Military program aims to protect millions of acres in southern Indiana

Betty Q. Hixson

A new project to help strengthen military readiness in Indiana also happens to be one of the biggest conservation projects in the state’s history. 

Indiana has been selected for a federal program that seeks to prevent incompatible land use around military facilities. The program does this by providing private landowners with resources to protect and preserve the land around the bases. This could take the form of reforestation, sustainable farming or safeguarding wetlands. 

The program is called Sentinel Landscapes and will focus on land around two major Southern Indiana military installations.

Naval Support Activity Crane, the third largest U.S. Navy installation in the world, is located near Bloomington. And just forty miles south of Indianapolis sits Camp Atterbury, an Indiana National Guard training site.  

There are only 10 such sentinel landscapes across the country, including the new southern Indiana project announced on Tuesday. It encompasses more than 3.5 million acres — the size of Connecticut — spanning from Vincennes to Edinburgh to Madison. 

“It’s no exaggeration that the Sentinel Landscape is one of the biggest conservation projects in Indiana’s history,” said Christian Freitag, executive director of the Conservation Law Center and a professor of law at Indiana University. “It’s an example of how conservation can be an across-the-board win when the right partners work toward common ground.” 

A map of the new Southern Indiana Sentinel Landscape, a partnership with federal, state and local agencies. This project is meant to help protect and strengthen the region's military facilities while also preserving natural resources and wildlife in the area.

At the state level, key partners include Freitag’s Law Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s Defense Development Office, and numerous other local and state conservation groups. 

These partners went through a yearlong application process to be part of the project and learned late last month they had been selected. 

The designation means millions of dollars will be coming Indiana’s way. It will help farmers, foresters and others sustainably manage their land to best support military operations.

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