Chesterton Tribune



NRC creates new nature preserve, seeks to declare Ruffed Grouse endangered

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The Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC) approved the creation of a new nature preserve--Patoka Hills Nature Preserve in Crawford County--at its bimonthly meeting on Tuesday.

The action increases to 290 the number of state-designated sites protected by the Nature Preserves Act.

The new 26.79-acre nature preserve contains one of Indiana’s finest paleontological sites and consists of predominantly upland forest with smaller early successional areas and tree plantings. It features dramatic limestone outcrops and a small but highly significant cave.

Since 1987, the Indiana State Museum has been excavating that cave and gaining information on Indiana’s past climate, plants, and animals during the latter part of the ice age. In addition, many noteworthy animal and plant species are found in Patoka Hills: a cave-adapted springtail insect and a cave millipede, both of which lack eyes and pigmentation and are rare worldwide. Noteworthy plant species at Patoka Hills include two state endangered plants. The preserve is owned and managed by the Division of State Parks.

In other action on Tuesday, the NRC preliminarily adopted a number of amendments to 312 IAC 9 regarding the Division of Fish & Wildlife. Preliminary adoption starts a long, deliberative process, including a public comment period that will include two in-person hearings at two different locations for each rule package.

Amendments include the following:

--Adding Ruffed Grouse to the list of state endangered species of birds. Historically, Ruffed Grouse likely existed throughout Indiana. Populations have steadily declined and are now at less than 1 percent of the levels observed in the 1980s. Ruffed Grouse are on track for local extinction without major management actions. Adding Ruffed Grouse to the state endangered species list will require environmental reviews in forested environments to consider the impacts on this species. Allowing Ruffed Grouse to become totally extirpated from Indiana would “indicate a failure to act as stewards for this species and require expensive restoration efforts that would be unlikely to succeed without the pressing habitat management,” DNR said.

--Allowing air rifles and bows that meet certain specifications to be used in the deer firearms season.

--Adding cisco and Western sand darter to, and removing Northern brook lamprey, from the state’s list of endangered species of fish. Cisco used to occur across Indiana, but currently is limited to seven lakes and, without intervention, will likely become locally extinct. Western sand darter is thought to once have occurred across Indiana but is currently restricted to a few disjointed areas.

--Establishing a 14-inch minimum size limit for sauger, saugeye and walleye taken on the Ohio River; reducing the daily bag limit to six sauger, walleye, and saugeye in aggregate; and reducing the possession limit to 12 in total. The rationale is that current sauger regulations are not providing enough protection of that species from overfishing. Because sauger grow relatively quickly, anglers should see increases in the number of large sauger and enjoy better quality fishing experiences within two years. Kentucky has already made this change.

--Adding alligator gar and eight species of mussels to the list of species of special concern and makes a number of changes to the lists of insects and plants.




Posted 1/23/2020




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