Chesterton Tribune



Field Museum and Nature Conservancy to manage rare dune habitat at Arcelor site

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A prescribed burn has been used to help restore 10 acres of rare dune and swale habitat on the East Chicago campus of ArcelorMittal’s R&D facility, in partnership with The Field Museum and The Nature Conservancy.

Dune and swale--found along the southern rim of Lake Michigan and created thousands of years ago when the glacial Lake Chicago receded--was discovered on the site by Field Museum ecologists, after noting its unique topography, undisturbed sandy soils, and handfuls of native plants growing in the rougher areas of the site.

“These were all clues that something very special lay beneath the mowed field,” ArcelorMittal said in a statement released on Wednesday. “These suspicions were confirmed when mowing of the area ceased and thousands of native plants emerged.”

Since then, Inventories of the site have documented more than 50 species of plants, including a state-endangered species, and two state-threatened species which are currently being monitored.

On-going management of the site is required to restore plant diversity, control invasive species, and maintain the health of rich natural areas, the statement said, and one technique used for doing so is prescription fire.

“Fire was a natural occurrence in wetlands, woodlands, prairies and dune and swale habitat until recent times,” said Laura Milkert, ecological stewardship manager, Keller Science Action Center Science and Education, The Field Museum. “Prescription fire is now a key component to restoration.”

Conservation Land Stewardship, working with The Field Museum, recently set a prescription fire at ArcelorMittal’s R&D facility. “The City of East Chicago Fire Department was involved in the planning stages,” said Matt Bartz, tech procurement & process research, ArcelorMittal Global R&D. “They were onsite to ensure a safe burn. And because we’re located directly next to a school, the school board president was also engaged in the planning discussions.”

Bartz coordinates student visits to the dune and swale as part of ArcelorMittal’s Mighty Acorns¨ program, which incorporates classroom curriculum, hands-on restoration activities, and exploration to provide students with multiple and meaningful interactions with the outdoors.

“Students are using our land to learn about dunes and swale which is very rare Đ there are very few left in the world,” said Bartz. “This habitat can never be replaced, its value is immeasurable.”

Students are also treated to a short tour of R&D, on a walking trail established along the perimeter of the property to encourage employees to walk for health.


Posted 12/1/2016




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