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Nature Conservancy open house has presentations, displays, 5K

The Nature Conservancy’s Blue River Project office has worked to preserve plants, animals and natural communities in the Blue River watershed for a decade, but on April 17 the focus will be on recreation and education.
Blue River Project staff will host the annual open house at Wyandotte Woods Nature Center in Harrison-Crawford State Forest west of Corydon, and this year the day-long event begins with something new, the Hellbender Hustle 5K run at 9 a.m.
The name may sound daunting, but it refers to the hellbender salamander found exclusively in the Blue River Basin, not an infernally twisting and turning course. The paved route is gently rolling and fast, and begins and ends at the Nature Center.
On-site registration for the race is $18. Awards will be given for male and female winners, age group winners and runners-up. All participants will receive a white oak seedling at the finish line.
What is the Blue River Project?
It’s The Nature Conservancy’s local project which aims to conserve and protect the unique resources of the area’s unusual ecosystem. Project director Allen Pursell will elaborate on the project’s purpose and efforts at 9:45 a.m. following the race.
‘Favorite Plants of Southern Indiana’ will be spotlighted by Mike Homoya, a botanist with the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, at 10:45 a.m., and, yes, there are ‘Bobcats in Indiana.’ That’s what DNR non-game biologist Heather Walker will discuss at 11:45 a.m.
Decisions, decisions.
At 1 p.m. it’s wild wood, wildflowers or wild caves as visitors choose from among three guided hikes.
Carla Striegel is a Wyandotte Woods naturalist, plant enthusiasts Bill and Maggie Adams identify spring wildflowers, and Todd Webb is a caves specialist at the Harrison-Crawford/Wyandotte Complex.
Exhibitors will include:
Cave Country Adventures offers canoe and kayak float trips from hours to days in length made possible by the same resources on which the Blue River Project is centered.
The Indiana Karst Conservancy focuses on conserving subterranean resources.
The unfortunate counterparts to Southern Indiana’s favorite plants are ‘Invasive Plants of Southern Indiana.’ Examples of those will be on display as well as measures to get rid of them.
The Louisville Zoo’s Raptor Rehab will include appearances by avian performers and handlers formerly with the Birds of Prey presentation.
Eastern High School’s Natural Resources Class will exhibit bat and bird boxes and discuss the latest construction techniques.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide information on government conservation programs that may be implemented on private property.
Oak Heritage Conservancy is a land trust focusing solely on southeast Indiana.
‘We are really excited to see them here,’ said Cassie Hauswald, BRP assistant, adding that The Nature Conservancy welcomes partners in conservation.
Scenic Natural Areas, a photo presentation of the Hoosier State, is presented by Joe and Mary Etta Bersig.
A complement to invasive plants, native plants from Sun Oak Trading Post will provide a sampling of its inventory. ‘We would rather see native plantings because some non-native species can get out of control and require eradication,’ Hauswald said, citing honeysuckle and tree of heaven as examples.
Sponsors include Tyson Foods, First Harrison Bank, Cave Country Adventures, Paces and Racers of New Albany, and the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Blue River Project office can be contacted at 738-2087.

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