Indiana’s economic success and quality of life for Hoosiers depends on healthy, functioning natural resources. Today, Senate and House natural resources committees heard recommendations from a legislative task force to conserve Indiana’s resources so they may benefit Hoosiers in the future.
W. William Weeks, Chair of the Indiana Sustainable Natural Resources Task Force, presented the recommendations and highlighted the recommendation that the state modernize its governance of the state’s critical water resources. “Water can be a comparative economic advantage for Indiana,” Weeks said. “But we have to be thoughtful about protecting and managing what we have, and we have to start thinking now about securing our future supply.”
To ensure that Hoosiers’ water resources are where they need them, when they need them, the task force recommended a full commitment to planning for water availability, storage and distribution, and resilience. The Task Force also recommended a consolidation of various authorities, such as flood control permitting and policy implementation that would be linked to standard setting for and oversight of drainage.
“We believe these recommendations are a solid plan for protecting our lands and wildlife and ensuring all Hoosiers have access to our water resources,” said Mary McConnell, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana and a member of the Task Force. “Remember that we have just come off of some significant periods of flooding and drought. It is the right time to address these needs.”
Early in the discussions, Task Force member Ray McCormick, representing the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, noted that “resources will only be conserved as a result of intent,” meaning that Indiana’s resources, critical for our well-being, will not protect themselves; they need conscious support from Hoosiers. The task force recommends the state commit to an 18-year effort to restore and sustain healthy soils that absorb and hold water and improve crop yields, while reducing stormwater runoff and erosion of our valuable soil resource.
“Our Natural Resources are as important today as they were in the nineteenth century when our State was founded,” said State Representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo). “Natural Resources are vital to our economic success, they are the foundation our creator has provided us to build upon and it is our responsibility to wisely maintain them for future generations.”
To that end, the task force made specific recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly for funding the conservation of important natural lands that provide Hoosiers with many benefits, yet are not under any form of protection: 1) make an 8-year commitment to the Bicentennial Nature Trust, created by former Governors Daniels’; 2) recommit to providing the Department of Natural Resources’ landholding divisions with $1.5 million per year in this new biennial budget; and 3) commit resources to maintain Indiana’s 4 million acres of forest land cover. “Investing now in our natural resources will pay huge economic and quality of life dividends in the future,” said former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Chuck Schalliol. “Conservation funding should continue to be part of the state biennial budget.”
The Task Force invited the public to all its meetings. “People across the state, who advocate a balanced approach to development and resource conservation, will be grateful to the Task Force members for this important study,” said David Savage of Zionsville, who attended the meetings with his wife Jane. “The report highlights recent progress and needed improvements in the areas of clean water, forests, soil, and wildlife.”
Representative Karickhoff and Senator Richard Young (D-Milltown), both members of the Task Force, have filed HB 1426 and SB 547, respectively, to encourage continued discussion and policy changes relative to our water resources. Karickhoff’s bill is assigned to the Natural Resources Committee and Young’s to Environmental Affairs, where they await action.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.