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ACRES Land Trust Adds New LaGrange Co. Land

Published: Friday, November 29, 2019

ACRES Land Trust recently expanded its Quog Lake preserve, part of a priority conservation area south of LaGrange, by 12 acres. The property houses two historic school buildings, one of which serves a congregation that has met on the site since the mid-1800s. ACRES, Indiana's oldest and largest local land trust, also acquired four acres of transferable LaGrange County land near Howe.

"ACRES prioritizes growing preserves," said Jason Kissel, executive director for the state's oldest and largest local land trust. "Each acre added is a big deal for conservation, for more protection to the place, more return on our members' and donors' investment in land."

The newly expanded 138-acre Quog Lake preserve is one of eight properties spanning an additional 681 acres in the immediate area collectively owned and managed by ACRES Land Trust, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and LaGrange County.

ACRES' newest 12-acre addition to Quog Lake is home to two historic school buildings, one of which serves a congregation that has met on the site since the mid-1800s. Today, ACRES leases the buildings to the local congregation in exchange for maintenance and utilities.

One of the newly-acquired buildings, a one-room wood-frame schoolhouse built in 1843, has also been home to a local congregation since nearly that time. When a new red brick school was built in 1899, the United Methodist Church purchased the original wood-frame schoolhouse for $30, moving it down the hill. Today, ACRES leases the buildings to a local congregation in exchange for maintenance and utilities.

Current church secretary Harvena Richards grew up attending services. She shares that before meeting in the schoolhouse, local Methodists met in homes, aided by circuit-riding preachers. At its height, a total of 30 to 40 congregation members filled schoolhouse benches. Participation is declining, but the tradition—and the location—remain.

In addition to the historic buildings, ACRES' Quog Lake expansion includes forested wetland and four acres of high, dry land.

Quog Lake, just west of Oliver Lake, south of the town of LaGrange, is a quaking bog and is named by combining these words. A quaking bog is formed by a thin, floating mat of sphagnum moss along the shore of the lake. Quog Lake is one of only a few such bogs remaining in Indiana.

The bog is surrounded by poison sumac and home to the Massasauga rattlesnake, a species endangered at the state level and threatened at the federal level. Beyond the bog, the preserve protects a forested swamp, cattail marsh and small patches of open water. Dense vegetation encourages a secluded wildlife habitat; state-endangered Marsh Wrens are among its wild residents. This preserve is closed to visitors.

ACRES will evaluate the best use of a four-acre donation of transferable land. The nonprofit accepts land in this donation category with the ability to sell, transfer or otherwise use it as needed. ACRES' transferable lands can become nature preserves or protected lands, in time, if, for example, surrounding land use becomes protected, but usually, they are sold to further ACRES mission to acquire land.

The Quog Lake land is being conserved, in part, by funding made available as mitigation for habitat loss or forest fragmentation caused by the construction and maintenance of the NIPSCO Reynolds Topeka Electric System Improvement Project. The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have partnered to manage these voluntary mitigation funds and provide grants to implement local conservation measures in Indiana.

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