What Sycamore members accomplished in 2018

as told through numbers and photos

Thirty years ago, there was no Sycamore Land Trust. Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve was farmland, the Columbia Mine Preserve was an active surface mine, Porter West Preserve was a land dump, and Sycamore’s other public nature preserves were private property. There weren’t native plant gardens at schoolyards, and there wasn’t a community of 1,200 people working together to preserve and care for this beautiful place we call home.

We have big plans for the future, to exponentially grow Sycamore's impact on the environment and the people who live here. To envision what we can accomplish together, it helps to remember how far we've come. Let's take a look at the last 28 years.

Together, with Sycamore members and volunteers, we have saved almost 10,000 acres of forests, wetlands, and prairies forever. We — or rather, you — have reached more than 18,000 people through hands-on environmental education programs. You’ve built 35 miles of hiking trails, free to all people,  on 16 public nature preserves that didn’t exist 30 years ago. You’ve volunteered many thousands of hours taking care of your nature preserves, serving on the board, helping at the office, and being a friendly face at special events.

Read on to see what you did in 2018. We couldn’t be more grateful. If you’re able, we’re asking you to continue your support with a year-end donation.

With your help, we can take care of this land that is in our care forever. We can reach more students and adults through meaningful environmental education. We can protect endangered pollinators, plant thousands more trees, and transform land into thriving habitat.

Saving land forever means protecting it from harmful uses and actively taking care of it so that it can become what it once was. We plant native trees, remove invasive species that wreak havoc on ecosystems, and build habitat for wildlife to thrive. This year we protected several more environmentally critical parcels, including:

Our largest land donation ever, 256 acres in Orange County, gifted to Sycamore as an estate donation by Martha Barclay-Giel (Orange County): Read about it in The Herald-Times, or a non-paywall version on our website)

196 acres added to the Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area, including a 66-acre parcel named Grandchildren’s Woods by an anonymous donor that’s home to a great blue heron rookery featuring over 20 nests (Monroe County)

6 acres added to the Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill (Brown County)

Two parcels totaling 74 acres, purchased with funding from the Laura Hare Charitable Trust and subsequently donated to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to manage as part of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge (Pike and Gibson counties)

…and counting! Every day, we get closer to finishing the 3,600-foot trail rebuild project at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve. This is a huge undertaking, but will help us connect more people to the land while providing a more durable, slip-resistant trail surface that will last for many years. We’re creating a crushed gravel trail from the parking lot so it is more accessible to people with limited mobility.

Many, many thanks to the project’s main funder, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, as well as Loren Wood Builders, the Duke Energy Foundation, Oliver Winery, the work crew led by Sycamore’s Land Stewardship Manager Chris Fox, volunteers, staff, and all of you who are waiting so patiently for the trail to reopen early next year!

Once Sycamore acquires land, we make a promise to own and protect it forever. Part of that means stewarding the land: first we make a conservation plan based on the needs of the habitat, then we set about taking care of it. That can include removing invasive species, planting native plants, building hiking trails, monitoring sensitive plants and animals, and more. This year we planted at least 30,000 native trees and shrubs to build habitat that will soon become lush forests and provide habitat for wildlife.

As a testament to how much the southern Indiana community cares about conservation and environmental education, 209 people joined Sycamore for the very first time this year! We love our 1,200+ members who supported our work in 2018, and are always thrilled to welcome new people to the community. We are also grateful to everyone who renews their support, year after year.

You can become a member online today with a gift of just $40 or more. Donate and learn about member benefits here.

Our Environmental Education program grows every year. By a lot. In fact, this year donors brought Sycamore within $100,000 of our goal of $1.3 million for our Monarch Environmental Education Endowment, to sustain the program forever. Thank you!

Our Environmental Education Director, Shane Gibson, takes hands-on curriculum to schools, summer camps, community groups, retirement homes, and public events. Highlights include:

– Teaching the students of MCCSC’s Community Transitions program how to fish (and cook and eat their catch!)
– Planting and maintaining Native Plant Gardens on school campuses across the region
– Building a nature trail at Heth-Washington Elementary School in Harrison County
– Helping the students of Helmsburg Elementary in Brown County grow enough native plants for each kid to take one home, plant a garden on the school campus, and sell plants at the Bean Blossom Farmers’ Market

Together, the six members of Team Sycamore 2018 rode 1,770 miles in the Climate Ride Midwest across northern Michigan. And they raised nearly $25,000 for Sycamore and the Climate Ride! You’ll be able to read more about their adventures from Team Captain Tom Zeller in the upcoming issue of The Twig, to be released in February.

But you don’t need to ride thousands of miles or plant thousands of trees to make a difference. With your support, we can do so much more in 2019! Please make a year-end donation today. Thank you!