The Conservation Law Center at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law will help manage a new designation of more than 3.5 million acres in southern Indiana as a Sentinel Landscape.
That’s a coalition to advance sustainable land management practices around military installations and ranges.
The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership has added the area, which includes Jackson County, and partnerships in Florida and Texas to bring the total to just 10 in the country selected for the federal program. The program is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior.
With the Sentinel designation, federal and state entities will conserve natural resources, protect critical habitat and prepare Indiana for environmental changes while preserving areas used for military readiness, according to a news release from the Conservation Law Center.
Southern Indiana is home to four critical Department of Defense installations and associated ranges: Naval Support Activity Crane, Lake Glendora Test Facility, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Training Center and the Indiana Air Range Complex.
The region also contains six state parks, seven state forests, nine state fish and wildlife areas, 39 state-dedicated nature preserves, one national forest and three national wildlife refuges.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for farmers, forest owners and other private landowners to gain even greater access to existing federal land management programs,” said Christian Freitag, executive director of the Conservation Law Center and clinical associate professor of law at IU.
“We have decades of combined experience in southern Indiana land conservation,” Freitag said. “It’s no exaggeration that the Sentinel Landscape is one of the biggest conservation projects in Indiana history and an example of how conservation can be an across-the-board win when the right partners work toward common ground. Our partnership shows our shared recognition that conservation projects help our economy and improve our quality of life.”
The center will help coordinate the partners promoting sustainable land practices in the designated areas. Partners include the U.S. military branches, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s Defense Development Office, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Defense Task Force, White River Military Coordination Alliance and numerous local- and state-level conservation organizations.
In addition to improving landscape resilience by maintaining and connecting healthy forests, the project also addresses habitat needs of various native species, including the federally endangered Indiana bat and federally threatened northern long-eared bat.
Southern Indiana Sentinel Landscape partners will focus on river and watershed protection by implementing regional watershed management plans along with state and federal wetland and waterway programs.
“This project is another example of how the Conservation Law Center’s expertise and ability to build coalitions is the right medicine at the right time for the most pressing environmental challenges facing our state and country,” said Austen Parrish, dean of the Maurer School of Law.
The Conservation Law Center, established in 2005, provides free legal counsel to organizations working on conservation law and policy while offering Maurer School of Law students clinical experience.