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      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.

Below are descriptions of the results of conservation efforts from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Shawnee National Forest
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. 

The early 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. 

Others 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.

The government began buying the land in 1933. In 1938 the area was officially proclaimed the Shawnee National Forest.
Shawnee 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.

In 1990, 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.

Beall Woods
In 1965, 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.

Cache River
In the 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.

Funk's Grove
Private 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 maple syrup.

For more information on the Oak Ecosystems Recovery Plan, see
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