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Indiana Michigan Power modified consent decree will provide $500,000 for conservation of natural areas in Indiana

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 6:59 am

A modified consent decree involving Indiana Michigan Power will provide $500,000 for purchase of land in Indiana to preserve wildlife habitat and to provide additional recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, the Indiana Wildlife Federation announced Thursday.

The funds provided by I & M are part of a legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eight states and 13 citizen groups, the news release said. The settlement included an agreement by I & M to invest $2.5 million to improve air quality in Indiana through various projects.

The $500,000 will go to the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation (INRF), which will administer distribution of the money, the news release said. How the money is used will be coordinated by an oversight committee including representatives from the Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Environmental Council and Indiana Wildlife Federation.

The Sierra Club will be non-voting member of the committee, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center will serve as non-voting legal adviser and facilitator, the news release said.

“We're working with a lot of folks to leverage these settlement dollars with other sources of funding to purchase strategic properties which will increase wildlife habitat in permanently protected areas, and will be available to public access,” Barbara Simpson, Indiana Wildlife Federation executive director, said in the news release.

Land the committee currently plans to purchase with the I&M funds includes:

•Two pieces of land totaling 287 acres in the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area that will be open to hunting, fishing, hiking, photography and wildlife viewing. The refuge is located about 30 miles north of Evansville in southwest Indiana.

•A 343-acre parcel that would be an addition to the Sugar Creek Healthy Rivers INitiative, which is working to protect more than 43,000 acres along the Wabash River and Sugar Creek, and more than 26,000 acres along the Muscatatuck River bottomlands.

In addition to conserving wildlife habitat, land in the Healthy Rivers INitiative area provides opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, canoeing, photography, hiking and other activities.

•A 178-acre piece of land that will be part of the recently announced Bicentennial Legacy Conservation Area, an effort to protect valuable natural and outdoor recreational areas in preparation for the celebration in 2016 of the 200th anniversary of Indiana becoming a state.

The Bicentennial Legacy Conservation Area extends from near Centerville, just west of Richmond, south about 15 miles to Brookville Reservoir. The area will be created through an alliance of public and private landowners and will offer recreational opportunities such as bird watching, photography, hiking and fishing.