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DNR adds 184 acres, woods to state forest

The Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources has acquired 184 acres of wooded hills and gently rolling fields in Harrison County, adjacent to the Harrison-Crawford State Forest. The purchase, called Wooten Parcel, is the first using state forest timber sales revenue.
‘We promised to deliver new undeveloped land for preservation through the sale of timber from state forests, and this is the first step toward putting those funds to work and preserving these lands for future generations,’ said DNR Director Kyle Hupfer.
The process for the acquisition started approximately six months ago when a trustee for the property notified the DNR of an interest in selling the land. Since the DNR had limited land-acquisition funding available at the time, the estate planned to list the property for public sale.
But the DNR was able to make funds available about three months ago and beat the public sale, which could have resulted in the parcel being sold into housing lots. Harrison County has become a prime location for residential growth due to its proximity to Louisville and due to riverboat funding.
‘Since the state bought the land, I’m pretty sure the land won’t be turned into lots,’ said Dwayne Sieg, property manager of the Harrison-Crawford State Forest.
The Wootens, former landowners of the parcel recently acquired, planted the fields with tree seedlings about 12 years ago. The fields now contain healthy growing trees, including oak and walnut, Sieg said. The property was once a small family farm. Like so many such farms in Southern Indiana, economy of scale and poor soils made it unprofitable, and the farmhouse was destroyed by fire.
‘The land is adjacent to other state forest land on two sides,’ said Sieg. ‘This made an already large land even larger, instead of having two separate pieces of land.’
Buying land with timber money is the last part of the four-pronged 2005-2007 forestry strategic plan to be put into action. Prong one was to reinvest in the forest through tree planting, timber stand improvement and recreational improvement. The second was forming a partnership of state universities to do forest-based research at Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The third was to fund a statewide cost-share program for private woodland management.
In addition to the Wooten acquisition, the DNR is working on five other land acquisition projects using funding from timber revenue. The total acreage of these potential purchases is more than 700 acres. One of these projects is in conjunction with the Indiana Heritage Trust, including The Nature Conservancy and Sycamore Land Trust as partners.