INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- An Indiana blueprint for conservation is grabbing attention across the nation from officials eager to put the strategy developed here to work in their own communities.
The strategy developed and implemented by Heather Bacher and Cliff Chapman of the Central Indiana Land Trust identifies more than 300,000 acres in Marion and surrounding counties that have conservation potential and covers farmland, wetlands, forests, waterways and cityscapes. A separate 30-page report describes how the trust worked with scientists, planners, government officials and others to identify the parcels.
"Greening the Crossroads" was released in 2009 and has a broader scope than strategies developed by similar groups across the country, said Erin Heskett, national services director for the Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance.
"What's cool about the `Crossroads' project (is), it created a vision where there was no vision," Heskett told the Indianapolis Business Journal (http://bit.ly/W7TiCM ).
The strategy stemmed from a 2007 proposal by Bacher designed to make the land trust more aggressive about spreading environmentalism and encouraging others to pursue conservation projects the trust couldn't handle itself.
Six donors contributed $50,000, and an additional $80,000 grant kick-started the project. The organization got another $200,000 grant in 2011 to keep the project going.
Bacher in early 2008 hired Chapman as conservation director, and the two of them recruited Indianapolis architect Chris Boardman from Ratio Architects to guide the project as a volunteer.
The project has helped persuade Indiana landowners to mark their property for conservation and has generated a buzz among peers as far away as Alaska. It's even showing up in college lesson plans.
"At conferences, it's like she's a rock star," Chapman said of Bacher.
The information contained in the strategy and accompanying reports helped Kim Sollien of the Great Land Trust in Palmer, Alaska, develop a conservation plan for Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where Palmer is the seat.
"I quickly got on the Internet to figure out who else in the country is doing this," she said. "It was incredibly helpful to me to read about their process in terms of working with different stakeholder groups to identify these resources. It really helped me paint the picture of what we could do here."
In Indiana, the 60-page strategy and community visits from land trust representatives persuaded Tom Johnson and his wife to sell the trust 109 acres that they owned next to Lamb Lake in Johnson County.
Johnson's father-in-law, Russell Lamb, built the body of water after buying the property and the surrounding land. Johnson, his wife and his brother-in-law had known for years they wanted to preserve the site but lacked the financial resources to do so.
Chapman visited the Trafalgar property in 2008 and talked to Johnson about its wildlife, even playing recordings of birds.
"He was able to bring in a couple types of warblers that hadn't been seen in the state in years," Johnson said. "That to me, helped seal the deal, that we could preserve that."
The Johnsons sold the property to the organization for $4,000 an acre, well below the assessed value. The trust then set up a nature preserve.
Most of the land "Greening the Crossroads" identifies is privately owned. The land trust typically doesn't do the actual conservation work, such as cleaning up waterways, but instead offers its input on matters such as rezoning so that ecology is being considered in local infrastructure projects.
Ashlee Mras, a project manager in Indianapolis' Office of Sustainability, said the city has consulted "Greening the Crossroads" for projects including a waterways initiative to improve the city's creeks and rivers.
Mras said the initiative removed invasive plants from along Fall Creek on the land trust's advice to allow the natural flora to grow there, filtering the water and lowering pollution.
The ability of "Greening the Crossroads" to connect a private land trust with government offices caught Aaron Thompson's attention at the University of Wisconsin's Stevens Point campus.
Thompson, an assistant professor of natural resource planning, learned about the plan when he was working on his doctorate at Purdue University.
He now uses the plan for a unit in his classes.
"I think the nine-county, regional focus was a big part of what's been successful," he said. "Planning is usually done at the county or city --municipality --levels."
Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com
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