Healthy Rivers Project Opens 2,300 Acres To Public Along Muscatatuck

The Healthy Rivers INitiative will begin to pay off this spring with the opening of more than 2,800 new acres for public use, DNR director Rob Carter announced last week.

“This move marks the next phase for HRI,” Carter said. “We’ve spent the last two years or so concentrating on working with willing landowners to acquire new acres. Now we’re able to open some of these sites for the public to enjoy as outdoor recreation destinations.”

Multiple parcels totaling 2,355 acres are located on the Muscatatuck River in Jackson, Scott and Washington counties. These areas will be managed jointly by two DNR divisions-Fish & Wildlife and Forestry.

Another 519 acres (100 on Sugar Creek in Parke County and 419 on the Wabash River in Vermillion County) will be managed by the Fish & Wildlife and State Parks & Reservoirs divisions.

Maps are available at healthyrivers.IN.gov.

Access to HRI-acquired properties is limited only to those that are posted as open.

An Indiana fishing and/or hunting license is required to fish or hunt on the properties. Collecting permits are required for gathering anything except berries, mushrooms and nuts. Non-commercial mushroom hunting at these sites is restricted to after 1 p.m. daily during spring turkey season (April 24-May 12).

HRI is a DNR-led partnership with a goal to permanently protect nearly 70,000 acres along Sugar Creek, the Wabash and the Muscatatuck. In less than three years, HRI is approaching halfway with a combination of newly acquired acres, private land enrolled in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program, and previously owned DNR properties, such as Shades and Turkey Run state parks, and Wabashiki Fish & Wildlife Area.

The project has identified a 43,000-acre corridor in west-central Indiana along the Wabash and Sugar Creek, and a 26,000-acre corridor on the Muscatatuck in southern Indiana.

HRI has eight main objectives:

•Provide a model that balances forests, farmed lands and natural resources conservation.

•Connect separated parcels of public land to benefit wildlife.

•Restore and enhance areas of land along the Wabash River, Muscatatuck River and Sugar Creek.

•Protect important habitat for wildlife.

•Open land to the public for recreational activities, such as fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, canoeing, bird watching and boating.

•Protect important rest areas for migratory birds.

•Establish areas for nature tourism.

•Provide clean water and protection from flooding to landowners downstream.

Project partners include the DNR, The Nature Conservancy of Indiana, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.