NICHES, Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive a nonprofit conservation organization, works actively and in cooperation with local groups in Montgomery County to "acquire land and protect it for native wildlife and for people," Gus Nyberg, executive director of NICHES, told an audience of 30 gathered for the October 2013 "Lunch with the League."

NICHES, according to Nyberg, is "a non-adversarial group that works cooperatively with land owners, other nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. It works to protect a broad array of natural areas ranging from small green spaces to pristine nature preserves of high biological integrity." NICHES was founded in 1995 and named appropriately for a group "dedicated to saving a niche here and a niche there in an effort to preserve the biodiversity that exists in northwestern Indiana."

The organization currently protects over 2600 acres in the 13 counties it serves. In addition to Montgomery County, NICHES protects and holds land in trust in Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Jasper, Pulaski, Newton, Tippecanoe, Warren, and White Counties. It is a member of the Land Trust Alliance the national organization of land trusts. In Montgomery County, NICHES currently protects the Bachner Nature Reserve (28 acres), Rock River Farm (214 acres), and Walnut Fork Wildlife Refuge (33 acres).

In addition to acquiring land and holding it in trust, NICHES and its volunteers engage in a variety of activities intended to protect native wildlife and encourage public appreciation of natural areas. In Montgomery County the group has cooperated with Friends of Sugar Creek to do spring and fall clean ups at Bachner Preserve and other sections of Sugar Creek, plant native trees in the Bachner area, and remove invasive plant species (garlic mustard, etc.) from areas it protects. NICHES also conducts controlled burns in areas of native grasslands, maintains trails, trains docents to lead nature hikes in some of its protected properties, and conducts educational programs for children.

NICHES has been working with the state of Indiana to acquire tracts of land to allow development of natural areas to connect established forests and wildlife habitat along Sugar Creek, according to Nyberg. In response to questions about Sugar Creek, he encouraged the reactivation of the Sugar Creek Advisory Board which was established by county ordinance in 2002 to advise the County Commissioners about "how to protect and preserve the stream in a scenic and natural state."

Nyberg, who has served as executive director of NICHES since 2007 and is president of Friends of Sugar Creek, served for 10 years as land steward for the Nature Conservancy of the Kankakee River Valley. He holds a bachelor of science degree from University of Illinois, Chicago Circle campus.

Lunch With the League meets on the first Monday of the month during the fall, winter and spring. The next Lunch with the League, meeting on Nov. 4 in the Whitlock Room of St. John's Episcopal Church (212 S. Green Street, Crawfordsville), will feature Kristin Clary, executive director of MCED, and Steve House, executive director of the Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website: or send a message to LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.