Newsroom Midwest Region

We Support Pokagon in Restoring and Enhancing Their Land

April 6, 2016

A dickcissel is a prairie bird that can be found on the restored North Liberty Property. Photo courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi's Department of Natural Resources.
A dickcissel is a prairie bird that can be found on the restored North Liberty Property. Photo courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi's Department of Natural Resources.

Since federal recognition in 1994, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (Pokagon Band) are taking progressive steps to restore and ecologically enhance their traditional land base. The tribe has bought just over 6,450 acres and 2,800 acres have been accepted into federal trust status for the benefit of Pokagon citizens. As the Pokagon Band continues to purchase more land they will continue to restore the land to the historic ecology to support the Pokagon Band traditional values and way of life.

“The Pokagon Band has always supported their tribal citizens in outdoor recreation,” stated Jennifer Kanine, Pokagon Band Natural Resource Director. “Additionally we want to ensure everyone gets a chance to enjoy the outdoors. We want to provide the opportunity for citizens to gather traditional materials or hunt for subsistence.”

In 2003, the Pokagon Band enrolled 1,147 acres of property in North Liberty, Indiana into the Wetland Reserve Program under the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. The North Liberty property is within the Kankakee Watershed and is a remnant of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, sometimes referred to as the everglades of the north. By enrolling their land into the Wetland Reserve Program, the Pokagon Band has ensured conservation of the property for future generations.

In 2013, the Pokagon Band was awarded a $198,148 Tribal Wildlife Grant to restore 77 acres out of the 1,147 acres on the North Liberty property. The restoration project is set to accomplish five objectives to benefit the Pokagon Band citizens and wildlife. Their first objective was to re-create historic wetlands on what is now prairie grasslands by strategically applying shallow scrapes throughout the property. In time the scrapes will fill with water creating ideal habitat for wetland dependent species such as waterfowl, shorebirds, aquatic mammals and amphibians. While construction of the wetlands has to wait until spring, the four other objectives have been completed on this project. For example the second goal for the Pokagon Band was to create and install 15 bluebird houses, two owl boxes, 15 wood duck boxes and 7 kestrel boxes on their property.

While establishing wildlife habitat, the third objective was to provide accessibility to the resources for Pokagon Band citizens on their North Liberty property. The Pokagon Band felt the need to transform an old rundown house into a new onsite visitor center that dually serves as an office for a biologist to provide on-site management. The Pokagon Band’s fourth objective was to enhance the visitor center for citizens by building and installing several interpretive signs to help visitors identify tall prairie grasses, educate about the importance of wetlands and how to identify waterfowl species. Throughout the property the Pokagon Band has mowed and removed brush for walking trails and observation decks for visitors to navigate through the property minimizing the impact on native ecology – completing their fifth goal.

Although restoration is making progress, the Pokagon Band continues to take on ecological challenges such as invasive species removal. The Pokagon Band has noticed the encroaching and highly invasive reed canary grass growing on their property that will cause trouble for their native wetland plant species such as lake and river wild rice. Other species including common reed (phragmites) and giant ragweed have been invading the property. The Pokagon Band Department of Natural Resource is currently looking for opportunities to permanently remove these invasive species.

As the Pokagon Band continues to restore the land they call Mother Earth,they are dedicated to building upon ongoing working partnerships with the Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Drain Commissioners of Indiana, and Indiana Department of Environmental Management to restore, enhance and conserve the Pokagon Band’s North Liberty land.

“We are helping the environment, we are helping Mother Earth and ensuring there is native habitat for Pokagon Band citizens and wildlife,” commented Dr. Kanine. “We want our tribal members to have a place to practice their rights to gather and hunt.”

The Service is proud to have awarded the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi a Tribal Wildlife Grant to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and the American public.

Osprey nests have been found on the North Liberty Property. This osprey couple is about to eat a fresh catch. Photo courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi's Department of Natural Resources.
Osprey nests have been found on the North Liberty Property. This osprey couple is about to eat a fresh catch. Photo courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi's Department of Natural Resources.