INDIANA (August 19, 2021) – Audubon Great Lakes is working on-the-ground in the Calumet region of Northwest Indiana to bring back declining bird populations and connect local communities with their natural spaces. Today, Congressman Frank J. Mrvan (D-IN-1) went birdwatching with Audubon Great Lakes at Lake Etta County Park in Gary, Indiana to learn about this important conservation and community engagement work and discuss bipartisan conservation and climate solutions to protect Indiana’s birds and people.
“Thank you to Audubon Great Lakes for the birding adventure today. I am grateful for the role of the federal government to support programs that conserve and improve the Northwest Indiana environment, and I applaud the dedicated community engagement of Audubon that benefits Northwest Indiana’s wildlife and our regional economy,” said Congressman Mrvan.
Audubon Great Lakes representatives led the bird walk, accompanied by Brenda Scott-Henry, Director and MS4 Coordinator for the Department of Sustainability & Environmental Affairs at the City of Gary, Chris Landgrave, Chief Operating Officer for Lake County Parks, John Salzeider, Board Member for Lake County Parks, and Kim Ehn, President of Dunes-Calumet Audubon Society.
The bird walk through Lake Etta County Park included a stop at the Little Calumet River where Audubon Great Lakes is working to restore wetlands, as part of its vision plan to restore the Great Lakes region. A critically important area for the region’s birds, loss of quality wetland habitat in the Calumet Region has contributed to the region’s decline of several marsh bird species over the past two decades. Over the past two years, Audubon and partners have restored 300 acres of wetlands along a ten-mile stretch of the Little Calumet River with support from the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.
In addition to protecting birds, this important restoration work provides natural spaces, improves water quality and alleviates flooding for the benefit of local communities. People benefit from easy and regular access to nature, but communities of color have less access to healthy parks, paths and green spaces. During the bird walk, Audubon Great Lakes shared how its community engagement program, Wild Indigo Nature Explorations, is creating tailored programs to connect underserved communities of color in Gary, Indiana to their local natural areas.
Much of Audubon Great Lakes’ conservation work, including its vision plan to protect and restore more than 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Indiana alone, is made possible through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
Located within the Mississippi Flyway, Indiana is part of an important migration corridor that brings hundreds of bird species to the state each year. While birding the group saw a Great Egret, Barn Swallow, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird and the climate vulnerable Red-headed Woodpecker. Audubon’s science found that rapidly changing climate could lead to population declines and local extinctions for as many as 27 percent of Indiana’s birds if species are unable to adapt. Audubon Great Lakes representatives shared how common-sense climate solutions like the Growing Climate Solutions Act will help Indiana’s farmers and foresters further invest in sustainable management practices to protect birds and Hoosiers.
“Audubon Great Lakes thanks Congressman Mrvan for joining us on a bird walk today to learn about our work to restore the region’s wetlands for the benefit of birds and communities in Northwest Indiana,” said Marnie Urso, Senior Policy Director for Audubon Great Lakes. “We applaud Congressman Mrvan for supporting robust investments of the Great Lakes in the 2022 federal budget, and we look forward to working with the Congressman on common-sense solutions that will protect birds, bring back wildlife and improve the lives of those who live and work in Northwest Indiana.”
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.