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Two New Nature Preserves in Monroe County Expand Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve

Sycamore Land Trust has acquired two new nature preserves along Beanblossom Creek in Monroe County that expand Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve to 824 protected acres! We will restore wetlands and other important habitats on the preserves through the Wetland Reserve Easement program.

A new 61-acre nature preserve adjacent to Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve was donated by Bill and Kathleen Oliver. This property is south of the main portion of Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve and attaches to a tract of the preserve, creating connectivity between protected properties that will expand habitat corridors and critical landscape linkages across a broad range of habitats.
At the southern end of the new nature preserve, Beanblossom Creek is spanned by the reconstructed Cedar Ford covered bridge, originally built by the Kennedy Brothers in 1885, which brings Old Maple Grove Road across Beanblossom Creek.

New nature preserve in Monroe County donated by Bill and Kathleen Oliver, and the adjacent reconstructed Cedar Ford covered bridge. Aerial photo by John Lawrence

“This new preserve is highly visible to the public, located next to Monroe County’s only covered bridge, and with extensive road frontage,” said John Lawrence, Executive Director of Sycamore Land Trust. “Visitors will be able to drive by to see the restoration work once it begins, and the wetlands that will be created. The Oliver’s long-term support of Sycamore’s work has had such an impact for nature. This exceptionally generous gift protects even more sensitive habitat, while also raising public awareness of the importance of wetlands.”

Bill and Kathleen Oliver put this property into Wetland Reserve Easement program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the intention of installing constructed wetlands on the property, inspired by the 60 acres of new wetlands Sycamore Land Trust completed in 2023 at the nearby Fix-Stoelting Preserve and Sam Shine Foundation Preserve. The Olivers donated the land to Sycamore Land Trust to complete the work. Restoration will include cutting drain tiles, creating two “pothole” type constructed wetlands, 17 acres of native tree and shrub plantings, and 5.5 acres of herbaceous wildlife habitat.

As part of the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) program, the property is preserved by a permanent conservation easement that protects the land from development in perpetuity. Private property owners with eligible land can get paid to enroll in WRE, in addition to receiving funding for restoration costs. A local NRCS office can provide more information, and can be found at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs-initiatives/wre-wetland-reserve-easements.

 

Map of Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve properties owned by Sycamore Land Trust (red) and new nature preserves added this month (yellow). Adjacent protected properties are highlighted in green, including a neighboring private landowner participating in the Wetland Reserve Easement program.

 

Sycamore Land Trust also recently purchased the John Allen England Nature Preserve, adding 26 more acres to Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve in Monroe County. This addition connects Beanblossom Bottoms to the Restle Natural Area, Sycamore’s first acquisition in the Beanblossom Creek area in 1993, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Restle Unit of the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. Both Restle properties were donated by Barbara Restle. This purchase was supported by Marian England, Jim Diehl, and the Next Level Conservation Trust.
With these projects, Sycamore has expanded Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve to 824 acres and increased the habitat protected in the nature preserve complex to over 900 contiguous protected acres.

The nature preserve complex is part of over 2,400 acres Sycamore protects in the Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area (BCCA) in Monroe and Brown Counties. The BCCA is Sycamore Land Trust’s ongoing project to protect and restore wetlands and other important natural areas in and along the floodplain of Beanblossom Creek, a major tributary of the West Fork White River. Beanblossom Creek was Sycamore’s first focus area for conservation and expanding protected habitat in the BCCA continues to be a top priority.

Beanblossom Creek runs through Monroe and Brown counties in south-central Indiana, serving as a watershed for the nearly 92 square miles that drain into it. It is an important part of the White River watershed, which supplies drinking water for over a million Hoosiers. The limestone bedrock of this area provides for sinkholes and swamps, creating wetlands that support remarkable biodiversity. Wetlands are important for keeping our air, water, and soil clean and combating climate change. Ecosystems with high biodiversity such as wetlands are more stable, adaptable to increasing storms, and likely to survive changes in species makeup as populations change due to higher temperatures and drought.

On the land that Sycamore protects in the Beanblossom Creek watershed, at least 20 endangered, protected, and special-concern species have been identified. They include the Indiana bat, Kirtland’s snake, cypress firefly, American bittern, Virginia rail, Henslow’s sparrow, Eastern box turtle, and more.

The cypress firefly (Photuris walldoxeyi) is protected at the northern most edge of its range at Beanblossom Bottoms, one of only two known locations in Indiana. Photo of cypress firefly at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve in 2024 courtesy of Sérgio Henriques, Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc.