Governor Mitch Daniels today announced a second major land conservation project in as many days - this one targeting more than 25,600 acres along the Muscatatuck River known as Muscatatuck Bottoms in Scott, Jackson and Washington counties.
On Thursday in Terre Haute, Governor Daniels announced a 43,000-acre conservation initiative along 94 river miles of the Wabash River and Sugar Creek.
"We're out to create something of lasting and large importance for our state and protect its natural beauty. With these projects, we aim to make Indiana a destination point for waterfowl, a destination point for tourists, and to become a national leader in wetlands and wildlife protection," said the governor.
Muscatatuck Bottoms contains the largest least-fragmented complex of bottomland forest remaining in Indiana. The forest is characterized by several species of oak, hickory and sweet gum.
The site provides habitat for a number of species of conservation concern, including such birds as the least bittern, yellow-crowned night heron, red-shouldered hawk and Cerulean warbler. Two state-endangered reptiles, the Kirtland's snake and copperbelly watersnake, also are found there, as is featherfoil, a state-endangered plant.
The state will use $21.5 million from the Lifetime License Trust Fund, a state trust fund dedicated to conservation purposes and $10 million from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to begin the acquisitions. This investment will leverage millions of dollars in additional private and federal funding for both the protection and restoration of the corridor.
Additional support will come from The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Ducks Unlimited, a conservation group based in Memphis, Tenn.
"When all assembled, this property will connect two divergent sections of Jackson-Washington State Forest and create one of the state's largest complexes of both upland and lowland forest, attracting abundant waterfowl and migratory songbirds," said Mary McConnell, state director of The Nature Conservancy of Indiana.
Like the Wabash River/Sugar Creek project, the key objectives at Muscatatuck Bottoms are to:
* design an effective model for sustainability of natural resources by connecting fragmented parcels of public land
* restore and enhance riparian corridors
* protect essential habitat for threatened and endangered species
* open public access for recreational opportunities
* preserve significant rest areas for migratory birds, especially waterfowl
* create a regionally significant conservation destination
* provide additional flood relief to current riparian landowners
"To have a second major land conservation initiative like Muscatatuck Bottoms launched on the heels of yesterday's announcement about the Wabash River project makes about as strong a statement on conserving Indiana's natural resources as anyone could imagine. This is significant," said DNR Commissioner Rob Carter.
The Wabash project includes 43,000 acres located in the flood plain of the Wabash River and Sugar Creek in west central Indiana. The area, which follows 94 river miles along the Wabash River, stretches across four counties from Shades State Park to Fairbanks Landing Fish & Wildlife Area south of Terre Haute.
The Lifetime License Trust Fund contains revenue from the sale of lifetime fishing, hunting and trapping licenses, which the DNR stopped selling in 2005.