In a past column I related how the name of the funds used to acquire land for outdoor recreation has changed over the last few years. The remaining funds form the sale of environment license plates and bicentennial funding is now known as the Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust, which is named after the Hoosier native and past President Benjamin Harrison, and is abbreviated B.H.C.T.
Another way to help preserve some of our Indiana natural areas and land that can be opened to public usage is a Conservation Easement, C.E. This is an agreement with a landowner that allows him/her to keep their land but it stipulates they will not do or construct anything that will destroy the integrity of the property. This remains in effect even when it is passed on to another owner.
Using both funds from B.H.C.T. and Conservation Easements, a sizable amount of land was given protection in 2018. A classic example of this is in northwestern Indiana. The Little Calumet River is unlike the Grand Calumet River which runs through some of the most industrialized landscape in the U.S. as it passes through Lake and Porter counties. The Little Calumet, especially in its upper watershed, is still rather pristine. The Grand Calumet was once one of the most polluted waterways in our nation.
It was contaminated with a witches’ brew of many kinds of industrial waste. In fact, it was so bad that it was devoid of almost all aquatic lifeforms. A major clean up effort costing several millions of dollars has had a most welcome effect on the water quality in the Grand Calumet, but there is still a lot of work to do before it is once again a quality stream. The Little Calumet, which by the way is a name of a Native American ceremonial pipe, begins in extreme western La Porte County, then runs through Porter and Lake counties until it passes on into Illinois, was never this polluted.
A lot of work by several agencies has helped to ensure the integrity of a large segment of the Little Calumet watershed. Among those involved in helping to keep the Little Calumet a less polluted river are the Indiana D.N.R., the Nature Conservancy, The Shirley Heinze Land Trust, and the Izaak Walton League. One of the projects to help protect the water quality in the Little Calumet is the Little Calumet River Conservation Area. A number of the nature preserves have been set aside in the La Porte and Porter County region that have really had a great effect on helping to improve and keep the water quality at a high rate of clarity.
Using Conservation Easements on two tracts of 24 and 44 acres in Porter County and another 41 acres in La Porte that are near already protected locations ensures a sizable section of the river has been given even more protection. This part of the Little Calumet is noted for its variety of wildlife and plants. It also is a great site to view migratory birds in the early spring and fall. Lake County, while a major industrial region especially along Lake Michigan, still has several really outstanding natural areas.
It also has a very impressive county parks system. Among these parks is the 1,210-acre Deep River County Park. The Deep River, while not very long in length and only passes through Lake County, is a surprisingly lovely stream in a very urban county. Using funds B.H.C.T. a 27-acre parcel of land along the Deep River was added to the park. This acquisition was surrounded on three sides by the park and was still in a natural condition. In fact, it had 20 acres of wetlands and the rest was wooded with a number of nice old trees. It is a great addition to the park. More on new acquisitions will be featured in a future column.