KPC News Service

ACRES Land Trust has reached a significant community milestone in its preservation efforts in the region.

The nonprofit organization’s members and donors have helped protect 7,000 acres. The acquisition pace is increasing, said a news release from ACRES. In the last 14 years, ACRES acquired the same amount of land as it did in the first 44 years.

“Over the past 14 years, ACRES has doubled in size in nearly all categories: land owned, staff, endowment and financial support,” said Jason Kissel, Executive Director of ACRES Land Trust. “That’s impressive.”

The 84-acre Dorothy and Ray Garman Nature Preserve in the Cedar Creek Corridor, recently donated to ACRES Land Trust by Joan Garman of Leo-Cedarville, helped the nonprofit reach a milestone of 7,000 acres permanently protected.

In the last three years, with donor support, the nonprofit has acquired 1,282 acres on 17 new properties and 10 expansions to existing properties. They include natural areas in the four-county area.

DeKalb County:

• 93-acre working, sustainable tree farm — Claxton Woods, donated by Bill Claxton

• 84-acre expansion of the James and Patricia Barrett Oak Hill Nature Preserve in the Cedar Creek Corridor

LaGrange County:

• 126-acre rare quaking bog — Quog Lake

• 102-acre rare marl flat — Grass Lake

Noble County:

• 24-acre woodland and lake — Little Lake Nature Preserve

Steuben County:

• 24-acre forested wetland near Hamilton — Koch Forest

• 84-acre lake, fen and esker ridge, donated by U.S. Federal Judge William Lee — Lee Family Perfect Lake Nature Preserve

Claxton Woods is ACRES’ first working sustainable tree farm, located near Spencerville.

Quog Lake is a rare quaking bog near LaGrange. A quaking bog is formed over water or soft mud that shakes underfoot.

Other preserves across Indiana have sprung up as well as multiple preserves and expansions to existing preserves within the Cedar Creek Corridor from Auburn to Leo-Cedarville.

While celebrating this success, ACRES has embarked on creating a new strategic plan that will allow the organization to focus on determining the best way to sustain this tremendous growth and to increase investment in managing land in its ever-growing portfolio. While continuing to acquire more land and care for the land ACRES owns, the staff and board of directors will perform an extensive self-evaluation of the organization, seeking input from its members, partners, community leaders, and the public on the need and interest in supporting preserving natural and working lands in the region.

The new strategic plan will also call for the creation of acquisition plans for large conservation areas, a new Preserve Guide Portfolio publication highlighting more aspects of the group’s work in preservation, and plans to increase participation in ACRES’ through membership, volunteerism, and financial support. This plan to evaluate ACRES’ service to the community, effective 2018-19, precedes the organizations 60th anniversary celebration in 2020.

“This evaluation will not focus on what we do,” Kissel said. “That’s set and won’t ever change: ACRES exists to protect land. What will be under scrutiny is how we protect land. We’ll be asking big questions, such as: Is the organizational governance structure from 1960 still the most effective? Does our service area need adjusting? Should we consider regional offices? What do members want more of? Less of? Do our acquisition criteria need to be revised? We will review all aspects of our organization.”

ACRES members protect 7,047 of local natural and working land in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, forever. Guests can explore more than 70 miles of trails, take photographs, enjoy family time, get outdoors, plan a field trip, get fit, reflect on nature’s beauty or share an adventure, for free from dawn to dusk at nearby preserves.

For details, go to acreslandtrust.org/preserves. Connect with ACRES Land Trust at 637-2273, acreslandtrust.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/ACRES.LT.

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