State’s only dedicated nature preserve in Hendricks County will host guided tour on Saturday

Saturday’s sunny forecast means it’s the perfect day to check out the state’s only dedicated nature preserve in Hendricks County.

While Burnett Woods in Avon is open to the public year-round, its only guided interpretive tour of the year is this weekend. The 90-minute tour begins at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at 8264 County Road 100, Avon.

Burnett Woods is a dedicated Indiana State Nature Preserve protected by the Central Indiana Land Trust, said conservation director Cliff Chapman. It’s the first property purchased by the Land Trust, in 1998, and among 18 nature preserves owned and protected by the Land Trust. Fourteen of the properties are open to public with another three opening by the end of the year.

Burnett Woods is also cool because of its location. The 68-acre woods is in an area of high development of eastern Hendricks County.

Chapman described Burnett Woods as “breathtaking in the spring, birdy in the summer, colorful in the fall, and — with so many spring wildflowers that already have leaves up, making the forest floor as much green as brown — promising in the winter.”

Chapman said during this weekend’s hike, he’ll focus on these things:

• Owl breeding season, which is going on right now. Barred owls are nesting on the property.

• Winter survival for mice, how they interact with plants, and their reproduction.

• What are tip-up mounds, and why they are important for animals like salamanders.

• Wetlands and their value.

• How to identify trees in the winter.

We asked Chapman to talk about the property and here’s what he said:

Q: What’s special about the property?

A: Burnett Woods is one of the best examples anywhere in Central Indiana of a flatwoods plant community. “This type of forest was once the most common type found in Indiana, but is almost entirely gone, as it made for really good farmland.”

Q: What does Burnett Woods offer the community?

A: Burnett Woods has a loop trail that’s open to the public. There are also many wetlands. And it allows people to see what once was such a common part of our landscape, a flat woods full of a wide range of tree, plant, bird and other species.

Q: When is Burnett Woods open to the public?

A: The site is open year round from dawn to dusk. We ask that people not visit on Sunday mornings as we park in the neighboring church parking lot and want to respect their needs.

Q: The property has many wetland areas. What’s the advantage?

A: These wetlands hold water after big rain storms and allow the water to slowly infiltrate and charge the groundwater system. This reduces flooding for the nearby area.

Q: What does it mean to belong to be a Land Trust?

A: The property was protected and is managed by the Central Indiana Land Trust, so it offers a great natural area to explore that is not paid for or maintained by tax dollars, but rather the members of the Trust.

Q: How many times a year does the Land Trust conduct guided tours of its properties?

A: We offer several tours at various nature preserves around Central Indiana. This is our second hike. Visit to learn about more tours.

Featured in the Indy Star on February 22nd. To read the complete article visit:

Call Star reporter Betsy Reason at (317) 444-6049.

Rising Star: Cliff Chapman cares about protecting nature

Rising Star: Cliff Chapman cares about protecting nature

Geology wasn’t Cliff Chapman’s first choice as a college major. He only knew he wanted a career that would let him help the environment.

Chapman found that career by taking a biogeography class taught by Professor Tim Brothers at Indiana University.

“We studied the distributions of plants and animals. Learned the niches of why animals live in some areas, but not others,” Chapman said. “It was all fascinating for me to think about.”

When Chapman told people he wanted to focus his career on conservation, many doubted him. Some told him to pursue a career in toxic cleanup.

“I wasn’t concerned with how much money I could make — just helping the environment, making this a better place to live,” he said.

Chapman was named conservation director at the Central Indiana Land Trust in 2008, where he works on land-protection projects. He was instrumental in the Land Trust’s $1 million purchase of land along the Muscatatuck River, which is inhabited by an endangered species, the Kirtland snake.

Prior to joining the Land Trust, Chapman had worked for The Nature Conservatory in Olympia, Wash., and at the Indiana State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Nature Preserves.

How did you manage to stand out in a crowd and advance quickly in your career?

Ever since I started out of college, I’ve never been concerned with my career or career advancement. I’ve always worked with government or nonprofits. I’ve concerned myself with fulfilling my employer’s mission. Any consequences from my career would be a part of that.

I feel like that has helped me advance my career more than anything else.

