Skip to main content

Protecting Land, Forever

Land trusts offer an important pathway for conserving private land, vowing steadfast commitment to its enduring protection.

Celebrating 50 Years Protected

This past year, ACRES Land Trust celebrated 50 years of protection for Ropchan Memorial. While certainly not ACRES oldest nature preserve, celebrating this preserve’s 50-year milestone speaks volumes to ACRES continued commitment to “protecting land, forever.”

The 80-acre preserve features a ridge moraine, a kettle-hole lake and boulders from rocky outcrops farther north, all showing visible evidence of the retreating great glaciers long ago. Tamarack, yellow birch and red maple lie in the lower wetland, while red, white and black oak, as well as shagbark hickory, dominate the drier land. Tussocks of cinnamon fern, mountain holly, and winterberry decorate the forested bog.

In 1973, ACRES acquired this unique property with funding supplied by two conservation-minded members, Sam and Adeline Ropchan. The Ropchans were among some of the first members of ACRES Land Trust when it was formed in 1960. The preserve would later gain additional acreage in 1974, 1975 and 2010, doubling the size of the original acquisition – a great example of what is possible with planning and time.

In 1983, a botanical inventory was conducted at the preserve, and nearly 40 years later, in 2022, a second inventory took place — turning up rare plant species like Pyrola americana. These surveys help ACRES understand what is growing and how to best care for the land. They also help tell the story of how the plant community has changed over the decades. Protecting a natural area for 50 years allows for a richer understanding of the living plants and critters that inhabit it.

Pyrola americana. Photo by Nathanael Pilla.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ropchan Memorial is a reminder of what can happen when people work together to protect high-quality land for the benefit of all – today and in the future. Thanks to its forward-thinking members, ACRES has been able to preserve spaces that are becoming increasingly rare, including several wetlands like bog inside the Ropchan Memorial nature preserve.

Indiana residents benefit today from actions taken by conservation-minded folks 50 years ago. Imagine what benefits Indiana will see in the next 50 years because of the work today’s land trusts do across the state.


Making the Connection

In 2023 the Indiana Karst Conservancy met a long term goal of connecting Wayne Cave Preserve, which they have managed since 1986, to the nearby National Speleological Society’s Richard Blenz Nature Preserve.

Over the years the IKC has enlarged their now 77-acre preserve, but efforts to purchase a connecting property from key landowners had fallen through. By working closely with these local landowners, the group was able to secure the 20 acre expansion in development-prone Monroe County in the important Garrison Chapel Karst Area. This not only connected the two preserves but also helped protect an ecologically rare sinkhole swamp on the edge of the preserve.

The Conservancy uses grass-roots efforts to fundraise and was proud to be able to close on the acreage with only five and half months of fundraising efforts, thanks to individuals who are passionate about cave and karst protection. Making this connection corridor now preserves over 120 acres on both preserves in the Garrison Chapel Karst Area.


Plan Plants Roots to Success

Sanctuary Oaks Nature Preserve. Photo by Claudia Cozadd.

In 2023, Ouabache Land Conservancy (OLC), based in Terre Haute, IN, finalized its first strategic plan, which will define its work over the next five years. The 2024-2029 strategic plan is a milestone for OLC that came together after the board underwent more than a year of collaboration to develop the plan.

All aspects of the strategic plan are in service of one overarching goal: to ensure a fortified infrastructure for OLC to protect and steward irreplaceable high-value conservation lands in west-central Indiana before they are lost forever.

The plan emphasizes four priorities – protecting and restoring natural areas within OLC’s six county service area; educating the public and landowners about nature, improving water quality in watersheds, most notably the Otter Creek Watershed; and taking steps to keep OLC growing, financially healthy, and self-perpetuating.

Read the State of the Lands 2024 edition in full: get the pdf.