Our Mission / Our Story

West Beach hike 5 6-17-2013


The mission of Save the Dunes is to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana dunes and all natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life.

We Strive To:

  • Protect the Indiana dunes ecosystem from the negative impacts of human land use and behavior.
  • Improve the watersheds that flow to the dunes and Lake Michigan.
  • Educate the public about environmental concerns affecting the dunes area.
  • Reduce pollution of the dunes area by holding government agencies, businesses and residents accountable.

Our Story

It’s a simple fact: the dunes would not have been saved for the enjoyment of future generations without the work of passionate advocates. The fight to save the dunes began in the early 1900s. A diverse group of people rallied around the cause as development sprawled from Chicago towards Northwest Indiana at an alarming pace. They succeeded in establishing the Indiana Dunes State Park in the 1920s, but there were still pristine areas along the lake threatened by development. Through two World Wars and the Great Depression, advocates for the dunes never gave up hope.

The Save the Dunes Council formed in 1952 under the leadership of Dorothy Buell, an English teacher who spoke eloquently of the need for preservation. Thankfully, their call for a national park in the dunes was heard by Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois. With a champion in the halls of Congress, the group succeeded in establishing our beloved Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. The park was created in a compromise that would shape Northwest Indiana’s identity going forward–a port would also be developed, and the region would forever have the challenge of balancing the needs of nature, industry and community. Save the Dunes is proud to carry on that work today.

The organization has worked tirelessly in the decades since to address challenges that the founding members might never have imagined. In the years following the creation of the park, notable Save the Dunes members organized opposition to projects that were inappropriate for the park, such as a proposed nuclear power plant. There has always been a new generation of dunes advocates ready to carry on the legacy.

Today, Save the Dunes is keenly focused on threats to the natural resources and biodiversity of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. As the 7th most diverse unit in the National Park System, there is a lot to lose if we do not properly steward this incredible resource we have in our backyards. The top threats to the dunes today are invasive species, potential climate change impacts, fragmentation, and lack of sufficient funds to address these threats effectively. Save the Dunes is hard at work protecting our special dunes biodiversity by securing funding, planning for climate change adaptation strategies, and spearheading regional collaborations between government agencies, land trusts, nonprofits, heavy industry, and the community.

Save the Dunes continues to reflect on the struggles behind us, while adapting to address the challenges of today and tomorrow. What began as an inspiring group of passionate volunteer activists has grown into a diverse organization with environmental professionals on staff, working every day to build strong partnerships across the region. Saving the dunes today means working together across many perceived boundaries to recognize our common interests and our shared love of the lakeshore. Through collaboration, mutual respect, positive energy and the right know-how we can ensure that generations to come will have the dunes to enjoy as a place of wonder and respite. It may take time, but if looking out on the dunes shows us anything, it is that amazing things happen over time in the right environment.