Save the Dunes, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Student Conservation Association are working to bolster land restoration and management efforts in the Indiana dunes landscape, furthering the protection of our national and state park and treasured Northwest Indiana natural resources. The project, funded by the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and ArcelorMittal, supported a Student Conservation Association crew to restore oak savanna habitat and prepare for prescribed burns in Indiana Dunes State Park. In an era of continually limited resources, this work to protect the unique habitats of the Indiana dunes is increasingly important.
As part of this project, the National Parks Conservation Association, in partnership with Save the Dunes, will look at long-term solutions to better fund restoration and land management in the Indiana dunes landscape. Consistent and sustainable funding for land management is key for the preservation of the unique and fragile habitats that define the Indiana dunes, especially in an urban setting where threats are persistent. The National Parks Conservation Association and Save the Dunes will explore opportunities for increased funding for natural resource management, and opportunities for cooperative land management and collaborative projects.
For millions of visitors and residents of Northwest Indiana, the Indiana dunes are a source of respite, recreation, and lifelong learning. There is something unique and unforgettable about the Indiana dunes. Embedded within a largely urban and industrial setting are some of the most stunning, complex, and globally rare habitats in the country. Collaborative efforts are our best chance at protecting that unique quality of the Indiana dunes. We’re proud that through partnerships, we can protect the Indiana dunes for current and future generations.
While small in size, the Indiana dunes are a biological gem, home to nearly 1,200 native plant species, globally imperiled habitats, and state and federally endangered plants and wildlife. The Indiana dunes are embedded within and intersected by a variety of land uses, such as industry, agriculture, residential communities, and utilities. While the mixture of land uses is part of our regional identity, the complex landscape threatens natural resources and makes them more susceptible to the impacts of pollution, invasive species, habitat degradation, and other stressors. Worsening these threats is the lack of funding available to the National Park Service, the managers of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the managers of the Indiana Dunes State Park, to protect the biodiversity that makes the Indiana dunes a unique place.
Save the Dunes has dedicated much of their work to supporting the National Park Service and Indiana Department of Natural Resources through conservation planning, public outreach, and securing funding for the agencies. Because limited financial resources are available for natural resource management at the Indiana Dunes State Park, Save the Dunes has provided funds to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to hire contractors for restoration projects. The Student Conservation Association crew worked in oak savanna habitat that was restored in 2015 through a partnership between Save the Dunes and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. While Save the Dunes helped secure $150,000 for the initial restoration, resources to maintain the project are limited. The Student Conservation Association crew helped maintain the oak savanna structure by controlling invasive species and weedy native species that limit the growth of native wildflowers and grasses.
Many thanks to our fantastic Student Conservation Association crew for their work restoring habitat in the Indiana Dunes State Park, Susan Kirt for the photos, and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and ArcelorMittal for supporting this important work!