Every year Save the Dunes presents its Paul H Douglas Award to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service to the cause of preserving and protecting the Indiana Dunes similar to the dedication that Paul H. Douglas possessed in his advocacy for the creation of the National Lakeshore.  We are pleased to present the 2015 recipient, Paul Labus, Northwest Indiana Region Director, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Dunes Board Member who has contributed his talents for leadership and planning to the Indiana Dunes region.

As Northwest Indiana Region Director, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Chapter, Paul’s responsibilities include developing and implementing strategic plans and conservation programs for northwest Indiana.

Paul Labus giving a hike at the DuPont nature preserve.

For the past 20 plus years Paul Labus has worked with government agencies, industry as well as other NGOs to develop a conservation vision and restoration plan for the Grand Calumet River area.  The Grand Calumet River, located at the southern end of Lake Michigan, is one the most polluted rivers in the Great Lakes basin. It has received effluent from major industries and municipal waste water treatment plants for more than 100 years. Fragments of the native landscape, which support surprisingly diverse natural communities – some of which are globally rare – continue to persist in close proximity to the heavy urban/industrial development. The Grand Calumet River area is home to fragments of native ecology that persist among heavy industry and urban development. Paul has helped identify the best opportunities to protect, restore and manage fragments of the native lakeplain ecosystem; set conservation goals for the restoration of highly degraded habitats; developed a regional invasive species management plan; and planned for long term ecological management of restored habitats.

Yellow Lady’s Slipper at the DuPont dune and swale managed by TNC with an agreement with DuPont

Labus also worked with DuPont Corporation for the past 15 years developing and implementing a site specific conservation plan for a 170-acre natural area that is part of their corporate land holdings in East Chicago, Indiana. Some of the challenges at the site include creating a buffer zone to prevent the migration of contaminants into the natural area from their former manufacturing site; coordinating with EPA and the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management on dredging contaminated sediments from wetlands adjacent to the Grand Calumet River; managing habitat for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly; controlling invasive species; and implementing a prescribed fire program.

Most recently he worked with IDNR, USFW, IDEM, EPA and others to create a 5-year restoration management plan for sites related to achieving wildlife habitat objectives that are tied to delisting the Grand Calumet River as an Area of Concern. With his tireless efforts, knowledge and sense of what needs to be accomplished, restoration will be seamlessly managed in the area for years to come, a feat rarely accomplished in many conservation areas.

“Save the Dunes is indebted to Paul for protecting some of the last remaining dune and swale and for helping bring back the Grand Calumet River,” said Nicole Barker, Executive Director. “He is a passionate, humble leader who actively mentors the next generation of conservation leaders and cares deeply about the future of nature in Northwest Indiana – we are so fortunate to have him here,” she added.

Paul Labus is a native of Northwest Indiana and currently resides in Whiting.


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