Letter: Private/public partnership must continue for nature

From: Ben Shaver


Ben Kibbey’s Jan. 12 article in the Columbus Republic, “Conservation Cooperation,” was appropriately titled. Very few conservation projects happen in Indiana without cooperation among private and public entities.

Just as important has been these groups’ ability to leverage funds from programs such as the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust (originally the Indiana Heritage Trust). The trust provides matching grants for conservation projects around the state to private and public agencies and is funded by the sale of environmental license plates and funds appropriated through the legislative process.

The list of natural areas around the state that have benefited from these two trust programs is astonishing. One of the projects mentioned in the article — Trevlac Bluffs in Brown County — is a great example of conservation partners and agencies leveraging trust dollars. Trevlac Bluffs was at risk of being split into many small parcels, but was purchased by The Nature Conservancy, and half the land was transferred to Yellowwood State Forest. Funds from the Indiana Heritage Trust were utilized in both the acquisition and transfer of these properties. This not only ensured the permanent protection of the land, but also allowed the Tecumseh Trail to be routed off the county road and into the forest. The State is managing the land and has planted trees to restore some of the old fields on the property to bottomland hardwood forest. The other half of the property was transferred to Sycamore Land Trust, which sought and received state dedication as a nature preserve.

Private land trusts are willing to step up and use privately-raised funds to help conserve and protect natural lands for the benefit to all residents of Indiana, but it is not enough. We need the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust to ensure that this private/public partnership of land conservation can continue in Indiana, benefiting our quality of life, attracting businesses, facilitating recreation, encouraging a connection to nature, and protecting our amazing natural areas in Indiana.

The President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust has been created, but not funded at a level that will keep pace with the conservation needs of Indiana. Buying an environmental license plate every year is one way to help. The other is to encourage your state representative or senator to support funding the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust in the state budget. The nature we love and depend on is depending on you.