Family of Partners Celebrates Columbia Mine Addition at Patoka River NWR
Regional Director Tom Melius talks with Larry Ordner, aide to Senator Richard Lugar, a supporter of the Patoka River NWR. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Georgia Parham)
By Georgia Parham
In early October, conservation partners gathered in southern Indiana to celebrate the acquisition of a keystone tract of land that ties together two large tracts at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in southern Indiana. This puts the refuge at over 8,000 acres of managed lands.
Patoka National Wildlife Refuge came into being after years of debate, hope, disappointment, hard work, perseverance, and partnership. The addition of the Columbia Mine tract followed a similar path as Refuge Manager Bill McCoy, his staff and partners worked through a maze of funding challenges to acquire the former mine from Peabody Energy.
A 2009 settlement from a federal court PCB case in Bloomington, brokered in part by the Service’s Environmental Contaminants Program, brought $1.5 million to the table to be used for land acquisition. This settlement and funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund set the stage, and Indiana conservation group Sycamore Land Trust stepped up and agreed to accept the indemnity conditions that prevented the government from purchasing the land.
The Friends of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge then negotiated the development of a conservation easement. Ducks Unlimited, through mitigation funds for a court settlement, received approval from Duke Energy to make a donation of $365,200 to Sycamore Land Trust. Further funding came through in the form of a grant from the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust, to protect, in Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ words, “our most precious natural spaces.”
Regional Director Tom Melius and Patoka River NWR Manager Bill McCoy celebrate Refuge Appreciation Day. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Georgia Parham)
Amazingly, all the pieces of this complex puzzle have fallen perfectly into place. In May of this year, Sycamore Land Trust turned to their members and came up with the funding to purchase the land. On September 14, 2012, the Service purchased the conservation easement and completed what refuge manager Bill McCoy likes to call the “mother of all land protection negotiations.”
On a sunny day in early October, Regional Director Tom Melius joined representatives from the Indiana DNR, Ducks Unlimited, Sycamore Land Trust, and Friends of the Refuge for Refuge Appreciation Day and to celebrate their work. During the celebration, the Friends group presented a “Friends of the Refuge” award to Larry Ordner, aide to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a longtime supporter of the refuge.