Henry N. Barkhausen
Director, Citizens Committee to Save the Cache River
Jonesboro, Illinois

Through his individual efforts, Henry N. Barkhausen, an award winner in the nonprofit category, has brought together a consortium of private organizations, businesses, and public agencies to protect the Cache River wetlands in southern Illinois. The cooperative Cache River Wetlands Project now encompasses 60,000 acres of wetlands that will be purchased and restored and includes work to be performed on private lands in the surrounding 478,000-acre watershed. The first land to be protected was purchased in 1970.

Barkhausen was instrumental in attracting attention to the unique ecological value of the Cache River wetlands. The Cache River is the largest remaining wetland in Illinois and retains most of its wilderness characteristics. Thousands of ducks and geese rest and feed at these wetlands as they travel the Mississippi Flyway. The area also harbors more than 40 threatened or endangered species, bald cypress trees more than 1,000 years old, and three designated National Natural Landmarks. Approximately 90 percent of Illinois’ wetlands have been destroyed.

Barkhausen has been instrumental in establishing both a new state natural area and a new national wildlife refuge. The state-owned Cache River Natural Area encompasses 8,214 acres managed to preserve, protect, and enhance the natural resources while providing the opportunity for outdoor recreation. This area is nationally significant because it contains true southern swamps at the northern portion of their range. It also provides habitat for 23 state-endangered or threatened plant and animal species. Critical habitat is managed to protect endangered, threatened, and rare species. In addition, Illinois has dedicated three areas as nature preserves to ensure permanent protection of these examples of outstanding wetland communities. The area is used for hiking, fishing, canoeing, birding, hunting, scientific research, and educational purposes.

The four land-owning partners in the Cache River Wetlands Project are The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the Illinois Department of Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other agencies and groups that are playing a significant role in the protection of the Cache River wetlands are the Soil Conservation Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, Southern Illinois University, and Shawnee Community College.

The struggle to save the Cache River also includes an effort by Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, which have joined forces to protect and restore wetlands. The goal of their campaign is to raise $800,000 to acquire 2,100 acres along the Cache River and $200,000 for restoration and management.

Barkhausen is a past director of the Illinois Department of Conservation. His long association with The Nature Conservancy has been honored by an appointment as a Life Trustee of the Illinois Chapter and by an Oak Leaf Award, the Conservancy’s highest national recognition. Barkhausen’s personal example of giving his time and financial support to the project has led many others to join the effort. Most importantly, he has unified local interests, elected officials, and conservationists in a cooperative approach to solving the problems associated with protecting a complex, dynamic wetlands ecosystem.

— Charles T, Grigalauski, Environmental Management Department, Waste Management of North America