We had all hoped that this debate had been put to rest.  However, it has been popping up quite frequently in recent news stories.  The current Indiana governor is advocating the new terrain extension of Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Evansville that is opposed by many Hoosiers.  This extension would cause the destruction of thousands of acres of farmland, wetlands, and forest.  This includes the bisection of Patoka National Wildlife Refuge in Pike County.

The latest news reports that in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) state highway officials have ignored the presence of karst geology in the path of the proposed extension.  The karst geology, which took millions of years to form, is composed of sensitive cave systems, sinkholes, and springs.  These areas are home to many species of plant and animal life that require this specific environment in order to survive.  It is important to ensure that a thorough EIS has been performed.

Not only will the new terrain extension cost Indiana much environmentally, but the cost is also high financially.  Because of this, many of our state’s lawmakers are against the proposed route.  The current cost is projected at approximately $2 billion.  The route preferred by many Hoosiers is the upgrading and connection of US 41 and I-70.  This would cost Indiana $800 million less, it would only be about 12 minutes longer than the new terrain extension, and would not destroy thousands of acres of highly sensitive land.

It is important for us to keep an eye on the progress of the new terrain proposal.  You can get the latest news updates at http://www.elpc.org/CommonsenseI69/Index.htm.  For information on the final EIS, you can access the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) website at http://www.i69indyevn.org/.  Please let your state representative and senator know your opinion on this issue.

“… Man must treat the beasts of this land as his brother.  What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, also happens to the man.”—Chief Seattle of the Puget Sound Suwamish Tribe (1855)

This article was written for the Cooper Audubon Society newsletter under my maiden name, Sarah Kistler.  This entire newsletter is available upon request.

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