This fall, as Hoosiers get out and enjoy the beauty of Indiana’s natural landscape, we urge them to take a moment to celebrate, because more of that landscape is going to be preserved for future generations. Thanks to the biannual budget signed this spring by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana has $25 million set aside for the acquisition of conservation land.
Think about that as you trek beneath the stunning orange, yellow and red foliage of protected Indiana woodlands this fall, or as you clamber over knobs, knolls, cliffs or other features that define the Hoosier landscape. And consider that as you appreciate the rich diversity of vegetation and wildlife in a southern Indiana forest, or as you hike some of the state’s ancient marshes, sandy beaches, high ridges or deep gullies.
In other words, any time this fall that you enjoy Indiana’s natural heritage at a state park, nature preserve, conservation easement or other protected lands, consider how it is possible that those lands remain in their natural state: Someone, at some point, identified a special place and gathered the resources necessary to protect it forever.
Now we have more resources to use in such efforts.
While it’s not yet been determined exactly how those funds will be deployed, they are expected to be offered as matching funds to support the purchase of lands. Fortunately, Indiana is home to a network of nonprofit land trusts that cover every county. Together, these land trusts have protected more than 120,000 acres of land through philanthropic support. Land trusts work daily to maintain that land, ensuring that it is cared for and that it reflects the best of Indiana.
Land trusts, local parks departments and the DNR are on equal standing when applying to use land conservation dollars from environmental license plate funds, which require at least a one-to-one match. This collaboration demonstrates national leadership in public-private partnerships.
Land trusts not only make it possible for future generations to experience the Indiana we love today, but they also help to improve air and water quality, create spaces for recreation and education, and provide places where the wildlife native to Indiana can thrive. All of this without using any tax dollars.
These new resources will allow Indiana to increase the acreage of its protected lands, acreage that is dwarfed by other states’ protected lands and that has not been added to significantly for years. And it will help to offset the thousands of acres of land that are lost to development every year.
We applaud our state leaders for recognizing the importance of our natural assets and for investing in their long-term protection. Indiana has a long history of collaborating to protect the best natural resources in the state for future generations, and we look forward to continuing this legacy by working with the state, our peer land trusts and others in putting those funds to work for the benefit of Hoosiers today and into the future.