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.
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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.