Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) lauded the introduction of legislation, S. 2990 Benjamin Harrison National Recreation Area and Wilderness Establishment Act of 2023 by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun to expand the Charles C Deam Wilderness to protect the wild Nebo Ridge area and create an additional national recreation area surrounding the Wilderness. This legislation will protect the drinking water provided to more than 120,000 Hoosiers from the Monroe Reservoir. 

IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant said the legislation will add approximately 15,300 acres to the north, east, and southeast of the Deam to the Wilderness, more than doubling its size from the current 12,953 acres to 28,253 acres. No private land will be included in the wilderness which is part of Hoosier National Forest. More than 29,000 acres of additional national forest land surrounding the expanded Wilderness will be designated as the Benjamin Harrison National Recreation Area by the legislation to protect Lake Monroe and promote hiking, horseback riding, camping, and mountain biking on these public lands under a Management Plan for the area.   

“We are very thankful to Senator Braun for spearheading this historic legislation, which will establish the largest area of protected wild forests in the history of Indiana,” said Stant. “Once this bill becomes law, the Deam will be more than twice its current size, saving thousands of acres of precious wildlife habitat and encompassing such striking natural features as Browning Mountain and Nebo Ridge, which are not currently protected by law from logging and other destructive activities.”

The Benjamin Harrison National Recreation Area and Wilderness Establishment Act of 2023 was officially introduced Thursday, Sept. 28 and unveiled in full during the second day of IFA MemberFest 2023 – at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30 at the Story Inn in Brown County, Ind. where IFA hosted a continental breakfast and discussion with Sen. Mike Braun’s Chief of Staff Josh Kelley.

Braun said the legislation is a crucial step in preserving Indiana’s unique natural features.

“As an avid conservationist and outdoorsman, the Hoosier National Forest holds a special place in my heart and by expanding the wilderness and National Recreation Area around Nebo Ridge, we can ensure these portions of the forest are preserved for future generations to enjoy,” said Braun. “The area this legislation will protect is important not only for its ecological significance, but also for the drinking water which the Monroe Reservoir provides to so many Hoosiers in the area. I’m proud to work with Indiana Forest Alliance and other conservation groups to ensure Indiana’s natural spaces receive the respect and care they deserve.”

Maps of the proposed expansion area can be found here. Click here to read the full text of the bill.

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