Indiana is spending $25 million on land acquisition for conservation areas
Indiana will commit $25 million to land acquisition for conservation areas, nature preserves and parks – the largest amount it has ever allocated to conservation.
“This is the largest injection of public funds dedicated to conservation in the history of our state. We have always lagged behind our neighboring states in the outdoor recreation opportunities available. We hope to start closing the gap with these funds,” Tom Laycock, director of land acquisition at DNR, told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
The money comes from the Next Level Conservation Trust, which is a federal COVID-19 relief program and could be used for the expansion or creation of new and existing national and local nature parks, state fish and wildlife areas, wetlands, local conservation areas, river corridors, outdoor recreation areas and others.
“Everyone benefits from additional land conservation. Increased land conservation creates increased opportunities for outdoor activities and enjoying nature. It establishes and fortifies wildlife and water corridors in an otherwise fragmented landscape,” Andrea Huntington, executive director of the Indiana Land Protection Alliance, told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
The Next Level Conservation Trust will be established to ensure that Indiana’s natural heritage is preserved or enhanced for future generations by acquiring real estate or an interest in real estate that exemplifies natural features and habitats properties, has historical and archaeological significance and provides areas for conservation, outdoor recreation or restoration of native biological diversity.
“Funding for land protection is a crucial public investment. In Indiana, outdoor recreation drives $15.7 billion in consumer spending annually,” Huntington said. “Funding for land conservation is an investment in both our economy and our people. Ultimately, land conservation funding means a better quality of life for all Hoosiers.
The DNR will begin accepting funding applications in July with an initial deadline of August 1. President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust will review applications quarterly after DNR deadlines. These meetings are open to the public.