1970: $60 million is authorized by Congress to channelize 232 miles of the Cache River and Bayou DeView.
1971: Arkansas Wildlife Federation and several private landowners sue to stop channelization on the Cache River. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission joins suit shortly after filing.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission purchases land from three private landowners to create Black Swamp Wildlife Management Area to preserve wetlands along the Cache River.
1972: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ draglines begin ditching the Cache River. Rex Hancock helps organize the Citizens Committee to Save the Cache River Basin.
1973: A federal injunction stops the ditching after four miles are completed.
1977: Congress reauthorizes funding and three more miles of the river are ditched.
1978: A government task force concludes that ditching the Cache River will be the single most damaging project to waterfowl and floodplain forest in the nation. Arkansas Senator Bumpers and Arkansas Attorney General Clinton worked to stop the project. Funding ends, leaving a seven-mile scar on the landscape.
1980s: Local people, agencies, and conservation groups begin working together to conserve the remaining forests in the Cache River watershed. Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is established along the Cache River and Bayou DeView conserving nearly 50,000 acres. The area is named the Big Woods of Arkansas.
1985: The Wetlands Reserve Program allows private landowners and farmers to reforest thousands of prior cleared wetland acres that most agreed were too wet to farm effectively.
1990: The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands names the Big Woods a “Wetland of International Importance”.
1990s: An additional 100,000 acres are conserved connecting the Cache River NWR to the White River NWR, including the acquisition of Benson Creek Natural Area and the transfer of Potlatch lands to the White River NWR.
2004: The Corps of Engineers, Ducks Unlimited, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission develop a plan to restore the lower Cache River.
2009: Local project partners request assistance from The Nature Conservancy to move the project to implementation.
Today: The local project partners have the opportunity to restore the lower portion of the Cache River and chart a new course of working at a scale that conserves whole landscapes- the forests and the rivers that feed them.
Timeline information from Arkansas Duck Hunter’s Almanac, published by Bowman Outdoor Enterprises.