In 1916, the State of Indiana authorized the creation of a state park system during the state’s centennial as a gift to the people of Indiana. Former Governor Mitch Daniels announced the Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) in his 2012 State of the State Address as a new statewide effort to honor Indiana’s 200th anniversary in 2016.
The BNT was created to preserve and protect important conservation and recreation areas throughout Indiana by matching donations of land or dollars. Property acquired with this fund will become part of the public trust to ensure that the land is protected for future generations of Hoosiers to use and enjoy.
The state has identified $20 million in state funding to support the BNT and the Lilly Endowment contributed an additional $10 million grant.
Overview of Program Guidelines
The BNT is designed to encourage local participation, so each project requires a $1:1 match. The match could be provided by the Community Foundation, local non-profit or philanthropic organizations, private or corporate donors, or a bargain sale.
To ensure availability of funds for a wide variety of projects in every corner of the state, a cap of $300,000 has been set for the BNT portion of an individual project.
BNT funds may only be used for the acquisition of land and cannot be used for capital improvements, stewardship, or programming.
The program is flexible to allow local ownership and management of acquired properties. In these instances, the state purchases a Conservation Easement to protect the property forever.
A BNT Project Committee composed of technical experts from the DNR has been established to vet project proposals and make recommendations to the Bicentennial Commission for final approval. The committee meets quarterly. Submission deadlines are as follows:
- February 1
- May 1
- August 1
- November 1
Following these steps will help ensure your application is as strong as possible and maximize its chance of success:
- Make preliminary contact with the BNT coordinator to discuss the project proposal and application process.
- Approach the landowner. The project can only proceed if the landowner is a willing seller.
- Establish a reasonable estimate of the purchase price. An appraisal is not required at time of application, but is often helpful. If the application is approved, the purchase price must be based on an appraisal by a Certified General (preferred) or Certified Residential Appraiser. The Professional Licensing Agency maintains a list of certified appraisers here. The cost of the appraisal and title work are the responsibility of the applicant.
- Line up matching funds or negotiate a bargain sale. BNT funds must be matched at least $1:1. All match necessary to complete the transaction must be in place prior to application. A “pledge” or letter of intent from the matching entity is sufficient at this point. Note: The following items are not considered match: Costs associated with the acquisition, such as appraisals, surveys and title work; monetary or in-kind donations for the restoration or development of the acquired property; funds raised for stewardship of the acquired property.
- Approach the local Community Foundation and county officials to request letters of support.
- Submit the completed application ahead of the quarterly deadline. Please provide a “scoring guide” addressing each item of the sample score sheet.. Include a brief justification for each point. Note: Projects are scored subjectively by the DNR Division Directors, and points are awarded at their discretion.
How Can I Help?
- Talk to local community leaders to make sure they know about this exciting opportunity. Examples might include your city or county parks department, trail groups, and local philanthropic organizations (such as the network of county community foundations).
- Make a contribution. Your gift will be leveraged $1:1 with outside donations - in other words, $1 buys $2 worth of land for conservation and recreation. Donations are handled by the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation and are tax deductible. There are two methods for donating. They include:
- Donate online (please mention Bicentennial Nature Trust in the line marked “in honor of”) by clicking here.
- Donate by mail: Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, 402 West Washington St., Room W256, Indianapolis, IN 46204.