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Audubon Launches New Restoration and Community Engagement Initiatives in Northwest Indiana

​“This type of work is essential to attracting new people and businesses to our regional economy and improves our quality of place by connecting people to the unique ecosystem and wildlife of Northwest Indiana.” – Congressman Pete Visclosky

March 21, 2019

GARY, IN — Last night, leaders, partners, volunteers and community members gathered as Audubon Great Lakes announced new wetland restoration projects at four sites along the Little Calumet River in Northwest Indiana as well as a new Wild Indigo Nature Explorations program in Gary. The details were revealed during an annual event recognizing the work of community science volunteers.



“The Calumet region in Illinois and Indiana is a priority for us because it is some of the most significant habitat for birds in our region,” said Nathaniel Miller, National Audubon Society’s director of conservation for the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Flyway. “Several marsh bird species have declined dramatically in this region in the last 20 years, in large part because of the loss of quality habitat. This year, we’re embarking on an ambitious plan to restore wetlands while also helping to build local passion for their protection. We have brought together the best and brightest conservation leaders to help us develop and execute this plan and we will be tapping into a dedicated and energetic network of people who want to revitalize wetlands in the area for the benefit of birds and their communities. We are a part of this special ecosystem too, so it’s incumbent on us to do everything we can to conserve it.”



Northwest Indiana Region Director for The Nature Conservancy, Paul Labus, received the King Rail Award in recognition of his exceptional leadership and contributions to Calumet wetland conservation. In particular, Labus and The Nature Conservancy have led wetland restoration along the Grand Calumet River and helped to bring back rare wildlife. “Paul was a champion for wetlands, well before we had champions for wetlands, but most importantly, he is a passionate leader,” said Miller. “He understands that in order to meet the big conservation challenges that the Calumet presents, that we all need to work together. His leadership has led to tangible benefits for the region and I’m excited to give him this recognition.”



U.S. Congressman Pete Visclosky, representative for Indiana’s 1st congressional district, who was instrumental in the successful push to designate the Indiana Dunes as a national park, delivered the keynote address. “I am grateful for the dedicated work of Audubon Great Lakes and their partners, who identified this opportunity to further preserve and enhance the wetlands of Northwest Indiana,” said Visclosky. “This type of work is essential to attracting new people and businesses to our regional economy and improves our quality of place by connecting people to the unique ecosystem and wildlife of Northwest Indiana.”



Audubon Great Lakes partners in this project include Lake County Parks & Recreation, The Nature Conservancy of Indiana, The Wetlands Initiative, Dunes-Calumet Audubon Society and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Restoration is planned along ten miles of the Little Calumet River, from approximately Hammond to Gary and will begin with four sites: Highland’s Heron Rookery, MLK North Wetland, MLK South Wetland and Colorado Street.



About the Little Calumet River: Like the Indiana Dunes National Park, The Little Calumet River is an important part of Indiana’s natural heritage. The river is also the largest swath of habitat in the area, making it critical for wildlife and especially secretive marsh birds, which have been in steep decline for the last 20 years. Audubon Great Lakes and partners have been conducting marsh bird surveys in the Calumet area, in Illinois and Northwest Indiana, since 2015, to collect data that informs the impacts of restoration and guides future actions. More information about Indiana marsh bird surveys is available at: https://gl.audubon.org/news/indiana-marsh-bird-survey



About Wild Indigo Nature Explorations: “Wild Indigo” is a community engagement program that seeks to build lasting relationships between urban communities of color and their local natural areas, by familiarizing adults and children with the habitat and wildlife that share the spaces where they live, work, and play. Wild Indigo coordinators, together with local partners and community members, create nature-based activities that are tailored for the people participating. Currently, Wild Indigo programs can be found in Chicago, Lake County, Illinois, Detroit and now Northwest Indiana. More information available at: https://gl.audubon.org/bird-friendly-communities/wild-indigo-nature-explorations



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Contact: Graciela González; ggonzalez@audubon.org



The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon Great Lakes is a regional office of Audubon, learn more at gl.audubon.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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