Gov. Mitch Daniels today accepted what is believed to be one of the largest private land conservation gifts in state history-1,500 acres of the Ferguson farm near Springville in Lawrence County.
Steve Ferguson of Bloomington met with Daniels and Department of Natural Resources officials at the site and shared his plans to protect the land through a conservation easement as part of the Bicentennial Nature Trust that the governor announced earlier this year.
"There's nothing like starting our Bicentennial conservation initiative in a big way, and that's what Steve has done today," Daniels said. "We're so grateful for his gift and getting us off to a great start."
The Bicentennial Nature Trust was launched as a statewide land conservation initiative to celebrate Indiana's upcoming 200th anniversary in much the same way as the first 100 years of statehood were marked in 1916 with establishment of the state park system as a gift to the citizens of Indiana.
Daniels committed $20 million to help fund BNT and called on individuals, businesses and communities around the state to join the effort.
Ferguson responded through a conservation easement that ensures important areas of Indian Creek, including a heron rookery, are protected forever against development. Conservation easements allow a landowner to maintain private ownership of a property but limit the type and amount of development.
"It is increasingly important that areas are set aside for conservation for future generations, and there is no better time to do that than right now on the cusp of Indiana's Bicentennial," said Ferguson, chairman of the Cook Group, Inc., that is headquartered in Bloomington. "With this gift, I am encouraging others to look at ways they can personally help conserve the natural beauty that we know as Indiana."
The Ferguson farm just west of Springville in Lawrence County has rolling hills and several miles of Indian Creek running along the steep wooded bluffs of the property.
The property is on one of the oldest farms in Indiana continuously operated by a single family. It was homesteaded in 1816, the year Indiana became a state.
"It's fitting that a farm that got its start at the same time Indiana entered statehood will now be one of the centerpieces of our shared anniversary celebration in 2016," DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. said.
The Ferguson site borders Crane Naval Weapons Support Center and also is adjacent to a 2,300-acre tract protected under a conservation easement with the DNR's Forest Legacy program (dnr.IN.gov/forestry/4569.htm
Together, the Ferguson farm and the Forest Legacy site create almost a 4,000-acre block of land under permanent protection through conservation easements.