National Wildlife Refuge
|0137 Rustic Campus Drive
Ullin, IL 62992
Phone Number: 618-634-2231
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|The refuge protects 15,000 acres of wetlands and bottomland forests, which are home to wildlife such as this bullfrog.|
Continued . . . In the 1800s, with early settlers, change came slowly to the area; little serious effort was made to change the landscape. Residents cleared small fields and tilled a few acres, living a life of subsistence farming supplemented by hunting and fishing.
The pace of change quickened with the arrival of the railroad, the timber industry, and the idea of "improving" the landscape by clearing the forests and draining the Cache. The Post Creek Cut-off, completed in 1916, was a major blow to the wetland, diverting the Upper Cache directly into the Ohio River and isolating 40 miles of meandering Lower Cache channel.
After World War II, forests in southern Illinois began to disappear at an alarming rate. Huge clearing machines were able to get to the wettest parts of the bottomland, and land speculators began buying swampland to convert to farmland. During a 10-year period in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of acres of floodplain forest were cleared, drained, and converted to agricultural use.
Intensive farming on recently cleared floodplain resulted in increased run-off and stream discharge, eroded stream banks, and increased flooding on natural and agricultural land. Silt transported from cleared land and unstable stream channels choked springs and natural drainage ways.
By the 1980s, the effects of clearing and draining the swamps of southernmost Illinois were becoming obvious. Sedimentation rates in the Lower Cache were as high as 12-24 inches per year; natural ponds that had always held water were going dry, resulting in widespread fish kills; and places where thousands of ducks once fed on acorns from huge oak trees had become crop fields. It was clear that something needed to be done to "Save the Cache."
Local conservation efforts in the Cache Valley were given a considerable boost by the establishment of the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the formation of the Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture Partnership in 1991 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and Ducks Unlimited). This public-private partnership formed in recognition of the scale and complexity of the restoration effort that was needed in the Cache.
The Partnership has a broad goal of restoring the integrity of the Cache River system and protecting 60,000 acres along the Cache River and its major tributaries. The degradation of the Cache River system was 200 years in the making, and restoring the system will not happen overnight. The Refuge and the Partnership recognize this and the need to influence land use changes throughout the watershed by working with other resource agencies, organizations, and private citizens to restore the Cache River to a level of structure and function that will ensure a self-sustaining river-floodplain system.
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