What We Do
Helping plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully consider many management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.
Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to foster desired plant growth. Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly. Prescribed burning, mowing, experimental bio-control insect releases, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on national wildlife refuges.
Standardized ground and aerial wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys are conducted on some refuges throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Units are evaluated by how well they meet habitat and wildlife use objectives.
Management and Conservation
Bottomland hardwood forests, like those found on this refuge, once covered millions of acres and most of the Arkansas Delta creating a vast sea of wildlife habitat. Most of the forests in the Delta have been cleared, but as the refuge purchases these remnant tracts of marginal agricultural they are usually planted back to trees. Many acres of previously farmed fields located within the refuge have been replanted with native hardwood tree seedlings (reforested). This cover type makes up over 20,000 acres on the refuge, with some of these sites having trees tall and old enough (20+ years old) to be considered “forests.” These reforested sites often reconnect existing blocks of woods, creating an even larger block of forest that is suitable for more wildlife. Neotropical migratory songbirds, waterfowl, white-tailed deer, rabbits, wild turkey, and other forest-dwelling wildlife are just a few wildlife species that make this habitat their home.
The refuge manages for a healthy forest habitat that is intended to support the widest range of wildlife species possible, including waterfowl, resident wildlife, and neotropical songbirds. The Mississippi Alluvial Valley used to support over 25 million acres of bottom hardwood forests, and now only some 7 million acres remain or have been restored. Viable populations of most resident wildlife can still thrive in the reduced amount of forests; however, refuges are charged by law/treaties with providing habitat for migratory wildlife, including wildlife that have larger ecosystem requirements. Therefore, the forests of the refuge need to provide for more wildlife and wildlife species in a smaller amount of area than the forests historically supported. This means the refuge need to ensure that it has high quality habitat through forest management.
Forests that have no human-induced disturbance or management such as timber harvests, prescribed burns, or other active wildlife management stand improvements are influenced only by natural disturbances: tornadoes, non-typical flooding, wildfires, strong winds that blow down trees, disease, and natural mortality. Over a long period of time with little to no disturbance, a forest naturally develops a closed canopy, or overstory, and an open, almost park like, condition underneath that is heavily shaded. Eventually, a closed-canopy forest will experience natural disasters and gaps will be created in the overstory. The gaps allow sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, which in turn allows plants and trees below the forest canopy to regenerate. However, this type of regeneration is limited and will generally trend towards reproduction of shade-tolerant trees and lower species diversity. Although this type of forest species composition is beneficial to some wildlife species, habitat niches/diversity are limited, and there are many more wildlife species (some of conservation concern) that require active forest management.
Moist Soil Management:
To produce seeds/native duck food from moist soil plants, the water in impoundments is slowly drained during the spring and summer to produce mud flats or moist soil that encourage the growth of early successional grasses (e.g. "moist-soil grasses"). These areas are generally disked every 2-4 years to set back plant succession, reduce the amount of non-productive plants such as coffeeweed or cockleburs, and grow desirable plant species. Other management actions used to increase seed production include spraying herbicide to kill non-desirable plants which reduces competition for limited resources and promotes desirable plants, or flooding/irrigating moist soil plants during the growing season, which also encourages the growth of desirable wetland plants and hinder the growth of less desirable ones, usually non-wetlands plants.
High waterfowl harvest rates and hunting activity in Arkansas make sanctuary an important purpose of Arkansas NWRs. Winter waterfowl activities such as maintaining body temperature, searching for food and roost sites, avoiding disturbance, molting, courtship and pair bonding are energy-consuming activities for waterfowl. Sanctuaries on refuges where waterfowl are not disturbed are critical for migrating and wintering waterfowl so they can conserve calories/energy which helps them survive the winter period and migrate back up north to their breeding areas in top physical/breeding conditions. Cache River NWR provides critically important waterfowl sanctuaries.
Law enforcement is an integral part of managing the National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuge law enforcement officers are responsible for upholding federal laws and regulations that protect natural resources, the public, and employees. They also strive to assist visitors in understanding refuge laws, regulations, and the reasons for them.
Laws and Regulations
Public use of the refuge is permitted throughout the year. Activities allowed include hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. Users of the refuge must obey all signs pertaining to visitation, access, and the Public Use Regulations Brochure. All public uses, including hunting and fishing, are conducted in accordance with state and federal regulations.