The Washington Times-Herald

February 4, 2014

Nature Conservancy stays hard at work adding sites


The Washington Times-Herald

---- — In a past column I related the parts of Indiana where the Indiana Chapter of the Nature Conservancy had been hard at work during 2013. It also has been able to obtain five sites that have been added to the already impressive number that the Conservancy has acquired over the years. Let’s look at these new acquisitions.

In Jasper County in northwestern Indiana a 160-acre parcel was added to the very impressive Tefft Savanna Complex. This is a very important area, as it is on the fall migration route of the eastern sandhill cranes who now flock to this area in increasing numbers.

The Conservancy helped the D.N.R. acquire this site which is a part of the Jasper-Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area where the cranes congregate. The Tefft-Stoutsburg area is home to a number of uncommon Indiana animals and plants. Among these are plains pocket gopher, the lovely ornate box turtle, western silvery aspen, primrose violet, and the deep root club moss.

Brown County had two locations acquired in 2013. One of these was a 40-acre in-holding in Brown County State Park. This tract is near the west entrance of the park. It is surrounded by state property and is a welcomed addition to the state park.

The second area in Brown County acquired by the Conservancy is a 130-acre site that is the first land that has been purchased by the Nature Conservancy using Bicentennial Nature Trust funds. More on this 2016 event will be featured in future columns. This tract is on Brown Hill and is a part of the Forest Bank project that the Conservancy uses to help landowners protect and manage their ownership and obtaining some financial benefits from their woodlands.

The entire Brown County hills region, which includes segments of Brown, Monroe, Morgan, Lawrence, Jackson and Bartholomew counties is a very important region for songbirds and many other species of both plants and animals.

Great progress has been made in obtaining land that is protected and provides critical habitat for the wildlife and plants of this large area.

In Floyd and Harrison counties in the rugged, scenic knobs, is the Brock Sampson-Hardin Ridge Complex. This large area has some of the most rugged landscape in Indiana and is unlike any other section of our state. In the last year or so an additional 853 acres have been added to this important location by the Conservancy and is now a part of an area one has to see to believe they are really in Indiana.

The fifth site added last year is in southwestern Indiana. The location will not be given due to the significance of what has and still is going on at this site. This is a rather small cave known as the Megenity Peccary cave that has yielded more fossils than probably any other cave in Indiana.

In 2013 the Conservancy was able to obtain 26 acres that help give added protection to this very important fossil site.

For several years the Indiana State Museum has been excavating in the cave which has a rather large pit on its floor. This is where many of the fossils were discovered. There are Ice Age fossils that date back to when the ice covered much of what was to become the state of Indiana.

Among the fossils which are now part of the Indiana State Museum collection are animals no longer found in our state. Uncovered were remains of red-backed voles, fisher, Arctic shrew, black bear, snowshoe hare, and a very rare find, the skull and skeleton of a dire wolf.

While all of these remains are very important to the Ice Age history of Indiana, what really sets this cave apart are the remains of around 600 flat-headed peccaries that have been collected from the cave. This is indeed a treasure trove of this pig-like animal which is now extinct.

There are still peccary in South and Central America, and one species the, the collared peccary, in the southwestern United States, but to find this many remains of the extinct flat-headed peccary in an Indiana cave is extraordinary.

For more on the work of the Nature Conservancy go to its website www.nature.org/indiana. It is indeed a great nature organization.