The Brown County Hills Project is a community-based program designed to help balance the needs of a healthy forest ecosystem with the needs of people and the region’s projected growth in development and land use. Through the Project, the Conservancy seeks ways to conserve this forest by guiding development away from sensitive habitats and towards areas that can better accommodate human needs. Conserving the best of the Brown County Hills’ lands and waters will help maintain the quality of life for people in the area and enhance tourism and recreation opportunities.
Recently, the Brown County Hills project celebrated its five-year anniversary. As a part of the conservation process, we completed a five-year review to recognize what was successful and to modify strategies where appropriate. Using GIS (Geographical Information Systems), we were able to define the boundaries of core forested areas within the project area. These core forest areas represent the interior forest, which provides critical habitat for many migratory songbirds. Because these interior forests protect migratory songbird habitat and contain a replication of forest community types, they are the most ecologically significant areas in the Brown County Hills. These interior forest blocks have become the primary conservation areas for the project.
Within our conservation areas we utilize several different land conservation strategies to ensure permanent protection of the forest. The most common strategy we use is fee simple acquisition of land from willing sellers. In many cases, The Nature Conservancy may purchase and keep the property we are conserving. In other cases, we may partner with local land trusts or public agencies to protect the land. You may have heard of the Indiana Heritage Trust program. It is where Indiana residents can purchase a special environmental license plate for a small fee. The proceeds go directly towards the purchase and conservation of land in Indiana. Several properties in the Brown County Hills area have been permanently protected through this program.
Another way the Conservancy conserve land is through our working forestland program called The Forest Bank. Lands enrolled in this program remain private land, but the landowner places restrictions on the future development of the land and enters into an agreement for the Conservancy to sustainably manage their forest.
With more than 350,000 acres, the partnerships we maintain with landowners, public agencies, and other organizations are vital to the success of the Brown County Hills Project.