You’ve read details on our partners, guides and excursions. Today, we want to share a few fascinating facts about the key people, organizations and moments in our state’s conservation history.
Here are our top 10 fast facts:
- The Indiana State Parks system was created as a legacy project of the Hoosier Centennial in 1916. The Bicentennial Nature Trust honors Indiana’s 200th anniversary by creating a matching fund that encourages Hoosiers to donate or purchase important conservation areas and put them into the public trust, protecting them forever.
- Indiana’s first environmental protection law was passed in 1849 when Greene County made it illegal to poison fish.
- Hoosier President Benjamin Harrison laid the foundation for the national forest system, establishing 17 national forest reserves totaling more than 13 million acres under the General Public Lands Reform Act of 1891.
- Charles C. Deam (1865-1953), Indiana’s first State Forester, collected more than 78,000 plant specimens from across the state and discovered 25 new species. In large part thanks to Deam, Indiana’s plant life is considered the best documented among all states.
- Henry Chandler Cowles, the father of plant ecology, did his pioneering research in the Indiana Dunes. His 1899 paper on the intricate Dunes ecosystem jump-started not only a new field of scientific inquiry, but also kicked off the 60+ year struggle to save the Dunes. In 1926 a small state park was established; in 1966, the larger National Lakeshore was finally designated by Congress.
- The success of Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels helped underwrite her real passion, ecological studies of birds, moths and other creatures of her beloved Limberlost Swamp near Geneva, Indiana. (We’re exploring the site on Oct. 8! Join us.) Writing in the early 20th century, she observed and decried the draining and clear-cutting of the swamps. She was one of the earliest American popular writers to call for environmental conservation.
- “Indiana has beauties which are just as worthy of study as landscapes elsewhere. Hereafter I shall confine myself more to my own state than in the past.” So said T.C. Steele, a member of The Hoosier Group, along with William Forsyth, Richard Gruelle, Otto Stark, and J. Otis Adams. The impressionist painters were well-known for their Indiana landscapes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- John Muir, perhaps America’s greatest champion of wilderness protection, has surprising connections to Indiana. He moved to Indianapolis in 1866 to work in a carriage manufacturing shop where he suffered an accident that nearly blinded him. The injury sparked his journey west where he observed, “Between every two pine trees there is a door to a new way of life.”
- By 1860, about half of Indiana’s forests had been cleared; circa 1900, Indiana was the leading producer of forest products in the nation. Charles Deam helped reforest the state by advocating for a tax incentive that encouraged farmers to let trees grow on non-arable land. Within 10 years of the 1921 law, 2,000 acres of woods had been preserved on Hoosier farmland. Deam’s legislation was later adopted by other states.
- There are 26 land trusts operating in Indiana, with at least one serving every county. Land trusts permanently protect natural and agricultural areas by purchasing or accepting donations of properties and restricting their future development. In many cases, the land stays privately owned.
Want to read about the subtle beauty of the Indiana landscape, learn more about the key moment’s in Indiana history and discover information about Hoosier ecology and special places worth visiting? Request a free Trek and Talk Toolkit and we’ll send you a card deck perfect for inspiring engaging conversations among friends, family, colleagues and strangers.
Next Indiana Campfires is a unique way to connect nature, literature and Indiana’s Bicentennial. The program is supported by the Efroymson Family Fund, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires. Indiana Humanities is supported in part by Lilly Endowment Inc. and the National Endowment of the Humanities.
This post is written by Krista Bailey, one of our Next Indiana Campfires scholars. Check back every Tuesday to learn more about Indiana’s great environmental literature, find out interesting facts about Hoosier stewardship, get all the latest program details and more.