(UNDATED) - The Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) has announced that its funding assistance has helped Whitewater Valley Land Trust (WVLT) complete the purchase of two environmentally significant properties in east-central Indiana.
Coffman Bluff: A 69-acre upper slope ravine forest and bluff featuring a small pond, springs, and remnant agricultural fields targeted for natural restoration. It is located in Wayne County.
Abington-Yankeetown River Corridor: A 170-acre tract with sand and gravel bars along the east fork of the Whitewater River, 50 acres of woodlands and agricultural fields intended for reforestation. The majority of the property is located in Union County, with the northern tip extending into Wayne County.
WVLT owns and manages the properties, and the DNR holds conservation easements ensuring public access and permanent protection. Matching funds to support the purchases were provided by private donations, the Wayne County Foundation, Laura Hare Charitable Trust, Ropchan Foundation, and Indiana Heritage Trust.
"BNT funding has allowed WVLT to acquire properties that have been on our wish list for many years," WVLT treasurer Michael Hoff said. "We are excited to permanently protect these beautiful properties. Without these funds this would not have been possible."
The two properties add to the Bicentennial Legacy Conservation Area (BLCA) announced by Gov. Mike Pence in early October. The BLCA represents an alliance of public and private land owners with a shared vision of multi-disciplined resource management aimed at protecting the Whitewater Valley. The BLCA extends from Cope Environmental Center at the north end to DNR-managed Brookville Lake at the south end. In between are Whitewater Memorial State Park (managed by DNR), four state-designated nature preserves that are owned and managed by WVLT, and numerous private landholdings.
BNT is a project of the Bicentennial Commission, co-chaired by former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton. The statewide program is aimed at expanding trails, conservation areas and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana's 200 years of statehood in 2016. The state parks system was created during Indiana's centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers.
An initial $20 million in state funding was obligated for BNT projects, and the Lilly Endowment donated another $10 million. Money from the fund is matched no less than $1:1 with the local community or group sponsor. To date, the Bicentennial Commission has approved 59 projects, including three WVLT projects, and 22 of the projects have been completed for a total of 2,794 acres.
"We applaud Whitewater Valley Land Trust's effort to further the 2016 Bicentennial Commission's commitment to nature conservation in Indiana," Skillman and Hamilton said. "We look forward to hearing and celebrating many more success stories for the Bicentennial Nature Trust in the months and years to come."
WVLT is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to preserve the natural, historic and aesthetic values of the regional landscape. WVLT seeks to provide land owners with ways to perpetuate these significant aspects of their land so that future generations may continue to benefit from their foresight. The land trust owns and manages 1,292 acres including four state-dedicated nature preserves and an additional 2,500 acres of conservation easements. More information can be found at whitewatervalleylandtrust.org.
BNT is seeking additional private donations of land and money as well as input from communities on viable projects. Applications for the Nature Trust can be found at IN.gov/naturetrust.
For more information on the Bicentennial Commission, visit .indiana2016.org.
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