Lakeshore Focus – 1207 – Environmental Update

>>The landscape that
surrounds us is our home. Are we help or harming it? Is it getting better or worse? That’s our show next. Stay with us. Running a business requires
smart decisions everyday. Make a good decision for
your company today and reach other businesses by
sponsoring Lakeshore Focus. People who watch our show are an active part of the community. They care about their
neighborhoods, schools, and their homes. Are these viewers your customers? Well they should be. To learn about all the
benefits of sponsoring Lakeshore Focus, give
us a call 219-756-5656. And instead of seeing my face,
you can see your business. (upbeat music) Welcome again to Lakeshore Focus. A weekly show highlighting the key issues, important events and interesting
people in our region. I’m Keith Kirkpatrick. As I was reviewing our log of past shows, I noticed it’s been a
while since we had a focus on environmental issues. Who should I call? It was easy. Immediately I though of
two environmental champions and doers, who know what’s going on and how to get things done. Here are Natalie Johnson,
the executive director for Save the Dunes and Kris
Krouse, the executive director for The Shirley Heinze Land Trust. I finally got you guys on the show. It took a while, but here we are. I know, was it about
six months of planning. You guys must be really busy.>>Possibly.>>There’s a lot of good
things going on out there.>>As they say, busy saving the world? Literally?>>Or Northwest Indiana at least.>>Let’s just kind of start, there’s a lot going on in the world today. It seems like some things are changing. Just generally, how do you
guy feel about the whole environmental movement. Where are we right now? Are we answering those questions? Are we moving forward? Are we doing great things? What’s going on?>>Well it’s always something
that I think is moving forward. We see the next generation
embracing this passion to do good and do good
things for our environment. That reenergize me and
makes me feel very positive about what’s going on. And yes there are challenges,
but there’s good things too I guess is what I want
to make a point about.>>For environmental people
this really fits, right. So to you, the grass is always green, the sky is always blue.>>As long as we work
together and keep at it, then yes, it’s possible.>>So a very positive outlook. That’s great. How do you see it Kris? What’s generally going on right now?>>I think a lot of good
things are happening. Particularly in Northwest
Indiana, to piggyback a little bit on what Natalie is saying. I think collaboration and partnerships, we’ve come so far, just here
specifically in our region, with being able to accomplish more. Maybe this is getting a
little into what we do as an organization at
Shirley Heinze Land Trust, protecting natural areas, restoring them, doing more environmental education. There’s just so much going on as it related to the
environment that are positive. Then you couple a lot of
initiatives and good things that are occurring with better technology. I think there’s a lot
going on as it relates to the environment. There’s more public awareness,
and people in general are doing a lot of good things
to improve our environment.>>Is it a safe description
to say that you two work more with the landscape,
is that a good way to say it? You kind of work with
the landscape of our area but it’s also air,
water, all those things. How would you describe it?>>Landscape level conservation. So Save the Dunes is
focused on preserving, protecting and restoring the Indiana Dunes and everything that’s
flowing into Lake Michigan within Northwest Indiana. When we say the Dunes,
it’s not just the actual physical sand dunes, it’s
everything in between. From East to West,
Michigan City to Whiting all the way down to
Valparaiso and Merrillville. It takes a great deal
of partnering together to think about that larger
landscape level view. Rather than just, I’m going
to try to make this area the best that it can be,
as far as quality goes, quality species. It takes coming together collaboratively, to think about the bigger picture.>>When you talk about Save the Dunes, I think we need to remind people, because I think they forget this, that the Dunes wrapped all
the way around the lake. Every inch of it. We’ve just built stuff
on it, removed the sand, done things, but those
dunes come way back in quite deeply into this area. Even though again, we’ve built on them and got rid of them. I’m assuming you look at all that.>>Look at all that and
then again, the bogs, the prairies, the forests,
the wetlands, all of it. It’s all part of that dunes system.>>Because everything moves
towards the dunes right.>>It’s all connected.>>How do you see the area
Kris, what’s your focus?>>Focus is actually a good word. One of the things that
we’ve collaborated with many of our partners,
thinking more regionally instead of just having a
specific nature preserve. You have the Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore, in that dunes area, but
you also have places like Hobart Marsh, where there’s
just a high concentration of high quality natural areas. And quite a variety, you have
in Hobart, Burr Oak Savannah, prairies, wetlands, marshes, all in a pretty concentrated area. So we’re thinking more
on a landscape scale or as we’re referring to them as focus areas, or conservation areas. How do we adequately protect the land that needs to be protected
in that particular area. Restore it, what does
public access look like? What are some of the green
infrastructure issues? When storm water run off is a big factor when you’re thinking about municipalities. Which as you know, we
have a lot of those here. How do you work with the municipalities on good storm water management, which affects water quality and it also has an impact on these high quality natural areas. There’s the moraines,
so going from Valparaiso all the way up into Michigan
through Michigan City and LaPorte or in between
those two municipalities that being one big landscape. The project area where
there’s been a ton of collaboration is the East branch of the Little Calumet River. So going from the Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore in the town of Porter, all the way out to Redmill County Park. In LaPorte, you have an
11 mile river corridor and we’ve been collaborating
with Save the Dunes, The Nature Conservancy,
DNR, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,
corporations like Arcelormittal, Nipsco, foundations like the
Gaylord and Dorthy Donnelley Foundation and the
Chicago Community Trust.>>I can’t believe he remembers all these.>>This is good, then I don’t have to.>>All working to protect
land. We have acquired over 400 acres in the last four
years along the river corridor. Creating canoe and kayak launches so that people can publicly access the river. People like Dan Plath
with the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association. Opening up a river corridor
that hasn’t been used for 30 years so that
people can kayak and canoe. And now we’re getting into
the Watershed Management Plan that saved the dunes back in 2000 and?>>14, 15.>>You kind of went
the way I wanted to go, so thank you for doing that. You talked about one
of the accomplishments, and that’s one. I think maybe to give the
viewer some perspective we’ve now got this 11 mile
corridor of navigable water. We’ve got more land
protected around the water. The water’s cleaner, so you can
describe this success story. What was it like 30 years ago? Where did we come from
to get to that point? Can either one of you give a description of what that looked like?>>Well on the East branch
of the Little Calumet River, it was interesting
because we had, well one, a tornado came through,
put a ton of log jams in the Chesterton area. Over time you had things
like the Emerald Ash Bore, which is an invasive beetle,
chewing away at the ash trees. Those dead ash trees are
falling into the water, which just jammed up
this river completely.>>What was the water quality like? Because I know that really gets you going.>>I love talking water quality. Water quality in Northwest
Indiana has been improving over time.>>What was it like 30
years on that river ago?>>30 years, you know, that’s
hard to say whether or not how many combines sewer
overflows may have been taking place. But certainly the movement
around water quality has been improving and
gaining a lot of traction. So my suspicion would be
that it’s improving greatly, and that 30 years ago,
it may not have been as high of quality.>>Maybe I’m asking her
a question 30 years ago, maybe she wasn’t even
born then, I’m not sure.>>I would have, yeah.>>Since you both are younger. As I’ve heard people describe
it, back 30, 40 years ago, people go that’s a polluted river. Nobody would stick
their toe in that river. Nobody would put a boat in.>>The Grand Calumet River is
an excellent example of that. Things that organizations
like ours, we work to change that concept. Yes we have legacy
contamination in some of our waterways, that are being
addressed, by a great number of partnerships. It takes everybody on board,
but then yes, there’s this whole, you have to change the perception that these waterways are coming back. You’re seeing species here
that haven’t been seen in many many years.>>Kris you were trying to say.>>Oh no, I was just
actually going to use the Grand Calumet River in
Northern Lake county, as a great example. Before EPA, essentially
contaminates and toxins went unchecked and a lot
of things, with combined sewer overflows, you know,
even sewage going into waterways such as that. Where you can’t eat the
fish, you can’t swim. You don’t want to dip
your toe in the water. And now because of
collaboration with industry, state and federal
agencies, we’ve, you know 100’s of millions of
dollars have been invested to essentially remediate that waterway. Now you have bald eagles, you have fish, that I wouldn’t recommend
eating, there are still some stretches of the river
that need to be cleaned up, but it’s a place that has
essentially been re gentrified. And it has quality of life
implication for Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, all
the communities that, that river traverses
through and more broadly for our region, so it’s pretty exciting.>>The perception is a
pretty important issue. Generally it feels like
there is a movement in this country, to push
back on the environment a little bit. You know, let’s drop some
of the EPA regulations, let’s not be as concerned
about some of these issues. Do you feel that that’s
kind of a general sentiment that’s coming? But then when you hear that,
you will hear people say the environmental community
is stepping up and going no. And the general public
is stepping up and saying no we don’t want to go backwards. We like the progress
we’ve made and we want to continue this progress. I know I’m probably asking
the wrong two people, because you’re biased about this, but how do you see that shift of attitude in the general population
and the political landscape?>>I’m happy to address that. That’s one things I know,
we get the question of, of course our organizations
are working together, what is Save the Dunes doing distinctly? We’re know as an advocacy organization. That’s our grass roots area. It’s what we were created
for and we are non partisan, but we continue to advocate
for what we believe is going to be most
critical in the environment. So yes, we’re dealing with
challenging times right now.>>Do you feel people, do
you see your constituent base or just the general public
stepping up and going, wait a second, the
