Healthy Rivers acquires acreage

The Austin Bottoms Conservation Area recently grew by 287 acres to nearly 4,000 acres overall along the Muscatatuck River.

That expansion was facilitated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and is part of the Healthy Rivers Initiative.

Austin Bottoms Conservation Area stretches along Scott, Jackson and Washington counties and is mainly bottom-land hardwoods with some wetlands.

Three landowners in Scott County sold 170 acres to the state, and 117 acres were purchased from a landowner in Jackson County. This makes a total of 3,966 that will be used for the public, coordinator Angie Tilton said.

The state also recently completed the purchase of approximately 380 acres in Vigo County in the Wabash River Conservation Area as part of the Healthy Rivers Initiative. That land consisted of three parcels under separate ownership.

“These newest additions build on HRI’s steady progress toward protecting 70,000 acres of riverside corridors in these two areas,” said Mark Reiter, director of the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.

“We are grateful to the conservation-minded landowners who share in our goal to balance forests, farmed lands and natural resources in ways that benefit wildlife, improve water quality and flood protection and provide open land for public recreational activities,” he said.

The initiative is a partnership of resource agencies and organizations working to secure permanent protection of 26,000 acres along the Muscatatuck River. To date, it’s managed to protect 8,224 acres, Tilton said. That protection is through land bought by the state, land previously owned by the state or federal Wetland Reserve Conservation programs.

Since its launch in 2010, HRI has purchased a total of 12,454 acres and permanently protected almost 31,800 acres.

Some of the land in the Austin Bottoms unit has already been open to hunters, anglers and other outdoorsmen and women.

HRI partners include the DNR, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy of Indiana, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.