The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has secured a key piece of the Healthy Rivers Initiative by purchasing 3,475 acres of Fairbanks Landing Fish & Wildlife Area from Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) and reaching an agreement to continue managing the rest of the site.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife has managed the site since 2005 under a lease agreement with I&M. The lease expired two years ago and the utility company was considering selling a large portion of the property.
The recently completed deal is a model of a government-private enterprise partnership to preserve a natural habitat for wildlife and public recreation. The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Conservation Fund partnered with the DNR on the purchase to ensure Fairbanks Landing remains open to the public.
In addition to the acreage purchased, the lease agreement between I&M and DNR to manage the remaining 5,000-plus acres owned by I&M has been extended so the entire Fairbanks Landing FWA will remain intact at more than 8,000 acres.
The agreement secures Fairbanks Landing as the southern anchor for the Healthy Rivers INitiative (HRI). The initiative was launched nearly two years ago with the goal of permanently protecting more than 43,000 acres along the Wabash River and Sugar Creek. One of HRI’s benefits is increased public access to outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, boating, hiking and bird watching.
The DNR Fish & Wildlife division has developed a five-year management plan for Fairbanks Landing that will focus on forested, wetland and grassland habitats.
Since opening in 2005, Fairbanks Landing has emphasized providing high-quality hunting experiences. Hunter access is limited during peak deer and wild turkey hunting seasons to reduce hunting pressure, and quail hunting has reduced bag limits. These practices will continue.
Fairbanks Landing averaged 5,000 hunting efforts the last two years.
I&M operated the Breed Plant on the site from 1960-94. The coal-fired power plant is gone, but a 345,000-volt transmission switchyard remains on a portion of Fairbanks Landing where the original Breed Plant facility once stood. Environmental remediation took place after the power plant was demolished in 2007.