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Jennings Sunday: Protected river lands expanding in county


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The abundance of public property for outdoor recreation in Jackson County recently grew by 180 acres, and there’s more on the way, according to a state official.

“We plan to open some of these areas for outdoor recreation in 2013,” said Angie Tilton with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Tilton was referring to some of the 26,600 acres the state is trying to conserve along the Muscatatuck River as part of its Healthy Rivers INitiative. She is liaison for the project.

The Muscatatuck serves as the county’s southern border with Washington and Scott counties. The Vernon Fork of the river begins in Jennings County and flows south through the eastern part of Jackson County before combining with the East Fork of the Muscatatuck in the Shirley Bottoms southwest of

Crothersville.

The state’s efforts include buying two parcels, one of about 135.5 acres and a

second of 44.5 acres, announced Wednesday. Both parcels include forested wetlands characterized by bottom-land hardwood trees that provide habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl.

Tilton said the state is in the process of piecing larger parcels together so they can be used by the public for outdoor recreation. Some of those properties could be open for public use in the spring, she said.

“Just in time for turkey season,” Tilton said.

The acquisitions are the most recent for the initiative, which Gov. Mitch Daniels launched in 2010 to secure protection for nearly 70,000 acres along the Muscatatuck River and the Wabash River/Sugar Creek corridors. Overall, the state has preserved 29,721 acres along both corridors, she said.

The state has acquired about 2,700 acres in the Muscatatuck project area since the initiative began. Combined with properties already owned by the state and with private acres enrolled in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program, nearly 7,600 acres in the Muscatatuck project area have been protected from future development.

Tilton said the state has earmarked $46 million for the purchase of properties along both rivers, and some of the partners in the initiative provide funding for purchases. Those partners are the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy of Indiana, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The initiative is a partnership of resource agencies and organizations working with landowners to provide a model that balances forest, farmland and natural resources conservation, connects separated parcels of public land to benefit wildlife, protects wildlife habitat and rest areas for migratory birds, opens lands to public recreational activities, establishes areas for nature tourism and provides clean water and protection from flooding to downstream landowners.

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