West Beach Interdunland pond
Panne Habitat at West Beach. Photo by Marshall D’Arcy.

Save the Dunes was awarded a Sustain Our Great Lakes grant to restore panne habitat in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and adjacent municipality-owned land in the City of Gary and the Town of Ogden Dunes. Pannes are interdunal wetlands unique to coastal regions – in the United States, pannes are only found in the Great Lakes Basin and Cape Cod. These habitats support a wide range of species; in Northwest Indiana, pannes are home to over 200 native plant species, 20 of which are state listed. They contain certain plant species which now grow nowhere else in either the Chicago region or in the state of Indiana. Reptiles and amphibians also make their homes in panne habitats.

While supporting incredible biodiversity, pannes are fragile and threatened habitats. Pannes are small in size and susceptible to threats of invasive species, human disturbance, and modified hydrology. Invasive species have threatened the structure, health, and size of panne habitats. While it is a priority of the National Park Service to protect these rare and unique habitats and staff are committed to maintaining the 47 acres of pannes that are entirely within the parks boundaries, a number of pannes in the Indiana dunes share boundaries with or completely exist within land not managed by the National Park Service. As part of this grant, Save the Dunes and the National Park Service will partner with adjacent communities to manage and restore panne habitat across jurisdictional boundaries. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a highly fragmented national park and opportunities to work across boundaries are critical for protection of conservation priorities. Resource managers are excited about the opportunity to partner with adjacent communities to maximize available resources and effectiveness of restoration projects.

Miller Woods Vectors
Miller Woods is an example of fragmentation not only on a large scale in the Indiana dunes, but within individual units. Miller Woods is one of the highest quality natural areas in the Indiana dunes and it is intersected by utility ROWs, adjacent to major industry (US Steel), and shares panne, oak savanna, and other priority habitats with the City of Gary, who does not have the staff or funding resources to manage natural lands, allowing invasive species to establish and spread. This grant will allow for more holistic restoration across jurisdictional boundaries.

After two years of initial control on these properties, invasive plants are expected to be reduced to a level that will allow the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to commit to maintaining top priority habitat across jurisdictional boundaries. It is our hope that this will continue the region’s resource managers and landowners to work towards managing natural areas holistically, and start to erase the hopelessness of the invasive plants that are ‘on the other side of the fence’.