Conservation partners from Indiana and Illinois have laid out a collaborative approach for protecting nature in a region known as the Calumet. Hidden between residential, urban, and industrial development, the Calumet region spans from Northwest Indiana to Southeast Chicagoland and has some of the richest natural areas in the Midwest. Conservation partners have been working for decades to protect and restore what remains in this highly fragmented landscape. Now, ten organizations, together called the Calumet Land Conservation Partnership (CLCP), have produced a series of coordinated Conservation Action Plans to identify conservation targets, threats, and strategies to meet emerging opportunities across the bi-state region.
These Conservation Action Plans or “CAPs” outline a clear approach for how to protect landscapes, restore native habitats, create accessible and healthy river corridors, and develop resilient coastal communities that will thrive in the face of ongoing threats such as habitat fragmentation, invasive species, flooding, and pollution – all of which are exacerbated by climate change. Within these CAPs are strategies that overcome threats and embrace challenges. For example, securing funding for continued partnership work within priority conservation focus areas as well as creating space for new and emerging stakeholders to become engaged in the process.
Save the Dunes is coordinating the release of the “Conservation Action Planning in the Calumet Region” report that aligns and integrates the CAPs developed in previous years into a collective framework. “Our goal with the release of this report is to facilitate communications with new and existing conservation partners, community stakeholders, and potential funding bodies. Our partners and the community we serve share the same goals for the environment. Our hope is this comprehensive planning resource helps us carry out our collective vision for the Calumet region so that this special place can be enjoyed for generations to come” says Save the Dunes Executive Director, Betsy Maher.
Preserving lands and waters improves human and wildlife health, protects rare species, and brings the benefits of nature to the people of a region that has been challenged by more than a century of industrial and urban development. “The Indiana Dunes are part of the greater Calumet region. Here, the shores of Lake Michigan intersect with wetlands, rivers, savannas, forests, and prairies, which collectively produce an abundance of plant and wildlife biodiversity – but only if we protect and restore what’s left of this precious landscape,” says Maher.
The CLCP helped to develop this regional approach for conservation action planning and have been working with stakeholders representing local organizations, land managers, and state and federal agencies for more than ten years employing a globally recognized framework for conservation action planning.
CLCP partners include Save the Dunes, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, National Parks Conservation Association, Audubon Great Lakes, Openlands, Metropolitan Planning Council, The Wetlands Initiative, and The Field Museum. The work was supported with funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and ArcelorMittal, now Cleveland-Cliffs.
Mark Bouman, Chicago Region Program Director in the Keller Science Action Center at The Field Museum, said that “Field Museum scientists have long been aware of the special beauty of the natural history of the Calumet region, which is one of the birthplaces of the science of ecology.”
The Field Museum has worked with local groups to create a Calumet National Heritage Area Management Plan and the Calumet Voices/National Stories exhibit now open at the Museum. “What’s exciting is that these Conservation Action Plans provide a coordinated roadmap for how people in this 21st century can work together to face the challenges and meet the opportunities these special places face.”
“I hope the plan invites discussion, sparks dialogue with a broad and new group of stakeholders, and moves toward actions that ensure the next generation benefits from this natural history,” says Bouman.
Each of the nine Conservation Action Plans outlined in the “Conservation Action Planning in the Calumet Region” report detail the conservation vision, geographic scope, conservation targets, human well-being targets, conservation threats, and conservation strategies for each focus area including focus area maps that showcase the key features on the landscape.
Victoria Wittig, Ambassador for the Northwest Indiana Urban Waters Federal Partnership, and previously the coordinator for the project when she worked at Save the Dunes, says, “The impressive scope of this report exemplifies the power of partnership work in the Calumet region. Partners representing diverse perspectives are able to make tremendous progress when working in collaboration toward shared conservation goals.
According to Wittig, “The report also directly ties into emerging planning efforts and funding opportunities across the region that incorporate perspectives from Environmental Justice communities. As all conservation partners know, conservation work is never done. It will be exciting to see how this ‘living document’ continues to evolve in the coming years.”
For more information, contact:
Program Director, Save the Dunes
Mark Bouman, Ph.D.
Chicago Region Program Director, Keller
Science Action Center, The Field Museum
Victoria Wittig, Ph.D.
Northwest Indiana Urban Waters Federal