Posted by: Reena Ramos

  • 08/31/2020

Protecting Habitats in Indiana: State Dedicated Preserves

Indiana’s system of dedicated Nature Preserves was created when an ACRES founder, Jim Barrett III, wrote the 1967 Indiana Nature Preserves Act, providing permanent protection for significant natural areas across the state, including ACRES properties. The Act states:

As part of the continuing growth of population and the development of the economy of Indiana, it is necessary and desirable that areas of unusual natural significance be set aside and preserved for the benefit of present and future generations before the areas have been destroyed.

This means that the State of Indiana has the ability to add a layer of protection through this legislation, determining that the highest and best use of these state-dedicated properties is in a natural state, for the public benefit. The Act outlines several reasons for this protection including providing research and educational opportunities, protecting habitats for plants and animals, providing living examples of our natural heritage and environmental systems, promoting the understanding and appreciation of the value of these areas and protecting them against destruction.

Wildwood preserve was dedicated in 2009, photo by Shane Perfect

How does it happen? When ACRES identifies a property that might be a good candidate for dedication, we approach the DNR Division of Nature Preserves, providing data such as plant inventories and other relevant information. The state reviews the data, and if a dedication is justified, conducts a site visit with an ACRES staff member.

State Dedicated Symbol

Then the Articles of Dedication are drafted, including a master plan outlining the uses and restrictions on a particular property that both ACRES and the state compromise on and agree to. Because the Articles are legally binding, they are signed by the directors of the Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Nature Preserves, as well as the state attorney general. This joint signing ensures that in addition to protecting the land through private (ACRES) ownership, the state also provides protection similar to, but stronger than, a conservation easement.

Today, more than 53,000 acres of Indiana land benefit from this added layer of protection. This land is owned by a variety of state divisions, city and county parks, universities and land trusts like ours. Of the more than 290 state-dedicated preserves, 35 are protected by ACRES and its members (more than 2,000 acres), second only to land dedicated by the state.

The first ACRES property to be state-dedicated was Beechwood Nature Preserve, in 1970.

The most recent ACRES property to be dedicated is Perfect Lake, in 2019.

Please join us for the dedication ceremony of this special place on Saturday, October 10, 2020, at 10 am. See ACRES event page for details.

Interested in reading more by ACRES founder Jim Barrett? To celebrate our 60 year anniversary ACRES has reprinted Jim Barrett’s “Conservation Today” paper, written two years before the Indiana Nature Preserves Act. You can read this paper online, for free, with the link below. To request a printed copy, please call ACRES at 260-637-2273 or email [email protected].