Oakwood Bottoms Project Completed in Southern Illinois

Ducks Unlimited recently completed its latest project at the Oakwood Bottoms greentree reservoir in Jackson County, Illinois. The Otter Slough project enhanced water-management capabilities on up to 560 acres of flooded bottomland hardwoods. This is the third in a series of projects that DU is developing in cooperation with the U.S. 

Forest Service (USFS) under a multiyear challenge cost-share agreement to improve wetland habitat in Shawnee National Forest. During the past two years, DU and the USFS have invested approximately $107,500 in these cooperative projects. 

The history of Oakwood Bottoms spans eight decades. In the 1930s, the USFS purchased more than 3,600 acres along the Big Muddy River and immediately began planting flood-prone farmland to pin oaks and other native hardwood trees. In the mid-1960s, the USFS worked with the Illinois Department of Conservation and Southern Illinois University to develop the site, now known as Oakwood Bottoms, into a greentree management unit by constructing levees and installing pumps that allowed the young timber stands to be flooded during the fall waterfowl migration

By the early-1990s, water-management capabilities at Oakwood Bottoms were rapidly deteriorating as the aging equipment, levees, and water-control structures began to fail. The USFS and DU responded by developing a plan to rehabilitate and upgrade the greentree reservoir system in phases to improve habitat conditions for waterfowl and help maintain the health and growth of the bottomland forest. The first two phases of rehabilitation work were completed by 2000 at a cost of more than $1 million. DU's current challenge cost-share agreement includes the third phase of the Oakwood Bottoms rehabilitation and expands the scope of work to include an additional 550 acres of small wetland development along the Big Muddy River. 

According to DU regional biologist Eric Schenck, the estimated cost of completing the third phase of the Oakwood Bottoms rehabilitation and Big Muddy wetland development exceeds $2 million. "While DU and the USFS can be proud of the progress that has been made so far, we have a long way to go to reach our ultimate goal," Schenck said. 

"Our hope is that the Otter Slough project reinvigorates support for this conservation partnership, which has helped make Oakwood Bottoms a truly remarkable waterfowl area in southern Illinois."