Indiana plans to buy up land in all regions of the state to develop new state parks, wildlife areas, and other conservation projects in time for the state‘s bicentennial in 2016. Governor Daniels announced the Bicentennial Nature Trust in his state of the state address, but Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman explained details of the program for the first time Tuesday.
“The state celebrated the first 100 years of statehood by creating the state park system,” Skillman says. “We think it‘s very appropriate that 100 years later, we follow up with this ambitious statewide conservation program.”
The state will jump-start the trust with $20 million from the budgets of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Management and the Office of Tourism Development.
Nature Conservancy State Director Mary McConnell says the nature trust goes beyond putting land beyond the reach of development.
“What we‘re hoping for is, besides projects all around the state, are some big legacy projects — new state parks, new state fish and wildlife areas, new state forests — big things that citizens can come back 100 years from now and say, ‘wow, this was visionary,” he says.
The state will seek private donations to expand the program‘s resources further. A commission chaired by Skillman and former Congressman Lee Hamilton will work with DNR to rank conservation projects submitted by local communities, in order of priority. The commission will then use the money to acquire the land.
Indiana‘s state park system was created as a centennial project in 1916.