Blue plate partners protect 40 more natural properties in 2006

IHT hopes to conserve 100,000 acres by the state bicentennial in 2016

Since 1992, the Indiana Heritage Trust has conserved almost 50,000 acres of land in more than half of Indiana’s counties. Properties are acquired for nature preserves, parks, forests, historic sites and fish and wildlife areas.

Hoosiers purchasing environmental license plates are the driving force behind the IHT. The sun-and-eagle plates are usurped in popularity only by the standard-issue motor vehicle plates. According to IHT executive director Nick Heinzelman, 2006 was a good year for the IHT and its conservation partners — land trusts, conservation organizations and municipalities. The IHT completed more than 40 land acquisition projects during 2006.

Eagle Marsh Nature Area in Allen County is one of last year’s noteworthy acquisitions.

“Eagle Marsh has several partners that have come together to protect and restore a large expanse of historical wetlands in a fairly urban setting,” said Heinzelman.

The nearly 700-acre marsh is located in a floodplain adjacent to a dedicated nature preserve. “The land has been drained,” said Heinzelman, “but should be easy to restore to its natural condition.”

During 2006, the IHT also purchased near Wabash a 45-acre addition to Salamonie River State Forest that includes some of the last privately held Salamonie River bluffs.

A recently purchased 105-acre addition to Hardy Lake in Jefferson County comes with more than just hills and forest; it’s home to an active bald eagle nest. With more than 20 acres of classified forest and more than a mile of frontage to existing DNR property, the new public land will also provide additional game hunting opportunities.

Wayne County in east central Indiana is getting its first state nature preserve thanks to the IHT. The 120-acre Duning Woods Nature Preserve is the core of the county’s largest remaining contiguous forested tract. The area includes 100 acres of high-quality ravine forest with a rich diversity of wildflowers and a grove of large native hardwoods with oaks nearly 3 feet in diameter and tulip trees almost 4 feet in diameter.

“The IHT set a goal a few years ago to protect 100,000 acres by 2016, the state bicentennial,” Heinzelman said. “We would consider it a birthday gift to the state. A gift that shows the citizens of Indiana respect and want to embrace and protect their heritage.”