Rare and Endangered Wetland Plants Protected With NRCS Assistance
United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
6013 Lakeside Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN 46278
Indianapolis, IN May 17, 2013—Wetlands have many benefits to the environment and our quality of life here in Indiana. Wetlands help manage flooding, filter pollutants, recharge underground aquifers, and they provide wildlife and recreation opportunities. And, not surprisingly, wetland habitats are critical for the survival of many threatened or endangered species.
Wetlands sometimes need help to return to their natural state, and that is where the Natural Resources Conservation Service comes in. NRCS works with private landowners to protect, restore and enhance wetlands. In fact, over the last twenty years, 11,000 landowners around the country have voluntarily restored 2.3 million acres of wetlands through a program called the Wetland Reserve program (WRP), approximately 60,000 acres of those wetlands are in Indiana where we have many success stories. Here is one.
It began as a routine visit to a central Indiana farm by NRCS District Conservationist Wes Slain to talk about possible conservation practices with the owner, Greg Hochstedler. The Hochstedlers grow and sell hay; raise sheep, goats, pigs and chickens; have several acres of forestland and pastureland; and are trying to control invasive plants. Slain was there to provide suggestions on ways the landowner could improve his farm with conservation practices.
During the visit, Hochstedler mentioned an area of the property where several fens come together that he wanted to protect. A fen is a type of wetland characterized by its water chemistry, which is neutral or alkaline, and they are dominated by grasses and sedges. This unusual land feature on the farm has created the ideal home for several rare and declining plants. In fact, according to Hochstedler, botanists from Purdue and Butler Universities have studied the wetlands and plants there since 1935.
Hochstedler said, “Botanists have referred to the site as Hardy Reeves Swamp or the Knightstown Bog. Eighty-five wetland plants have been documented over the years, with several of them being endangered or in a declining state. One of those plants, the lesser purple fringed orchid is one of the rarest finds, with only three counties in Indiana having that species (not including the Michigan bordering counties).” He adds, “Purdue University students have returned to the area several times to further study and document plants.”
In the past, the land had been used for pasture and grazing, but since it has been owned by the Hochstedlers the land has been allowed to return to its natural state. Slain recommended the family consider WRP as a way to ensure long term protection of the wetlands.
Once the decision was made to enroll the 23 acres into the easement program, several partnering agencies came together to work as team with NRCS technical specialists and the Hochstedlers to help them achieve their restoration goals, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.
This project has had community-wide impacts, not only for environmental and species protection, but for education and recreation. The farm is now available for educational tours to view the wetlands and unusual plants. The Hochstedlers have also hosted weddings and receptions, as well as events, such as 3D Archery and Disc Gold.
When a property is enrolled in WRP, the landowner retains ownership, while agreeing to restore and manage a certain portion of the land as wetlands. Program participants voluntarily restrict agricultural and other activities on their land that would interfere with restoration efforts. Since the Hochstedler’s wetlands are enrolled in WRP, the site will be forever protected and continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.
“I would recommend that people consider WRP, because the wetlands are so important to cleaning up the water in our ecosystem, said Hochstedler. He adds, “They also produce beautiful plants that you can’t see anywhere else.”
WRP also helps restore active floodplains along creeks and rivers, aid in flood control and improve water quality by restoring environmentally sensitive, frequently flooded cropland back to permanent vegetation.
May is National Wetlands Month and the Indiana NRCS is celebrating the WRP and the many benefits wetlands bring to our quality of life. For more information about the program and its success, download the publication Restoring America’s Wetlands: A Private Lands Conservation Success Story or go to www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp.
Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jerry Roach, Assistant State Conservationist, 317.295.5820 (email@example.com)
Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5825 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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