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Next Level Conservation Trust

Next Level Trust Logo

The Department of Natural Resources has announced the formation of the new Next Level Conservation Trust (NLCT). The $25 million funding for the NLCT will be largest single infusion of state dollars into conservation in the state’s history. The NLCT will enhance and further the successful Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) concept. During its centennial in 1916, the State of Indiana authorized the creation of a state park system as a gift to the people of Indiana. Former Governor Mitch Daniels started the BNT in 2012 as a statewide effort to honor Indiana’s 200th anniversary in 2016 with a gift of conservation and recreation to all Hoosiers.

The NLCT has been created to preserve and protect important conservation, recreation, and historic areas throughout Indiana. Property acquired with this fund will become part of the public trust to ensure that the land is protected for future generations of Hoosiers to use and enjoy.


The NLCT is designed to encourage local participation, so each project requires a $3:1 match ($3 of NLCT funds to $1 of match). The match could be provided by local governmental, non-profit or philanthropic organizations; private or corporate donors; or by bargain sale.

To ensure a variety of impactful projects across the state, there is no cap per project or sponsoring entity. The minimum project size is $100,000 for the NLCT portion of an individual project.

NLCT funds may only be used for the acquisition of land. They cannot be used for capital improvements, stewardship, or programming.

The program is flexible to allow local ownership and management of acquired properties. In these instances, the state purchases a Conservation Easement to protect the property forever.

An NLCT project committee composed of technical experts from the DNR has been established to vet project proposals and make recommendations to the governor for final approval. The committee meets quarterly. Submission deadlines are Feb. 1, May 1, Aug. 1, and Nov. 1. These deadlines may change as the needs of the program are established.

Application Process

Following these steps will help ensure your application is as strong as possible and maximize its chance of success:

  • Make preliminary contact with the NLCT coordinator to discuss the project proposal and application process.
  • Approach the landowner. The project can only proceed if the landowner is a willing seller.
  • Establish a reasonable estimate of the purchase price. An appraisal is not required at time of application but is often helpful. If the application is approved, the purchase price must be based on an appraisal by a Certified General (preferred) or Certified Residential Appraiser. The Professional Licensing Agency maintains a list of certified appraisers. The cost of the appraisal and title work are the responsibility of the applicant.
  • Line up matching funds or negotiate a bargain sale. NLCT funds must be matched at least $3:1. All match necessary to complete the transaction must be in place prior to application. A “pledge” or letter of intent from the matching entity is sufficient at this point. Note: The following items may be considered match, provided the appraised value of the property is not exceeded: Costs associated with the acquisition such as appraisals, surveys, title work, and closing costs.
  • It is advisable to approach the local community foundation and county officials to request letters of support.
  • Submit the completed application and all required attachments ahead of the quarterly deadline. Please provide a “scoring guide” addressing each item of the sample scoresheet. Include a brief justification for each point. Note: Projects are scored subjectively by the DNR division directors, and points are awarded at their discretion.

Guidelines and Application

How Can I Help?

  • Talk to local community leaders to make sure they know about this exciting opportunity. Examples might include your city or county parks department, and local philanthropic organizations (such as the network of county community foundations).
  • Make a contribution. Your gift will be leveraged $3:1 with outside donations. In other words, $1 buys $4 worth of land for conservation and recreation. Donations are handled by the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation and may be tax deductible. There are two methods for donating:
    • Donate online (please mention NLCT in the line marked “in honor of”).
    • Donate by mail: Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, 402 West Washington St., Room W256, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Program Contact

Tom Laycock
DNR Land Acquisition Division

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