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VU Jasper Campus conservation practices attract praise

May 18, 2017 / Vincennes University Jasper Campus conservation practices attract praise

JASPER, Ind. - Backed by community partners, the Vincennes University Jasper Campus is a learning laboratory of good conservation practices.

Beginning in 2010 with the planting of prairie grasses on 12 acres on the south side of campus, a project backed by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Landowner Incentive Program, the acreage became certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat.

"The Vincennes University Jasper campus takes pride in being a good neighbor and is committed to the community as a participant in conservation efforts that control water runoff, improve the soil, and provide a living habitat for wildlife," said Dean K. Ackerman, interim dean and assistant vice president of VUJC.

As conservation practices gained momentum, the Indiana Water Resources Association presented its Outstanding Achievement Award to former VUJC Dean Alan Johnson in June 2012, citing Johnson’s “guiding vision for sustainable land management on the campus that will continue to yield water quality benefits.”

The IWRA was founded in 1979 to promote water resources research, education, and communication in Indiana.  It is an organization of several hundred professionals and students working in all aspects of water resources.  Its members include scientists, engineers, regulators, educators, policy makers, and students from government agencies, universities, industry, consulting firms, and other water-related groups.

Thanks in part to these conservation efforts, the Jasper Campus has been designated as a Tree Campus USA multiple times since 2009 by the Arbor Day Foundation, which noted the value of planting trees, native grasses, and wildflowers to provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young birds and small mammals. Dry dams are used on the fields which help with water control and soil erosion.  Future plans include using a backhoe to excavate the waterway in front of campus to reduce the likelihood that Cohere Drive floods during heavy rains.

In 2012 VUJC partnered with the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District to develop the campus farmland into a research and education site to help farmers improve productivity while improving the quality of the soil and cleaning the water that runs off the fields.  The five-year agreement, called the VUJC Land Stewardship Initiative, applied no-till and cover crop techniques to stabilize soil structure, increase its biologic activity, and filter the rainwater that drains from the fields.

VUJC provides the large acreage without cost for purposes of soil quality improvement, preventing soil erosion, and water conservation. The LSI meetings take place quarterly with the maintenance director and VUJC dean.

All of these achievements received key support from local organizations that donated resources to help facilitate the creation of the wildlife habitat. Partners for the Wildlife Habitat include VU Jasper Foundation, Indiana DNR, VUJC, and Quail Unlimited (Patoka Hills Chapter).  SWCD (Soil Water Conservation District) is an advisory partner.

As part of the conservation effort, there was a controlled burn for prairie management completed in 2015 with another one planned this fall.  Planning is underway with the SWCD and the Jasper Fire Department, which will be requested to participate again and use the controlled burn as a training exercise for brush fires.

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY JASPER CAMPUS

Vincennes University Jasper is a vital part of Indiana’s first college, Vincennes University, a state-supported college that traces its founding to 1801.

In addition to offering associate degree and certificate programs, VUJC also offers select baccalaureate programs.  Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, tuition and fees at VUJC rank among the most affordable of all Indiana colleges.

VU Jasper is located on a beautiful 140-acre campus on the southeast side of Jasper.  In addition to the new Center for Technology, Innovation, and Manufacturing, other campus facilities include the Ruxer Student Center, Habig Technology Center, Administrative Classroom Building, and a Classroom Building that holds a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory for healthcare training.  Adjacent to the campus is the Jasper Arts Center that includes a 675-seat theatre and visual arts galleries.

VUJC fulfills the vision of a Dubois County citizens group, founded in 1960, that was dedicated to improving area education and cultural enrichment. Vincennes University joined as a strong partner in 1970. VUJC has developed to serve thousands of students in Dubois, Spencer, Martin, Perry, Crawford, Harrison, Pike, Orange, and Lawrence counties in Indiana.

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