What was your first job experience? How did it affect your future?

Mr. D’s food market on the Southside. It was huge working in the grocery stores. I worked my way up to management. It was ever bit as important to me in my career as what I learned in college.

What I learned there is how to work with people — how to read people in different situations.

What’s the toughest mistake you ever made and what did you learn from it?

When I worked for the Division of Natural Resources, we were trying to find partners to support some projects, financially or otherwise.

A mistake I made in that process was that I took a relationship with a colleague, who was also a friend, for granted. I missed an appointment with him so I could meet with an outside group who wanted to partner with us. I put the project in front of my friendship with a co-worker. That was a mistake. If I could do it over again, I would.

How important is it to have a mentor? Did anyone in particular help you advance in your career?

It’s critical to have someone to look up to and ask questions. If you want to work up to the next level, it’s critical to ask questions.

When I think of mentors in my career, I think of John Bacone — director of the division of nature preserves. He is someone who is good at working with people and developing relationships. He sees the big pictures and doesn’t get upset about little things.

Another mentor was Ellen Jacquart of the Nature Conservancy. She is someone who I have tremendous respect for and the way she handles challenging situations.

What advice would you give to other young people trying to get started in conservation?

Remember it’s not about you, but about the mission. To be able to get into conservation, you have to be sacrificial to get the experience.

After seven years of college, I made just over minimum wage, but I learned an incredible amount.

Featured in the Indy Star on December 30th, 2012.  To read the complete article visit:

Call Star reporter Jill Phillips at (317) 444-6246.

Land trust strategy goes national

Degrees in geology and careers at a six-employee conservation group would seem like far-fetched ways for Heather Bacher and Cliff Chapman to garner national attention.

But a guidebook their organization put together is generating buzz among peers as far away as Alaska and even is working its way into college lesson plans.

Wild hyacinths grow at Indianapolis’ Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve, owned by the Central Indiana Land Trust.(Photo courtesy of Central Indiana Land Trust)

“At conferences, it’s like she’s a rock star,” Chapman said with a grin as he tipped his head in Bacher’s direction.

The duo work for the Central Indiana Land Trust, a not-for-profit that operates on less than $400,000 a year from the third floor of a turn-of-the-century house at 1500 N. Delaware St.

Bacher, the executive director, started working for the land trust in 2003 as the sole employee.

At the time, the group worked “reactively.”

“The phone would ring and somebody would have a piece of property that they might be interested in protecting,” she said.

“But as our organization grew and matured, we knew that, to better serve the central Indiana region and our mission, we needed to be more thoughtful and proactive and strategic in what we did.”

In 2007, Bacher pitched an idea to her board: Reel in money and develop a strategy that would take a more forward-looking approach to conservation.

She told her board the land trust would continue its original mission of acquiring land and protecting wildlife in central Indiana to guard against future development. As of today, 4,000 acres are under the trust’s protection.

But she wanted to be more aggressive about spreading environmentalism, prodding others to pursue conservation projects the trust can’t handle on its own.

“We are going to manage land that we value and the community values,” she said. “And also, working as a community institution, we will bring our expertise to the rest of the people in this region who affect land use and have a stake and love and care about the land that we do.”

Six donors chipped in $50,000, and an additional $80,000 from a Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust grant kick-started the project. The organization got a second, $200,000 grant in 2011 from the Pulliam trust to keep the project going.

Bacher in early 2008 hired Chapman as conservation director, and the two of them recruited Indianapolis architect Chris Boardman from Ratio Architects to guide the project as a volunteer.

By 2009, the trust released “Greening the Crossroads.”

The 60-page strategy identifies more than 300,000 acres that have conservation potential throughout the 3.1 million acres in Marion County and its eight surrounding counties.

The map highlighting those areas includes many waterways, nearly all of them privately owned, as well as a mass of undeveloped land in Morgan and Johnson counties.

The scope of the plan—covering farmland, wetlands, forests, waterways and cityscapes—is broader than that of similar organizations around the country, said Erin Heskett, national services director for the Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance.

“What’s cool about the ‘Crossroads’ project [is], it created a vision where there was no vision,” Heskett said.

