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STATEWIDE — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is looking to buy more land that it can use for future conservation projects throughout the state.

This week the DNR’s Land Acquisition Division announced that it is essentially reviving the state Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT) program, in the form of the Next Level Conservation Trust. The program will use $25 million already appropriated to the DNR from last year’s state budget.

“This is in addition to the $60 million in that budget cycle that was set aside for the trail programs,” said Tom Laycock, the director of the DNR’s Land Acquisition Division on Indiana Outdoors.

“We can do parks, we can do nature preserves, a pretty wide array of outdoor recreational type facilities can be built,” he added. “This is only a land acquisition program. We will not be using it for infrastructure, park settings. This is just going to be land acquisition as this point and time.”

Laycock said what the land they buy up is used for will be determined at a later time. He said they already have as many as 50 active deals in the works in how they will spend the money. Laycock added that they have to have the $25 million spent by some time in 2026.

Indiana’s efforts to buy more land for public conservation is flourishing, according to Laycock. He said through programs like the BNT, the Next Level Conservation Trust, and the Eagle & Sun license plate sales program, the state has acquired more than 74,000 acres of land throughout the state dedicated to conservation efforts.

Laycock said many of their plans for growth in conservation efforts rest in areas immediately around existing state parks and nature preserves. He said they keep an eye on what becomes available around these areas to see if they can put deals together to add on to existing facilities.