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U.S. Sen. Mike Braun wants to double the size of Deam Wilderness, create national recreation area

The view of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness from inside Patton Cave — the dark cave frames the trees and river rocks in the foreground.
Rebecca Thiele
IPB News
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) wants to more the double the size of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness and include it as part of a national recreation area.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced a bill to more than double the size of Indiana’s only wilderness area and designate it — along with the land around it — a national recreation area.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, national recreation areas are lands near large reservoirs that allow people to do outdoor activities like fishing, swimming and boating. There are about 40 of them in the U.S.

All together, the proposed area would span about 57,000 acres around the Charles C. Deam Wilderness southeast of Bloomington. Braun said the fact that so many landowners lease their land for hunting in the state shows there’s a market for more outdoor recreation.

“Many of my constituents that I've gotten to know, even as a state rep before I became a U.S. senator, weighed in on how they wish there was more land available for pure recreation," he said.

The national designation would also help protect the water quality in Lake Monroe, which serves as drinking water for more than 128,000 households in southern Indiana.

Braun said because all of the land is currently owned by the Hoosier National Forest, no new land would need to be acquired from private landowners.

Evan Robbins is the communications director for the Indiana Forest Alliance — which supports the legislation. He said unlike parks, wilderness areas are mostly untouched.

“So there's not a lot of places, especially east of the Mississippi — in Indiana in particular — where you can go and see something that hasn't been really affected by humankind," Robbins said.

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Robbins said the expanded wilderness and national recreation areas would likely bring tourist dollars to southern Indiana.

Braun is currently running for Indiana governor in the 2024 election.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.