Ann Mills took time to visit Indiana a few days ago and take part in the celebration honoring completion of restoration work on the Goose Pond project in Greene County. The celebration was sponsored by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Held at the Triple H Gun Club south of Linton, nearly 100 people, many of whom were involved in one phase of the 10-year project or another, gathered to discuss he accomplishments and tour the site. Many who worked on the project have moved on to other jobs, some out of state, and some have even retired or passed away, notes Jane Hardisty, state soil conservationist in Indiana.
"Nothing affects me like coming to where a wetland like this has been restored," Mills told the crowd. "Unfortunately, it's all too rare. Hopefully, it will become less rare in the future. These restored wetlands are places where nature can work."
Mills reminded the audience that this is the 75th anniversary of the forerunner of NRCS, the Soil Conservation Service. The man considered the father of that agency and the movement that led to creating it was Hugh Hammond Bennett. It grew out of the desolation and desperation people felt in the dust bowl years, when dry prairie soil with no protection blew literally across the Midwest, all the way to the east coast.
"Bennett always said two things that stuck with me," Mills says. "First, you can't get conservation done behind a desk. Second, conservation projects must be done with others helping out."
NRCS became involved in the Wilder project in 2000 after the man who owned it at that time, Maurice Wilder, enrolled a large portion of the acreage in the federal Wetland Reserve Program. It took 10 years to plan and construct the restored wetlands after it was accepted into WRP. In the meantime, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources acquired the property from Wilder in October, 2005.
"This area is so important because the restored wetlands lie in the Mississippi river flyway for migrating birds," Mills explained. "It has importance for the county, but also for the state, region and entire country.
"This type of project fits under the vision Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has brought to the department. We believe in projects where resources are protected on private working lands. It's very gratifying to see that NRCS played a leading role in this project."