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Governor expands conservation efforts with new game bird habitat area

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Gov. Mitch Daniels said this week that 1,250 acres at a former state prison farm in Porter County is being transferred to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish the state’s largest public game bird habitat area.

The land, valued at more than $5 million, was scheduled for surplus at public auction in January but the governor ordered it removed from the auction list and set aside for conservation, noting the size and uniqueness of the property.

It will become the largest public property in the state dedicated to game bird habitat, ahead of the 825-acre Pine Creek Game Bird Habitat Area in Benton County.

“The acreage of wetlands and waterways we’ve protected has broken all records and won Indiana national recognition,” said Daniels. “But this is our first big opportunity to expand our upland game preserves and to bring our large-scale conservation program to Northwest Indiana.”

The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife will manage the property with an emphasis on restoration of grassland habitat that benefits game bird species such as pheasant and quail. Approximately 100 acres will be made available for contract farming, with the revenue being used to fund habitat restoration efforts on the remaining acreage.

The transfer marks the second time in just over a year that Daniels has transferred land from the Department of Correction to the DNR. In September 2010, DNR acquired almost 2,000 acres of surplus ground from the former farm operation at Putnamville Correctional Facility in Putnam County, now known as Deer Creek Fish & Wildlife Area.

It also comes on the heels of acquisitions such as Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area near Linton (8,000 acres), Wabashiki Fish & Wildlife Area near Terre Haute (2,600 acres), and the largest conservation project in state history, the Governor’s Healthy Rivers Initiative, which targets nearly 70,000 acres along the Wabash and Muscatatuck rivers and Sugar Creek.

The new DNR property will serve one of Indiana’s largest population centers and fills a void in public land opportunities in Northwest Indiana for hunting and fishing. The land is located on the eastern border of Porter County, between Interstates 90 and 94.

“The Porter County site is an important addition to our public lands program and will provide much-needed recreational opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen in northwest Indiana as well as for all Hoosiers,” DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. said.

Indiana has recently received national recognition for making land conservation and preservation a top priority. Earlier this year, Ducks Unlimited, a national conservation organization, presented Daniels its 2011 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award for his long-term contributions to wetlands and waterfowl conservation. He is only the second governor to receive the award.

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