Help us celebrate 50 years of our Nature Preserve system by visiting several sites this year. Here's just a few of the ones that are open to the public.
The Indiana Legislature passed the Nature Preserves Act in 1967, creating the Division of Nature Preserves. The Division is charged with "working with partners to set aside and preserve areas of unusual natural significance for the benefit of present and future generations, to benefit from the scientific, aesthetic, cultural and spiritual values they possess."
Since the Division was established, its staff has worked with partners throughout Indiana, to catalogue Indiana’s flora, fauna, and natural areas, striving to set up a system of nature preserves that includes examples of all the natural areas and rare species habitat that occur in Indiana. At least one example of almost every type of the 61 natural communities found in Indiana at the time of settlement is included in Indiana’s nature preserve system. Ninety percent of the 416 plants considered endangered, threatened, or rare have viable populations in Indiana nature preserves.
Nature Preserves are the most widely and evenly distributed system of state significant public properties in Indiana. There are nature preserves in 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties. As of January 2017, there are 274 dedicated nature preserves, protecting 51,836 acres. A dedicated nature preserve has the highest level of protection of any land in Indiana, as it is intended to remain in its natural ecological condition in perpetuity. These nature preserves are owned by 46 different entities, including the DNR's Divisions of Nature Preserves, Forestry, State Parks, and Fish and Wildlife, Land Trusts (such as The Nature Conservancy), City and County Park Departments, and colleges and universities.
The Division of Nature Preserves (DNP) has had a significant conservation partnership with The Nature Conservancy for its entire history. The first dedicated nature preserve, Pine Hills, was acquired by the Conservancy prior to the establishment of the Division of Nature Preserves. Over the years, The Nature Conservancy and DNP have partnered on acquisitions of many natural areas, and on establishing funding mechanisms for natural area acquisition, including the Indiana Natural Heritage Protection Campaign and the Indiana Heritage Trust, which has just been replaced by the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust.
The Nature Conservancy’s 31 dedicated nature preserves protect high quality examples of a variety of natural community types, including old growth forests (Fortune Woods at Big Walnut in Putnam County), geologic features (Fall Creek Gorge in Warren County), sand savannas (Conrad Station Savanna in Newton County and Ober Sand Savanna in Starke County), flatwoods (Chelsea Flatwoods in Jefferson County), dune and swale (Ivanhoe in Lake County), gravel hill prairie (Wabash Breaks, Lookout Point in Tippecanoe County), seeps (Plaster Creek Seeps, Wening-Sherrit Seeps), glades (Teeple Glade, Mayme Hinton Glade in Harrison County), prairies (Spinn Prairie in White County), lakes (Swamp Angel), fens (Kankakee Fen, Fawn River), and cypress swamp (Goose Pond in Posey County).
Large landscapes have also been protected, including cave and glade complexes at Mosquito Creek and sand prairie/sand savanna/wetland complexes at Kankakee Sands, Indiana’s second largest nature preserve. Numerous endangered, threatened, and rare species call these nature preserves home.
Other types of natural communities around the state that have been protected with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy include the glacial morainal complex at Moraine Nature Preserve, lake and wetland chains (Olin Lake, Marsh Lake, Lake Manitou), kettle lakes (Spicer Lake), prairie savanna complexes (Hoosier Prairie in Lake County), river landscapes (Sugar Creek Healthy Rivers Initiative), caves and karst features (Orangeville Rise in Orange County), mesic black soil prairie (German Methodist Cemetery Prairie in Lake County), and geologic features such as the canyons and natural bridges at Portland Arch Nature Preserve in Fountain County.
During 2017, and in the years to come, please visit as many of these special places as possible, and enjoy these remnants of the “original Indiana” that have been protected for your enjoyment.