Craig and Diane Green always wanted to permanently protect their property along Sugar Creek from development.

Now they have.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Healthy Rivers INitiative (HRI) has acquired 100 acres from the Greens.

“Instead of waiting until I die and not knowing if it will happen or not, I have the satisfaction and enjoyment now of knowing it’s safe now,” Craig Green said. “We’re really supportive of the (HRI) program. It’s just one part of it, but maybe it will encourage others to step forward and do something special.”

The forested parcel features thick white oaks and towering tulip poplars. Northern hemlock trees, which are uncommon in Indiana, grace the property. Some are reported to be 200 years old. The site also features steep, variable topography and bluffs overlooking the creek.

“It’s a pristine piece of property,” said Diane Green, relating a conversation she had with a representative of The Nature Conservancy. “I asked the guy what was so unique about our property. He said it would take 600 to 700 acres to match the diversity we have in 100.”

The acquisition is the most recent achievement for HRI. Gov. Mitch Daniels launched the program in 2010 to secure permanent conservation protection of nearly 70,000 acres along Sugar Creek, the Wabash River and the Muscatatuck River. To date, almost 30,000 acres have been protected.

HRI 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 important wildlife habitat and rest areas for migratory birds; opens lands to public recreation; establishes areas for nature tourism; and provides clean water and protection from flooding to downstream landowners.

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 are HRI project partners.

The Parke County purchase was made with Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funds. WSFR programs are celebrating 75 years of conservation success in North America. During that time, Indiana has received more than $230 million in WSFR funds for land acquisition, fish and wildlife management, and public access.

WSFR funds come from excise taxes paid to the federal government by users of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuel, and demonstrate the user-pay/everyone-benefits system that has improved fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related activities.

To date, WSFR funds have helped HRI acquire almost 1,800 acres.

Logo courtesy Indiana DNR

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