Wetland Restoration

Sycamore begins ambitious projects along Beanblossom Creek

By Rob McCrea, Land Preservation Director

Farmland at Sam Shine Foundation Preserve, the future site of a wetland restoration project.

Sycamore Land Trust has exciting news for wetlands in the Beanblossom Creek Bicentennial Conservation Area. This summer, Sycamore will be starting work on two major habitat restoration projects at our Fix-Stoelting and Sam Shine Foundation Nature Preserves, located downstream of Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve along Beanblossom Creek. Each project will reclaim existing farmland in the floodplain of Beanblossom Creek and convert them to functioning wetland habitats and native bottomland hardwood forests. These will be Sycamore’s largest and most complex land restoration projects ever undertaken.

The Beanblossom Creek area in Monroe County is one of Sycamore’s priority areas for land protection. This is where we made our first land purchase as an organization in 1995 and now have over 1,600 acres of protected land. The 338.5-acre Shine and 31.5-acre Fix-Stoelting Preserves are near other Sycamore land along Beanblossom Creek, enhancing overall habitat connectivity and the potential for wetland restoration.

The Fix-Stoelting restoration project will encompass a total area of 9.7 acres and include a 2.6-acre pollinator habitat planting, a 2.7-acre native bottomland hardwood reforestation, and a 4.4-acre wetland restoration. The wetland restoration will entail the removal of existing field tile and the construction of embankments to catch and retain periodic floodwater from Beanblossom Creek. In addition to creating habitat for wetland-dependent plant and animal species, this project will also mitigate downstream flooding along Beanblossom Creek.

The Shine restoration project extends across a larger area, consisting of a 5-acre native bottomland tree planting and an 80-acre wetland restoration. The wetland restoration will include similar construction techniques used at Fix-Stoelting but on a much larger scale. We hope to create several permanent open water areas for waterfowl and other bird species that depend on wetlands.

These ambitious projects represent the maturation of Sycamore from a land trust that merely acquires land for protection to one that actively engages in large-scale habitat restoration. While we have performed active land management and projects such as tree plantings in the past, Sycamore has never undertaken projects of this scale.

While passive land restoration (protecting the land and allowing it to recover on its own) has been effective, taking a more active role will enhance the quality and speed of the restoration at these two sites. Sycamore will be directly leading the restoration and monitoring its success by making sure native plant species become established while minimizing encroachment of invasive plant species.

Sycamore has already started collecting baseline data at the two sites so we can monitor the impact of these restoration projects. Partnerships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been critical in this regard. Sycamore is also grateful for our support from the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust and the Sam Shine Foundation, for making these land acquisitions possible and having the vision to see what is possible in the Beanblossom Creek area. The staff at the Monroe County Natural Resource Conservation Service have been critical in site planning and helping Sycamore receive project funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Without the support of our partners and Sycamore members, these projects would not be possible. Thank you for your commitment to protecting and restoring land in southern Indiana.

This article was published in the Summer 2021 edition of The Twig “The Wetlands Issue.”  Read more here.