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Nature preserves expanded

69 acres added at Crooked Lake

Preserved wilderness in Fulton and Whitley counties has officially joined Indiana’s 250 nature preserves after approval Tuesday by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission.

A 69.5-acre addition to Crooked Lake Nature Preserve in Whitley County is part of about 215 preserved acres on the north side of Crooked Lake.

The added acreage consists of upland forests, reforested former fields bordering forest of the original preserve and a pond, said Phil Bloom, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The property on the south side, often referred to as “Little Crooked Lake,” was bought in 1995, and the property on the northeast side of the lake was obtained in 2011, Bloom said.

The purchase was made possible through help from the Crooked Lake Property Owners Association and the Indiana Heritage Trust, a division of the DNR, he said.

Indiana Heritage Trust is largely funded by the sale of environmental license plates, Bloom said.

In Fulton County, a 337-acre addition to Manitou Island Nature Preserve features a wetland complex of shrub swamp, marsh, forested swamp, sedge meadow, shrub fen, natural lake and associated upland and lowland forests.

The property was bought bit by bit in the 1980s and 1990s, and the recent dedication will connect three existing nature preserves – Manitou Island, Judy Burton and Bob Kern – bringing the total area of contiguous wetlands in the preserve to 740 acres that protect the southern end of Lake Manitou.

The DNR owns and manages both preserves, Bloom said.

The mission of preserving significantly natural areas began with a law enacted in 1967 by the Indiana General Assembly, Bloom said.

“The land is protected from development for all time,” Bloom said. “The preserves appear much the same as they would have to settlers 200 years ago.”

Not all of Indiana’s preserves are owned by the DNR. In northeast Indiana, ACRES Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy also own a number of state preserves, Bloom said.

As a general rule, the preserves are open to the public for hiking and nature study only, although with advance permission the sites can also be used for scientific research. Vehicles and activities such as camping, picnicking and rock climbing are prohibited.