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TNC Protects Natural Area Near Shawnee National Forest
When you think of Illinois, you may conjure images of golden prairies, tall purple coneflowers and vibrant compass plants stretching as far as the eye can see. But in a southern part of the state known as the Illinois Ozarks, you’ll find an entirely different landscape comprised of stunning ridges, canyons and rock formations. In the center of this region, TNC recently protected 60 acres for nature and people.
Located within the Shawnee National Forest, this 60-acre acquisition is small but mighty, as Conservation Director Jeff Walk explains.
“This purchase ‘punches above its weight’ because it fills in a gap in a 10,000+-acre landscape,” he says. “One of our goals in southern Illinois is to reduce the fragmentation of Shawnee National Forest, and this purchase achieves that goal. Putting it into conservation management will also help us control invasive species and stop them from spreading onto the adjacent U.S. Forest Service wilderness area.”
The habitat, located within the Hutchins Creek valley area of the western Shawnee National Forest adjacent to the Clear Springs Wilderness Area, is mostly oak and hickory forest, with approximately 20 acres of agricultural fields. The area is also home to high-quality streams and creeks full of clear, rushing waters that allow darters to thrive. Cane brakes, a thicket where Arundinaria grasses grow, also provide habitat for Swainson’s warblers and golden mice. (Cane brakes were formerly widespread in the Southern United States but have been mostly lost.) In the spring, TNC and partners will begin planting trees and cane brakes to further restore this wonderful wild place. Several structures and debris will also be removed.
“These steps will improve the habitat for native plants and wildlife, as well as increase the forest’s ability to remove carbon from the air,” Jeff says.