Gantz Woods: A Gift of Land to Songbirds and Hoosiers
The Nature Conservancy Opens Its Newest Preserve in Indiana.
For birders and non-birders alike, catching a glimpse of a scarlet tanager or an indigo bunting is a treat. With a new nature preserve in northeastern Daviess County dedicated to restoring bird habitat, these sightings may be more common.
The preserve, known as Gantz Woods, is open to the public, and all are welcome to enjoy the scenery. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns and manages Gantz Woods. The property was donated to TNC by Kent Ryan Jr, Linda Ryan and Nancy Sabari, in memory of Ralph and Carrie Gantz, who originally purchased the property in 1945.
The family has been working with TNC for several years to restore natural forest community types, control harmful invasive plants and improve habitat for native wildlife and migrating songbirds. In 2018, Alcoa Foundation funded a restoration project on the property.
At 98 acres, Gantz Woods features a range of habitats typical of Daviess County. There are small sandstone cliffs on the eastern end of the property, carved by a small stream.
Following the stream to the west reveals a rich forest community with a high diversity of plants and animals. Scarlet tanagers, eastern box turtles and bobcats may be seen here, along with many woodland wildflowers such as Jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman’s breeches and fire pink.
When the Gantz family purchased the property in 1945, it was a mix of young forest and open land. Old aerial photos and family pictures show the property as open pasture with scattered young trees in 1949.
By 1951, all grazing and pasturing had stopped, and only the slightest evidence of an orchard in the southeast corner of the property still existed. A cabin and small lake were built on the property in the early 1950s. Aerial photos from 1971 show the property was heavily forested.
At one point, the dam on the lake gave way, draining the lake. Today the only evidence of development on the property is an old stone chimney from the cabin and the dry lake bed that is quickly reverting to forestland.
In 2017, TNC assisted the landowners with a sustainable timber harvest to improve forest health, salvage timber from poplar trees lost to drought, and stimulate the development of an oak-dominated understory. With support from the Alcoa Foundation, TNC continued its oak understory restoration work to improve habitat for songbirds the following year.
“The 2017 timber harvest created a couple of forest openings for tree seedlings to begin growing, which is the type of habitat preferred by certain songbirds, such as indigo buntings and yellow breasted chats,” while the more mature woods on the property provide habitat for other songbirds, such as scarlet tanagers and Louisiana waterthrush,” said Dan Shaver, program manager for TNC’s Brown County Hills Project.
As part of The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Bank program, the land will be managed using sustainable timber harvesting and other forest management practices to restore natural forest community types, control invasive plants and improve habitat for native wildlife and migrating songbirds.
The property is open to the public for non-consumptive use such as bird watching, hiking and nature study. The property is not open to off-road vehicles, hunting (without permission), or horseback riding. There is a pull-off just south of County Road 1475 N on the west side of 231. The entrance is marked by a farm gate and an interpretive sign. The Nature Conservancy asks that visitors respect and enjoy the property, just as the Gantz family did for several generations.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.