Hundreds of years ago, the area that would become Indiana was a 23.2 million acre expanse of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands, a veritable haven for thousands of plant and animal species.

Today, developed Indiana is much different, a network of towns and cities sprinkled liberally across farmland that has been cleared and drained for raising cash crops and livestock.

Thankfully, small pockets of natural areas have been set aside to limit the impact of man, preserve natural history and provide habitat for wild plants and animals.

Indiana boasts about 196,000 acres in the state’s national forest and nearly 69,000 in state parks. These gems showcase Indiana’s natural beauty and connect Hoosiers to nature and to the state’s ancient past.

Local actions to preserve natural areas are key to assuring that other parts of Indiana provide habitat for wildlife, as well as enabling human access to wild areas.

That’s where organizations like Red-tail Land Conservancy take the lead.

The nonprofit, privately funded organization obtains and preserves properties across Madison, Delaware, Henry, Randolph and Wayne counties. Currently, it manages about 3,000 acres.

Recently, Red-tail added about 50 acres along White River near Mounds State Park to its nature preserves. The tract is called “Hidden Canal” and will be open to the public in the near future. Red-tail officials hope to add six other areas, comprising nearly 400 acres, in Madison County eventually.

Across the five-county area it serves, Red-tail Land Conservancy is working hard to assure that the Indiana of presettlement days is preserved, and to establish small havens for native plants and animals in our state.

You can learn more at fortheland.org.

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