Sierran Masthead

Political Changes Bring New Hope for Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

by Jim Sweeney,
President, Friends of the Kankakee

Due to major changes in the political landscape over the last months, restoration projects on the Kankakee River will be affected.

The Indiana House of Representatives has redrawn Indiana’s U.S. Congressional districts and have moved the two legislators most hostile to restoration not only out of the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) project area, but almost completely out of the watershed. Rep. Steve Buyer’s (R-IN) district was eliminated, and he now resides in the Indiana 4th district. State Sen. Brandt Herschmann, elected last fall and also a Buyer staffer, had his new district moved south.

These areas will now be represented in the U. S. Congress by Democrats Pete Visclosky and Tim Roemer, both of whom have very good records regarding conservation. Herschmann’s place in the watershed will be mostly replaced by State Sen. Bill Alexa (D-5), who also has a good record on the environment. State Sen. Sue Landske (R-6) will represent much of the rest of the Kankakee Basin in the Indiana Senate. To date, the only voice in Indianapolis, Springfield, or the U.S. Congress supporting the NWR proposal has been Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). Other officials have been uncommitted, have opposed the refuge, or have deferred to Rep. Buyer since most of the project area was in his district.

I greatly welcome these district changes because each branch of the federal government is controlled by a party not known for a strong conservation ethic.

But now that Sen. Jeffords of Vermont has left the Republican party to become an Independent, he has tipped the U. S. Senate control to Democratic committee chairmanships. Sen. Durbin, and maybe even Sen. Bayh (D-IN), will now have a much larger say in what happens with the Grand Kankakee Marsh NWR and the Corps of Engineers (COE) flood control project. They must hear from the conservation community now! Write to Congress, especially to Sen. Durbin and Sen. Bayh (c/o U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510), and encourage them to:

  • Support and fund land acquisition for the Grand Kankakee Marsh NWR.
  • Support wetland and river restoration on the Kankakee and minimize structural remedies in the COE flood control project.
  • Support increased funding for the North American Wetland Conservation Fund.
  • Fund the Wetland Reserve Program, which was omitted from the Bush 2002 budget.
  • Support the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA).

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[7/7/02]efp

Fall 2001