INDIANA – This fall, a chorus of loud, trilled calls can be heard across the skyline of the Hoosier state as thousands of Sandhill Cranes flock to their favorite spot in Northwest Indiana.
Thursday, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) joined Audubon Great Lakes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area alongside Indiana State Representative Hal Slager (R-IN-15) to witness this incredible migration spectacle, and discuss bipartisan conservation and climate solutions that are good for Hoosiers, birds, and the economy.
“We can protect our state’s great natural resources and wildlife while creating new economic opportunities. I’m grateful to Audubon for sharing this unique wildlife migration experience and for their conservation efforts to ensure that Indiana continues to be a place where birds, other wildlife, and people can thrive,” said Senator Todd Young.
Each year, Jasper-Pulaski in Medaryville, Indiana, hosts the largest fall congregations of ‘Greater’ Sandhill Cranes during their southbound migration from the Midwest. After the species plummeted to just two dozen nesting pairs in the mid-twentieth century, efforts to conserve wetlands helped greatly expand their numbers. Like many birds across the region, Sandhill Cranes depend on high-quality wetland habitat to survive, which led to the designation of Jasper-Pulaski as an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA).
Conservation of wetlands is key to ensuring the continued success of Sandhill Cranes, and vulnerable bird species across the Great Lakes region. Over the next decade, Audubon Great Lakes will work to protect and restore more than 8,000 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat in the Calumet region of northwest Indiana, which spans into Illinois and Michigan. Much of this work is made possible through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a vital federal conservation fund to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Audubon representatives thanked Senator Young for his leadership in helping pass the GLRI Act into law, which will allow Congress to increase the GLRI program’s funding incrementally from $300 million to $475 million by 2026.
Audubon’s science finds that two-thirds of North America’s birds are vulnerable to extinction from climate change. Sandhill Cranes’ dependence on key migration sites like Jasper-Pulaski makes them particularly vulnerable to loss of habitat by climate change.
Natural climate solutions, practices that use existing natural landscapes to capture and store carbon, have the potential to reduce nearly a quarter of net annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to a recent report from the National Audubon Society.
“Sandhill Cranes are believed to have existed for more than 2.5 million years in their present form. Natural climate solutions will reduce carbon emissions to help ensure the survival of one of the oldest living bird species on our planet,” said Melinda Cep, Vice President of Natural Solutions and Working Lands for National Audubon Society.
“We thank Senator Young for his leadership on legislation that will advance climate-smart agricultural practices and we look forward to continuing to work on common-sense solutions that will address climate change to create a safer world for birds, other wildlife, and people,” said Marnie Urso, Senior Policy Director for Audubon Great Lakes.
This spring, Sen. Young introduced the Conservation and Innovative Climate Partnership Act to support farmers seeking to adopt conservation and innovative climate practices on their farms. The bill will fund partnerships between land-grant universities and nonprofits or state agencies, which will provide direct technical assistance to farmers through workshops, webinars, testing, or general education.
Audubon representatives also thanked Sen. Young for cosponsoring the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will help Indiana’s farmers and foresters further invest in sustainable management practices to protect vulnerable birds, while supporting rural economies. The bill passed the U.S. Senate in June 2021 and awaits a vote in the House.
The bird walk was led by National Audubon Society representatives Melinda Cep, Vice President of Natural Solutions and Working Lands, and Andrew Mills, Vice President for Political Affairs as well as Audubon Great Lakes representatives Marnie Urso, Senior Policy Director, Nathaniel Miller, Senior Director of Conservation, Kristin Murphy, Government Affairs Associate, and Jennifer Johnson, Wild Indigo Associate. They were accompanied by Nick Echterling, Property Manager at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area for Indiana DNR, Matt Igleski, Board Member for Dunes Calumet Audubon Society, and Matthias Benko, President of Bloomington Birders, and Audubon campus chapter at Indiana University Bloomington.
Known for their great height, Sandhill Cranes stand at 4-5 feet tall and feed on a variety of plants and small animals, and invertebrates. The iconic species can be seen at Jasper-Pulaski through mid-December.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.