The Sycamore Land Trust has recently acquired 1,043 acres at Columbia Mine in Pike and Gibson counties, and about 600 acres at Downey Hill in Brown County.
The Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge manages the property at Columbia Mine, which project manager Bill McCoy says is a safe-haven for many rare species.
“It’s a river-bottom restoration and preservation project more than anything else,” he says. “It’s focused on migratory birds and rare and endangered species and providing habitat for them. This was an awfully critical acquisition for the refuge.”
Before construction of Interstate 69 began, the land trust led an effort to collect a rare species of turtle from the construction area. Sycamore Land Trust Executive Director Christian Freitag says the turtles will soon be released into the nearby Columbia Mine area.
“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that if we continue the level of growth and continue to get the kind of support that we’ve gotten from the people in southern Indiana who live here and care about this place the most, we can literally change the course of natural history for Indiana,” Freitag says.
Public rights on the properties are still being worked out, but visitors will soon be able to explore Downey Hill and Columbia Mine.