environment is important.>>Absolutely. Even though we’re apolitical,
you’re seeing both sides of the parties, stepping up and saying that this is important. It’s important to a lot of us. Nobody want’s to see what life was like, prior to the EPA. We don’t want to see those threats. Budget cuts to agencies like the US EPA, to department of Interior, NOAA, those are things that
we are going to advocate very strongly for. Here is the funding that
should remain in the budget. We want to see those
organizations supported. They do a lot of great
things in Northwest Indiana, such as the Grand Calumet
River restoration. A lot of the projects,
that Kris and I have had the pleasure of doing. And it enhances the quality of life.>>Kris, how do you see that? How’s your view of the general public or that feeling that exists between the environmental supporters
or are the people like it’s not that important. I think that in general,
not everybody talks about environmental issues
on a day to day basis. I think when you get to the
roots of what are needs are as humans, we all want to
be drinking clean water. We all want clean air. We want to be able to go outside and enjoy the world around us. Whether that’s playing
sports, going skiing, whatever your outdoor activities may be. I think it’s how we message the importance of the environment. It really isn’t, it shouldn’t
be, a political issue. All of us want to be healthy. All of us again, want
to drink clean water. We want to have healthy air to breathe.>>I heard, particularly in
our region, the industrial people, who when that question comes up, they’ll say, seriously, I live here too. I don’t want my kids to be out in this. We’re not wanting to produce waste and damage the environment. We want to be better. I see that in this community. Why is this so important to both of you? To you personally. Why are you so into this
environmental stuff?>>I was one of those kids
that I remember that moment in fifth grade when I got
involved in a water quality testing program. We went out in the streams. We dug up the bugs underneath the water. I fell in love with just being outdoors. I came home muddy every night. It was great. I spent my time, growing up, outside. But I didn’t have to worry about what was in the water, what was around me. I couldn’t imaging those kind of threats stopping me from enjoying
that beautiful childhood that I have. I’m very passionate about
keeping things protected, restored, making things
better than they were. Because I want the next
generation to keep enjoying that. That their kids and that go out and enjoy these river systems.>>You were one of those
kids that all the other kids looked at and went gosh,
she likes to stick her hands in the mud and she likes to hold frogs. There’s something must be wrong with her.>>Keith, they still look at me that way. (laughing)>>What got you into this Kris?>>For me it was kind
of a round about way. I was always outside mowing
lawns, playing sports, and had a strong interest
in science in high school. I did a lot of water testing. I got involved in the state science fair. And eventually went to
college for a chemistry major, but then realized that
I liked being outside. And if I could tie my
profession to the outdoors and some of the great
experiences I had growing up being in some of our
national parks with friends. That would be a pretty awesome career. So I went the environmental science track. In a round about way ended up
at Shirley Heinze Land Trust. And have been there ever since.>>That’s the story. For me it was coming back from college. When my brother threw
a can out of the car, I stopped the car and made
him get out and go back, walk down the highway and pick it up. He really got on to me and said
you think you’re a big deal. I though, yeah I am. This is pretty powerful
making you get out of the car and pick up the can. It’s not as good a story as yours but. What do you want, what
does the public need to know that they don’t
know about the environment? What do people need to be more aware of?>>Well first off, how
powerful their voice is. As Kris put it, we love
this place where we live, and we enjoy and experience
it in different ways. You like hiking, biking,
experiencing hiking up the dunes, kayaking, skiing, golfing,
whatever it might be to be outside. You are connected to the
environment in some way. And what would life be
like if you didn’t have that outlet where you could go enjoy and live that passion.>>Do you think people
around her know that? Particularly in Northwest Indiana and the South suburbs of Chicago
who can easily access this. That this is all here?>>I think that’s one thing, as
sometimes we have to find it. We have a hidden treasure,
which works sometimes in our favor, that we can
keep it close to our chest. But we do need to let that
shine and invite others in. We have something truly beautiful here. But that voice that I
mentioned, I don’t think people think about the power
that they have to express, gosh I want to keep
these places protected. I want them restored. I want to see funding
for these agencies that keep Lake Michigan sparkling. That we can go there every summer and if we really thought about,
again, life without them, what would it be like
if we just couldn’t go and enjoy that, or we had to worry about threats to the water,
the air and so forth. That would be miserable. And so the power behind the voice.>>Okay, that’s important,
that’s important to know.>>It’s huge.>>What do you want people to
know, that they don’t really, aren’t aware of or just need
to have a better grasp of?>>I think that people
should realize, particularly residents of Northwest
Indiana, that we live in one of the most ecologically
and natural areas in the country. We have just such a wide
array of various habitats, and high quality natural
