since 1998, Ducks Unlimited has assisted the NRCS with reforestation and hydrology restoration activities in Arkansas. Accomplishments to date include reforestation of bottomland hardwoods (i.e., planting of bare-root seedlings) on 70,000 acres enrolled in the WRP. Additionally, hydrology restoration measures have been completed on approximately 30,000 acres, thus providing valuable moist-soil habitats for wintering waterfowl.
The Delta portion of Arkansas is one of the most intensively farmed regions in the United States. Several million acres of rice and soybeans are grown annually. Croplands enrolled into WRP are planted to bottomland hardwood tree species that ultimately filter out sediments and nutrients that would otherwise end up in the Mississippi River. Reforestation of bottomland hardwood forest ecosystems is also providing critical habitat for many wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and waterfowl.