by Gretchen Eelkema and Sandra Wilmore
On July 16, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund’s Sandra Wilmore (Director) and Gretchen Eelkema (Public Relations Intern), traveled to Auburn, Indiana to meet with several environmentalists in northeast Indiana. The purpose of the visit was to learn about the priority environmental issues in the area and to strengthen contacts for the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund. “While we met some great people and expanded GLAHNF’s networking ‘web’, we learned more about a disturbing practice occurring in that part of the state”, said Wilmore.
Karen Griggs and Jane Dustin of the Izaak Walton League provided an in-depth tour of the area. A critical issue directly affecting northeast Indiana is the unchecked authority of Indiana’s Drainage Boards and the County Surveyors that extend little or no consideration for the environment. The vegetation along several miles of a ditch is being removed to “improve” drainage. The clearing involves cutting and applying herbicide to full grown trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants within 75 feet of one side of the ditch (see photo). Apparently, the purpose of the project is to prevent debris such as sticks and logs from entering the ditch and blocking flow. Landowners fought the city to prevent the destruction, but failed to stop the activity. Several similar projects have been proposed and are pending before the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which is failing to do its job by complacently providing approvals. These clearings projects will cause erosion and sedimentation that will certainly reduce the water quality in the ditches and downstream into other waterbodies, negatively impacting fish and other aquatic species.
Save the Dunes is continuing to work with the Izaak Walton League on ways to eliminate or at least reduce the damage done by these policies and practices.