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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Time, money invested in helping ACRES preserve our land are well spent

The mission of the local nonprofit ACRES Land Trust is to help protect land in the tri-state area forever. And its announcement this month that it has planted 55,000 native hardwood saplings on three of its regional nature preserves is proof that the donations given to this great organization are helping support that goal.

Indiana’s oldest and largest local nonprofit land trust says it reforested 106 acres of marginal farmland this spring, including sites near Huntertown and Auburn, setting a new pace in its land management. It planted trees on 9 acres of the James M. & Patricia D. Barrett Nature Preserve near Huntertown, 17 acres of the James P. Covell Nature Preserve south of Auburn, and 80 acres of the Walter H. and E. Marie Myers Nature Preserve on Flowers Creek near Chili.

“This is the most we’ve planted in a single year with our largest single-site planting, too,” said Casey Jones, director of land management for the organization’s 7,094 permanently protected acres. “As ACRES continues to acquire new land, our restoration work has rapidly become more efficient to meet our growing demand.”

ACRES says it has reforested 165 acres since 2016, according to a news release, planting nearly 100,000 trees on six preserves during a period of extensive growth in the organization’s work to restore and manage land.

“By hiring new field staff and purchasing heavy equipment, we have more time to plan our approach, coordinate efforts and prepare sites,” Jones said in the news release. “Plus, we can do simple things like pick up our own trees because we have a new trailer. When the weather cooperates and our forestry contractor shows up, we’re ready to plant.”

The key to its increased pace in restoration, ACRES maintains, is planning, donor investment and volunteer support. Donor support made it possible for ACRES to purchase a larger capacity truck and trailer to pick up tree saplings, which made it easier and faster to implement their spring planting projects.

ACRES said that to effectively manage its nearly 7,100 acres, its land management team prioritizes key project areas.

In DeKalb and Allen counties, for example, it planted trees within its Cedar Creek Corridor priority project area south of Auburn and near Huntertown. In 1976, ACRES helped Cedar Creek earn its designation as one of only three rivers in Indiana’s Natural, Scenic and Recreational River System under the 1973 Act of the same name.

Another example of a priority project is the 157-acre Walter H. and E. Marie Myers Nature Preserve on Flowers Creek in Miami County. Before reforesting 80 acres of the preserve’s farmland, ACRES had to deal with non-native invasive Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Environmental Quality Incentives Program. At the same time, volunteers hauled thousands of disposed tires from the preserve.

The point is, it takes money and volunteers to protect natural places and working lands being preserved in Northeast Indiana and the more than 70 miles of trails open every day dawn to dusk and free of charge.

And we think ACRES is worth both the time and money of the people of Northeast Indiana who can benefit from the beauty of the more than 50 nature preserves all around us.

To help support ACRES, people may become members, volunteer to work in the field and make donations. Contact ACRES’ home office at 1802 Chapman Road, P.O. Box 665, Huntertown, IN, 46748, or by phone (260) 637-2273, or email, acres@acreslandtrust.org

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