In mid-March, the Collaborative kicked off the first Conservation Action Planning (CAP) meetings for identified “gap areas” at three sites in northwest Indiana: Oak Ridge/Hoosier Prairie in Lake County, Moraine/Sunset Hill in Porter County and Galena/Ambler Flatwoods in LaPorte County. During the first round of meetings, the groups for each focus area shared their knowledge and expertise to collectively decide on boundaries and conservation targets. Over the course of the next two meetings in April and May, targets will be solidified and their related threats and risks will be evaluated. At the end of the process, a report will be written with suggestions for partnerships and opportunity areas for conservation work.
Calumet Collaborative is serving as project manager and stakeholder convener throughout the CAP process. Leading the charge with the Collaborative is the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Indiana DNR) Lake Michigan Coastal Program. Coastal Resources Planner Kaitlyn McClain says this project is a “natural partnership” between organizations.
“The coastal program has always sought out opportunities to support sustainable development. We knew going in, Calumet Collaborative’s major strength is in convening partners. This project will not only greatly improve conditions in these gap areas, but will advance both of our organizations’ missions and enhance cooperation and connectivity throughout the region.”
The sites were selected after preliminary conversations centered around existing conservation efforts on managed land; These “gap areas” have not been covered by previous planning efforts.
The goal is to advance land and wildlife conservation in the Calumet region, while restoring and/or maintaining biodiversity and high-quality habitat. It takes into consideration prior efforts by Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision, Calumet Land Conservation Partnership, and the Indiana Dunes Ecosystem Alliance.
The plan will use The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Conservation Action Planning model, which helps guide conservation teams to develop focused strategies and measure success.
“This planning pulls together partners and helps build a more cohesive approach to conservation across the Calumet to move between high level landscapes and smaller sub-geographies,” northwest Indiana regional director for the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy Paul Labus says. “Places like these gap areas are the last examples of the natural history of the Calumet region. Protecting, restoring and managing these resources gives people an opportunity to connect with nature in close proximity to where they live.”
The CAP process will also help to identify species of interest and their most critical threats, recognize the social, economic, political and cultural factors involved, and monitor outcomes to adapt and learn throughout the life of the project.
The Collaborative is taking on the role of convener and project manager for this project because it plays an important part in achieving one of the organization’s main initiative goals of developing integrated, comprehensive bi-state conservation strategies for the Calumet region.
Along with Calumet Collaborative, Indiana DNR and TNC, additional partners include: The Field Museum, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and ArcelorMittal Foundation. Other stakeholders from municipal, county and state land managers, National Park Service resource managers, active watershed and conservation groups and members of the Calumet Collaborative Conservation Work Group will be invited to participate in upcoming planning meetings in April and May.
If you’re interested in participating in this project or want to learn more, contact Emily Prisuta at email@example.com.