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
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.
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.
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A migratory bird, breeds and nests throughout in tree cavities over water and eat insects. Prothonotary warblers are a good indicator of healthy bottomland forests and the success of restoration efforts in the Cache River Watershed.
Photo by Stoil Ivanov.