The stone chimney at one of the shelters in Brown County State Park is in need of repair, as are many of the facilities in state parks and other state properties throughout Indiana. (Courtesy photo)
The stone chimney at one of the shelters in Brown County State Park is in need of repair, as are many of the facilities in state parks and other state properties throughout Indiana. (Courtesy photo)
Ten groups representing the Indiana Conservation Alliance have sent a letter urging Indiana’s legislative leaders to invest in the state’s natural resources — an effort to ensure the General Assembly’s biennial budget dedicates some of its funds to conservation, wildlife work and maintenance of state properties.

“The budget is one of our major priorities,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, which is a part of the conservation alliance.

Maloney believes many legislators are interested in funding the three areas the groups have outlined. The requests are for the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust, for the state’s wildlife action plan with the state fish and wildlife department and for deferred maintenance at all Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties. The letter includes recommendations for funding for each: $20 million, $16 million and $50 million, respectively.

Funding for the Harrison conservation trust is essential because there is a federal matching component that can only be given to states if they first put funds toward conservation efforts. Congress recently approved a landmark natural resources bill that will provide protection for millions of acres of public land and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, among other things. The more money a state offers for conservation, the more money the federal government gives as a match.

Already the Harrison Conservation Trust, formerly known as the Indiana Heritage Trust, has not only raised state funds but leveraged $74 million in non-state money, Maloney explained. The trust has protected more than 70,000 acres since 1993. That has happened despite the trust receiving much less money from the state’s general fund since 2009. That decrease was coupled with the loss of money from environmental license plate sales, which declined by more than 50% in the past 20 years.

“If Indiana came up with $6 million, it would be eligible for $20 million in federal funds,” Maloney stated. “Those kind of opportunities are appealing to many legislators.”

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