by Cathy Martin, Program Manager, Save the Dunes
The Indiana Dunes Ecosystem Alliance (IDEA) is a partnership that Save the Dunes initiated in 2015 to lead a conservation planning project supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program. IDEA, comprised of representatives from the National Park Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, United State Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, and NIPSCO, formed to reduce fragmentation of the Indiana dunes and work collaboratively to protect the region's ecosystems on a landscape-level, blurring jurisdictional boundaries. IDEA completed the Indiana Dunes Ecosystem Conservation Plan to determine conservation priorities, threats, and restoration, acquisition, outreach, and policy strategies to protect natural resources across the Indiana dunes, focusing on Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, Cowles Bog, Great Marsh, and the Indiana Dunes State Park. For example, Through IDEA we prioritized the purchase of a Marsh Master to restore larger numbers of acreage in challenging conditions, and secured funding for restoration of globally imperiled habitat across National Park and municipal lands.
Since completing this planning process, IDEA continues to meet to develop meaningful protects to implement as a partnership, as well as exchange information on ongoing restoration initiatives, natural resource management challenges, and emerging threats. This year, IDEA is focusing efforts on the Great Marsh and Tolleston Dunes, two areas of the Indiana dunes that are high in ecological diversity, although threatened by invasive species and changes in hydrology and land use, and offer opportunities for multiagency restoration efforts.
Partnerships like IDEA allow land managers and conservation organizations to protect the habitats of the Indiana dunes on a larger scale. Save the Dunes is honored to work within this partnership to achieve regional conservation goals and support and expand partners' projects. By combining restoration, research, and advocacy expertise, we believe these landscape-level partnerships can help protect the unique habitats of Northwest Indiana, in spite of our fragmented landscape. We look forward to sharing more about IDEA's upcoming projects soon!