Porter to host congressional hearings
ENVIRONMENT: National lakeshore to be topic of first such
session in Northwest Indiana
By Brandon Honig
Indiana Northwest Times Washington Bureau
Posted October 26, 2005
WASHINGTON | A U.S. House subcommittee hearing on the
national parks of the Great Lakes will be held in Porter
next month, near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said he believes the
hearing is the first of its kind to be held in Northwest
U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., organized the hearing,
set to be held at 9 a.m. on Nov. 14 in the Lakeshore visitors
As chairman of the subcommittee, Souder intends to examine
issues surrounding land acquisition as well as challenges
faced by natural parks in urban areas.
"Invasive exotic plants" pose one challenge
typical to natural parks in urban settings. Plants brought
to the park, either intentionally or accidentally, end
up competing with native species, robbing them of natural
resources and possibly displacing them.
Land acquisition issues exacerbate the problem, according
to Tom Anderson of the Save the Dunes Council, because
inholdings are frequent sites of exotic plants. Lying
like islands within the boundaries of a national park,
inholdings are privately owned tracts of land desired
by the National Park Service.
The National Park Service cannot enforce initiatives
to rid the area of invasive species and revive native
ones on the private lands.
The 15,000-acre lakeshore area, which includes the 2,182-acre
Indiana Dunes State Park, contains approximately 1,110
acres of land that is held by 133 private owners. Railroads
and utilities own 367 acres of parkland, leaving 743 acres
that could be actively pursued by the park service.
But federal budget constraints have hindered the National
Park Service's ability to acquire inholdings.
"Funding is at a premium, as is a lot of federal
funding," said Lakeshore Superintendent Dale Engquist.
"So we're competing for dollars for land acquisition."
In May, Congress rescinded $826,500 that had been allocated
for acquiring land by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Engquist said the upcoming hearing of the Subcommittee
on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources likely
will address the park's progress in acquiring inholdings.
The park service's Midwest Regional Director Ernest Quintana
has been tentatively scheduled to testify, according to
LaTonya Miller, of the park service.