Calumet Region Natural Areas Receive Help

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized


Published on September 16, 2010 with No Comments

Heavy industry has taken its toll on the natural areas of northwest Indiana, yet amazing natural areas manage to survive. The Nature Conservancy and its conservation partners have been working with interns, funded through a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, to restore these areas and make sure they remain viable for all to enjoy.
Despite the hostile surroundings and decades of neglect, these natural areas are surprisingly diverse.  For example, the Clark and Pine Nature Preserve – owned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources – has the highest concentration of rare, threatened and endangered species in the entire state. The Conservancy’s Ivanhoe Dune and Swale provides habitat for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly.

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation grant enabled the Conservancy to collaborate closely with partner organizations Shirley Heinze land Trust, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund, Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The organizations worked together to develop a two-year plan to work on the restoration of 10 dune and swale properties.
By hiring interns, who for the past year have worked on these nature preserves located throughout the Calumet region, large stands of non-native plant species have been removed, undoing decades of fire suppression. The Donnelley grant will fund an additional year of work for the interns.
Cities of the Calumet area, such as Gary, Hammond and East Chicago are home to a diverse population, many of which come from working class and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. One of the contradictions of the region is that these groups traditionally have had limited access to nature while some of the most biologically diverse natural areas in the Chicago Region are located in their neighborhoods.
The greatest threat to these natural areas is ongoing habitat degradation caused by the spread of non-native invasive species and disruption of natural fire regimes,” Maggie Byrne of The Nature Conservancy said.
“Working together, we have been able to identify priorities for restoration and management based on the greatest conservation need, and not based on our individual organizational agendas. Many of these sites are receiving more focused attention during this growing season than they normally would receive.”
At the end of two-year funding period, approximately 75 acres of dune and swale habitat at five sites will be restored.
These interns have been instrumental, both for their work on the preserves but also for bringing together the various conservation groups in the area,” Coco Venturin of Lake County Parks and Recreation Department said. “And in turn I hope the interns are taking with them how important this part of the state is, and how much it needs to be protected.”
The interns received specific training in plant identification, the use of herbicides, and power brush cutting tools. In addition, Conservancy staff familiarized them with the long-term ecological goals for the region and how individual tasks contribute to the broader vision.
The interns have had the opportunity to be exposed to the Conservancy and its conservation partners, and each organization’s commitment to the Calumet region.
I’ve really enjoyed working on all of the different properties, and for each of the different organizations.  It’s been a great experience learning so many different things from each of the partner organizations,” Janyne Little, a Purdue student who is one of the interns, said.
Byrne is hopeful for the region’s natural areas.
Once restored, these places will be an important part of a healthier environment for local communities, supplying the opportunity for residents to experience nature close to home,” she said.

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