Illinois Audubon Society purchases land to protect subterranean wilderness

Illinois Audubon Society has purchased 44.5 acres in Monroe County to protect the groundwater recharge basin which drains into the Fogelpole Cave Nature Preserve. Fogelpole Cave, owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is the largest cave in Illinois (and the 51st largest in the nation). Much of the cave is near-pristine subterranean wilderness and constitutes our state’s most biologically diverse cave system. Lying within the “upstream” flow of both groundwater and surface water drainage into the cave system, protection of the property and surface restoration will benefit the entire cave system.

“Protection of land for conservation purposes is often built on partnerships Illinois Audubon stepped up on short notice to seize an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the premier cave system in Illinois, Fogelpole Cave. The conservation community and the citizens of Illinois are the benefactors of the work done by Illinois Audubon on many fronts, including land protection.“  Todd Strole, Executive Director, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

Unique to Foglepole Cave are populations of the Illinois cave amphipod (Gammarus acherondytes) a small shrimp-like animal that exists only in Monroe County and found nowhere else on the planet. The cave also hosts the state- and federally-endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) as a wintering hibernacula and summer maternity roost, while the gray bat (Myotis grisescens) has been documented using the cave as a summer habitat.

The property lies adjacent to the Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve, protected and managed by Clifftop NFP. The 535-acre preserve was purchased in 2013 to also protect the recharge basin and has been restored to shortgrass prairie, with woods and wooded sinkholes.

 “Protecting the Fogelpole Cave watershed is extremely important to Clifftop. We are appreciative that Illinois Audubon was able to come to the table to help protect this Southern Illinois treasure. We look forward to partnering with them to protect the cave as they become neighbors to our own Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve.” Jared Nobbe, President, Clifftop NFP

Illinois cave amphipod illustration by Natalia Rodriguez Bazzi

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