Gov. Mitch Daniels and DNR officials today celebrated the two-year anniversary of the Healthy Rivers INitiative, along with project partners and the public in a ceremony at Fairbanks Park on the banks of the Wabash River.

“I don’t know of another thing that government does that brings people together like this Healthy Rivers project,” Daniels said before a gathering of more than 150 people at Fairbanks Park. “This is one nobody can disagree with. When people hear about it, they instantly support it.”

Daniels first announced HRI in June 2010 as the largest land conservation initiative in state history. The project set a goal of conserving nearly 70,000 acres in the floodplains of two river corridors – the Wabash River/tributary Sugar Creek in western Indiana and the Muscatatuck River in south-central Indiana.

After two years, HRI is almost halfway to its objective. To date, 29,492 acres have been placed under permanent protection from development.

The protected acreage includes a combined 16,064 acres of land already managed by DNR in two state parks (Shades and Turkey Run), two fish & wildlife areas (Wabashiki and Fairbanks Landing) that serve as anchor points for HRI, plus acreage of several smaller DNR-managed properties.

Other HRI accomplishments include:

  • DNR purchase of 6,057 acres in the Wabash River project area and another 2,504 acres in the Muscatatuck area.
  • Enrollment of a combined 5,719 acres into the federal Wetlands Reserve Program.
  • A 308-acre conservation easement at Elanco-Clinton Lab that is a demonstration site for bridging conservation, farming and public access, and includes tree plantings and wetlands restoration.

Besides Daniels, other HRI project partners who spoke at Tuesday’s event were Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Jane Hardisty with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Mary McConnell, director of the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Two groups – the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission and the Wabash River Development and Beautification, Inc., board – recognized Daniels for his conservation leadership efforts by presenting the governor with awards at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Logo courtesy of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources

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