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Nature Conservancy acquires forestland at Kimball auction

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By The Staff

FRENCH LICK – Kimball International began divesting its forest assets in Indiana and Kentucky earlier this month, offering approximately 27,000 acres in 224 tracts at public auction. The Nature Conservancy attended the auction and after two days of bidding, walked away with four tracts in southern Indiana totaling over 600 acres.

“This was an exciting opportunity that we just could not pass up,” said Joe Tutterrow, director of land protection for the Conservancy's Indiana Chapter. “In two days we were able secure additional protection for three of the conservancy's priority sites in Indiana.”

In an official release from Kimball International, John Kahle, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, said, “We are delighted that so many parcels were obtained by smaller bidders and individuals for personal use and recreation, as we had intended and hoped. And we are particularly pleased that tracts were purchased by The Nature Conservancy and the state of Kentucky. We know those properties will be preserved, managed and maintained for the enjoyment of many generations to come.”

An 18-acre tract in Martin County is mostly forested and is adjacent to the Bluffs of Beaver Bend Nature Preserve, a peninsula of land containing over a mile of river frontage along the White River with a diversity of undisturbed and old-growth forest types. The steep, colorful sandstone cliffs in the preserve provide a variety of habitats for plants and animals alike, most notably lobed spleenwort and walking fern. Many warblers use the site during migration. Downy and red-bellied woodpeckers are common.

A tract 200 acres in size in Harrison County tract lies within a 2-mile radius of three conservancy preserves in southern Harrison County: Mosquito Creek, Rabbit Hash Glade and Teeple Glade. The Kimball tract supports similar community types found at all three preserves, ridgetop limestone glades interconnected with forest amongst steep ridges and ravines. It provides habitat for one or more forest interior breeding birds such as the wood thrush, worm-eating warbler and hooded warbler.

The two Orange County tracts totaling approximately 395 acres are both mostly forested and will provide buffer to the unique and threatened Lost River community so dependent on high water quality. On the surface, the Lost River Conservation Area is an unassuming grassland area. Below the surface, this area is a vast subterranean cave complex containing a host of biologically diverse cave-dwelling species. This subterranean conservation area is part of the third longest cave system in Indiana known as the Lost River and has been identified by the United States Forest Service as a priority area for protection.

The Lost River actually meanders through one of the recently purchased tracts. Tracts will be transferred to the United States Forest Service in the future to be part of the Hoosier National Forest.

For more information on The Nature Conservancy, visit www.nature.org/indiana.