Chesterton Tribune



National Lakeshore gets 'war machine' to fight invasive species

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The National Park Service Wednesday announced that it has acquired a new Marsh Master amphibious vehicle to hasten the work of removing invasive species from the Dunes National Lakeshore.

Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz praised the collaboration that brought about the purchase of the MM-2LX Marsh Master. Save the Dunes provided $80,000, NIPSCO provided $76,144, and the Great Lakes Restoration initiative threw in $7,121 to acquire the vehicle at a cost of $163,265. Labovitz noted cobbling together over $160,000 is “a tough thing to do in the world of government finance.”

According to Labovitz, the fight against invasive species to restore native wetlands is grave. “We are at war here. This is a war machine.”

Kelly Carmichael, representing NIPSCO, said “We’re proud to have a small part in this and all that’s been accomplished.”

The purchase of the Marsh Master marks the start of a six-year program to restore 1,000 acres of wetland in the Great Marsh.

Labovitz also noted the National Park Service is working on the details of how the Marsh Master can be shared with other groups for wetland restoration at sites farther inland.

Those in attendance for the announcement were treated to a demonstration of the Marsh Master’s power at the Great Marsh in Beverly Shores. It can go from floating in deep water to trudging through peat and gingerly rolling over logs. It does the work of 42 people operating backpack sprayers, and with a ground pressure footprint smaller than one person, according to Dan Mason, botanist for the National Lakeshore.

Due to its lightweight aluminum construction and calculated weight distribution, the Marsh Master has a ground pressure rating of 1.2 pounds per square inch. Mason said the average person creates 3 pounds per square inch of ground pressure when standing.

According to Mason, restoration of the Great Marsh began in 1999, after it had been reduced by over 50 percent. Normal hydrology was restored in three to four years, but invasive species had moved in. Work started with people operating backpack sprayers. Later, the National Park Service began renting a Marsh Master for nearly $13,000 a month. Owning one would have been more cost effective, but the funds didn’t come together until now.

Mason said the choice to buy a Marsh Master was the result of detailed market research, which took two to three weeks to compile. He said, “This was not a five-minute job.”

The Marsh Master has an overhead cargo rack, no-slip deck, and safety rails on the back. The hydraulic spray rig has a 100-gallon capacity, which minimizes trips in and out of a work area to refill. It also has a hydraulic attachment for an adjustable roller cutter, backhoe, and winch.

Save the Dunes Executive Director Natalie Johnson also praised the collaboration and extended thanks to the organizations for the effort required. “It takes the community as a whole to come together and say ‘we want this, we want to better these lands.’”

“This is truly a game changer,” Johnson added.



Posted 9/7/2018




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