The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is in the final stages of acquiring the almost 2,000-acre site from the Department of Correction as part of a land exchange that releases 1,200 acres of Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area to the Indiana National Guard for expansion of its training operations at Camp Atterbury in Johnson County.
Daniels announced the proposed exchange in April. Since then, the DNR, DOC and National Guard have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to complete the deal.
“Having visited the part we swapped and now being able to visit here at Deer Creek, the quality is just astonishing,” Daniels said.
The area that will become Deer Creek Fish and Wildlife Area was surplus DOC land adjacent to Putnamville Correctional Facility, which opened in 1915 and operated for 70 years as the Indiana State Farm. The nearly 2,000 acres being transferred to the DNR is a mix of hardwood forest and open fields over rolling terrain interspersed with small ponds and Deer Creek.
“This is so beautiful, so much more diverse,” Daniels said. “It’s going to be a lot more exciting for people to come and watch (wildlife), fish and hunt. We got the better end of this deal.”
Despite giving up a portion of Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area to the National Guard, the addition of Deer Creek represents a net gain in public land for the DNR and increases to more than 34,000 acres the amount of land protected through agency projects in the past six years.
“We’re just out to do all we can in our time to protect Indiana’s beauty like it never has been before,” Daniels said.
He announced in June two initiatives to protect 43,000 acres along Sugar Creek and the Wabash River and approximately 26,000 along the Muscatatuck River. The DNR already has received nearly two dozen unsolicited letters of interest from landowners along those river corridors.
Deer Creek will be the 24th fish and wildlife area managed by the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The property will open to public use on a limited basis beginning October 29. The primary use of the property will be to provide opportunities to anglers, hunters and trappers. Compatible secondary uses will include wildlife watching, nature study, and the gathering of berries, nuts and mushrooms.