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World Water Week: Protecting Indiana’s Wetlands Post-Supreme Court’s Ruling in Sackett v. EPA

Nature based solutions like wetland restoration provide clean drinking water and protect against both drought and flooding by collecting excess water

Two years after Indiana state legislature gutted environmental protections in the disastrous SB 389, the Supreme Court, in its recent Sackett v. EPA case, limited what waters are considered under the Clean Water Act and has deprived much of Indiana’s remaining wetlands of federal protection. According to Brian Vigue, Policy Director of Freshwater for Audubon Great Lakes, while an attempt to sneak deregulation into an unrelated bill was thwarted this past spring, the Court’s ruling in this case could embolden further attacks on wetlands in upcoming legislative sessions. Protecting what remains is now more important than ever.

From dune and swale along the coast of Lake Michigan, to miles of marsh, bog, and river bottom throughout the state, wetlands offer a great deal to the wealth of Indiana’s landscape. They afford Hoosiers many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, from places to swim and fish in the warm days of summer, to grounds for hunting and birding in fall and spring. More significantly, however, with unique ecologies of water-dependent plants, wetlands provide key habitat for birds and other wildlife. Such species as the Black Tern, Marsh Wren, Least Bittern and Pied-Billed Grebe rely on these spaces for nesting and feeding, and the decline of wetlands in the state has likewise threatened these remarkable birds.

While wetlands comprise over 800,000 acres, or about 3.5 percent, of Indiana, this is just a small fraction of what once existed in the state. Around 85 percent has been lost to development of roads, buildings or farms, and now, due to the recent Supreme Court ruling, what remains could easily disappear in turn. This would have devastating consequences, not only for birds and other wildlife, but also for Indiana’s citizens who rely on wetlands and the ecological services they provide, acting as sinks for surface run-off and flood control.

In response to their vulnerable state, Audubon Great Lakes and its local chapters have taken the lead in advocating for Indiana’s remaining wetlands. Over the last two years, Audubon Great Lakes formed the Indiana Climate Council, an informal working group made of Audubon chapters in Indiana engaged on climate and wetlands issues. Since the formation of the council we’ve engaged on bird walks that build relationships with state and federal legislators, birds and brews events that connect us with partners and Audubon audiences, and organize visits to the statehouse to advocate on issue important for birds such as the Advocacy Day at Indiana’s Statehouse this past January. Together, as one Audubon in Indiana, we have the opportunity to influence Indiana lawmakers and demonstrate first-hand the value that wetlands—and the birds who depend on them—bring to the state. 

Coming up in the fall, we are planning additional bird walks with legislators, as well as birds and brews collaborating with several of Audubon chapters including Amos Butler Audubon Society.

Chuck Anderson, President of Amos Butler Audubon Society

As a local chapter active in Indianapolis and surrounding counties Amos Butler Audubon Society led by Chuck Anderson, President for the past two years and on the board for more than four years with over a decade of experience in birding, and brings his business experience and passion for conservation to his chapter leadership role. Chuck along with his fellow chapter volunteers is a vital link to the conservation efforts in his local community including organizing programs for chapter members to attend and volunteer, along with forging partnerships with other conservation and advocacy organizations such Indiana Wildlife Federation and Hoosier Environmental Council, and providing meaningful funding resources. One such donation includes supporting restoration efforts at the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab, a 75-acre natural space that includes wetlands, forest, and prairie habitat located at the Marian University campus. Because of  Amos Butler’s investment at the Marian University Chuck’s chapter hosts bird walks at the campus natural space. 

Amos Butler Audubon Society also assumes a leadership role in their local and state-based conservation efforts and gets involved in advocacy such as the opportunity offered by Audubon Great Lakes earlier this year to advocate for protecting wetlands in Indiana with their local legislators, but also by accepting an invitation to develope initiatives such as the Indiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Purdue University, a joint initiative of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Purdue University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, Amos Buter Audubon Society directly supports Whooping Crane conservation in partnership with the International Crane Foundation.  

Our local Audubon chapter in Indianapolis is one example of Audubon’s local presence! Learn more about Amos Butler Audubon at their website or join us for an upcoming event because Amos Butler Audubon Society is co-hosting with Audubon Great Lakes a Birds & Brews on Wednesday, September 27th from 5pm ET to 7pm ET at the Upland FSQ Brewery in Indianapolis. Learn more and register!

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