Recent Conservation Projects

Our chapter’s rich history of conservation activities have ranged from hands-on habitat restoration to conservation education to community activism.

To become involved in any of the chapter’s conservation activities, contact Jon Creek or Jeff Ray, Conservation Co-chairs, at jcreek34@yahoo.com or jaray56@gmail.com.

Salamonie River State Forest Update

Trees marked for cutting at Salamonie (photo courtesy of Indiana Forest Alliance)

Despite objections from our chapter and other environmental groups, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources moved ahead with plans to log part of the Salamonie River State Forest, selling 984 marketable trees on November 30. 

According to the Indiana Forest Alliance website, the timber sale “took place in a secret online bidding platform,” with only one bidder. The trees sold for only $10,000, which comes out to 6 cents per board foot. Read more about the sale at the WPTA21 website.

Salamonie can best be protected if it becomes a state park.  In April 2019, the Indiana Forest Alliance submitted a petition to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission and to Gov. Holcomb, requesting that Salamonie be named a state park, but the petition was denied.  It’s time to renew that request!

Why Salamonie Matters

By Rose Jeffery, RCAS vice president

The Salamonie River State Forest was established in the mid-1930s and has grown to more than 950 acres.  It is one of the largest and most mature forests in the northern half of Indiana.  The topography is of gentle hills with steep ravines cut by the Salamonie River and its tributaries.  With many large trees,  views of the river and streams, and small waterfalls, it is one of the prettiest forests in our state.

The Salamonie River State Forest is host to many neotropical warblers and other migratory birds, and it is home to many permanent resident birds.  Evidence has been found in the forest of two state endangered bats, the Tricolored and the Little Brown Bat.  The richness and diversity of native plants in the forest has led to a proposal, sadly not acted upon, to designate Salamonie a High Conservation Value Forest. 

These are just a few examples of the diversity found within the Salamonie River State Forest.  These species need robust, intact forests. Over the past 50 years, more than 25% of North American birds have disappeared in large part due to loss of good habitat.  Crashes in insect populations are likely much greater. 

I have read the management plan for the Salamonie River State Forest.  I understand that the IDNR’s Department of Forestry feels logging would improve the forest.  I think this contention is hubris.  Ecosystems are very complex, and logging is much more likely to harm than to improve these delicate systems.  Creating openings into the forest for logging will also open the forest to new incursion of exotic, invasive plants such as Asian bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and garlic mustard.  These openings also threaten forest nesting birds because they attract nest predators such as Brown-headed Cowbirds. 

Salamonie River State Forest is an important place to me personally.  In East Central Indiana (Muncie), there are very few large tracts of woodlands nearby for hiking, birdwatching, looking for wildflowers, or other nature activities.  I will always remember seeing two Great Horned Owlets with a parent owl hovering close by one spring at Salamonie.  Each spring, I look for new spring ephemeral wildflowers there – this year, squirrel corn!  My local Audubon chapter, Robert Cooper Audubon, as well as Stockbridge and Mississinewa Audubon chapters, use the forest regularly for birdwatching.

In these times of dire environmental degradation and accelerating climate change, we need to protect and preserve our few remaining natural areas. Please ask Governor Holcomb and IDNR director, Daniel Bortner, to stop the proposed timber sale at Salamonie River State Forest.  Ask them to consider protecting Salamonie River State Forest by making it a state park.

Mounds Greenway

Thanks to the combined efforts of our Audubon chapter and other organizations, the proposed Mounds Reservoir was voted down by local governing bodies. We’re now focusing our energies on supporting the proposed Mounds Greenway, which would be not only a recreational trail but also a White River corridor conservation project.

The extensive riverside trail will take visitors through riverside forests and wildlife habitats, connecting Anderson, Chesterfield, Daleville, Yorktown, and Muncie, using existing trails where possible and creating new trails where needed. Organizers’ current efforts are focused on creation of the Chesterfield town trail, which will link Mounds State Park to Walbridge Acres Park, in Chesterfield.

When completed, the Mounds Greenway will:

  • Conserve the free-flowing White River and its floodplain forests, wetlands and other natural communities by creating a high-quality linear park following the river.
  • Conserve and enhance the historic and cultural resources in the river valley.
  • Connect trails in Muncie and Anderson and build a regional recreational network that eventually will stretch throughout East Central Indiana, and to central Indiana via a greenway extension along the White River to Indianapolis.
  • Create economic opportunity by enhancing the region’s quality of place and stimulating entrepreneurial investment.

The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is leading efforts to promote the proposed Mounds Greenway. Stay up on the latest developments in the proposed project at www.moundsgreenway.org, or contact Kim McKenzie, our Audubon chapter’s representative to the project, at kimkenzie34@gmail.com.

Wilderness Park and Prairie

Benches at the end of Wilderness Park’s forest trail, designed and built by Ball State landscape students.

One of the newest parks in East Central Indiana is Wilderness Park, located at the southwest edge of Hartford City. The 50-acre park offers a variety of nature and fitness trails that connect with the even newer Wilderness Prairie, a rolling, five-acre prairie restoration plot that includes a butterfly area.

Our Audubon chapter has been one of many partners that provided financial support to development of the park and prairie, through an RCAS grant that helped support forest conservation and ecological restoration activities.

The project has been overseen by Colby Gray, a local landscape architect who led BSU landscape architecture students in designing and building benches, a bird blind, a bridge culvert, and other features of the site.

Visit the Positively Blackford website to learn more about this hidden gem of ECI.  Better yet, visit Wilderness Park and Prairie in person! The park trailhead is located at 901 S. West St., just south of the intersection of Fulton and West Streets.

Chimney Swift Tower

Finally, after several years of snags, delays, and changes in location, our long-planned Chimney Swift tower has finally been built!  In partnership with Friends of the Limberlost, and with a grant from the National Audubon Society, in late 2020 our long-planned tower was erected in the town of Geneva.

Curt Burnette, naturalist at the Limberlost State Historic Site, constructed the tower, attaching it to a barn at the end of W. Shackley St., a couple blocks away from the Limberlost cabin and visitor center (200 6th St. in Geneva).

To learn more about the saga of this Chimney Swift tower, see page 3 of our March-May 2021 Cooper’s Talk newsletter.

Because of old growth forest loss and and the capping or destruction of chimneys, artificial towers can provide Chimney Swifts with much-needed nesting and roosting habitat. If you’d like to learn how to build and erect a Chimney Swift tower on your own property, visit www.chimneyswitfts.org.