The Indiana Natural Resources Commission has authorized the establishment of six new nature preserves this year, all of them within Fort Harrison and Harmonie state parks.

The commission also authorized an addition to an existing preserve at Charlestown State Park.

By the end of 2012, the DNR expects to meet its goal of having at least one nature preserve in 23 of the 24 state parks. No nature preserve is planned for Falls of the Ohio State Park because it already receives enhanced protection through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

All land inside state parks is protected by property regulations. Nature preserve status represents an additional commitment by the DNR Division of State Parks & Reservoirs that there won’t be a lodge, picnic shelter, new parking lot or other development in the acreage, said Dan Bortner, director of State Parks & Reservoirs.

“The idea is to have a section of every park where people can go and experience Indiana and its natural beauty,” Bortner said.

Nature preserve status does not mean the land is off limits to recreation. Most preserves provide options for the development of hiking trails and one of the Fort Harrison preserves will feature a mountain bike trail, now under development.

The dedication of four new preserves at Fort Harrison doubles the number of nature preserves in Marion County. The four others are on property owned by the Indianapolis Parks Department.

“It’s wonderful that this county that is so heavily populated has some really great natural areas,” said John Bacone, director of the DNR Division of Nature Preserves.

The new preserves are:

At Fort Harrison:

  • Bluffs of Fall Creek – 135 acres of heavily dissected slopes and ravines, and floodplain forest along Fall Creek at its confluence with Mud Creek, providing nesting habitat for a number of migrant birds, including hooded warbler.
  • Warbler Woods – 135 acres of heavily dissected and gentle slopes and floodplain forest along Fall Creek, providing nesting habitat for a number of migrant birds, including the brown creeper and state-endangered Cerulean warbler.
  • Lawrence Creek – 242 acres of heavily dissected slopes and ravines, floodplain forest along Lawrence Creek, and a small area of till plain flatwoods, providing nesting habitat for a number of migrant birds, including hooded warbler, brown creeper, wood thrush, ovenbird, Acadian flycatcher, and Kentucky warbler.
  • Chinquapin Ridge – 115 acres of heavily dissected slopes and ravine forests, and floodplain forest along Fall Creek at its confluence with Indian Creek. The preserve also includes an active mixed egret rookery that includes both great egrets and great blue herons.

At Harmonie:

  • Harmonie Hills – 335 acres containing one of the largest tracts of mature mesic upland forest in the Southwestern Lowlands Natural Region, a population of the state-endangered Appalachian bugbane plant, and rare species in Brook Run, a tributary of the Wabash River
  • Wabash Border – 246 acres nature preserve of upland forest and floodplain forest, with several rare plant species, and frontage on the Wabash River.

The addition to Fourteenmile Creek Nature Preserve in Charlestown State Park will increase the preserve from 858 acres to 1,601 acres. The addition contains several rare plants, high-quality limestone cliffs, and upland and floodplain forests.

There are 242 nature preserve sites in Indiana encompassing more than 40,000 acres.

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