Buck Creek Wetlands: A critical habitat now protected forever

written by: Kelley V Phillips, Outreach Coordinator 

Earlier this month, Red-tail Land Conservancy acquired a 44 acre wetland in Henry County, IN to benefit at risk wildlife and restore water quality. Adjacent to Buck Creek near Summit Lake State Park, Buck Creek Wetlands will act as a sanctuary to birds as they search for nesting sites near the lake. As the owners, Red-tail Land Conservancy (RLC), a nonprofit headquartered in Muncie that’s mission is to permanently preserve habitats essential to wildlife in east central Indiana, Buck Creek Wetlands is now protected forever.

Buck Creek Wetlands were marginally producing agricultural fields that have been restored into a wetland complex of ponds and prairie grasses. By disrupting surface field tiles, the natural flow of water in the wetland has been returned. As part of the Blue River Heritage Corridor, this protected habitat has the unique soil conditions to support threatened and endangered plants and wildlife.

RLC is funded entirely by private contributions from individuals, business, and foundations. Buck Creek Wetlands was donated to Red-tail to ensure its long-term maintenance by Central Indiana Mitigation Bank (CIMB). CIMB restored the wetlands to compensate for unavoidable impacts on wetlands at other locations in the White River watershed.

Julie Borgmann, executive director of Red-tail Land Conservancy said, “Being the conservation partner with mitigation projects is a great role for Red-tail. We can steer the projects to areas that will have the biggest impact and follow through on our promise to preserve and protect the land forever.”

Over the last century, most wetlands in Indiana have been converted to agriculture with an increasing number of acres lost each year. As a natural sponge, this wetland can capture and slowly release floodwater from Buck Creek, protecting downstream communities. The rich soil of wetlands results in abundant plant life that can support the food and shelter needs of diverse wildlife, including fish, frogs, turtles and birds.

“The restoration of the formerly prairie wetlands of Buck Creek would bring very real benefits to wildlife and water quality at the local and state level” said Tom Swinford, Assistant Division Director of Nature Preserves Management at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “DNR Nature Preserves supports Red-tail Land Conservancy in this effort.”

Buck Creek Wetlands is particularly important because of its proximity to two other protected habitats that support similar plants and wildlife. Due east is Barry’s Swamp, another habitat protected by Red-tail Land Conservancy, and Summit Lake State Park. The latter is highly popular for the variety and amount of birds that migrate across or nest in the area.

These three wetland habitats combined allow migratory birds multiple places to rest on their thousand-mile journeys. Connected habitats means there is more space for wildlife to find food and shelter. It also expands the variety of food available, creating a more robust food web in case of disease or extinction.

Though wetlands provide special opportunities for fishing and birding, reducing human contact allows wildlife safety and security to live undisturbed. Non-public nature preserves like Buck Creek Wetlands next to frequently visited parks provide that sanctuary.

Jeff Ray, a member of Red-tail’s Land Acquisition Committee said, “It is important work for RLC to preserve natural heritage wetland communities in all of Henry County.”

Pictured (top to bottom):
Buck Creek Wetlands © 2020 Red-tail Land Conservancy
Red-winged blackbird
 © 2008 Walter Siegmund