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In 1967, the Indiana General Assembly passed the Nature Preserves Act.
This legislation created our Division of Nature Preserves and established a way for the DNR and our partners to acquire, protect, and manage areas of natural significance for future generations. It also gave state-dedicated nature preserves the highest level of protection that land in Indiana can have. They are protected in perpetuity.
Nature preserves have protected prairies, savannas, forests, flatwoods, cypress swamps, bogs, fens, lakes, marshes, glades, cliffs and caves. Sites range from a single acre to 1,608 acres. Many are open to the public for hiking and wildlife watching.
The act called these important natural areas irreplaceable.
“Once the areas have been destroyed, the areas cannot be wholly restored,” it stated.
The state’s first nature preserve, Pine Hills, was dedicated in 1969. As of January 2017, there were 274 dedicated nature preserves, protecting 51,836 acres. There are nature preserves in 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties. They are owned and managed by 46 different entities, including the DNR, land trusts, colleges, and local park departments.
Since the Division was established, staff have worked with partners to catalog Indiana’s plants, animals and natural areas, striving for a system of preserves that includes examples of all natural areas and rare species habitat. At least one example of almost every type of the 61 natural communities found in Indiana at the time of settlement is included in the nature preserve system. Ninety percent of the 416 plants considered endangered, threatened, or rare have viable populations in Indiana nature preserves.