Photo by Paul Rothrock

The Little Things That Run the World

By Lee Casebere

The well-known scientist E.O. Wilson wrote in 2006, “More respect is due the little things that run the world.” I want to further explore why it matters that many species of plants and animals around the world are disappearing due to human actions.  Continue reading

Lee Casebere

Guest Blogger

Lee Casebere, a longtime CILTI supporter, is a naturalist, ecologist, and nature photographer. He is the retired assistant director of Indiana DNR’s Division of Nature Preserves.
A Tree ID hike at Oliver's Woods led by volunteer White River Docents

Join our White River Docent Team

Have you ever attended one of CILTI’s guided hikes and thought that you might enjoy leading a hike yourself? Have you been inspired by a guided hike or program that you’ve participated in? You could join our White River Docent team!

Continue reading

Grace van Kan

White River Steward

Grace grew up roaming the woods, creeks and wetlands around the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From an early trout-raising project to a “gap year” spent restoring coral reefs in Thailand, her interest in aquatic conservation has only grown. Now she cares for several riverine nature preserves as CILTI’s White River Steward.
Mossy Point, by Emily Persic

Help secure a historic match!

Exciting news: Our generous partners at Efroymson Family Fund have presented us with our biggest ever year-end challenge. Every gift up to $250,000 will be generously matched by the family! Donations must be made by December 31, 2023 to count toward this match. Continue reading

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
Grace removing invasive honeysuckle at White River Bluffs

“Is It Invasive?”

“Should I get rid of it?”

“What’s the best way to eradicate it?”

“What should I put there instead?”

Our stewardship team gets a lot of great questions about invasive species! Continue reading

Grace van Kan

White River Steward

Grace grew up roaming the woods, creeks and wetlands around the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From an early trout-raising project to a “gap year” spent restoring coral reefs in Thailand, her interest in aquatic conservation has only grown. Now she cares for several riverine nature preserves as CILTI’s White River Steward.
Hoosier National Forest photo, public domain

Formation of Hoosier National Forest

Guest blogger Ed Pope contributed this historic overview of the Hoosier National Forest’s formation.

Even in the earliest years of the American republic, there were those who were concerned about the future of our forests. This was mostly for practical, rather than environmental reasons. At the time, wood was the most common building material, used in everything from homes to ships. Continue reading

Ed Pope

Guest Blogger

Ed Pope is a retired engineer from Rolls-Royce and a CILTI member since 2002.
Trout lily sample

Growing our Library of Botanical Knowledge

Clear scientific data is crucial in restoring and protecting land—especially data about a site’s plant life.  Just as E. Lucy Braun collected and pressed plants in her botanical studies, our field team collects specimens to document plant communities.

Continue reading

Grace van Kan

White River Steward

Grace grew up roaming the woods, creeks and wetlands around the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From an early trout-raising project to a “gap year” spent restoring coral reefs in Thailand, her interest in aquatic conservation has only grown. Now she cares for several riverine nature preserves as CILTI’s White River Steward.
Using a plant identification book

April is Citizen Science Month

You probably already know that April is Earth Month and National Native Plant Month, but did you know that April is also Citizen Science Month*?

Citizen science is when members of the general public help conduct scientific research. It involves real people reporting observations and collecting real data that matters to them.

Continue reading

Grace van Kan

White River Steward

Grace grew up roaming the woods, creeks and wetlands around the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From an early trout-raising project to a “gap year” spent restoring coral reefs in Thailand, her interest in aquatic conservation has only grown. Now she cares for several riverine nature preserves as CILTI’s White River Steward.
Boardwalk at Burnett Woods

ARPA Funds Support Burnett Woods Improvements

We recently received a $12,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program to be used for nature preserve improvements. We plan to use the funds for Burnett Woods, an 80-acre wooded nature preserve in Avon. This state-dedicated nature preserve is well-loved for its seasonal wildflowers and fall colors, with one of our most highly visited trails.

The Hendricks County Community Foundation (HCCF) partnered with the Hendricks County Commissioners and Council to develop a grant program to distribute up to $6.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to nonprofits working in Hendricks County.

ARPA is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill enacted to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession. The funding Hendricks County received is part of the $350 billion to help state, local, and tribal governments bridge budget shortfalls and mitigate the fiscal shock of the pandemic.

William A. Rhodehamel, President & CEO of Hendricks County Community Foundation, notes that COVID-19’s impacts go far beyond the immediate concerns of infection rates and job loss. “With the pandemic, we see more and more community members getting out in nature to support their mental and physical health. Increasing the accessibility and awareness of this preserve will have a positive public health impact. HCCF has long supported CILTI and Burnett Woods. The preserve is a lovely place to visit and a wonderful resource for our whole community, and we are happy to support this project, which will bring even more visitors to the preserve.”

Look for improved signage and infrastructure such as additional boardwalks, bike racks, and a kiosk in 2023, thanks to this grant award.

This funding recognized the role our organization played in serving the needs of our community during the COVID outbreak. We are grateful for the efforts of the Hendricks County Commissioners, Council, and Community Foundation to make this funding possible.

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.
Big Walnut Creek

One Year at Big Walnut, a National Natural Landmark

In this 60th anniversary year of the National Natural Landmarks program, we asked our staff to share their favorite NNLs for the winter newsmagazine. Our Development Systems Manager, David, offered this reflection after one year as preserve monitor at Big Walnut. 

I have enjoyed getting to know Big Walnut natural area over the course of a year by volunteering with The Nature Conservancy as a preserve monitor. Through my monthly visits, I get to see this property throughout the seasons—a privilege that reveals things I wouldn’t learn in just one visit.

Big Walnut is a 2,458-acre natural area which encompasses two preserves and several trails. Co-managed by The Nature Conservancy and Indiana DNR, Big Walnut was registered as a Natural National Landmark in 1968.

Here are some of my favorite observations from one year at Big Walnut:

Winter: I took my first hike on the Tall Timbers Trail in December 2021 with TNC’s volunteer coordinator, Esmé. She walked me through the volunteer role and encouraged me to take pictures and report back.

In January I took a hike on the Hall Woods nature trail and encountered deep green ferns coming through the light dusting of snow. The banks of Big Walnut Creek had a thin layer of ice.

In February I returned to the Tall Timbers trail, this time with more snow on the ground. I spooked several deer as started down the trail and I watched them take off through the deep ravines. Wildlife tracks were everywhere in the snow! A better naturalist than myself would have been able to identify which forest creatures had come through, but it was amazing to me to see just how many creatures call this place home. As I continued down the trail, I came to a low creek bottom area, through which several tiny creeks flow as they make their way to Big Walnut Creek. Seeing these tiny creeks flow under the ice and snow was a treat.

Spring: In March I returned to the Tall Timbers Trail where a trail re-route had just been completed, adding a more scenic start to the trail. The air still had a chill and the trees were still bare, but new green shoots were beginning to emerge through the forest floor. Down the creek bottom area of the trail, Virginia bluebells and wild leeks were sneaking up through the leaves.

In April I made my way back to help with a garlic mustard pull on the Tall Timbers Trail. Thankfully we found only a little garlic mustard thanks to the diligent work of TNC stewardship staff and previous volunteers. What we did find were many different wonderful wildflowers blooming: trout lilies, squirrel corn, trillium and many others. After this volunteer day I walked a newer trail that weaves in and out of an area where TNC has planted many trees. It was encouraging to see this new forest taking shape.

In late May I returned to Hall Woods. So much had changed during the month of May. The trees were full, new flowers bloomed, and turkeys strutted around the cornfield neighboring the preserve. My favorite observation was the many beautiful tulip poplar blooms littering the forest floor.

Summer: I returned in late June after having taken a short vacation out west. While the natural areas out west were spectacular, I was happy to return home and visit Big Walnut, where the greens of the forest were deep and vibrant, and life was everywhere. I encountered a few raccoons heading back to their little hole in a downed tree as I hit the trail. The path was damp from recent rain, and the fungi were out in force, including a beautiful orange chicken of the woods mushroom (which even though many enjoy eating was left in place for others to see, because it’s a nature preserve!).

In July, I continued appreciating the forest full of life. I returned to one of the newer trails that passed through some open areas where there were many coneflowers and quite a few milkweed plants.

In August, I spotted a few pollinators visiting the many flowers and enjoyed watching the low flow of the creek trickle over the rocks.

Fall: In September when I visited the Tall Timbers trail, the air had started to cool and the creek ran very low. The leaves were still very green and a few of the summer flowers were still in bloom. I found several bumblebees.

By October, the Tall Timbers trail had changed again, with leaves transformed into all shades of orange, red, and earthy browns. Leaves floated on top of the small streams, at times making it challenging to find solid ground. I again saw several deer, which I hadn’t seen since winter.

In November, as I walked the trail, the forest had returned to a very similar state as it had been a year ago. I reflected on the year that had passed at Big Walnut. What a gift to experience all four seasons in such a special place.

I hope you find time to experience the wonderful treasures available in Indiana’s many nature preserves and National Natural Landmarks—not just in spring or summer, but throughout the year. Each season offers new and wonderful things in these amazing landscapes.

David Barickman

Development Systems Manager

Born and raised in Central Illinois, David spent many days as a child wandering around the river, forest and lakes there. He works behind the scenes as a key member of our fundraising team. When not working, David loves to be outdoors hiking, fly fishing, kayaking or woodworking.

David Franklin

Board Member

Bison at Kankakee Sands

CILTI Founder Earns Prestigious Award

Ellen Jacquart started a career in conservation with no roadmap. While she was following her interests in higher academia, she never could have imagined that one day she would have founded a land trust, managed stewardship for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana, or worked successfully to ban the sale and trade of invasive plants. Continue reading

Shawndra Miller

Communications Manager

Shawndra is in charge of sharing our story and connecting you to our work. Through our print and online materials, she hopes to inspire your participation in protecting special places for future generations.