A separate, 30-page report details how the trust worked with scientists, planners, government officers and other experts to identify the 300,000 acres.

That information helped Kim Sollien of the Great Land Trust in Palmer, Alaska, more than the Indianapolis group’s actual strategy.

Sollien, a project manager for the land trust in southern Alaska, was charged with developing a conservation plan for Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where Palmer is the seat.

“I quickly got on the Internet to figure out who else in the country is doing this,” she said. “It was incredibly helpful to me to read about their process in terms of working with different stakeholder groups to identify these resources. It really helped me paint the picture of what we could do here.”

A third, 30-page report explains how community groups can carry out a gamut of conservation and restoration work.

Land trust representatives travel community to community to present their reports to residents as a way to ignite conversations that might spur them to start their own projects.

It was that kind of community visit that persuaded Tom Johnson and his wife to sell to the trust 109 acres that they owned next to Lamb Lake in southwestern Johnson County.

His father-in-law, Russell Lamb, built the body of water after buying the property and the surrounding land. Johnson, his wife and his brother-in-law had known for years they wanted to keep nature intact, but lacked the financial resources to do so.

In 2008, just months before inheriting the land, Johnson met Chapman and learned about “Greening the Crossroads” and about his property’s wildlife.

Chapman visited the wooded site, which is in the town of Trafalgar. He won over Johnson after he started to play recordings of birds.

“He was able to bring in a couple types of warblers that hadn’t been seen in the state in years,” Johnson said. “That to me, helped seal the deal, that we could preserve that.”

Confident in the land trust’s ability to protect the land, the Johnsons sold the lakefront, wooded property to the organization for $4,000 an acre, well below the assessed value. The trust then set up a nature preserve.

While the land trust will set up preserves on land it owns, as it did in Johnson County, the organization typically doesn’t do the actual conservation work, such as cleaning up waterways. Most of the land “Greening the Crossroads” identifies is privately owned.

In their most hands-on roles, employees serve on committees and advise government offices, private businesses and landowners.

The trust will offer its input on matters as basic as rezoning so that ecology is being considered in local infrastructure projects.

Ashlee Mras, a project manager in Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability, said the city started thinking greener in 2008 or 2009—coincidentally, around the same time “Greening the Crossroads” published—about environmentally friendly approaches in lieu of traditional, “gray infrastructure,” such as roads and storm drains.

The city office is one of several that has consulted “Greening the Crossroads” for projects like the Reconnecting to Our Waterways initiative to improve the city’s creeks and rivers.

Mras, the city’s liaison for the project, said the initiative decided to remove invasive plants from along Fall Creek, under the land trust’s advisement. That will allow the natural flora to grow there, filtering the water and lowering pollution.

The ability of “Greening the Crossroads” to connect a private land trust with government offices in order to accomplish region-wide goals caught Aaron Thompson’s attention at the University of Wisconsin’s Stevens Point campus.

Thompson, an assistant professor of natural resource planning, learned about the plan when he was working on his doctorate at Purdue University.

The guidelines—with their regional scope and deep community involvement—impressed him enough that he now uses the plan for a unit in his classes.

“I think the nine-county, regional focus was a big part of what’s been successful,” he said. “Planning is usually done at the county or city—municipality—levels.”

Article by: Dan Human. Featured in the IBJ on December 22, 2012. To view the complete article online visit:


Gift allows Land Trust to protect 109 Johnson County acres

Gift allows Land Trust to protect 109 Johnson County acres

Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow will be open for the public to enjoy

Thanks to a major contribution to the Central Indiana Land Trust, 109 forested acres in southwest Johnson County will be forever protected and conserved.

The Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust has committed $200,000 toward the purchase and ongoing maintenance of what will be known as the Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow. The total cost of the project is approximately $500,000.

The land is accessible via Hougham Road near Trafalgar in part of what the Land Trust calls the Hills of Gold Core Conversation Area. The Land Trust pursues property in “Core Conversation Areas” in order to protect special places and begin linking together those special places throughout the region.

The Hare Preserve is particularly important as a conservation site because it is part of a large unbroken hardwood forest block that is key for migratory birds and forest interior nesting birds. Few such areas remain in central Indiana. The property also contains high-quality examples of oak woodlands on ridges and slopes, as well as bottomland hardwood forest in creek valleys. Spectacular ridges on the property feature mature white and red oaks clinging to slopes covered with ferns and wildflowers.