areas in such a small concentrated area. So going back to what you’re
saying about the dunes, we have the Southern tip of Lake Michigan, the dunes, the moraine,
it’s absolutely spectacular. The different types of
habitat and the biodiversity we have here, I would argue
it’s one of the things that makes us unique as a region. We should all embrace that, appreciate it.>>Keith: Be proud of it.>>Be proud of it. It’s on us and our organizations
to educate the public and make them more aware
of what that resource is. And get them out for experiences
so that they can learn and better understand what we have here.>>We just have a couple of
minutes left so I want to know favorite place, if you could
pick just one favorite place that you have, you can’t have
multiple, one favorite place. What’s your favorite place
in Northwest Indiana?>>Miller Woods for me. I love Miller Woods.>>Keith: Why? Well one, it’s close to my community. Just a beautiful place to walk. The Douglas center there
is absolutely amazing. In the winter time, you
can borrow show shoes or cross country skis. There is never a time were
you don’t see a beaver actively working. It’s beautiful.>>Keith: Your favorite place?>>I have a couple but, I
would say, I’m just going to pick one, our office is
at Meadowbrook, which is a retired Girl Scout camp. So everyday I have the
pleasure of going to work on top of the moraine,
which is essentially what was left behind during
the last glaciation period about 14,000 years ago. It’s a high point between
Valparaiso and Chesterton. It’s a beautiful, wooded nature preserve. We’ve protected 224 acres
and it’s a spectacular place for people and also the
critters that you would expect to see in Northwest Indiana.>>I love this technical term of critters, that’s a good one. Well I want to encourage
our viewers, if they want to find out more of what you both do. Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes. You guys produce lots of
materials, and you have a lot of information, great websites. So I’m going to encourage
them to reach out to you, call you guys up and plug in
to this environmental push. Thanks for being on this show and for everything you guys do.>>Thanks.
>>Thank you. (upbeat music)>>What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you get it? Let’s start with trash. Why do we have to produce
so much, cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, styrofoam, display packaging,
plastic shelves, stickers, wrapping paper, bottles,
cans, should I go on? No, you get the idea. Well you say, it’s not
my fault that the people who make it or the place where I buy it, choose to use all that stuff, wrong? You have choices. Buy bulk, purchase loose
items that you can place in a reusable bag. Buy local, rather than
order online where you are assured of additional packaging. If you must order online,
consolidate orders. Buy from the same company. Even if one item costs a little bit more, one company, one box. Did I mention reusable bags? Use them every opportunity. Better, I do not need a bag. I can carry this one item in
my hand, or purse, or pocket. Let’s slide over to recycling. It’s pretty simple. Nearly everything is recyclable. And most everything has recycling emblems. It’s a system made for a kindergartner. I know, you say my town
does not take everything. Find out what they do take and put it in the right containers. You cannot use the excuse, I
don’t know so I don’t do it. If I find one more bottle
or can in the trash bin, I’m going to scream. Just about every glass and metal container can be recycled. It’s not that difficult. Let it be reprocessed or reuse it. Now litter, seriously. Who said our roadsides,
ditches, sidewalks, streets, parks and highways are
places for you to pitch you used 32 ounce supersized
cup, your fast food bag, candy wrapper, plastic drink
bottle, and cigarette butts. And when you decided your
that your sunken mattress, worn out Lazy Boy recliner,
worn set of tires, or full bag of trash was
to be pitched, dropped or ejected from your vehicle, you left it for the rest of us to view. Wait until you find a trash can. Keep a small waste container in your car. Call the waste hauler for pickup. And if you must pay a fee, pay it. We have one world to protect and share. If you are doing your
part to reduce, reuse, and recycle, thanks. If you see others who are not, be nice and try to educate them. If that doesn’t work,
you have my permission to gripe, complain and maybe even criticize. I’m not sure if I’ve ever
done a closing like this. If I have, I’m sure you’ll tell me. It was my turn to just gripe, complain and maybe even criticize some
folks on the subjects of trash, recycling and litter. Hopefully it did not apply
to you, but to others. If it did hit home, well try to fix it. With that out of my system
thanks for watching our show. Send your thoughts and feedback
to us, through the email address listed on your screen. Check out our website. You can watch past episodes
of Lakeshore Focus. On the website, there’s a list
of previously aired shows. You can also find us on YouTube by searching for Lakeshore Focus. After my little tirade, I will have to end in a slightly different way. Join us next week for
another Lakeshore Focus. Until then, I’m Keith Kirkpatrick saying, make a difference in our world today. Running a business requires
smart decisions everyday. Make a good decision
for your company today and reach other businesses, by sponsoring Lakeshore Focus. People who watch our show are an active part of the community. They care about their
neighborhoods, schools, and their homes. Are these viewers your customers? Well they should be. To learn about all the
benefits of sponsoring Lakeshore Focus, give
us a call 219-756-5656. And instead of seeing my face,
you can see your business. (upbeat music)

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