May 22, 2024 - News

Nonprofit asks city to buy, save last urban forests

Illustration of a forest in a bell jar.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The Indiana Forest Alliance is asking the city of Indianapolis to allocate $6 million in next year's budget for the purchase of urban forest land.

Why it matters: Before it was settled, Marion County was covered almost entirely by forest but less than 15% remains today and only a small fraction of that is protected as park or preserve.

  • Several environmentally sensitive properties — including the last flatwood forest — are at risk for development if not purchased by someone willing to protect them soon, said Mike Oles, the Indiana Forest Alliance's director of Forests for Indy.

Driving the news: For the first time, the Forest Alliance is asking the city to include money in its annual budget to buy at-risk forest land to protect it from development.

Context: The current city budget is approximately $1.5 billion.

Yes, but: Councilor Dan Boots told Axios the 2025 budget will have many expensive priorities, including police, fire and solid waste contract negotiations, plus several large capital projects.

  • Boots said he's supportive of the Forest Alliance's goals and wants to see the city's park system expand but "it remains to be seen" if that will be part of next year's budget.

The latest: Oles said the $6 million request would allow the city to purchase four forested parcels whose current owners are looking to sell and willing to partner with someone to protect the urban forest area.

  • Two, in particular, on the east side of the city are at significant risk of being developed and are located in areas that already lack green space.

Zoom in: One is 20 acres along the north side of I-70 between Ritter and Arlington avenues.

  • Another 70 acres are on the southeast side near Post and Brookeville roads.
  • Parcels in the Nora area and Decatur Township could also be secured.

What's next: Mayor Joe Hogsett is expected to introduce his budget proposal in August.

  • Final adoption by the City-County Council would happen in October.
  • Oles said the Forest Alliance plans to have a presence at each meeting until the final vote and encourages residents to reach out to their city-county councilor and the mayor's office to share their thoughts.

The bottom line: "If we care about these issues, the time is now," Oles said.

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