In addition, the Hare Preserve is home to three species considered rare in Indiana: the worm-eating warbler, hooded warbler and Eastern box turtle.

“It’s a special place,” said Cliff Chapman, conservation director for the Land Trust. “It’s in a very small part of Indiana where bedrock-laden hills were covered by glaciers. This gives the site a complex soil structure that produces diverse plant communities. It is one of those rare places where you can walk along a flat bottom creek underlain by bedrock with chunks of granite lying around in the forest floor.”

Though Dr. Hare likely was not familiar with this particular property, she was passionate about preserving nature and sharing her love of it with others. With its unique characteristics, this parcel fits well with the mission of the organization that carries her name, which works to enhance Indiana’s natural environment through preservation and protection of ecologically significant natural areas and to promote environmental education, stewardship and awareness initiatives. The Land Trust received two grants from the Hare Trust in 2007 for other projects.

Dr. Hare lived her whole life in Indianapolis before passing away in 2006 at the age of 100. A medical doctor by profession, she worked for many years at the IU School of Medicine. A naturalist and conservationist who loved nature in all of its forms, she earned a PhD in entomology from the University of Chicago before becoming a physician.

Even though her career was in medicine, Dr. Hare continued to focus on nature. She was an avid gardener who took pleasure in creating natural habitats for birds, butterflies, raccoons, and squirrels through naturalizing her grounds with wildflowers and native trees. During winter, when she couldn’t work in her garden, she painted china with birds, animals and flowers. For many years she took weekly trips to Shades State Park and the Pine Hills Nature Preserve to hike in Sugar Creek looking for fossils with her dogs, Engel and Dante. A lifelong learner, she took piano lessons into her 80s and practiced two to three hours daily.

Lenore Tedesco, chairman of the board of the Hare Trust, said, “I think she would be delighted to know that her legacy is preserving and protecting natural places, and providing for the long-term stewardship of these areas.  She loved the outdoors, and hiking.  She was quite learned in ecosystems and ecosystem relationships, so she would appreciate the importance of large blocks of land being set aside.”

Additional contributions came from the Russell W. Lamb Trust, Indiana Heritage Trust, Johnson County Community Foundation, IPL Golden Eagle Grant, Amos Butler Audubon, INPAWS and several individuals.

Heather Bacher, executive director of the Central Indiana Land Trust, said “We’re delighted to have our friends and supporters share the beauty of this property and enjoy it for years to come.”

Plans for 2013 include volunteer workdays to help build a trail and small parking lot, as well as special events.

# # #

Media contact: Jen Thomas, JTPR,, 317-441-2487

Central Indiana Land Trust earns national recognition

First local land trust in Indiana and one of only 181 nationwide to be accredited –

The Central Indiana Land Trust has achieved accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. It is the first land trust in Indiana to earn the designation.

“For 22 years, Hoosiers have turned to the Central Indiana Land Trust to help protect forests, farms and places they care about,” said Heather Bacher, executive director. “Going through this rigorous process has made our organization even stronger and will help ensure we can effectively champion and care for this land into the future.”

“This hard sought achievement is the result of intense work on the part of the land trust’s board and staff leadership,” stated Harriet M. Ivey, president and CEO of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust (NMPCT). “The Trust is proud of their accomplishments, including this accreditation, which is an example of the intended outcome of a three-year grant of $225,000 that NMPCT awarded to the national Land Trust Alliance in 2008 to work with Indiana land trust organizations to strengthen all aspects of their organizations to achieve greater impact. We look forward to several others following in the Central Indiana Land Trust’s footsteps over the next several years.”

Central Indiana Land Trust was awarded accreditation this month and is one of only 181 land trusts across the country awarded accreditation since the fall of 2008. Accredited land trusts are able to display a seal indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent.

“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land.”

According to the Land Trust Alliance, conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water, food security, scenic landscapes and views, recreational places, and habitat for the diversity of life on earth. In addition to providing health and food benefits, land conservation increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities.