As right-to-work protests echoed through the Indiana Statehouse following Gov. Mitch Daniels' final State of the State address last week, The Nature Conservancy stepped forward to give the governor a pat on the back.
"Governor Daniels' announcement tonight about the creation of the Bicentennial Nature Trust is the capstone of a truly extraordinary conservation agenda for his administration," the group's state director Mary McConnell said in a news release issued after the address.
"From the establishment of Goose Pond in Greene County to his visionary Healthy Rivers Initiative to protect and make accessible a hundred miles of floodplain along the Wabash River, Governor Daniels has created a legacy that will be cherished by Hoosiers for the next 200 years."
As a sequel to the statewide parks system the state established on the 100th anniversary of its founding, Daniels said his administration identified $20 million in existing state funding to establish the trust meant to inspire additional private donations of money and land "in a continuing statewide surge of conservation" as the state nears its 2016 bicentennial.
The state's Bicentennial Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, will oversee the project.
Daniels noted that his administration plans to supervise the conservation of more than 50,000 acres by the end of 2012. He offered the 8,064-acre Goose Pond near Linton, Muscatatuck Bottoms, which targets more than 25,000 acres, and the Wabash Corridor, which is set to protect more than 43,000 acres along the Wabash River, as highlights.
Regarding I-69, Daniels did not have much to say except that it will soon be open from Evansville to Crane Naval Base.
Within the next few weeks and months, however, a group of federal and administrative law judges will weigh in on several pending complaints issues by the Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and scores of property owners against the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Indiana Department of Transportation and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.[See the next page for a summary of the status, possible outcomes and jurisdiction on the ongoing cases.]