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Resource Management

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The Refuge is situated within the Cache River watershed which is primarily a rural landscape with most of the land that is not forested is in agriculture. Over the last 200 years, the Cache River basin has been altered by widespread hydrologic alterations and land clearing. The Post Creek cut-off, completed in 1916, was especially damaging to the wetlands because it diverted the upper segment of the Cache River directly into the Ohio River and isolated approximately 40 miles of the middle and lower Cache channel. In the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of acres of floodplain forest were cleared, drained, and converted to agriculture. As a result, local, citizen-based conservation efforts were initiated in the late1970’s and received a significant boost with the formation of the Cypress Creek NWR and the Cache River Wetlands partnership in 1990.

In recognition of the need to protect the Cache River and influence land use change throughout the watershed, the Refuge works with a variety of resource agencies and organizations.  The focus of Cypress Creek Refuge includes management and restoration strategies to restore and sustain natural communities and resource values. 
This work primarily involves the following:

Forest and Wetland Habitat Restoration

Almost 30,000 acres within the Cache River Watershed, most of which were marginal farmland, have been reforested or restored to wetlands; fourteen thousand of those acres have included private land restoration, and approximately 5,000 acres have included Refuge property.   Reforestation on the Refuge has included over 4500 acres of bottomland and 700 acres of upland, and includes up to 30 species of trees. The enrollment of private cropland in programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is also an important tool for the preservation of Cypress Creek/Cache River wetlands. Reforestation, wetland restoration, and conservation tillage address many of the conservation issues affecting the Cache River Watershed by increasing the function of the floodplain, increasing habitat available to wildlife, and reducing the amount of sediment entering the river from adjacent lands. 

 

Wetland Management - Moist Soil Management

Thirteen moist soil units totaling 700 acres are managed on the Refuge. Moist soil management entails manipulating water levels to encourage growth of plants occurring naturally in the seed bank. The plants produce seeds that are high energy food for migrating waterfowl.  Periodic disturbance and water level manipulation are utilized within the impoundments in order to encourage the germination of valuable moist soil plants such as annual smartweeds, wild millets, and beggar-ticks.  Incremental flooding of moist soil units begins in September or October.  The units are progressively flooded as waterfowl arrive in order to concentrate feeding areas, and avoid premature deterioration of moist soil seeds.  All units remain flooded through the winter and provide invertebrates for early spring migrating waterfowl.  Drawdown begins in mid to late March and can occur, depending on the unit anytime between March and the following fall depending on the vegetation community that is desired and the guild of waterbirds that are being targeted.   Drawdowns serve as a valuable tool to attract a diversity of foraging birds.  An annual water management plan is developed and implemented each year which provides a staggered schedule in order to maximize the diversity of water levels and therefore availability of habitat for the greatest diversity of species.  

The Refuge also contains ephemeral (seasonal) wetlands with no method of water control.  Most of these wetlands are less than - CCNWR contains 10 ephemeral wetlands with no method of water control. Most of these wetlands are less than 5 acres in size. Most of these are less than 5 acres and typified by willow and buttonbush along the periphery with emergent vegetation such as Bulrushes, Sedges, Cattail, and Smartweeds growing within the unit. Some of the units include some Bald Cypress trees as well. These units provide habitat for a number of reptiles and amphibians as well as being important feeding areas for migrating birds and a host of other plant and animal species.

 

Invasive Species Control

There are a number of invasive species throughout Refuge.  The key to controlling invasive species is early detection and treatment which is not always feasible due to staff and funding limitations.  Due to limited resources, invasive work on the Refuge has been concentrated on limiting the spread of large infestations, eliminating small infestations (especially those of priority species) where it is possible, and then working on larger infestations when possible.  A baseline inventory of invasive species was conducted in order to document and identify the presence of invasive species and the extent of infestation. Current control measures include the use of chemicals and mechanical control. 

 

Agriculture

Farming occurs on refuge lands as a limited use.  As lands are acquired, highly erodible land is taken out of production and restored while the most productive lands are maintained in agriculture in order to prevent the invasion of exotic or undesirable species until reforestation occurs.  Farming also occurs within moist soil units as a means to achieving the habitat management goals and objectives of the Refuge in two ways.  First, in managed moist soil habitat, the use of agriculture provides a means to set back succession using disturbance without allowing undesirable woody plants or perennial noxious weeds to invade these areas; at the same time agriculture provides high energy foods for waterfowl.  This type of renovation within the moist soil units are usually implemented on a 3-4 year rotation.  Secondly, areas slated for reforestation are maintained by annually planting crops in order to prevent the invasion of exotic or undesirable species (fescue, multiflora rose, sericia lespedeza, autumn olive, Japanese honey suckle, etc.) until restoration with native hardwoods is possible.  

Cooperative farming is the term used for cropping activities (growing agricultural products) conducted by a third party on land that is owned by or managed as part of the Refuge.  Cooperators are limited to using only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Approved herbicides; in addition the use of genetically modified crops specifically glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans is not permitted on Refuge property. 

Last Updated: Oct 21, 2014
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