Thanks to a public-private partnership, a 570-acre undisturbed piece of Indiana forestland west of Greencastle in Madison Township will be protected forever to support important wildlife and plants and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The Next Level Conservation Trust provided more than $3.1 million toward the land acquisition, representing 75 percent of the purchase price, while the Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc. (CILTI) raised more than $1 million from private donors, including the Efroymson Family Fund and many others. The total purchase price was $4,125,000.
“When I think about this land, I couldn’t be more thrilled we’re preserving the natural wonders of Hoosier landscapes like these,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Through this first investment from the Next Level Conservation Trust, we are preserving land not just for today, but for generations of future Hoosiers to enjoy, protecting habitats and promoting quality of life.”
The Next Level Conservation Trust, which is administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, was developed to ensure that Indiana’s rich natural heritage is preserved or enhanced for succeeding generations by acquiring property that has outstanding natural features and habitats, historical and archeological significance, and/or provides areas for conservation, outdoor recreation or the restoration of native biological diversity.
The Trust provides matching grants, which means that every organization requesting funds also commits to raising money from donors.
As a result, more money than ever is available to purchase significant parcels of Indiana’s natural areas and place them into protective care forever. Hoosiers will have opportunities to enjoy pristine natural areas, to experience Indiana’s native flora and fauna, and to benefit from improved water and air quality well beyond those properties.
Funding for the Next Level Conservation Trust comes from the American Rescue Plan and is appropriated by the Indiana General Assembly. Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb committed an additional $10 million to land conservation through the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust.
When the Central Indiana Land Trust closed on the property in May, it became the largest single land purchase in the nonprofit’s 33-year history. Now that CILTI owns the property, it is developing a land management plan and will be planning ways to open the preserve to the public. The land trust will protect the land forever, and the ongoing care will not require tax dollars.
“This property has been on our wish list since first exploring it in 2008 because of its size, pristine condition and rich biodiversity,” said CILTI President & CEO Cliff Chapman. “Plus, it’s near another protected property – Fern Cliff Nature Preserve. Anytime you increase the critical mass of protected land, you provide a safer place for wildlife and plants to thrive.”
Fern Station sits virtually undisturbed now, with only a single gravel road cutting through it. Having struggled in recent years to find a buyer of the large tract of land, the landowner had been considering dividing it into parcels for sale.
“Without the help of state funds, we might never have been able to raise enough money to protect the property,” added Chapman.
Fern Station is dominated by white oak, beech and hickory trees and features lushly wooded ravines that support a wide variety of ferns. It is home to a number of rare and endangered species, including cerulean, worm-eating and hooded warblers, broad-winged hawks and Eastern box turtles.
“This is a great opportunity to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Putnam County,” said Putnam County Community Foundation Executive Director Neysa Meyer.
Because CILTI is currently restoring the preserve, in the near term the property will only be open for guided hikes and events hosted by the land trust. Those interested in seeing Fern Station are encouraged to follow Central Indiana Land Trust’s website at conservingindiana.org/events to keep up to date.