Chris Fox is the newest full-time employee of Sycamore Land Trust. Fox is the trust’s first land stewardship manager. Staff photo by Carol Kugler
By the numbers
• 1990: The year the land trust began, with a volunteer staff. • 12: The number of counties served when the land trust began. • 26: The number of counties where the land trust now operates. • 2000: The year the land trust hired its first part-time employee, Christian Freitag. He is now the land trust’s executive director. • 9,160: The number of acres of land that have been protected by Sycamore Land Trust in easements and ownership of land. • 10,010: The additional number of acres the land trust has assisted in protecting. • 1,068: The current number of people who are members of Sycamore Land Trust. • 4,121: The number of participants in the land trust’s environmental education programs in 2016. • 16: The number of public nature preserves. • 32: The miles of trails open to the public in the nature preserves.
What began with a couple dozen volunteers in 1990 is now a land trust covering 26 counties in southern Indiana that just added its seventh full-time employee.
Chris Fox is the newest staff member of Sycamore Land Trust, and is the trust’s first land stewardship manager.
Sycamore Land Trust began without an office as a Bloomington nonprofit group that had a goal of acquiring and obtaining conservation easements for land in 12 Indiana counties. It had protected a little more than 3,400 acres by 2000, when Christian Freitag — now the land trust’s executive director — became its first part-time employee. Now, the land trust protects 9,160 acres in 103 projects and also has assisted in protecting another 10,010 acres in various ways, including by contributing money to a conservation project.
“We have over 2 1/2 times more land now,” said John Lawrence, assistant director of Sycamore Land Trust. There are protected lands, some of them open to the public, that stretch from Monroe and Brown counties west to the Vincennes area, south to Evansville and along the Ohio River.
When the property is purchased or placed under the protection of the land trust, that’s just the beginning. “We’ve got to keep a good eye on it forever,” Lawrence said. He is in charge of ensuring each property is visited at least once a year.
Sycamore Land Trust owns nearly 50 separate preserves and almost 35 other properties that have conservation easements. Sixteen of the nature preserves are open to the public, and have a total of 32 miles of trails. Each of these requires maintenance, trail building and trash pickup. The properties often need removal of invasive plant species, which is a continuing process.
The Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve in Monroe County is one of the better-known nature preserves open to the public. Although it’s one preserve, the acquisition of the land was completed through several land purchases, and more may be added in the future. The boardwalk trail around the property, with signs letting visitors know what is there and how the land has been allowed to return to its more natural state, has to be maintained. Some of the more newly acquired land in the nature preserve and in nearby parcels is still farmland that will take active restoration work to help it return to its natural state.