Preserving the future

Oak Heritage Conservancy
helps protect natural resources

A raffle and auction will be held
at annual dinner, meeting

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(October 2007) – When the first pioneers arrived in southeast Indiana, they saw a forested land with rolling hills, clear running streams, rocky glades and scattered meadows filled with a variety of wildflowers and trees. Because those beautiful natural features are rapidly vanishing, a local land trust was formed to help preserve them.
Oak Heritage Conservancy, a non-profit organization in cooperation with Historic Hoosier Hills Resource Conservation & Development Inc., was established in 2002 to preserve, protect and conserve land and water resources that have special natural, agricultural, scenic or cultural significance. To date, more than 270 acres throughout nine southeastern Indiana counties have been saved by Oak Heritage for future generations.
The Oak Heritage Conservancy will hold its annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at The Pines Restaurant, 2700 Michigan Rd., Madison, Ind. The guest speaker will be Allen Pursell of the Nature Conservancy and Director of the Blue River Project. There will be a raffle and auction to raise funds for the organization.
Dinner costs $25 per person; however, new members who join by Oct. 10 will receive a free dinner at the meeting.

Paul Carmony

Paul Carmony

Oak Heritage serves the Indiana counties of Jefferson, Jennings, Ripley, Scott, Washington, Clark, Switzerland, Dearborn and Ohio counties. It is just one of more than 1,500 land trusts spread throughout the nation. According to the National Land Trust census, over the past five years, local land trusts have protected more than 5.8 million acres of natural environments.
Paul Carmony, a volunteer and board member with Oak Heritage, said land trusts are gaining popularity as more people realize the need to protect and preserve natural resources. “People need to think in terms of the future of their children and grandchildren. They won’t be able to enjoy nature if there isn’t any left.”
Like other land trusts, Oak Heritage acquires property through a variety of means, including outright purchase, donations, bequests or conservation easements. Conservation easements are legal agreements where a landowner retains ownership of a property but gives up certain rights, such as the right to subdivide and develop. Carmony said the land trust works with landowners on an individual basis according to specific needs.
Oak Heritage, once in stewardship of the land, removes any trash on the property, controls invasive plants and completes natural resource inventories to better understand each property’s needs. Carmony said many people who don’t have heirs or who wish for their property to remain undeveloped are now donating their land to land trusts. “It’s a great way to preserve open space.”
Oak Heritage, which started out as a committee with conservation organization Historic Hoosier Hills, acquired its first property in 2004. Dr. J. Dan and Juanita Webster donated 40 acres in western Jefferson County.
Webster Woods, as the property is now called, has a rich canopy of oaks, tulips and ash, with an under story rich in herbs. The varied bird population has been studied intensely in the wooded area.
There are six properties currently under the land trust’s care, including the most recent addition, a tract of land in Dearborn County once owned by the Mary T. Doud family. In November 2006, Mary T. Doud’s successor trustee deeded the 200 acres to the Oak Heritage Conservancy and established the Hilltop Farm Nature Preserve.
Because the properties are open to visitors, who can hike established trails or even hunt on some of the land, volunteers are needed to help maintain the properties under the care of the land trust.
“We have many volunteers that come and plant trees, pick up trash and cut shrubs,” said Carmony, who joined Oak Heritage after he retired from the Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy is a global operation that has protected more than 117 million acres of land and more than 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. It also operates more than 100 marine conservation projects around the world.

• For more information about Oak Heritage Conservancy, visit: www.ohclandtrust.org.

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