The Oak Savanna Restoration Project being implemented in Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and the Indiana Dunes State Park is underway. The $1,000,000 project is a collaborative effort between the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Indiana Dunes State Park, and Save the Dunes to restore 1,077 acres of rare black oak savanna habitat in the Indiana dunes. An oak savanna is a forested grassland with oak as the predominant species. With a sparse population of trees, an oak savanna has a low canopy cover that allows for the growth of understory plants such as wildflowers and grasses. The resulting habitat is incredibly diverse.
While oak savannas were once abundant in the Midwest, only .02% remain. We are fortunate to have several sites of high quality oak savanna habitat right here in the Indiana dunes, but the habitat is suffering due to a reduced fire regimen and an increase in invasive species. Invasive and nonnative trees and shrubs have overcrowded and disturbed the savanna structure, limiting the opportunity for native grasses and wildflowers to grow. The Oak Savanna Restoration Project will restore the savanna structure and enable under canopy species to thrive. This diversity of species is important because many rare, endangered, and high quality species depend on the healthy savanna structure, including both the Karner blue butterfly and its host plant, lupine.
To read more about the project and oak savanna habitat, click here.
Keep a lookout for hiking and volunteer opportunities for the Oak Savanna Restoration Project in the near future! The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a volunteer stewardship day at Miller Woods on November 15th from 9:00am-noon. Meet at the Douglas Center (100 N. Lake Street, Gary, IN). Contact Ted Winterfield for more info at ted_winterfeld@nps.