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Eight key objectives have been identified for the Healthy Rivers INitiative. They are:
- Provide a model that balances forests, farmed lands and natural resources conservation.
- Connect separated parcels of public land to benefit wildlife.
- Restore and enhance areas of land along the Wabash River, Muscatatuck River and Sugar Creek
- Protect important habitat for wildlife
- Open land to the public for recreational activities, such as fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, canoeing, bird watching and boating
- Protect important rest areas for migratory birds
- Establish areas for nature tourism
- Provide clean water and protection from flooding to landowners downstream
The Healthy Rivers INitiative will provide ecological and economic benefits of state, regional and national importance. The initiative will establish Indiana as a national leader in wetlands and wildlife protection. The following benefits will positively impact the state’s citizens, visitors and businesses:
Quality of Life
Quality of life is one of the top five considerations of companies looking to relocate or expand. Quality of life includes access to recreational opportunities. The Healthy Rivers INitiative will greatly increase public access to recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, canoeing, bird watching and boating.
Research has shown that outdoor recreation has positive impacts on the physical, mental and social health of individuals and their communities. Studies have demonstrated how physical activity, such as those conducted in outdoor recreation, helps to control obesity, boost the immune system, diminish the risk of disease and increase life expectancy. Many studies show that participation in outdoor recreational activities is an important contributor to citizen’s mental health and quality of life by aiding in reducing depression, relieving stress, improving self-esteem and personal growth. The Healthy Rivers INitiative will provide opportunities to increase physical activity and the scenic views and waterways will encourage active visitation. Outdoor recreation also provides social benefits, such as strengthening communities, promoting social bonds and supporting youth.
Economy and Community Development
The Healthy Rivers INitiative will present opportunities to invest in local communities and to bring nature to citizens. By connecting parcels of land along rivers, we will be creating a greenway of outdoor recreational opportunities with public access and amenities which will connect communities along the project areas.
The INitiative will also provide opportunities for nature tourism by becoming a local and regional destination. This increased tourism will spur economic development through additional money being spent in communities throughout the project areas.
The river systems and the land adjacent to the rivers will provide necessary habitat for waterfowl, deer, wild turkey, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater mussels, fish, native plants, and several species of migratory birds.
There are several federal and state endangered species in both of the project areas. Creating an unfragmented wildlife corridor allows diversity of breeding populations and helps ensure that several species have a solid foothold in Indiana.
The project also provides much needed habitat for migratory waterfowl. Such wetland habitats have dwindled in the last 100 years as resting sites have become polluted, cleared or developed. It is predicted that this project will change the migratory patterns of waterfowl in the Midwest.
Through reforestation, wetlands restoration and other habitat management efforts, this initiative will reduce nutrient runoff and sediment from erosion that impact downstream waterways. These efforts will also provide better management of the backbone of the agricultural drainage system. The initiative will increase DNR-owned riparian wetlands by 64%.
Wetlands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reduce flooding; recharge groundwater; protect biological diversity; and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.