The Healthy Rivers INitiative continues to grow along the Muscatatuck River with the recent acquisition of nearly 500 acres for the Department of Natural Resources’ land conservation project.
The area, which is being called Austin Bottoms Conservation Area, has added parcels in three counties- 121 acres in Jackson County, 184.5 acres in Scott County, and 192 acres in Washington County.
“These parcels are important because they move the program a few steps closer to its long-range land conservation goal,” said DNR director Cameron Clark. “Piece by piece, acre by acre, we’re making progress, but most importantly we’re protecting natural areas that will provide habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for Hoosiers.”
The Healthy Rivers INitiative, or HRI, began in 2010 with the objective to permanently protect nearly 70,000 acres along the Muscatatuck, the Wabash River, and Sugar Creek. To date, the project has protected 30,500 acres, including DNR purchases of almost 10,900 acres. The total acreage includes lands newly acquired through HRI, existing lands owned or managed prior to HRI, and acreage enrolled in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program.
The three recent purchase sites boost HRI success in the Muscatatuck project area to 7,800 acres, almost half of which is under DNR management. The new parcels are being managed jointly by the DNR divisions of Fish & Wildlife, Forestry, and State Parks & Reservoirs.
The DNR opened 2,355 acres of the Austin Bottoms Conservation Area to public use this past spring and is developing plans to open additional areas next spring.
For more information on HRI and to view maps of the areas now open to the public, visit healthyrivers.IN.gov.