The AFC Forest Inventory and Analysis crew collects data from permanent plots that were established during the 1950s. These plots were established on three-mile by three-mile grids across the state. This grid pattern matches the grid used in the rest of the United States.
From the 1950s until 1995, the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station was in charge of collecting data from these plots. FIA crews surveyed each southern state about every 10 years. In 1995, the Southern States in a meeting with the Southern Research Station decided to shorten the survey cycle as much as possible due to the need for fresh and reliable data. Data collected under this system was less reliable after three to four years, and data on damage from tornadoes and other natural disturbances was needed as the events occurred. During the 1995 meeting, it was decided to collect 20 percent of the data from all the plots per year. A survey of the entire state would be completed in approximately five years. After the fifth year, the first set of plots would be surveyed again and the new data would replace the old data. The information collected after the fifth year would be more reliable.
In the summer of 1999, the Arkansas Forestry Commission began the Arkansas Forest Inventory and Analysis survey. The Arkansas Forestry Commission hired a Forest Inventory Coordinator and six Forest Inventory Specialists to collect data throughout the state. All Forest Inventory Specialists take six months of training before they are certified to collect FIA data. Each summer, the Forest Inventory Specialists have to be recertified to collect Forest Health Monitoring data.
It takes a crew of two inventory specialists four to six hours to complete one permanent FIA plot. The data collected must meet accuracy requirements established by the Southern Research Station. Representatives from the Southern Research Station regularly check each Arkansas crew to make sure accuracy is maintained. During the summer months, all Inventory Specialists collect Forest Health Monitoring data. It takes a crew of three five to seven hours to collect data from a permanent plot.