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Surveys shows Hoosiers think they can help protect planet

Surveys shows Hoosiers think they can help protect planet Surveys shows Hoosiers think they can help protect planet

“Everyone can do something to help care for the earth each day.”

“I want a better earth for future generations.”

More than 200 area residents shared their opinions in a recent survey about conservation and nature. They talked about ways they help protect the natural world every day, from the basics, like recycling and using less water, to projects like planting more native trees and shrubs around their home, adding native wildflowers to their flower beds, supporting conservation with their votes or installing solar panels.

The survey was part of the fifth annual Nature and Farm Photo Contest, hosted by George Rogers Clark Land Trust and Oak Heritage Conservancy. The groups protect working farmland and natural areas in Southern Indiana. While voting for a grand-prize winner, residents also weighed in with their thoughts about the year’s theme, “Earth Day Every Day.”

“We know this survey isn’t a complete cross section of Indiana, but we were still encouraged by how many Hoosiers told us they value protecting natural areas and open spaces like small family farms,” said Liz Brownlee, executive director of Oak Heritage.

Each year, the two groups host a Nature and Farm Photo Contest to get Hoosiers thinking about how natural areas and farms contribute to the beauty and character of Indiana. This year, they added a Youth category, and the grand-prize winner was a youth entry. Joshua Chastain, of Westport, will enter seventh grade this fall at South Ripley schools. His photo earned the top spot out of 27 photos featured in the online exhibit, which were selected by a panel of judges from all the entries.

Joshua wants to be a wildlife biologist when he grows up. He loves wildlife of all sorts, especially turtles. His winning photo was a close up of a turtle native to Indiana, a red-eared slider. Joshua takes the “Earth Day Every Day” pledge to heart.

“I save turtles and crawdads when I see them on the road by picking them up and moving them in the direction they are going,” he said. “I also catch insects, fish and other creatures and study them. Then, I release them.”

Joshua’s mom, Jennifer Chastain, said, “I am amazed at Joshua’s love of nature and his natural gift with spotting unusual and rare wildlife and plants. He also has an uncanny knack for handling insects, frogs, toads and other animals without harming them. My husband, Derek, teaches biology and has encouraged him to explore nature. There are a lot of other adults and teachers in Joshua’s life that encourage him to learn about and love nature also.”

Joshua wasn’t the only one to take on an “Earth Day Every Day” challenge. After voting for a grand-prize winner, area residents also selected a challenge that fit their lives. Most people decided to plant native trees, shrubs or wildflowers or visit a farmers market to buy local food.

“Eating local is a super way to care for the planet,” said Brownlee. “Most food travels over 1,500 miles to get to our plates. That doesn’t make any sense when farmers here in Indiana are growing lots of good food, from vegetables to honey, meat, popcorn, mushrooms and more. And a lot of those small farmers really love the land where they farm. They care for wildlife habitat on their land, including forests and wetlands. We can reduce our ‘food miles’ and the carbon emissions all that hauling creates and support local farmers who are caring for the land on family farms. Plus, it tastes so much better when it’s fresh.”

Learn more about George Rogers Clark’s farmland preservation efforts at For more information about the Oak Heritage Conservancy, visit

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.