Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of Indiana’s Bicentennial Commission, have announced the approval of 12 new Bicentennial Nature Trust projects to the ongoing conservation initiative.
The Bicentennial Nature Trust is a statewide program aimed at expanding trails, wetlands and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana’s 200 years of statehood in 2016. The state park system was created during Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers.
The latest selections total nearly 2,000 acres and include former governor Edgar Whitcomb’s secluded retreat on the banks of the Ohio River in Perry County, a 16-acre expansion of Wilderness Park in Blackford County, 140 acres on the Eel River in Miami County, 110 acres at Lake Everett in Allen County, and a 704-acre addition to Yellowwood State Forest.
“The Bicentennial Nature Trust initiative continues to accept a wide range of projects to solidify Indiana’s conservation legacy,” Skillman said. “These gifts of forests, trails and wetlands will be accessible to all Hoosiers for many generations.”
Hamilton said: “As we continue moving forward in our plans for the state’s Bicentennial celebration in 2016, it is encouraging to see the level of participation for our first initiative. Hoosiers have taken a strong interest in preserving Indiana acreage and I look forward to their suggestions for future conservation projects.”
The BNT projects are awarded through state funding and private donations. The 12 new projects received a total of more than $2.4 million. Projects will continue to be announced until the state fund runs out.
BNT was first announced by Gov. Mitch Daniels during his 2012 State of the State Address. Co-chairs Skillman and Hamilton honored the request by starting a statewide campaign to acquire property that protects conservation and recreation areas throughout the state.
The State has increased the amount of public recreational lands by 44,000 acres since 2005. And the Healthy Rivers Initiative, started in 2009, will add nearly 70,000 acres of river corridors in two areas-Sugar Creek and the Wabash River in west-central Indiana, and Muscatatuck River bottoms in south-central Indiana. Indiana has also quadrupled the amount of land available for conservation under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to 26,250 acres.
The State is seeking additional private donations of land and money as well as input from communities on viable projects. Applications for the nature trust can be found at dnr.IN.gov/heritage/7309.htm.