LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal program aimed at strengthening military readiness while also protecting natural resources and natural habitats has designated more than 3.5 million acres in Southern Indiana as a Sentinel Landscape.
Sentinel Landscapes are defined as areas in which natural and working lands are well suited to protect defense facilities from land use that is incompatible with the military's mission.
The program is a partnership between local agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Interior (DOI).
Southern Indiana is one of three new additions to the program and one of only ten in the nation.
“This designation ensures we continue to protect Southern Indiana’s beautiful landscape and at the same time preserve our nation’s critical military mission here at home,” Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb said. "Indiana's proud to do both."
The area is made up of four critical military installations, six state parks, seven state forests, nine state fish and wildlife areas, 39 state-dedicated nature preserves, three National Wildlife Refuges and the Hoosier National Forest.
Christian Freitag, executive director of the Conservation Law Center, called the Sentinel Landscape program "one of the biggest conservation projects in Indiana history."
“It’s an example of how conservation can be an across-the-board win when the right partners work towards common ground," Freitag said.
In addition to protecting the area's healthy forests, the project will address the habitat needs of various native species, including the endangered Indiana bat.
Southern Indiana Sentinel Landscape partners said they also plan to focus on river and watershed protection.