(INDIANA DUNES) - Time is running out for the Karner blue butterfly, the population has been reduced by 99 percent in the past 15 years.
The blue-winged butterfly, once has been declared locally extinct in Canada and currently resides in only a handful of regions in the U.S.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, in conjunction with nonprofit Save the Dunes and Indiana Dunes State Park, has secured $1 million in funding to restore 1,000 acres of black oak savanna in northern Indiana. If successful, the restoration will create optimal conditions that will allow the Karner blue butterfly and other species to thrive.
The Karner blue butterfly relies entirely on the wild lupine plant for sustenance, and like all vegetation, the plant can only thrive under certain conditions. Without it, the butterfly's life cycle is obstructed.
According to Property Manager Brandt Baughman of Indiana Dunes State Park, the preliminary stages of the restoration have already commenced.
"What we've done in preparation is conduct a couple prescribed fires," Baughman said. "This clears out a lot of smaller undergrowth and releases nutrients into the soil."
Following these monitored burnings, experts will attempt to clear out invasive species and begin planting native vegetation.
"We'll hire a contractor to come and remove some woody undergrowth to reduce competition and increase the amount of sunlight that hits the forest floor, allowing the native savanna species to propagate," Baughman said. "One of those species is the lupine plant."
While the restoration affects only a limited section of land, the project is both labor intensive and time sensitive.
With more than 1,000 acres to restore in under one year, the organizations involved have their work cut out for them. Even upon completion, conservationists will have to monitor the region to ensure continued progression.
And if the project is successful, visitors to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park might once again see the blue wings of the Karner blue butterfly fluttering across the sky.
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