|In the early 1900s, Illinois was one of the first states to realize the value of preserving natural areas, especially near cities. This concern prompted the development of Forest Preserve Districts and conservation programs. After neglect during the middle of the century, efforts of local, state, and national scope were and are being made. Volunteers are responsible for much of the progress in the restoration of oak ecosystems and prairie areas.
are descriptions of the results of conservation efforts from the 1930s
to the 1990s.
The creation of Shawnee National Forest, located between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in the southern portion of the state, was prompted by the public's interest in having a national forest in Illinois.
initiatives began in 1930, a time when a great deal of forest had already
been lost as a result of the timber industry. Some people felt that the
forests should be restored for recreation and beauty.
saw reforestation as an opportunity for a revitalized timber industry,
or other commercial interests. Still others recognized the importance of
the forest in erosion control.
began buying the land in 1933. In 1938 the area was officially proclaimed
the Shawnee National Forest.
National Forest is more than 277,500 acres in size, and has many forest types across the steep topography
of the Ozark and Shawnee Hills.
seven parcels (or 10% of the forest) within Shawnee National Forest were
designated as wilderness areas. Wilderness areas are managed primarily
to preserve natural ecosystems. Any activities that are in opposition to
that goal are prohibited. Wilderness areas provide critical habitat for
native plant and animal species as well as opportunities for future generations
to know and appreciate them.
the state purchased a large tract of land containing old growth forest
in eastern Illinois along the Wabash River near Mt. Carmel. The Beall family
owned the land for over 102 years. Unlike the surrounding areas, half of
the 365 acres had never been logged or cleared. Beall
Woods State Park and Nature Preserve is one of the largest tracts of undisturbed deciduous
forest east of the Mississippi River.
early to mid-1900s, the Main brothers ran a sawmill and boxboard business
in Karnak, Illinois. Although they selectively harvested timber for their
business, they left tracts of land in the area untouched. They eventually
sold their land to another corporation. During the 1970s and 1980s, the
state purchased these large tracts of this land along the Cache River and
formed the Cache
River State Natural Area (popup window to site). The forests on this
moist land include cypress and tupelo swamps, oak and hickory flatwoods,
and limestone barrens.
individuals preserved Funk's Grove, southwest of Bloomington on Old Route
66 in central Illinois. A portion of these woods, Thaddeus-Stubblefield
Grove, is a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve established in 1993. It
contains 1600 acres of oak savannas, woodlands, and forests. It has some
of the largest trees in the state, and the best example of a bur oak grove.
A secondary forest of maples is present; local people harvest and sell
For more information on the Oak Ecosystems Recovery Plan, see http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/oak/oak95/status.html#ILLINOIS
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