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‘Help save hellbender’ campaign hits county

‘Help save hellbender’ campaign hits county
‘Help save hellbender’ campaign hits county
Nathan D. Mullendore finishes up his presentation on the Eastern Hellbender Salamander, which finds its home in Blue River, at the annual Harrison County Soil and Water Conservation District meeting at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon. Mullendore said the hellbender’s future, with a rapidly dwindling population, is “in our hands,” with a photo of a hellbender’s fingers, which looks similar to ours, in the background. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)

The focus of the 66th Harrison County Soil & Water Conservation District annual meeting Thursday night was a slimy, two-foot salamander that calls Blue River home.
The Eastern Hellbender, unique to Blue River because it is a clean water source, has been in trouble for some time.
Due to many factors, both natural and human induced, the rare creature is on a path to extinction.
Nathan D. Mullendore of Purdue University spoke about the hellbender and what can be done to prevent it from becoming a federally endangered species.
Mullendore said farmers, residents near the river and the entire county need to continue what it is doing as far as water quality, because the hellbender only lives in a clean environment.
‘It’s very particular,’ Mullendore said.
A decline has been measured in 70 percent of the hellbender’s host rivers, including Blue.
Mullendore said estimates range between 200 to 250 in the entire span of Blue River, when 30 or 40 years ago there would be about 100 to 150 in every river riffle.
At this rate, the hellbender will be extinct from Blue River in about 30 years, Mullendore said.
‘It doesn’t bode well for the hellbender, if we don’t take active steps to help them out,’ he said.
He said oftentimes anglers who catch a hellbender just throw it on the bank or kill it, an attitude that hopefully will change in the future.
Mullendore said humans can eliminate an entire population of animals, and used the passenger pigeon as an example. He said the pigeons used to number in the billions but, through target practice, netting and other means, it was reduced to nothing and the species ended with one single bird, ‘Martha,’ who is now encased in a museum.
Mullendore said hellbender awareness will become more prevalent in the near future in Harrison County, including a seven-foot-tall mascot hellbender.
He said the hellbender is something Harrison County should be proud of.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, held at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon, Chad Baker was re-elected as a Harrison County Soil & Water Conservation District supervisor. There were no other nominees. Baker lives in Laconia and owns a business, J-Max Cattle Co.
Poster contest winners, with a theme of ‘Where Does Your Water Shed?’, were as follows: kindergarten-Grade 2 division ‘ Dilan Keen, first; Ryan Wood, second; and Abigail Davis, third (all from St. John’s Lutheran School); Grade 3 and 4 division ‘ April Graves, first, and Geron Graves, second (both New Middletown Elementary School), and Emma Cromwell, third (St. John’s); Grade 5 and 6 division ‘ Lydia Coyle, first (CCC 4-H Club); Rebekah Cromwell, second (St. John’s); and Theodore Copperwaite, third (CCC 4-H Club); and Grade 7 and 8 division ‘ Cassidy Blank, first; Nathanael Coyle, second; and Trinity Travis, third (all from CCC 4-H Club).
Virgil T. Jawtak of Lanesville has become the fourth landowner to place their farm in the Harrison County Land Conservation Program. Jawtak was honored at the program for thought and dedication to the preservation of his farmland.
Dorsey Wagner of Ramsey was named Farmer of the Year. Wagner originally grew up in Crandall raising horses. His late fraternal grandfather, Parvin Wagner, and his horse, Rangoon, starred with singer Pat Boone in the 1957 movie ‘April Love.’ Wagner started farming at age 13 with his maternal grandfather, the late Cecil Clunie, also of Crandall. He is a 1984 graduate of North Harrison High School. Along with his wife, the former Jennie Gettelfinger, he owns 225 acres and rents another 26 acres and raises corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. He also maintains a 100-head beef cow/calf operation, all while working full-time at Jones Machine & Tool near Palmyra. Wagner has always practiced no-till for all his crops, has installed feeding pads, watering systems, access roads, sowed field borders and plants winter cover crops.
The forestry award went to sisters Marydee and Margaret Meyer, both of Corydon. They are the daughters of the late Stanley H. and Hilda Becker Meyer and were born in the family farmhouse. They both still live on the 200-plus acre farm on the western edge of Franklin Township.
Their intent is to provide some family income while preserving the land for crops and the forest for sustainable wood products. In the past decade, in conjunction with the HCSWCD and The Nature Conservancy, the family has planted a riparian buffer on both sides of Little Indian Creek, extending the planting a bit further to prevent possible erosion.
Receiving the Master Farmer Conservation award was Gary J. Geswein of Palmyra.
Geswein, along with his brothers (Geswein Farms), owns/leases more than 604 acres in northern Harrison County in which he grows corn, non-gmo soybeans, popcorn, wheat and straw. He also has a beef cow/calf herd. He has farmed with two of his brothers, Greg and Gordon, in Harrison and Floyd counties for nearly 30 years.
The high school Senior of the Year award went to Clayton Blank, son of Tony and Tiffani Blank of Corydon. He is a 10-year member of the CCC 4-H Club, of which his father was a charter member when the club was formed by Bill Moran, former NRCS district conservationist in the early 1990s. Blank is a senior at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School.

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