INDOT gifting biodiverse 10-acre property to Central Indiana Land Trust

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Founders Fen in southeastern Hancock County harbors myriad native plant species. (Photo courtesy of Central Indiana Land Trust Inc.)

The Indiana Department of Transportation has agreed to give a nearly 10-acre piece of ecologically diverse property in Hancock County to an Indianapolis-based not-for-profit organization focused on preservation.

The piece of land in Blue River Township, known as Founders Fen, is set to be transferred by the state to Central Indiana Land Trust Inc. in coming weeks, according to the not-for-profit. The no-cost transfer will allow the site and its biodiverse habitat to be protected by the organization.

This is a unique opportunity to preserve a place that offers rich biodiversity and also provides tangible benefits,” Cliff Chapman, CEO of the Central Indiana Land Trust, said in a media release.

A fen is typically a low-lying and marshy area with groundwater flowing at or just under the surface. The running groundwater results in a buildup of calcium and creates peat, a layer of soil that accumulates from an excess of water paired with high acidity and the depletion of nutrients and oxygen.

Fens also are often carbon sinks, meaning the area absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases.

“In addition to helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere, fens help to control flooding and filter groundwater that ends up in our drinking water,” Chapman said.

INDOT has offered the property to interested parties as a non-marketable mitigation site, meaning there are deed restrictions in place that bar development activity in order to protect the site and mandate that it be offered to preservation and land management groups.

The state accepted the land trust’s ownership proposal earlier this month. The organization is negotiating with the owner of adjacent land to purchase additional property so it can protect the fen more completely.

Founders Fen is home to numerous indigenous and rare plants, including the state-endangered Canadian burnet along with the Indian plantain, queen of the prairie and the white turtlehead. The 9.8-acre area was visited twice in 2021 by state botanist to inventory plants.

The space will not be open to the public in order to ensure the plants and wildlife are protected, the Land Trust said.

Founders Fen is home to numerous indigenous and rare plants, including the state-endangered Canadian burnet along with the Indian plantain, queen of the prairie and the white turtlehead. The area was visited twice in 2021 by the state’s botanist to inventory plants.

The Central Indiana Land Trust was established in 1990 and has protected more than 7,600 acres of land. The group’s holdings span from as far north as Fishers to as far south as Trafalgar, and as far west as Rockville to as far east as Shelbyville.

The acquisition of Founders Fen marks the second site in Hancock County to be overseen by the Land Trust, joining the publicly accessible, 31-acre Jacob Schramm Nature Preserve in New Palestine.

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