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Land trust bought to save landscape

1,200 rural acres near Richmond gain protection

– The Whitewater Valley Land Trust now owns 1,200 acres of native Hoosier farmland southwest of Richmond.

Land trust officials recently used a $100,000 grant from the Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust to purchase 185 acres of land, called the Toschlog Corridor, along the East Fork of the Whitewater River in Wayne and Union counties.

The tract is south of the town of Abington and is 112 acres of tillable land surrounded on four sides by wooded acreage.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” land trust board Treasurer Michael Hoff told the Palladium-Item. “It is also very visible. It has more road frontage than the other seven nature preserves that we own put together.”

Tom Swinford, ecologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ division of forest preserves, said the acquisition represents “a beautiful rural landscape.”

“It’s another way of preserving something that is unique to Hoosiers and anyone in the Whitewater Valley,” Swinford said.

Swinford has been working with the land trust, the Red Tail Conservancy, Cope Environmental Center and Earlham College since 2000 to build “a patchwork quilt of conservation.”

“The state has been really pleased to partner with these organizations,” Swinford said. “This acquisition is important because it will preserve wildlife habitat and rural landscape, improve water quality and provide flood water abatement.”

Hoff said the land will be planted with 110,000 seedlings of Indiana hardwood trees, species of hickory, oak, walnut and cherry trees.

“We were hoping to do the planting this spring, but the seller has retained crop planting rights for this year. So we will begin planting in 2015,” he said.

Land trust property now runs south from Cope Center on Shoemaker Road along Lick Creek to where it empties into the Whitewater River and south past Abington along the river.

The land trust has conservation easements on an additional 2,500 acres where the owners have agreed not to develop the land. The land trust is a nonprofit that strives to preserve land with historic, aesthetic or unique features for future generations.