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Indiana Forest Alliance asking Indianapolis to earmark money for urban forest preservation

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Posted at 9:02 PM, May 16, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Community members and environmentalists are asking Indianapolis leaders to put nature first.

One area the organization is hoping to preserve is just off 86th Street in the Nora neighborhood. That is where eight acres of untouched urban forest is located.

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"This forest here goes back at least a hundred years,” Mike Oles, Forests for Indy Director at the Indiana Forest Alliance, said. “Some of it has never tilled so we have some remembrance of the old forest that we still can save."

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According to the Indiana Forest Alliance, there are 60 square miles of urban forest left in Marion County. Nine square miles of that is currently preserved.

The alliance is asking the city to dedicate $6 million to preserving as many acres as possible.

"There's four or five properties like this across the city that are both at risk. Also, the owners are willing to sell it at a steep discount,” Oles said.

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For Elizabeth Mahoney, this is personal. Her home is near an urban forest.

She has worked for years to make sure the forest, which is her backyard, continues to be preserved.

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"It is a beautiful sanctuary. Every resident in our community is able to get a little respite in a hurried and hassled life,” Mahoney said.

While she says the beauty of the urban forest is important to her as a home owner, so are the benefits of living near one.
 

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"One acre of land will offset over a million gallons of water annually if it is a forested piece of property,” Mahoney said.

The owner of this property in the Nora neighborhood didn't want to do an on-camera interview.

In a phone conversation with WRTV’s Meredith Hackler, he says he originally bought the eight acres to develop it into apartments. However, once he found out how old the trees were and how few urban forests exist, he decided to preserve it.

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The alliance launched their campaign to have the city dedicate funds for preservation during a rally at the City County Building on Monday, May 13.

They also attended the city county council meeting to tell councilors and the mayor what they are asking for.

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WRTV reached out to the city to see if this is something they would consider for the 2025 budget. They sent the following statement in response:

The City is just beginning the 2025 budget process, which will involve weeks of technical and financial analyses before the Mayor’s proposed 2025 budget is introduced to council and reviewed through a series of public hearings. However, the fiscal ordinance that will be heard by council this month includes the 2024 allocation from a grant that over the next five years aims to enrich the city's tree canopy, ecological services, and human health benefits by enhancing the resilience of Indianapolis’s urban forests. 

The mayor will present his proposed budget to council in August.

To learn more about the organization's efforts, click here.