IN NRC approves two nature preserves

The Natural Resources Commission approved two nature preserves at its bi-monthly meeting today in Indianapolis. The action increases to 287 the number of state-designated sites protected by the Nature Preserves Act.

The two new nature preserves are Dewey Hickman Nature Preserve in Harrison County and Mary Gray Nature Preserve in Fayette County.

The Dewey Hickman preserve comprises 125 acres southwest of Corydon. The preserve is named as a memorial to the superintendent of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp that was located where O’Bannon State Park is now. The preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, which was given the property by Richard K. Stem, president of Chester B. Stem, Inc.

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Indian Creek runs along a portion of the preserve, which consists of a variety of forested natural community types. It is located in the Shawnee Hills Natural Region. Its bird species include the state-special-concern species hooded warbler, sharp-shinned hawk and red-shouldered hawk, as well as the state-endangered cerulean warbler. Noteworthy plant species include the state-rare Eastern bloodleaf.

The Mary Gray preserve, southwest of Connersville, is a 37.99-acre portion of the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. The site is included in Alton Lindsey’s “Natural Areas in Indiana.”

Research is being conducted at the preserve by bird banding during the spring and fall migration of the Northern saw-whet owl and ruby-throated hummingbirds. A turtle population research project has been in progress since 1985.

Owned and managed by The Indiana Audubon Society, the preserve consists of a high-quality mesic upland forest with a showy spring wildflower display. The forest is dominated by sugar maple and tulip tree. These community types, along with their component flora and fauna, contain many species that are area-sensitive forest-interior plants and animals that depend upon large, unfragmented forest ecosystems.

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In other action, the NRC granted preliminary adoption to a new rule designed to remove 44 invasive plants from trade inside Indiana. The decision only starts the deliberative rules process. It does not put a new rule into effect.

Invasive species in Indiana regularly move into the forest and restrict the ability of trees to regenerate because the invasives use essential nutrients and block sunlight from native species that regenerate more slowly.

Indiana land managers (private and public) currently spend an estimated $8.6 million managing invasive plants every year. The goal of removing these invasive species from trade is to reduce the number such plants escaping into the wilderness, thereby reducing the amount of state and federal funding required to control them.

The DNR has determined that 22 of the 44 plants identified can be found in trade in Indiana now, but only four are sold with any regularity. To decrease potential fiscal impact of the rule on small businesses, the DNR would make allowance for an additional year from the effective date of the rule to sell affected stock before issuing penalties. The proposal would also allow members of the public to report evidence of terrestrial invasive species to the DNR.

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The NRC will next provide an opportunity for public comment to be received in writing or through two public hearings that will be scheduled at times and sites still to be determined.

In other actions, the NRC…

– Accepted a hearing-officer report summarizing public meetings and making recommendations regarding a contract application from Salt Creek Services for a water sale contract from Monroe Lake.

– Accepted the recommendation of a committee comprised of members from DNR Divisions of Entomology, Nature Preserves, Law Enforcement, and State Parks to, rather than amend the current definition of mushroom in Indiana Code, as requested by a petitioner, keep the definition as being “edible fungi” and to advise the petitioner to seek special-use permits and individual scientific collecting and research permits as needed to conduct necessary studies on DNR properties. This approach will enable the annual morel season and other edible mushroom collecting to continue, and will enable DNR properties to be aware of and coordinate scientific mushroom collecting. DNR properties will be able to provide collecting and special-use permits for the scientific collecting of mushrooms with advance notice from requestors. The petition had sought a new definition of the “macroscopic fruiting body of a fungus.”

The NRC is an autonomous board that addresses topics pertaining to the DNR. More details on these actions are available at under “July Agenda.”

The NRC is a 12-member board that includes the DNR director, heads of three other state agencies (Environmental Management, Tourism Development, and Transportation), six citizens appointed by the governor on a bipartisan basis, the chair of the DNR’s advisory council, and the president of the Indiana Academy of Science. The Academy of Science president and the agency heads, other than the DNR director, may appoint proxies to serve the commission in their absences.

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