The Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture
A Watershed Scale Restoration Project
The Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture Partnership (JVP) is a unique public-private partnership between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. Informal participants in the JVP are regional universities who have collaborated on research projects and the Friends of the Cache River Watershed. The JVP was formed in 1991 in recognition of the international significance of the Cache River Wetlands. The vision of the JVP is to restore habitats and processes necessary to sustain the plants, animals and natural communities of thee watershed — habitats and processes that are also important to people who depend on the health of the Cache River basin for their livelihoods and quality of life.
The JVP has a goal of protecting and restoring a 60,000-acre wetland corridor along 50 miles of the Cache River. To date almost 36,000 acres have been protected. But land protection alone is not enough. Efforts are underway to restore the natural functions of the system. To accomplish that goal, the JVP has broken the task of restoring the system into four components: research and planning, forest and wetland habitat restoration, reduction of sedimentation and stream bank/bed erosion and a managed reconnection of the upper and lower segments of the Cache River.
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge has a protection goal of 35,000 acres. Lands acquired to date is 16,000 acres. Contributions to the JVP include restoration planning, biological and land management expertise, law enforcement, visitor services, construction and maintenance capability and administrative support.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a protection goal of 32,000 acres. To date IDNR has acquired over 25,000 acres. IDNR contributes restoration planning, biological and land management expertise, law enforcement and visitor services.
IDNR’s Cache River State Natural Area totals 14,328 acres and is composed of three distinct management units–Little Black Sough, Lower Cache River Swamps and Glass Hill.
The Nature Conservancy has acquired 4,000 acres and is involved in restoration planning, land acquisition support, cooperative funding and political outreach. The Grassy Slough, the Conservancy’s signature project in the Cache River Watershed, was once mostly forested wetland–efforts are well underway to restore the site to its original condition.
To date, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has spent almost $15 million to acquire Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP) easements in the Cache River watershed. With WRP, landowners retire marginal and frequently flooded cropland in return for a payment equal to the land’s appraised value. NRCS plans and designs the restorations with input from the various partners.Through NRCS contributions, approximately 9,000 acres of the Cache River wetlands have been acquired and restored through the (WRP) and the efforts of local landowners, NRCS and the other JVP partners.
Ducks Unlimited has acquired 1,000 acres in the project area. In addition to their land acquisition support DU contributes cooperative funding and political outreach.