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Fort Wayne-area’s ACRES Land Trust adds 193 acres in Cedar Creek watershed with appraised value of $3 million

This photo shows some of the land ACRES Land Trust of Huntertown recently acquired in the Cedar Creek watershed. ACRES acquired a combined total of 193 acres of mostly farmland, which borders existing nature preserves. (Courtesy of ACRES Land Trust)

Locally based ACRES Land Trust reached two milestones with recent property acquisitions — protecting more than 1,000 acres in the Cedar Creek watershed and more than 7,000 acres throughout northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan.

The land acquisitions, which total a combined 193 acres, took place over the past two years or so and include three land purchases and one land donation, said Lettie Haver, outreach manager for ACRES, which has its offices in rural Huntertown along Cedar Creek. The acquired properties have a combined appraised value of $3 million and are adjacent to existing nature preserves.

Cedar Creek flows 20 miles from Auburn to Leo-Cedarville, where it empties into the St. Joseph River. The winding waterway is one of only three rivers in Indiana to earn a designation under the state Natural, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.

ACRES used a $1 million matching grant from the state’s Bicentennial Nature Trust program to help make the property acquisitions, an ACRES news release about the acquisitions said. ACRES still needs to raise $96,966 to complete its match for acquiring the new Cedar Creek land.

The matching grant was available for landscape-based conservation projects, the news release said. Large, landscape-based conservation projects provide better protection for land, plants and animals, including those that are rare or whose survival is threatened.

Most of the newly acquired land previously has been farmed, and ACRES plans to continue that use for a few years to generate income to protect and manage its nature preserves, the news release said. ACRES then plans to plant the farmland in native hardwood trees and shrubs to expand the forest corridor in the Cedar Creek watershed.

ACRES has been working to preserve land in the Cedar Creek corridor since the 1970s. ACRES said key features of the area include:

• Cedar Creek’s tunnel valley — a sudden, deep canyon cut by glacial meltwater into the flat land around it — is so unusual in this area the corridor was considered as a potential Indiana state park site in the early 1900s.

• The land bordering the creek contains plant populations unique in this area, including yellow lady’s-slipper orchid, gray beardtongue, tall meadow rue, and Allen County’s only documented populations of painted cup (Indian paintbrush) and yellow puccoon.

• The Cedar Creek watershed provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including bobcats, mink, river otters, freshwater mussels, and birds such as pileated woodpeckers, bald eagles, great blue herons, green herons and yellow-crowned night herons.

In addition to the matching grant from the state’s Bicentennial Nature Trust, the acquisition of the four new properties was made possible through funds from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a steep discount on the price of one property and the 84-acre land donation by Joan Garman of Leo-Cedarville in honor of her late husband’s family, the news release said.

The Cairn Foundation, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, ME Raker Foundation, and many individual donors also provided additional funding to help ACRES acquire the land.

ACRES now protects a total of 32 properties in the Cedar Creek watershed and 7,047 acres in the tri-state area, the news release said.

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For more about ACRES Land Trust, go to acreslandtrust.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/ACRES.LT.

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