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This year marks the 40th anniversary of Indiana’s first dedicated nature preserve—Pine Hills at Shades State Park.
It was made possible when the General Assembly passed the Nature Preserves Act of 1967, establishing a way for Indiana’s remaining natural heritage to be protected for the enjoyment and appreciation of present and future generations.
This legislation established the DNR Division of Nature Preserves, a small division of ecologists and biologists who inventory the state to locate special places and rare species habitats.
Beginning on page 22, you can read more about these dedicated DNR scientists, who work with landowners and partners to protect, restore and manage nature preserves.
The whole history of the program is about partnerships. Most, if not all, of Indiana’s dedicated nature preserves would not have happened without private land trusts, universities, local parks and other agencies.
The Nature Preserves Act encourages these relationships, stating “all units, departments, and agencies of the State, counties, townships, municipalities, public corporations, boards, commissions, colleges and universities are empowered and urged to dedicate as nature preserves suitable areas within their jurisdiction.”
This partnership approach has worked well, resulting in 225 nature preserves that encompass more than 32,000 acres. A little more than half—120—are part of various DNR divisions, but another 28 are owned by 18 different city or county agencies (primarily park boards), three are owned by colleges and universities, and 74 are owned by land trusts, such as ACRES and The Nature Conservancy.
Land trusts have been and continue to be significant players in terms of helping accomplish this important mission of permanently protecting Indiana’s remaining natural areas.
I hope you will enjoy learning more about this important part of DNR, and I also hope you will visit some of Indiana’s nature preserves.
I like hiking at these truly special places, so consider this a belated thank you to everyone who made our nature preserves program possible.
Robert E. Carter, Jr.