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Land preservation group: it’s time to make butter

With hopes of making butter rather than drowning in cream, 11 of 17 appointed members of the newly-formed Farm, Forest and Open Space Preservation Task Force met for the first time last week to begin writing a mission statement, establish a common vision and set goals.
‘I think this is going to be a very tough undertaking,’ said Harrison County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper, who chaired the June 27 meeting. ‘I think it can be done.’
Heitkemper, the county commissioners’ representative on the task force, told the tale of two flies caught in a vat of cream; one drowned for lack of doing anything while the other swam so hard to get out that it made butter.
So, rather than do nothing and have development take over most of the county, several interested persons said it’s time to guide where the growth occurs.
‘Why are we doing this?’ asked Jim Klinstiver, the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County’s representative. ‘Because the pressure is on us.’
Harrison County is one of the state’s fastest growing counties.
The task force was created by the county commissioners to identify productive agricultural and forest areas, and other desirable open space in the county. Members will denote forces that contribute to fragmentation and conversion of farm land, forests and open spaces to other uses, and develop strategies to protect and preserve identified areas. They will also educate Harrison Countians in the task force’s activities.
Other members are: Carl (Buck) Mathes, Harrison County Council; Ron Coleman and Jane Gettelfinger, District 1 citizens appointed by county commissioners; Larry Hauswald and Jerry Sanders, District 2; Darrell Lind and Dan Sutherland, District 3; Robert Schickel, Harrison County Farm Bureau; Roscoe Emily, Harrison County Soil & Water Conservation District; Greg Albers, Southern Indiana Realtors Association; Marty Hall, a Harrison County developer; Fred Uhl, Morgan Township trustee, and Charlie Crawford and Donnie Wolfe, appointed by the county council and county commissioners, respectively, as citizens with preservation interests.
According to the guidelines established by the county commissioners, they will appoint one more citizen.
Ex-officio members who will attend task force meetings to help facilitate but have no vote are Harrison County Planner Eric Wise, county attorney Chris Byrd, Allen Pursell of The Nature Conservancy, Harrison County Extension Agent Adrienne Rich, and Sam Smith of the Indiana Land Resources Commission. Karen Dearlove, coordinator of the Lincoln Hills RC&D, agreed to serve as secretary.
Smith helped guide the group last week in beginning its mission writing, and setting a vision and goals. ‘You’re really doing a great thing here, something that’s needed,’ he told the group.
He said other counties will be watching. ‘If you’re successful, … they’ll follow,’ Smith said.
During a brainstorming session last week, ideas included: preserve farmland without stopping development and growth; be an advocate for the land; promote ‘smart’ growth; control erosion; support Harrison Countians indefinitely; instill healthy land ethics; develop consensus.
‘I like the idea that whatever we do will have to encompass conservation,’ said Hauswald.
More than two hours into the meeting, Schickel said, ‘We want it, but we don’t know how to get there.’
He said he’d like to talk with people from other areas that have been successful in land preservation ‘to see how they got there’ so Harrison County can ‘get there faster.’
Three members of the task force have taken the five-day Ultimate Farmland Preservation Tour in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey to see how growth has been handled there.
As 10 p.m. neared, the task force decided to keep its meetings to 90 minutes to two hours, and its official meeting night will be the last Tuesday of each month at 7:30. Early on, the group will meet more frequently. Its next meeting is July 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the conference room at Farm Bureau Insurance in Corydon.
As established by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, the task force will remain in place through Dec. 31, although it can be renewed for one additional year.